Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump clashed on their experience, honesty, economic policies and views on race relations Monday night in the first debate of the presidential election.
Trump repeatedly accused Clinton of failing to solve American and international problems in her decades of public life, saying it was time for a president with business experience like his.
"Hillary has experience, but it's bad experience," Trump said. Earlier, attacking her economic plans, he said, "You've been doing this for 30 years - why are you just thinking of these solutions right now?"
Clinton asserted that she is "prepared to be president of the United States" - and sought to puncture Trump's business credentials, citing his bankruptcies and questions about how much, if anything, he paid in federal income taxes.
"You've taken business bankruptcy six times," Clinton said. "Sometimes what happened in business would be really bad for government."
At times Trump seemed to play into her hand, saying "that's called business" when she accused him of profiting from the 2008 financial crisis, and later interjecting "that makes me smart" when she asserted that in some years he paid no federal income taxes.
Later, when Clinton noted a lawsuit against Trump's company over racial discrimination, he responded by saying it was settled without an admission of guilt.
Clinton appeared composed, though at times scripted with one-liners, as when she accused him of proposing "Trumped-up trickle down" economics.
Trump, frequently taking drinks of water, began by citing an array of statistics and explaining taxes on international trade, but later showed more of the aggressive, blustery side that carried him through the GOP primary, interrupting Clinton's answers, cutting off moderator Lester Holt, an NBC News anchor and calling Clinton "wrong, wrong, wrong" - even when she correctly said he initially supported the Iraq war.
At one point he took time to plug a new Trump hotel opening in Washington.
The debate arrived with huge stakes for both candidates, was expected record viewership predicted to reach around 100 million people and Super Bowl-style coverage on cable news networks.
The night began with public polls showing a virtual tie in national polls and in key battleground states - including Pennsylvania - and the debate representing a chance for the candidates to surge, or stumble.
Trump opened as the aggressor, blasting Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, for supporting the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he blames for costing American jobs - and for praising another pending trade deal with Pacific Rim nations.
"We have to to stop our jobs from being stolen from us," Trump said. "Your husband signed NAFTA, which is one of the worst things that ever happened to the manufacturing industry."
Clinton said she has plans that would benefit the middle class and that Trump's economic proposals would help the wealthy - including himself.
"We have to have a tax system that rewards work and not just financial transactions," she said. "The kind of plan that Donald has put forth would be trickle down economics all over again."
One of the most in-depth segments came when the two debated relations between police and African Americans, and Trump's long-standing claims that President Obama was not born in the United States.
"I think bias is a problem for everyone, not just police," Clinton said, calling for restoring "trust between communities and the police" and saying "everyone should be respected by the law and everyone should respect the law."
Trump called for a return to the stop-and-frisk policies, since abandoned, employed most prominently in New York City.
He also blamed Clinton aides for starting the "birtherism" movement against Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign, while struggling to explain why he continued to promote the theory long after that, and after Obama had produced his birth certificate. Trump renounced the idea only recently.
"He has really started his political activity based on his racist lie that our first black president was not an American citizen," Clinton said.
Trump said he was "proud" to have forced Obama to produce his birth certificate.
Questions about Clinton's trustworthiness have eroded her solid summer lead.
She faced only brief questioning, however, about her private email server and some 33,000 emails from that server that were deleted.
Clinton, as she has before, said she "made a mistake" and would do it differently if she had a chance.
"That was more than a mistake, that was done purposely," Trump shot.
But he faced questions, too, about his refusal to release his tax returns, as every presidential candidate in modern history has done.
Clinton suggested that was because he is not as rich, charitable or successful as he claims.
"Maybe he doesn't want all of the American people to know that he's paid nothing in federal taxes," she asserted.
Trump said he would release his taxes if she produced the missing emails.
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