WASHINGTON — So much for a subdued Donald Trump. So much for Hillary Clinton staying above the fray.

The first presidential debate of 2016 saw both candidates go on attack from the start, with gentility giving way to hostility within moments before what could be the largest TV audience for a debate ever.

Clinton said Trump didn’t pay his taxes, stiffed his workers and promoted racist theories of President Obama’s birth. Trump said Clinton was a typical feckless politician who paved the way for the growth of the Islamic State, abandoned the black community, led the nation toward fiscal ruin and lacks the stamina to be president.

The confrontation came at a pivotal point in the campaign, with polls showing the candidates virtually deadlocked six weeks before Election Day. In a Bloomberg Politics national poll released Monday, each drew 46 percent of likely voters in a head-to-head contest, while Trump gets 43 percent to Clinton’s 41 percent when third-party candidates are included.

Both candidates are battling negative perceptions that have depressed voter enthusiasm, even as the tumultuous campaign draws intense interest. Persistent questions over Clinton’s trustworthiness have dogged her campaign, while Trump’s bombast and often casual relationship with the truth have raised questions about his qualifications for the nation’s highest office.

But Monday night’s debate was likely to emphasize what supporters like about candidates. Clinton seemed unflappable, able to seem both better prepared and needle Trump. But for the Republican nominee, his unvarnished performance provided the outsider contrast likely to rally his base.


Here’s the tale of the tape:


Trump faced tough questions about his longtime refusal to accept that Obama was born in Hawaii, and declared during the debate he wouldn’t apologize.

The issue exploded back into the headlines after Trump admitted last week that Obama was born in the U.S., a reversal after years of trying to discredit the nation’s first black president.

Trump said he had “nothing” to say to those upset over the campaign because Obama “should have produced” his birth certificate “a long time before.”

Trump also repeated his false accusations that Clinton started the “birther” controversy during the 2008 campaign.



An economic discussion in the opening minutes led to a fiery exchange between the candidates, including a shouting match over trade deals, taxes – and, somehow, when the Islamic State was founded.

Clinton sought to bait Trump early, needling him over millions in loans he received from his father to launch his real estate and casino empire. Trump bit, dismissing the gifts as “a very small loan.”

That gave way to an angry exchange over the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump noted was signed under President Clinton. The Republican dismissed it as “the worst trade deal signed, maybe anywhere.”

He also launched a blistering attack on the Democratic nominee over the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership, accusing Clinton of changing her position on the trade deal after seeing that Trump’s opposition was gaining traction. He also tried to force Clinton to denounce Obama, who supports the deal.

“Donald, I know you live in your reality, but that is not the facts,” Clinton said, drawing chuckles in the debate auditorium. She also referred skeptics to her website to read her economic plan That prompted Trump to shout that Clinton also revealed her plan to fight Islamic State, also known as ISIS, on her website, in a way that would disadvantage U.S. interests.


“No wonder you’ve been fighting ISIS your entire adult life,” Trump said. In fact, the terrorist group was founded in 1999.

“By the end of the evening, I’m going to be blamed for everything that has ever happened,” Clinton retorted.


Trump wants to make a deal on releasing his tax returns.

The Republican nominee, who has repeatedly refused to hand them over, said he’s willing to make them public if Clinton releases thousands of deleted emails from her private server.

Clinton dismissed the offer as “another example of bait-and-switch,” while acknowledging she had made a “mistake” by relying on the private email system.



The Republican nominee took a detour in attacking his opponent to go after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen.

“The Fed is being more political than Secretary Clinton,” he said, repeating his contention that the Fed is keeping interest rates at an unusually low level.

“The day Obama goes off and he leaves and he goes off to the golf course for the rest of his life to play golf, when they raise interest rates, you’re going to see some very bad things happen,” he said.

Trump has previously said that the Fed has inflated the stock market, and turmoil could result when rates are increased. That doesn’t hold up to past experience: Markets were calm when Yellen and her colleagues raised rates in December, moving them above near-zero for the first time since the end of 2008.

Clinton didn’t respond directly to Trump on Monday, but she has blasted Trump previously for accusing the central bank of being political. “You should not be commenting on Fed actions when you are either running for president or you are president,” she told reporters on Sept. 6.


The Fed also insists that it is apolitical, a point Yellen reiterated during a news conference in Washington last week.

“I can say, emphatically, that partisan politics plays no role in our decisions about the appropriate stance of monetary policy,” she said on Sept. 21.


A discussion of criminal justice drew a sharp exchange, with Trump describing increased crime rates in black neighborhoods and calling for “law-and-order” and an expansion of stop-and-frisk policing.

Clinton said it’s “unfortunate” Trump painted “a dire, negative picture of black communities” and said he needs to present a plan for repairing race relations. Clinton said she wants to do more to keep people from going to jail in the first place, such as diversion programs and an end to some mandatory sentences that require jail time.

The number of violent crimes in the U.S. increased 3.9 percent in 2015 from a year earlier amid a 10.8 jump in murders and non-negligent manslaughter, according to annual crime statistics released by the FBI on Monday.


While credited by many for reducing crime, New York’s stop-and-frisk program was ended by current Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, who said the frequent stops of minority youths caused a loss of trust in black and Hispanic communities.

Trump defended the policy, saying the effort was “to take the guns away” from criminals rather than target minorities. He also disputed the policy was unconstitutional, as was ruled by a U.S. district judge.

Trump made a veiled reference to Clinton’s recent bout of pneumonia, saying that, unlike Clinton, he had visited black communities in Philadelphia and Michigan.

“You decided to stay home, and that’s OK,” Trump said.

Clinton fired back by questioning Trump’s readiness.

“I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate,” she said. “And you know what else: I’m prepared to be president.”

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