Vladimir Putin has been invoked plenty during the 2016 campaign, and that was the case Wednesday night in Las Vegas. In a question that started off about Hillary Clinton's position on open borders, the candidates were soon at odds over the Russian president and his role in the race.
Clinton was asked about her views on a "hemispheric common market," a phrase she used in a speech after leaving the State Department, according to a transcript that emerged from one of the WikiLeaks releases, the group that has been publishing hacked emails from her campaign chairman, John Podesta. The Clinton campaign has accused the Russian government of perpetrating the hack in an effort to help Donald Trump's campaign.
“The Russian government has engaged in espionage against Americans," Clinton said.
“They have given that information to WikiLeaks for the purpose of putting it on the Internet,” she said, saying Russia's involvement was clearly at the behest of "Putin himself."
Clinton then asked whether Trump would acknowledge that Russia was trying to influence the election.
"How did we get on to Putin?" the GOP nominee added incredulously, before blasting Clinton for supporting "open borders."
As for the Russian president, Trump said: “I don’t know Putin. He said nice things about me.”
Regarding Clinton, Trump said, "He has no respect for her. He has no respect for our president.”
Clinton shot back: “That’s because he’d rather have a puppet as president of the United States.”
“You’re the puppet," Trump countered.
Clinton continued to blast Trump as being the "clear favorite" of the Russian president, while Trump said Putin had "outsmarted her at every step of the way" during her tenure as secretary of State.
Would he condemn Putin trying to affect the outcome of the election?
He wasn't willing to concede that Russia was, but added "of course I condemn" any nation doing so.