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Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Face Off in First 2016 Presidential Debate: Everything That Happened

The first 2016 presidential debate is in the books! Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump battled it out on Monday, September 26, at Hofstra University over such issues as taxes, jobs, security and yes, even stamina. And check out our picks for the five craziest moments! (“Bigly,” anyone?)

Here is Us Weekly‘s by-the-minute roundup of everything that happened during the tense event, moderated by Lester Holt. And be sure to start reading at the bottom to get it in chronological order.

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10:45 p.m. ET: Lester Holt did his darnedest, but he was officially flailing in the final minutes of the debate as he tried to regain control of the discussion — or even get a word in edgewise. Both candidates took advantage of the moment to make sweeping, stump speech-y statements about their vision for the country. Said Clinton, “I intend to be a leader people can count on here and around the world,” citing her intention to “stand up to bullies whether they’re abroad or at home.”

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Trump retorted: “We are losing billions and billions of dollars. We cannot be the policeman of the world.”

In the end, it was a question about sexism that ended up more or less capping off the debate, as Holt brought up Trump’s recent comments about Clinton lacking a “presidential look.”

“I didn’t say that,” Trump said. “I said she doesn’t have the stamina.” (Fact check: He did say that.)

Holt unsuccessfully tried to fact-check Trump in the moment, saying, “The quote was, ‘She doesn’t have the presidential look'” — which Trump summarily ignored. Clinton, on the other hand, took her opponent’s statement at face value:

“Well, as soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease-fire … or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina,” she said, getting the biggest cheer of her appearance, and probably of the night on a whole.

And while there was time for each candidate to return to message — Trump with the familiar promise to “make America great again,” and Clinton with an exhortation to the public to “vote as if your life depended on it” — that “stamina” reply was likely to be the most-remembered moment of the campaign. For Trump’s supporters, it will be evidence of Clinton’s shameless teflon politicking and smug elitism. For Clinton’s fans, it’ll be the best burn in an evening delightfully full of ’em. And no matter who you’re voting for, it’s only the beginning of the run up to election day! We’ve got two more presidential debates to go before it’s time to hit the polls.

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10:32 p.m. ET: The first person to highlight the word “temperament” in tonight’s debate? Surprise: It’s not who you’d expect.

On the heels of a question about foreign policy and the war in Iraq, Trump exclaimed, “I have a much better temperament than she has! I think my strongest asset, maybe by far, is my temperament. I have a winning temperament. I know how to win.”

Clinton, asked for a response, kept her answer on message — but before she did, she let out a laugh that is probably going to be one of the most GIF-ed moments of the entire debate.

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10:27 p.m. ET: Lester Holt wanted the candidates to talk about ISIS, but also, vitally, about terrorism at home. How would our president prevent attacks like the ones in Orlando, in New York, in San Bernardino? Unfortunately, this question never really got answered by either candidate, veering instead into more ISIS talk that began with an accusation by Trump.

“President Obama and Secretary Clinton created a vacuum when they got out of Iraq,” Trump said. He criticized the Obama administration for not leaving troops in Iraq — and for not taking Iraq’s oil when we withdrew our military presence from the country.

“I hope the fact checkers are turning up the volume and really working hard,” Clinton replied. “Donald supported the invasion of Iraq.”

Trump growled into the mic, “Wrong. Wrong. Wrong,” which ultimately turned into a three-minute argument between the Republican candidate and the moderator over whether he did, in fact, support the Iraq War. (Fact check: At the time of the invasion, Trump did express support — although he also calls this a lie perpetuated by the mainstream media, putting Us in a bit of a Kafka trap.)

Hillary redirected briefly to the topic at hand, citing working with NATO and Middle Eastern allies, as well as the American Muslim community, to combat terrorism in the U.S.

Trump responded: “We’ve been working with them for many years, and we’ve got the greatest mess we’ve ever seen.”

This wasn’t a comment about homegrown terrorism, but rather about Iran — and NATO, which Trump admitted to being unfamiliar with as recently as this year, but which he said he intends to tap for assistance in sniffing out and defeating ISIS.

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10:11 p.m. ET: As the debate segued into the hot topic of “birtherism,” Hillary Clinton earned her first big outburst of applause:

“I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate,” she said, responding to an oblique reference by Trump to her having traveled less in the past week in advance of the event (and, y’know, after a pneumonia diagnosis). “Yes, I prepared for this debate. You know what else I prepared for? Being president.”

After the shouting and clapping subsided, Lester Holt asked the question that Trump must have known was coming: What of his continual insistence that President Obama was born outside the U.S.?

If Trump knew the question was coming, you knew this response was also on the way: Not only did Donald Trump blame Clinton’s 2008 campaign, specifically Sidney Blumenthal, for igniting the rumor, but according to Trump, the Apprentice alum is not the instigator. He’s the hero who solved the problem.

“When I got involved,” Trump said, “I got him to give the birth certificate.” And per Trump, the president should thank him for his efforts: “I think I did a great job and a great service for the president in getting him to produce his birth certificate.”

Clinton, mincing no words, responded by referring to the birther conspiracy as “a racist lie,” noting that Trump did an awful lot to keep the issue front and center long after she was out of the race. She also cited Trump’s problematic history with the black community, beginning with the lawsuits from the 1970s accusing him of discriminatory housing practices.

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9:57 p.m. ET: We’re behind schedule, said Holt, so let’s talk about race and racial violence — most particularly the high-profile problem of unarmed black men being killed by police, as happened in both Tulsa and Charlotte this week. How do we heal the divide?

Clinton had never looked so much like a practiced politician as with her answer to this question, which straddled the issue in a way that will likely leave nobody happy.

“We have to restore trust between the communities and the police,” she said. “Everyone should be respected by the law, and everyone should respect the law.”

As always, Clinton went back to her plans and policies: She called for criminal justice reform since day one of her campaign, she said. And this issue ended up being the one she used to segue into a conversation about gun rights and gun reform: Gun violence, she said, is a leading cause of death for young black men.

Trump’s response is to point out what Clinton didn’t say:

“Secretary Clinton doesn’t want to use a couple of words: law and order,” he said.

Citing inner-city violence and describing cities like Chicago as being like “a war-torn country,” Trump repeated his controversial remarks from earlier this month and suggested stop-and-frisk as an effective policy for combating crime — which Lester Holt reminded Trump was ruled unconstitutional as a form of racial profiling. According to Trump, however, this isn’t a race issue but an immigration issue: The problem is people who enter our country illegally, he said, “and they have guns, and they shoot people. Our police are afraid to do anything.”

On redirect, Clinton didn’t respond to Trump’s mention of immigration — but did come back with a more forceful indictment of systemic racism, citing the harsher sentencing black men face as compared with whites.

“I think implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police,” she said.

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9:40 p.m. ET: Trump went on a long tear about infrastructure, describing our airports as “like a third-world country.” What we need now, he said, is a president who really understands business — not another political insider.

But if Trump’s claim to the presidency is his business acumen, said Clinton, we should talk about “the thousands of people you have stiffed over the course of your business.”

Clinton claimed to have met multiple people who weren’t paid by Trump for work performed; she also brought up his six bankruptcies. In summary, she said: “Sometimes, what happens in business would be really bad for government.”

Trump replied, “It’s all words — it’s all sound bites. I built an unbelievable company.”

9:37 p.m. ET: With all this talk of taxes on the wealthy, it’s no surprise that Lester Holt brought up the fly in Donald Trump’s ointment: Where are his tax returns?

“I will release my tax returns, against my lawyer’s wishes, when [Clinton] releases her 33,000 emails that have been deleted,” said Trump, to a brief burst of cheering from the audience. Yep, that’s right: We still have not heard the last about Clinton’s damn emails.

Offered a chance to respond, Hillary speculated on Trump’s potential reasons for withholding his returns:

“Maybe he’s not as rich as he says he is. Maybe he’s not as charitable as he claims to be,” she said. “Or maybe he doesn’t want the American people to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes.”

“That makes me smart,” Trump interjected.

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9:26 p.m. ET: Lester Holt attempted to regain control of the debate, but not before Donald Trump shouted over him for a solid 60 seconds. Trump eventually regained some equanimity, but not before hollering two eyebrow-raising accusations at Hillary Clinton:

“I’m going to cut taxes bigly, and you’re going to raise taxes bigly!”


“No wonder you’ve been fighting ISIS your entire adult life!”

Hillary Clinton responded to the first comment by directing folks to her website, and to the second by politely, laughingly begging for a fact checker.

Clinton said she supports the bringing back of jobs from overseas, but points to Trump’s proposals as full of loopholes specifically aimed to benefit his family and his business. Through Trump’s attempts to interrupt, Clinton hammered home her plan: to invest in the middle class, and reducing college debt.

Trump responded with a swift cut-down:

“All talk, no action. Sounds good, doesn’t work. Our country is suffering because people like Secretary Clinton have made bad decisions,” he said. “We are in a big, fat, ugly bubble.”

The result of this bubble? Among other things, Trump said, we have a “political” Fed artificially dampening interest rates — which, he predicted, will skyrocket the moment that Obama leaves office. 

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9:19 p.m. ET: The first heated moment in tonight’s debate? Appropriately, it’s about climate change! Hillary claimed that her opponent believes climate change is a hoax; Trump, incensed, interrupted repeatedly: “I did not say that.”

As the next question unfurled, Trump took an unusual tack: repeatedly attacking policies like the NAFTA treaty, which was not Hillary Clinton’s policy but rather that of her husband, former president Bill Clinton.

Hillary gave a brief defense of her husband’s policies, saying he did “a pretty good job,” before returning to her talking points vis-a-vis more jobs with better wages. What followed was another heated moment, in the form of our first burn of the night:

“But you have no plan!” Donald yells.

“Oh, I do,” Hillary replies. “I’ve written a book about it — it’s called Stronger Together. You can pick it up at a bookstore, or an airport near you.”

9:08 p.m. ET: The first question for the candidates? Job creation. How will our nominees create jobs that will put money in the pockets of American workers?

“Today is my granddaughter’s second birthday, so I think about this a lot,” said Hillary, with a savvy reminder that she’s not just a politician, but also a human grandma.

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Clinton touted small business as a major source of new jobs, along with raising the minimum wage and guaranteeing equal pay for women’s work. And yes, that includes supporting work/life balance. Clinton spoke forcefully about paid family leave, as well as sick days and debt-free college tuition, which she intends to see paid for by a “fair share” tax for the wealthy and the closing of corporate loopholes. She also took time to address the American people directly:

“You have to judge us. Who can shoulder the immense, awesome responsibilities of the presidency?”

Trump’s response to the same question was to remind the audience about the problem of offshoring jobs:

“Our jobs are fleeing the country, going to Mexico and other countries,” he said. And other countries, he added, are piggybacking on American success to our detriment: “They’re using our country as a piggy bank to rebuild China, and many other countries are doing the same thing.”

Trump name-dropped swing states like Michigan and Ohio, where the economy still hasn’t rebounded to pre-recession levels, as beneficiaries of his intended policies. And yes, he said, he agrees with Hillary on paid family leave — with caveats.

“We probably disagree in terms of numbers and amounts,” Trump said.

What’s important, said Trump, is tax reduction, which will in turn create jobs: “Under my plan, I will be reducing taxes tremendously. It’s going to be a beautiful thing to watch.”

Clinton’s response: “It would be trickle-down economics all over again. … I call it Trumped-up trickle-down.” 

9:02 p.m. ET: And we’re off! Even before the action of the debate began, we had a historic moment as the candidates’ spouses exchanged a greeting: Melania Trump, who could be First Lady, shook hands with the first ever potential First Gentleman, former president Bill Clinton.

Per moderator Lester Holt, tonight’s debate will focus on three themes: achieving prosperity, America’s direction and securing America. This will be the first of three presidential debates.

With that, out come the candidates! Hillary Clinton in a brilliant red pantsuit, and Donald Trump in a classic black two-piece suit with a blue tie. 

8 p.m. ET: The first of the 2016 presidential election’s historic debates is quite a milestone: It’s the first female major party candidate for president vs. the first ever reality TV personality-turned-Republican nominee.

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On Monday, September 26, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will take the stage at Hofstra University for a full 90 minutes to answer tough questions about policy and preparedness — and to challenge each other’s respective abilities to hold the highest office in the United States government for the next four years.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images(2)

With recent polls showing the candidates in a seriously close race for public approval, tonight’s debate will be a chance for each of them to sway undecided voters in their favor. Clinton is almost guaranteed to bring polished talking points, years of experience in public service, and a finely pressed pantsuit to her glass ceiling-shattering appearance on the debate stage. 

By contrast, Trump makes no guarantees as to which version of him we’ll be getting: the bombastic showman with a penchant for incendiary remarks, or the more reserved politician who enthusiastically promises to build walls, change the status quo and make America great again.

But regardless of what goes down when Clinton and Trump face off for the first time ever, it’ll be history in the making — and Us Weekly will be standing by to bring you minute-by-minute updates of all the pivotal moments from the debate. Follow along starting at 9 p.m. ET, and stick around after the fireworks for a roundup of the parts that everyone will be talking, Facebooking and Tweeting about come Tuesday morning.

The first 2016 presidential debate airs on all major networks Monday, September 26, at 9 p.m. ET. 

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