A defiant Donald Trump has attacked Bill Clinton for his treatment of women and vowed, if he wins the White House, to put Hillary Clinton in jail for operating a private email server while serving as US secretary of state.
In today's contentious town-hall debate, Mr Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, said he would appoint a special prosecutor to look into his Democratic rival's email use because she had endangered national security during her tenure as President Barack Obama's chief diplomat from 2009-2013.
The 90-minute debate got off to a chilly start when the two candidates for the 8 November election greeted each other without the traditional handshake. It quickly turned into an acrimonious discussion of a 2005 video that emerged on Friday (Saturday NZT) in which Mr Trump was heard using vulgar language and talking about groping women without consent.
Mr Trump said he was embarrassed by the video but dismissed it as "locker room talk". Former US president Bill Clinton had done worse to women, he said.
"Mine are words and his are action," said Mr Trump, who appeared before the debate with women who have accused Mr Clinton of sexual misconduct. In the debate, Mr Trump also accused Mrs Clinton of going on the attack against women who had alleged sexual misconduct by her husband, who was president from 1993-2001.
Mrs Clinton responded that Mr Trump's comments showed he was unfit for the White House.
"He has said the video doesn't represent who he is but I think it's clear to anyone who heard it that it represents exactly who he is," Mrs Clinton said.
'You'd be in jail'
Mr Trump also went on the attack against Mrs Clinton over her private email server, saying: "You ought to be ashamed of yourself."
Mrs Clinton said, "You know it's just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in this country." Mr Trump shot back: "Because you'd be in jail."
A nearly year-long FBI investigation into the emails concluded earlier this year without charges being filed, although FBI Director James Comey said Mrs Clinton had been careless in her handling of sensitive material.
Mrs Clinton insisted there was "no evidence" that her server had been hacked and that any classified information had ended up in the wrong hands. "I take classified material very seriously," she said.
Mr Trump said: "You said it was fine to delete 33,000 emails. I don't think so."
Mrs Clinton shook her head. "Look it's just not true."
She accused Mr Trump of dodging a discussion of policy issues to avoid talking about his campaign because of "the way yours is exploding and Republicans are leaving you".
Republicans withdraw support
A flood of Republicans have withdrawn their support for Mr Trump over the 2005 video. The controversy has pitched Mr Trump into the biggest crisis of his 16-month-old campaign and deepened fissures between him and establishment Republicans.
The debate's town-hall-style format, with undecided voters posing about half the questions and the debate's two moderators posing the others, allowed the candidates to move freely around the stage and address the questioners directly.
Mrs Clinton, 68, and Mr Trump, 70, both stood up to answer questions, and Mrs Clinton frequently stood directly in front of the questioners to try to make a connection with voters. At times Mr Trump stood almost over her shoulder, or wandered the stage, while she spoke.
Mr Trump complained about moderators Anderson Cooper of CNN and Martha Raddatz of ABC News, saying the debate was "three on one".
Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton clashed on a series of topics throughout the debate, battling over taxes, healthcare, US policy in the Syria civil war and Mrs Clinton's comments that half of Mr Trump's supporters belonged in a "basket of deplorables."
"Within hours I said I was sorry about the way I talked about that, because my problem is not with his supporters, it's with him," Mrs Clinton said.
Mr Trump, in a badgering tone, offered a blistering critique of Mrs Clinton's handling of foreign policy as secretary of state, repeatedly calling it a failure.
"She talks tough, she talks really tough," Mr Trump said. "She talks about the rebels, she doesn't even know who the rebels are."
Taking a breath through his nose with a loud sniff, he continued, "The fact is almost everything she's done in foreign policy has been a mistake and a disaster."
Mr Trump also said he disagreed with Mike Pence, his vice presidential running mate, who declared last week in his debate against Mrs Clinton's No 2 Tim Kaine that the US should be prepared to use military force if needed in Syria.
"He and I haven't spoken and I disagree," Mr Trump said.
Trump appears with Bill Clinton accusers
Mr Trump met just hours before the debate with three women who had accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct and a fourth woman who was a victim in a rape case that Hillary Clinton participated in as a defence attorney. All four sat in the first row of the audience at the debate.
Before the debate, Mr Trump had threatened he was going to attack Mr Clinton for his marital infidelities in response to criticism from Mrs Clinton that the Republican nominee was a misogynist who has a history of mistreating women.
Mr Trump appeared with Paula Jones, who filed a sexual harassment suit against Mr Clinton in 1991, Juanita Broaddrick, who accused Mr Clinton of rape in 1978, and Kathleen Willey, a former White House aide who accused Mr Clinton of groping her in 1993.
None of the accusations was new. Mr Clinton was not charged in any of the cases, and he settled a sexual harassment suit with one of the women, Ms Jones, for $850,000 with no apology or admission of guilt.
Also at the event was Kathy Shelton, who was raped at the age of 12. Mrs Clinton, a practising attorney at the time, defended the rapist who ultimately pleaded guilty to a reduced charge.
Mrs Clinton's campaign responded to Mr Trump's pre-debate event by calling it a "stunt" and a "destructive race to the bottom".
Asked at the end to name one thing each admired about the other, Mrs Clinton said she respected his children for their ability and devotion to Mr Trump. In response, Mr Trump called her a fighter and said he admired her for her refusal to give up.
As the moderators announced the end of the debate, the two candidates turned toward each other and shook hands.
Their next and last debate is on 19 October.