Clinton, Trump Prepare To Face Off In Final Debate

Oct 19, 2016
Originally published on October 19, 2016 8:44 pm
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

For the third and final time tonight, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will come face to face in a debate. Their last debate was perhaps the most unorthodox in memory, and since then, the tone of the campaign has gotten even more contentious.

Several women have come forward and accused Trump of groping or kissing them without their consent, and emails released by the group WikiLeaks have led to almost daily revelations about the Clinton campaign's inner workings.

We want to go to Las Vegas now where the debate is being held. And we're joined by NPR's Tamara Keith, who covers the Clinton campaign, and NPR's Sarah McCammon, who covers the Trump campaign. And first to Tam. How is Hillary Clinton approaching this debate?

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Her campaign this morning released an ad that is very much in the realm of a closing argument. It's about bringing the country together, and it includes a line that she delivered in the last debate. She says, America is great because we are good. And that's the message she wants to convey, you know? She wants to end the campaign on a more positive note.

And she also wants to talk about policy. She, according to her senior aides, has been spending a lot of time in her debate prep working on ways to convey her policy proposals in the clearest possible way to undecided voters if there are any. Though it's not clear whether she'll be able to get to all of that or not.

SIEGEL: Sarah, at the last debate, Donald Trump was asked about the 2005 tape in which he bragged about kissing women and grabbing their genitals. And Trump said it was just locker room talk. Now we have allegations from several women that Trump did in fact make unwanted sexual advances. What do we expect Donald Trump to say about all of that tonight?

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Right, well, what he's been doing so far, Robert, is lashing out at the media for focusing on those stories and accusing Hillary Clinton and the media of rigging the election, although he hasn't provided any evidence of that.

The last few days, Trump has been focusing on policy proposals that seem to be aimed at underscoring one of the big themes of his campaign, this idea that he's an anti-establishment outsider. He released a five-point proposal to do what he describes as draining the swamp. Among other things, Trump is calling for cracking down on lobbying and term limits for congress members.

He's also been highlighting the latest releases from WikiLeaks of those emails that appear to be from Clinton's campaign chairman and talking about new FBI documents that seem to raise some questions about how the bureau and the State Department talked to each other in the aftermath of Clinton's email controversy. So I would expect to hear more about that tonight.

SIEGEL: And Tam, certainly Hillary Clinton must be thinking about the questions raised about her emails and those of her campaign chairman that were hacked. What do we know about how she might handle those controversies in the debate?

MCCAMMON: Well, and if Donald Trump doesn't bring them up, we can certainly expect the moderator Chris Wallace will. She has to address the issue of the State Department and the FBI arguing over which parts of her emails should be classified. As for WikiLeaks, it's very clear that she's going to try to turn it around on Donald Trump and say that he's cheering on Russian interference with an American election. She has a little new ammo on that front today because Marco Rubio, the senator - Republican senator from Florida, has come out with a statement that Republicans should be wary because they could be next.

Of course the FBI issue is a little bit harder to explain because it's very murky, and murky things make things seem extra nefarious. And Donald Trump doesn't have to worry about the murky. He doesn't have to worry about the details. He can just go for the murky parts. She's been preparing with a former aide who's not really known for his soft touch. So she - she's been getting, you know, getting a lot of pushback in her preparations.

SIEGEL: Well, now onto psychological warfare here. Both campaigns, as they have in previous debates, seem to be trying to get inside the other candidate's head. At the last debate, Trump brought several of Bill Clinton's accusers to sit in the audience. Sarah, what are we to expect from the Trump campaign in the hall tonight?

MCCAMMON: Definitely trying to get in Hillary Clinton's head. Among others on the guest list is President Obama's half-brother, Malik Obama, who's a Trump supporter, and Patricia Smith, the mother of an American killed in the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi. She holds Hillary Clinton responsible, she says, for her son's death and time.

SIEGEL: And Tam, what's the Clinton campaign planning in that department?

KEITH: Well, there's Mark Cuban and Meg Whitman. They are two billionaires, though as Hillary Clinton likes to call them, real billionaires because Donald Trump hasn't released his taxes to prove that he is also a billionaire.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Tamara Keith and Sarah McCammon at the site of tonight's presidential debate in Las Vegas. Thanks to both of you.

KEITH: You're welcome.

MCCAMMON: Thanks.

SIEGEL: And we'll have live coverage of the debate on many NPR stations starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time. And we will be live fact-checking the candidates at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.