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Trump, Clinton clash in fiery debate

AAP logoAAP 10/10/2016 Peter Mitchell, AAP US Correspondent

Donald Trump has attempted to keep his troubled US presidential campaign alive in a fiery, insult-laden debate with Hillary Clinton where he threatened to put her in jail, labelled her as the devil and branded her a liar for denying a trade comment she made in Australia.

The debate at St Louis' Washington University on Sunday (Monday AEDT) began with a chill when Mr Trump and Ms Clinton broke tradition and refused to shake hands.

It quickly moved to the scandal that erupted on Friday where Mr Trump was caught bragging in 2005 about groping, kissing and attempting to have sex with women.

Mr Trump described the conversation, which he believed was private, as "locker room talk".

"You bragged that you have sexually assaulted women. Do you understand that?" debate co-moderator Anderson Cooper asked Mr Trump.

"No, I didn't say that at all," Mr Trump responded.

Asked if he has kissed or groped women without their consent, Mr Trump replied: "No, I have not".

Mr Trump pointed to the sexual past of Ms Clinton's husband, former US president Bill Clinton.

"If you look at Bill Clinton - far worse," Mr Trump said.

"Mine are words and his was action.

"What he has done to women there has never been anybody in the history of politics in this nation who has been so abusive to women."

The real estate mogul held a pre-debate press conference with four women who claimed to have been mistreated by Ms Clinton and Mr Clinton.

The women also sat in the audience for the debate, just metres from where Mr Clinton was sitting.

In last week's first debate Mr Trump targeted Ms Clinton's changed stance on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade deal proposed between the US, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada and seven other Pacific Rim nation.

Mr Clinton and Ms Clinton do not support the TPP, but when Ms Clinton was US secretary-of-state in 2012 and on a tour of Australia she described it as setting "the gold standard in trade agreements".

"She called it the gold standard," Mr Trump said.

"By the way at the last debate she lied because it turned out she did say the gold standard and she said she didn't."

Mr Trump also sensationally announced if he became president he would pursue Clinton legally for using a private email server while secretary-of-state and deleting 33,000 emails.

"If I win I am going to instruct my attorney-general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation because there has never been so many lies, so much deception," Mr Trump said.

In another verbal joust Ms Clinton said "it is just awfully good someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law with our country".

Mr Trump quickly responded: "Because you'd be in jail".

Ms Clinton shook her head. "Look it's just not true."

He continued the personal attacks, describing Ms Clinton as having "tremendous hate in her heart".

Clinton's former Democrat rival Bernie Sanders is supporting her campaign, a move Mr Trump slammed.

"I was so surprised to see him sign on with the devil," Mr Trump said.

Asked at the end to name one thing each admired about the other, Ms Clinton said she respected his children for their ability and devotion to Mr Trump. In response, he called her a fighter and said he admired her for her refusal to give up.

The third and final debate will be held on October 19 with the election on November 8.

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