Sparks flew as the second presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump turned into an aggressively personal affair on Sunday night in St. Louis.
The candidates greeted each other without a handshake, and by the second question both were focused on firing increasingly vicious recriminations, insults and even threats, with Trump pledging to appoint a special prosecutor to delve into Clinton's email scandal if he becomes president, and saying that if he were already in charge, the former secretary of state would be in jail.
The pair traded onslaughts over Trump's suitability for the presidency, after the revealing of a 2005
tape in which the billionaire was recorded claiming to feel entitled to assault women due to his celebrity. In what was described as a diversionary tactic, Bill Clinton's alleged sexual misconducts were dragged into the debate, with Trump saying Hillary Clinton "should be ashamed" for her conduct towards her husband's accusers at the time.
"Nobody respects women more than I do," Trump claimed, before saying that people should focus on ISIS instead. Changing targets to the former president sitting in the audience, Trump then said, "Mine were words. Bill Clinton was action - no one in history as abusive to women."
In a later answer, Clinton reminded Trump of numerous examples in which he was not respectful to women.
In another surprising moment, Trump said that he disagreed with his running mate Mike Pence, when the latter said that Russian aggression in Syria should be met with "American strength."
"We haven't talked about it," Trump said, stating his qualified preference for Assad because "he kills ISIS."
When describing what he would do regarding the besieged city of Aleppo, which is under intense and indiscriminate regime and Russian bombing, Trump dismissed the city as "basically fallen."
As in the first debate, Trump also repeatedly brought up the Iran deal as an example of poor foreign policy decisions which Clinton has supported. Clinton defended both the deal and the sanctions she supported placing on Tehran in the years preceding it.
After a question from a Muslim audience member about the rise of Islamophobia, Trump said that Islamophobia was "a shame," but said that the US Muslim community bears communal responsibility for Islamic terrorism, and that Clinton would not even admit the problem and call it by its name.
In response, Clinton said that it was "dangerous to be engaging in the sort of demagogic rhetoric" that Trump has been displaying. Regarding Trump's opposition to Muslim immigration, Clinton asked "How do you do that? We are a country founded on religious liberty... are we going to have religious tests?"
Clinton said that America is not at war with Islam, but with radical jihadist terror, and that Muslim Americans need to be shown that they have a place in the country.
One final question turned the debate on its head. "Despite all the rhetoric, is there one positive trait you respect in the other?" asked an audience member, to somewhat weary laughter from the crowd. Clinton said, "I respect his children. His children are incredibly able and devoted and I think that says a lot about Donald. I do respect that."
Replying with the final comment of the evening, Trump said, "I will say this about Hillary. She doesn't quit, she doesn't give up. I consider that to be a very good trait."
The pressure on the 70-year-old Trump in the run-up to the debate was intense, with numerous Republicans disavowing Trump's campaign and polling numbers showing swings to Clinton.
The drama only increased in the hours preceding the face-off, with Trump publicly meeting and receiving an endorsement from four women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct. Three of those women sat some way behind Clinton in the debate hall, not rising with the audience when he was introduced with his daughter Chelsea and son-in-law Marc Mezvinsky.