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Donald Trump insists he will honour US election result - if he wins

Published 20/10/2016

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton (R) speaks as Republican nominee Donald Trump looks on during the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. AFP/Getty Images
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speak during the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. AFP/Getty Images
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the third presidential debate with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Former President Bill Clinton, right, speaks to his daughter Chelsea Clinton, left, before the third presidential debate at University of Nevada in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during the third and final US presidential debate with Republican nominee Donald Trump at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Paul J. RichardsPAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Mark Ralston-Pool/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Members of the media watch the third U.S. presidential debate with republican presidential nominee Donald Trump democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the media center the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump listens to Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speak during the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the third and final US presidential debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Paul J. RichardsPAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEBSAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump listens during the third and final US presidential debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Paul J. RichardsPAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Robyn BeckROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the third and final US presidential debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Paul J. RichardsPAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is seen speaking on a TV screen during the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan SmialowskiBRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton waves on arrive for the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEBSAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the third and final US presidential debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Paul J. RichardsPAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
Police officers stand outside the Thomas & Mack Center ahead of the third presidential debate between Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at UNLV in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: (L-R) Ivanka Trump, Tiffany Trump and Malania Trump arrive before the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Melania Trump is greeted by Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence before the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Melania Trump arrives before the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Melania Trump shakes hands with former presidential candidate, Dr. Ben Carson before the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Donald Trump Jr. and his wife Vanessa Trump wait for the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Ivanka Trump waits for the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Melania Trump arrives before the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Eric Trump speaks with his wife Lara Yunaska before the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Melania Trump arrives before the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Ivanka Trump waits for the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Melania Trump arrives before the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Co-chairs for the Commission on Presidential Debates, Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr. (R), and Michael D. McCurry (L) speak prior to the third and final US presidential debate between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Paul J. RichardsPAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
Republican candidate for Vice President Mike Pence (R) and Melania Trump are seen before the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. Democrat Hillary Clinton and rival Donald Trump face off in their last presidential debate on October 19, with the Republican candidate spiraling downward amid allegations of sexual misconduct and wild charges of a "rigged" US election. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / joe raedleJOE RAEDLE/AFP/Getty Images
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Guest and attendees wait for the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Guests and attendees wait for the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump adjusts the microphone during the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Fox News anchor and moderator Chris Wallace speaks to the guests and attendees during the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Former U.S. President Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea Clinton speak to guests before the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waves to the crowd as she walks on the stage during the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump acknowledges the crowd during the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
A television cameraman tests his equipment prior to showtime at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas, Nevada, where the final debate between US presidential nominees Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump will be held October 19, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL J. RICHARDSPAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani (C) arrives before the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Ted Danson and his wife Mary Steenburgen arrive prior to the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
The Reverend Jesse Jackson arrives for the third and final US presidential debate between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Paul J. RichardsPAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Former NBA champion Kareem Abdul-Jabbar attends the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Republican candidate for Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen are seen before the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. Democrat Hillary Clinton and rival Donald Trump face off in their last presidential debate on October 19, with the Republican candidate spiraling downward amid allegations of sexual misconduct and wild charges of a "rigged" US election. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / joe raedleJOE RAEDLE/AFP/Getty Images
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Former presidential candidate, Dr. Ben Carson speaks with Jesse Jackason before the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair Donna Brazile (R) confers with US Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (L), D-Nevada, prior to the third and final US presidential debate between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Paul J. RichardsPAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Investor and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban arrives prior to the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Former presidential candidate, Dr. Ben Carson speaks with guests before the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
US entertainer Wayne Newton and wife Kathleen McCrone attend the third and final US presidential debate between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Paul J. RichardsPAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
Members of the public arrive for the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. Democrat Hillary Clinton and rival Donald Trump face off in their last presidential debate on October 19, with the Republican candidate spiraling downward amid allegations of sexual misconduct and wild charges of a "rigged" US election. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / joe raedleJOE RAEDLE/AFP/Getty Images
Police officers stand outside the Thomas & Mack Center ahead of the third presidential debate between Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at UNLV in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A television cameraman tests his equipment prior to showtime at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas, Nevada, where the final debate between US presidential nominees Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump will be held October 19, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL J. RICHARDSPAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani (C) arrives before the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Ted Danson and his wife Mary Steenburgen arrive prior to the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
The Reverend Jesse Jackson arrives for the third and final US presidential debate between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Paul J. RichardsPAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Former NBA champion Kareem Abdul-Jabbar attends the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Republican candidate for Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen are seen before the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. Democrat Hillary Clinton and rival Donald Trump face off in their last presidential debate on October 19, with the Republican candidate spiraling downward amid allegations of sexual misconduct and wild charges of a "rigged" US election. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / joe raedleJOE RAEDLE/AFP/Getty Images
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Former presidential candidate, Dr. Ben Carson speaks with Jesse Jackason before the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair Donna Brazile (R) confers with US Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (L), D-Nevada, prior to the third and final US presidential debate between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Paul J. RichardsPAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Investor and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban arrives prior to the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Former presidential candidate, Dr. Ben Carson speaks with guests before the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
US entertainer Wayne Newton and wife Kathleen McCrone attend the third and final US presidential debate between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Paul J. RichardsPAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
Members of the public arrive for the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. Democrat Hillary Clinton and rival Donald Trump face off in their last presidential debate on October 19, with the Republican candidate spiraling downward amid allegations of sexual misconduct and wild charges of a "rigged" US election. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / joe raedleJOE RAEDLE/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump has threatened to challenge the result of the US presidential election if it is "questionable" - although he teasingly promised to embrace the outcome "if I win".

The Republican presidential nominee said he would accept "a clear election result" but was reserving his right to "contest or file a legal challenge" if he loses.

It was his first attempt to explain his stunning warning a day earlier in the final debate that he might not accept the results.

Mr Trump brushed off the likelihood of that happening with a confident prediction that "we're not going to lose".

Speaking at a rally in Delaware, Ohio, he said: "I would like to promise and pledge to all of my voters and supporters and to all of the people of the United States that I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election."

But he added: "If I win."

Mr Trump's musings about hypothetical Election Day scenarios came as his campaign was reeling from widespread astonishment over his refusal to commit to the time-honoured American tradition of the election's loser acceding gracefully to the winner.

Mr Trump has warned repeatedly of impending, widespread voter fraud, despite no evidence to support him and plenty of evidence to the contrary.

Asked at the debate whether he would accept the outcome, Mr Trump said: "I will tell you at the time. I will keep you in suspense."

That sent immediate shockwaves through the campaign, as Mr Trump's supporters tried to soften his remarks and fellow Republicans sought more distance from their nominee.


The distraction deprived Mr Trump of the comeback moment he sorely needed, despite a sometimes more measured and poised performance in Wednesday's third and final debate.

The Republican National Committee, whose chief mission is to get the GOP nominee elected, was put in the remarkable position of disputing its own candidate, with a spokesman saying the party would "respect the will of the people".

Even some of Mr Trump's most ardent supporters felt it was a step over the line. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee said it was "imperative that Donald Trump clearly state" he will accept the results.

Mr Trump's running mate Mike Pence and campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, both of whom had previously insisted Mr Trump would accept the election's results, were left trying to assert that Trump would contest the results only under extraordinary circumstances.

As he entered the campaign's final stretch on Thursday, Mr Trump tried to turn the tables on Hillary Clinton by accusing her of "cheating" and suggesting she should "resign from the race".

He cited a hacked email that showed Mrs Clinton's campaign was tipped off about a question she had be asked in a CNN town hall meeting during the Democratic primary.

"Can you imagine if I got the questions? They would call for the re-establishment of the electric chair, do you agree?" Mr Trump asked supporters.

Mr Trump's effort to shift the conversation back to Mrs Clinton centred on an email from long-time Democratic Party operative Donna Brazile to Mrs Clinton's campaign in March with the subject line "From time to time I get the questions in advance". It contained the wording of a death penalty question that Ms Brazile suggested Mrs Clinton would be asked.

Ms Brazile, now the acting Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairwoman, was a CNN contributor at the time she sent the email, one of thousands disclosed publicly by WikiLeaks after Mrs Clinton's campaign chairman's emails were hacked. Mrs Clinton's campaign has said Russia was behind the hack.

"She used these questions, studied the questions, got the perfect answer for the questions and never said that she did something that was totally wrong and inappropriate," Mr Trump said of Mrs Clinton. He said that Ms Brazile should resign as the head of the DNC.

All that was overshadowed by Mr Trump's comments about the election results, which marked the culmination of weeks of escalating assertions that "this election is rigged" against him and that Mrs Clinton was trying "to steal it".

Meanwhile, ratings group Nielsen said the third presidential debate is likely to land between the record-setting first match between Mrs Clinton and Mr Trump and the second in terms of the number of Americans who tuned in on TV.

For the major commercial broadcast and cable news networks, Nielsen estimated there were some 63.7 million viewers.

When estimates for other networks that aired the debate, including PBS, are added in, the final viewership tally should approach 70 million viewers.

The first debate reached 84 million people, the most ever for a presidential debate, and the second had 66.5 million.

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