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“I’ll Keep You in Suspense”: Trump Refuses to Say He Will Accept Election Results

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Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton faced off Wednesday night in Las Vegas in the final debate before the November 8 election. Trump continued to claim the election has been rigged, and said he would not commit to accepting the outcome of the vote if he loses. Trump’s comment sparked an outcry, even from within his own party. We air part of the debate and get response from Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton faced off Wednesday night in Las Vegas in the final debate before the November 8th election. Trump continued to claim the election has been rigged, and said he would not commit to accepting the outcome of the vote if he loses. Trump’s comment sparked an outcry, even from within his own party. Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona tweeted that Trump, quote, “saying that he might not accept election results is beyond the pale.” Republican strategist Steve Schmidt described the comment as a, quote, “disqualifying moment” for Trump.

The debate was filled with personal attacks between the two candidates. Clinton accused Trump of being a puppet of Russian President Vladimir Putin, while Trump called Clinton a, quote, “nasty woman.” Trump also rejected the claims of nine women who have come forward to say they were sexually assaulted by him. Trump accused Clinton of being behind the claims.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, today we will air highlights from the debate and get response from Green Party nominee Jill Stein. We’ll also host a debate between Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges and Eddie Glaude, chair of the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University. But first we play the part of the debate dominating today’s headlines. Debate moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News.

CHRIS WALLACE: Mr. Trump, I want to ask you about one last question in this topic. You have been warning at rallies recently that this election is rigged and that Hillary Clinton is in the process of trying to steal it from you. Your running mate, Governor Pence, pledged on Sunday that he and you—his words—”will absolutely accept the result of this election.” Today, your daughter Ivanka said the same thing. I want to ask you here on the stage tonight: Do you make the same commitment that you will absolutely—sir, that you will absolutely accept the result of this election?

DONALD TRUMP: I will look at it at the time. I’m not looking at anything now. I’ll look at it at the time. What I’ve seen—what I’ve seen is so bad. First of all, the media is so so dishonest and so corrupt, and the pile-on is so amazing. The New York Times actually wrote an article about it, that they don’t even care. It’s so dishonest. And they’ve poisoned the minds of the voters. But unfortunately for them, I think the voters are seeing through it. I think they’re going to see through it. We’ll find out on November 8th, but I think they’re going to see through it.

CHRIS WALLACE: But, sir, there’s a—

DONALD TRUMP: If you look—excuse me, Chris—if you look at your voter rolls, you will see millions of people that are registered to vote—millions—this isn’t coming from me; this is coming from Pew report and other places—millions of people that are registered to vote that shouldn’t be registered to vote.

So, let me just give you one other thing. So I talk about the corrupt media. I talk about the millions of people. Tell you one other thing: She shouldn’t be allowed to run. It’s crook—she’s—she’s guilty of a very, very serious crime. She should not be allowed to run. And just in that respect, I say it’s rigged, because she should never—

CHRIS WALLACE: But—

DONALD TRUMP: Chris, she should never have been allowed to run for the presidency based on what she did with emails and so many other things.

CHRIS WALLACE: But, sir, there is a tradition in this country—in fact, one of the prides of this country is the peaceful transition of power and that no matter how hard-fought a campaign is, that at the end of the campaign, that the loser concedes to the winner—not saying that you’re necessarily going to be the loser or the winner, but that the loser concedes to the winner and that the country comes together, in part for the good of the country. Are you saying you’re not prepared now to commit to that principle?

DONALD TRUMP: What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense. OK?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, Chris, let me respond to that, because that’s horrifying. You know, every time Donald thinks things are not going in his direction, he claims whatever it is is rigged against him.

The FBI conducted a year-long investigation into my emails. They concluded there was no case. He said the FBI was rigged. He lost the Iowa caucus. He lost the Wisconsin primary. He said the Republican primary was rigged against him. Then Trump University gets sued for fraud and racketeering. He claims the court system and the federal judge is rigged against him. There was even a time when he didn’t get an Emmy for his TV program three years in a row, and he started tweeting that the Emmys were rigged against him.

DONALD TRUMP: Should have gotten it.

HILLARY CLINTON: This—this is a mindset. This is—this is how Donald thinks. And it’s funny, but it’s also really troubling.

CHRIS WALLACE: OK.

HILLARY CLINTON: No, that is not the way our democracy works. We’ve been around for 240 years. We’ve had free and fair elections. We’ve accepted the outcomes when we may not have liked them. And that is what must be expected of anyone standing on a debate stage during a general election.

You know, President Obama said the other day, when you’re whining before the game is even finished—

CHRIS WALLACE: Hold on, folks. Hold on, folks.

HILLARY CLINTON: —it just shows you’re not up to doing the job. And let’s—you know, let’s be clear about what he is saying and what that means. He is denigrating, he’s talking down our democracy. And I, for one, am appalled that somebody who is the nominee of one of our two major parties would take that kind of position.

DONALD TRUMP: I think what the FBI did and what the Department of Justice did, including meeting, with her husband, the attorney general in the back of an airplane on the tarmac in Arizona—I think it’s disgraceful. I think it’s a disgrace.

CHRIS WALLACE: All right.

DONALD TRUMP: I think we’ve never had a situation so bad in this country.

CHRIS WALLACE: Hold on, folks.

AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt from last night’s debate in Los Vegas.

Joining us now in Washington, D.C., Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Can you respond to president—to Donald Trump saying he does not know at this point—he’ll leave it up to, well, a surprise—whether he will support the results of the November elections?

KRISTEN CLARKE: You know, in my view, this was one of the most jarring moments during the evening. This notion, this conspiracy theory that suggests that our elections are rigged, you know, is incredibly dangerous. It casts a dark cloud over American democracy. We know that our elections are closely watched all across the globe. We hold our democracy out as one of the greatest on Earth. And while there may be imperfections, what we certainly know is that the outcomes, the process itself, is not broken and that there is—this is a mythology. This notion that you can, you know, distort or change or alter the outcome of a presidential election is just completely baseless and false.

What we do know is that the reality is that there have been many states around the country that have worked to lock people out of the process. So if we want to talk about ways to strengthen our democracy, let’s talk about why states have raced forward with restrictive photo ID requirements that lock voters out of the ballot box. Let’s talk about states that are purging people from the registration rolls. We’ve got a lawsuit in Hancock County, Georgia, where they have purged and removed legitimately registered African Americans from the registration rolls, and they have the sheriff’s office go to your home to issue a summons telling you that you’ve got to come down to the local registrar’s office to provide proof of your eligibility. Let’s talk about places like Macon-Bibb County, Georgia, where they are moving polling sites to hostile locations there. They moved a polling site out of a majority-black school and to the local sheriff’s office, a location deemed hostile by African-American voters there. So, if we want to talk about the real issues that we’re up against in our democracy today, let’s talk about voter suppression, because there is a track record of intense voter suppression efforts all across our country. And I hear silence on that point, and it’s troubling to me.

AMY GOODMAN: And specifically on this issue of not accepting the election, now his handlers are saying, “Well, it’s just like Al Gore challenging in 2000 in Florida.” Your quick response to that?

KRISTEN CLARKE: We’re not going to relitigate Bush v. Gore. You know, I didn’t hear complaints about the Republican primary. You know, Trump was far ahead of, you know, many of his candidates and seemed fine and didn’t argue that the outcome was rigged. You know, this conspiracy theory suggesting that elections are rigged seems to be one that candidates resort to when they feel that they’re on the losing side and that the American people are not on their side. It’s an old and, you know, familiar tactic. If we care about strengthening American democracy, let’s talk about the real issues and problems that lock people out of the ballot box. Let’s talk about the fact that in 2014 only 37 percent of Americans participated in the midterm election cycle. And a lot of that low voter turnout is attributable to voter suppression. But rigged elections? Pure fiction. Pure mythology. Casts a dark cloud over our democracy. And, you know, let’s talk about the real issues.

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