Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton faced off in Sunday night’s town-hall-style debate. (Gage Skidmore / CC 2.0)

Just like that, one of the most highly anticipated debates of the year is at an end. Hillary Clinton and her family are sticking around the room, shaking hands and meeting the audience of undecided voters — Donald Trump and his family have left.

The recent spate of political chaos—Trump’s lewd comments, WikiLeaks revelations about Clinton—were indeed brought up in the debate. But the biggest surprise? There was room for serious policy discussion. Issues like health care, foreign policy, the Supreme Court and climate change were all addressed in serious, specific terms by both nominees.

Another curious aspect of the town hall format: Trump seemed to have trouble standing still, often pacing the stage like “a schoolyard bully,” as Truthdig’s Bill Boyarsky noted below. Clinton seemed more comfortable, sitting down during Trump’s turns and working the audience during her own time.

And thanks to our readers for following along. There was, of course, criticism of both Clinton and Trump as the debate progressed, but ultimately, reader criticism of Clinton seemed to prevail. “Trump won this debate,” user Peter Quinn declared. “Period.” User Brad Benson agrees.

The Twitter-sphere seems to think otherwise—the outrageous news of the past few days has led many to think that nothing that Trump did, or could have done, Sunday night would make him acceptable.

7:40 p.m. PDT:

Another take from Bill Boyarsky:

On Syria, Clinton said it’s all in for Russia in Syria, and that the Russians had decided who they want to be president of the United States “and it’s not me.” Trump praised Russia’s nuclear program, “ours is old, theirs is new.” Then he went into a defense of Russia fighting for Assad: “I don’t like Assad at all but Assad is killing ISIS [Islamic State], Russia is killing ISIS, Iran is killing ISIS.” This guy really likes Russia.

Trump is allowed to filibuster for a while. Over to Hillary: She wouldn’t use more ground forces in Syria. Hopes that by the time she is president, we will have pushed ISIS out of Mosul. Trump whines about the moderators, complaining that Clinton ”goes a minute over and you don’t stop her.”

An audience member asks a softball question on whether he would be a president for all America. Trump uses that to launch a long diatribe about life in the inner cities, the horror of it, the same thing he has been saying on the campaign trail. He stands behind Clinton, looking fierce, head tilted to one side, scornful look on his face, mouth turned down. He walks around in a way that shows contempt, hands clasped in front of him, leavened by an occasional smirk.

“She has tremendous hate in her heart,” he says.

But Trump may have averted disaster. He avoided answering questions, he spoke in a disciplined manner, he called her all sorts of names and, as noted earlier, said he would appoint a special prosecutor to investigate her and her emails. He mangled facts, to put it kindly. He walked around the stage in a schoolyard-bully way. He stood close her, apparently trying to intimidate her. But he didn’t flame out.

7:37 p.m. PDT:

Oh boy, the final question: Does either of the nominees respect anything about the other?

Clinton goes first and says that she respects Trump’s children, who reflect much about her opponent as a human. This also allows her to once again bring up her “mother and a grandmother” role, showing the audience a bit of her personal side.

Trump’s turn. He starts by complimenting his own children. He says he sees Clinton as a fighter. “She doesn’t give up.” He sneaks in several critiques on the way to ultimately acknowledging that he respects Clinton’s aggressiveness.

7:35 p.m. PDT: An audience question again touches upon some of the serious issues that have been largely overlooked throughout the election season. Where do the candidates stand on energy?

Trump argues for clean coal. “I will bring our energy companies back,” Trump says, detailing specific steps he would take as president to deal with America’s energy crisis. Much of his rhetoric in answering this question harkens back to classic conservative ideologies—we need to give our energy companies more freedom and limit government control.

Clinton starts to take his proposals apart, piece by piece. She cites the importance of remaining “energy independent” so that we don’t rely on the Middle East for oil, and she also supports moving toward clean energy to fight climate change and create new jobs.

“I’m the only candidate” who has a plan to revitalize coal country, Clinton says.

7:25 p.m. PDT: Trump is picking up steam. He relentlessly attacks Clinton instead of answering Cooper’s direct question about some of Trump’s recent tweets.

Clinton, of course, charges that Trump would not be fit to be president. She again refers to her decades of experience, working with three presidents—her husband Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

The moderators briefly lose control of both nominees, provoking laughter from the audience.

Finally, an audience question that has been on many Americans’ minds: What about a ninth Supreme Court justice? (The death of Antonin Scalia has left the high court one justice short.)

“I would want to see the Supreme Court reverse Citizens United,” Clinton says. “Donald doesn’t agree with that.” She also cites the importance of the court in supporting voting rights, Roe v. Wade and marriage equality. Clinton has a pattern: She responds positively and offers specifics before briefly mentioning and criticizing Trump’s views, and finally wraps up with a strong general statement.

Trump’s first words? “Justice Scalia. A great judge.” He says he’s already picked 20 prospective judges, who have been “beautifully reviewed by just about everybody.” Throughout the night, despite the varying levels of energy behind Trump’s words, he has stuck to his classic rhetoric: “Disaster” and “tremendous” are routinely uttered even as he speaks in generalizations.

And, of course, his direct attacks continue on Clinton, who weathers them calmly.

7:18 p.m. PDT: A question from the audience: Would you be a devoted president for all the people? Trump brings up the “basket of deplorables” comment, and somehow turns the conversation to a lack of jobs, inner cities and the Latino communities.

Trump is really sticking to his new rhetoric: Clinton is “all talk,” no action. An interesting strategy in the face of Clinton’s decades of experience, which she often uses as a positive.

Clinton is still touting her experience, undeterred by Trump’s “all talk” critique. Again, during Clinton’s emotional proclamations to the audience, Trump hovers behind his chair or circles the stage ominously.

Cooper interrupts Clinton as she discusses the “Trump effect” and argues that his campaign promotes bullying. Cooper asks Clinton directly about her “basket of deplorables” comment, but she redirects the question to further argue that Trump’s campaign bullies and insults.

“I am proud of the campaign Bernie Sanders and I ran,” Clinton remarks. A curious sentence considering the earlier discussion of WikiLeaks and the DNC, yet Trump doesn’t zero in on it in his response.

7:14 p.m. PDT: The debate shifts: Time to discuss Syria and the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo. Has the U.S. waited too long to help?

Clinton, of course, is prepared for the question. She dives into her assessment of the Assad regime, Islamic State and Russia’s influence in the region, and cites her experience as secretary of state. Trump is finally sitting down, as Clinton continues to try to engage with the audience during her allotted two-minute answer.

“I’ve stood up to Russia, I’ve taken on Putin,” she says. As her time ends, Trump dives in. Clinton sits down, calmly watching his response.

“She talks tough against Putin and Assad,” Trump says. He argues that when the U.S. arms rebels, it ends up coming back to hurt the U.S. His main argument is to attack Clinton’s choices during her tenure in the State Department. Trump is becoming more energized—his time ends, but he talks over moderator Martha Raddatz.

Raddatz asks the question again, and Trump says he disagrees with the position of his running mate, Gov. Mike Pence. Raddatz continues to interject, trying to get Trump to provide specific answers. He says the U.S. is being “stupid” for proclaiming what areas of Syria they are going to attack, and he “can’t think of any reasons” he would publicly declare where he was going to attack. “Psychological warfare—” Raddatz begins to interject, but Trump is on a roll.

The moderators, probably well aware of the criticism of their colleagues in earlier debates, are trying to hold both nominees accountable to answering the questions and observing their time limits.

Raddatz grills Clinton on how she would deal with Islamic State—what would she do differently than Obama? Clinton provides a detailed answer and again cites her experience as secretary of state.

Trump is eager to interject. He holds the microphone close to his face and argues that the moderators aren’t holding Clinton to the time limit in the way they do to him.

7:00 p.m. PDT: Boyarsky provides insight on the exchange involving Russia and WikiLeaks, as well as the discussion on taxes:

Now it’s getting hot. The Russians “are doing it to influence the election for Donald Trump,” Clinton said. That was how she warded off a question about the WikiLeaks transcripts. “She doesn’t know it is the Russians doing the hacking,” Trump said. He added, “I have no loans with Russia.”

On taxes, “I am paying hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes,” Trump said. And “as soon as my routine audit is finished,” he will release his tax returns.

An audience member asks what he would do to improve the tax code. He said he would get rid of carried interest and reduce corporate taxes. “She [Clinton] is raising your taxes and I am lowering your taxes,” he said.

Clinton said Trump would give the wealthiest and the corporations the biggest tax cut they have ever had.

With an hour to go, no fireworks. He is being calm.

6:54 p.m. PDT:

Trump is forced to defend himself against implications that he is involved in Russian hacking of American institutions. He also answers a question about taxes, and begins to gain back some of his usual energy. He gives an impassioned speech about how taxes are too high, and mixes in small critiques of Clinton’s proposals with explanations of how America is in dire straits.

Clinton responds with equal energy. “He lives in an alternative reality,” she says of Trump’s tax-cut proposals.

Trump is standing behind his chair, gripping the top of it. He then circles around the stage while Clinton speaks passionately to a section of the audience.

“I want to invest in you,” Clinton says. Again, both nominees have been able to explain the details of their tax policy positions without too much back and forth or interruption.

Cooper brings up Trump’s tax returns, asking if he was able to use his write-off to avoid paying federal taxes. Trump acknowledges that he did, but also accuses Clinton’s donors of doing the same thing. As Trump heats up, Clinton resumes her smiling.

Trump’s line of attack is that his tax advantages were created at the hands of politicians like Clinton, and argues that her decades of experience show that she actually can’t get anything done.

6:51 p.m. PDT: Boyarsky gives us his analysis on the debate so far:

I can’t believe this. They are getting into a serious discussion over Obamacare. Bill Clinton’s critical comments, raised in a question by moderator Cooper, got them deep into the weeds with this. Another serious question from the audience about Islamophobia. Trump said there is a problem. People have to report what they see. Muslims have to report the problems when they see them. He is very calm in answering this, just as he was on Obamacare. Criticized her and Obama for not mentioning the word “terrorist.” He laid out his anti-Muslim attack, but calmly. Demagogue in calm tones. She replied she intends to defeat Islamic State, but with the help of Muslim nations.

What about his demand for a shutdown of Muslim immigration? Trump says, “Captain Khan is an American hero and if I were president he would have been alive today,” and he talks about “extreme vetting” of potential immigrants.

Clinton steps out from behind Trump and talks directly to the audience. He walks around behind her. An odd body language for him. He then points his fingers—to whom is unclear.

“Wait a minute, she just went 25 seconds over her time, can I respond to that?” Now Trump is getting steamed up about immigrants, getting more excited. Clinton ”has bad judgment, so bad she should never be president of the United States.”

6:48 p.m. PDT:

“Is it OK for politicians to be two-faced?”

This is the question directed at Clinton in response to recent WikiLeaks documents showing that Clinton stated that politicians “need both a public and a private position.”

Clinton argues that these comments were taken out of context. She then brings up Russian hackers who are trying to “influence the election for Donald Trump.”

“We deserve answers,” she says, demanding that Trump release all of his tax returns. “So ridiculous,” Trump says.

6:40 p.m. PDT: Truthdig’s own Bill Boyarsky sends us his first analysis of the evening:

Trump went for the headlines immediately, saying he would have his attorney general appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the Clinton emails. She said she did nothing wrong. On the sex [talk] tapes, she said, “What we all saw and heard was Donald Talking about women, what he does to women. … It represents exactly who he is … we have seen him insult women, rating women on their appearance. … It is not only this video, he has also targeted immigrants, people with disabilities,” and many others. Trump stood there pursing his lips, turning back and forth. He said, “Just words, folks. … That was locker room talk and I am not proud of it. When you look at Bill Clinton, never anything in politics in the U.S. who has been so abusive to women.” Trump said Hillary Clinton supported her husband in his sexual abuses. Trump is going into victim mode, a combination of attacking and victimhood. He asked moderator Cooper why he wasn’t asking about the emails. “Anderson, why aren’t you bringing up the emails,” he said. “It’s one on three.”

Another audience question is posed: What can we do about Islamophobia? “Muslims have to report the problems when they see them,” Trump argues, citing the shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., in December 2015. He says Clinton and Obama refuse to utter the phrase “radical Islamic terrorists.”

Clinton’s turn—she again goes positive while Trump focuses on worldwide terrorist incidents. Clinton discusses inclusiveness as well as her strategy to defeat Islamic State. Finally, she brings up Trump’s negative rhetoric, stating that it adds to Islamic State’s strength. “We are not at war with Islam,” she concludes.

Trump is asked about his past proposition for a religious test for allowing refugees into the U.S. “Captain Khan is an American hero,” Trump states right off the bat. He argues Clinton is partly responsible for Khan’s death because she voted for the war in Iraq.

“Does the Muslim ban still stand?”

“It’s called extreme vetting,” Trump responds. Although he was able to answer the question about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with actual policy proposals, his response to the Islamophobia topic is classic Trump—he largely focuses on what he sees as problems stemming from the Obama administration and Clinton’s campaign.

Clinton is asked about her own plan for vetting refugees. She brings up “Russian aggression” as a factor in the strife throughout the Middle East. “We are a country founded on religious freedom,” she says, starting to critique Trump’s past proposal to ban Muslims. “I thought that what he said was extremely unwise and even dangerous.”

And finally, Clinton reminds viewers that Trump once also stood for the war in Iraq. This issue was also brought up in past years—numerous fact checks have shown Trump was indeed initially supportive of the Iraq War.

6:34 p.m. PDT: Finally, diving into policy issues. Again, the physicality of the nominees reflects the growing tension between the two campaigns: Clinton, answering the audience question about the ACA, stands several feet in front of Trump, speaking to the audience. Trump remains, awkwardly stoical, behind her.

Clinton is able to discuss her position on the ACA for several minutes and only brings up Trump’s campaign once.

“It is such a great question,” Trump says as he picks up his mic. “Obamacare is a disaster.” Clinton goes back to her seat, and Trump—still speaking calmly, compared to his usual vigor—outlines his own ideas on how to reform the health care system. He critiques the single-payer system and argues that Canada’s healthcare system is extremely problematic.

Obamacare is “a disastrous plan and it has to be repealed and replaced,” Trump concludes.

6:26 p.m. PDT: Clinton is forced, once again, to address her emails. “There is no evidence that any classified information ended up in the wrong hands,” she says.

Trump, still standing, accuses Clinton of “lying again.”

“Look, it’s just not true,” Clinton says, seemingly unruffled. Cooper is forced to intervene as Trump talks over Clinton. “I know you’re into big diversion tonight,” Clinton tells Trump. She tries to get back into the audience questions, but Trump accuses Cooper of refusing to bring up the email issue.

6:19 p.m. PDT: “I’m not proud of it,” Trump says of the video in which he brags about his sexual exploits. And there it is: He brings up Bill Clinton. “There’s nobody in the history of politics that has been so abusive to women,” Trump says. As anticipated, Trump turns the conversation to Hillary Clinton’s role in defending allegations of abuse against Bill Clinton. The camera pans to the four women in the audience who were earlier featured in Trump’s press conference.

“I think it’s disgraceful and I think she should be ashamed of herself.” Members of the audience applaud.

Clinton quotes first lady Michelle Obama: “When they go low, you go high.”

“Everyone can draw their own conclusions at this point,” Clinton says. “He never apologizes for anything or anyone.” She goes on to cite Trump’s insults against the Khan family, federal Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel and a disabled reporter.

Trump asks Clinton to take a look at the WikiLeaks documents that show how the Democratic National Committee worked during the Democratic primaries. Clinton, sitting, cracks a smile. Trump also brings up Clinton’s emails. “If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor” to look into Clinton’s emails, Trump says.

“Everything he just said is absolutely false, and I’m not surprised,” Clinton says, full of energy. The audience roars, prompting rebuke from the moderators. She says the constant back and forth between her and Trump keeps them from discussing the real issues.

Trump continues to stand and look upset; Clinton is enjoying herself.

6:15 p.m. PDT: “You brag that you have sexually assaulted women,” moderator Anderson Cooper says, bringing up Trump’s lewd comments right at the get-go. Trump responds that he doesn’t think Cooper understood his comments, and immediately switches to discussing Islamic State. “We need to get on to much more important things.”

Cooper doesn’t let it go, however, and presses the issue.

“I was embarrassed by it. I have tremendous respect for women,” Trump argues. “We’re going to make America safe again.”

Cooper hands it over to Clinton. She starts slowly, choosing her words carefully. “I think it’s clear to anyone who heard it that it represents exactly who he is, because we’ve seen this throughout the campaign.” She goes on to argue that Trump has rated women on their appearance and insulted them throughout the course of his campaign.

“He has also targeted immigrants, African-Americans, Latinos, people with disabilities,” she continues. “This is not who we are” as a country, she says. Clinton continues to speak to members of the audience; Trump stands with his hands clasped, a sour expression on his face.

Trump’s response? “It’s just words, folks.” He argues that Clinton’s decades in office have shown that she makes policy claims without following through.

6:10 p.m. PDT: And we’re off! No handshake between the two nominees—despite the smiles, the atmosphere is thick with tension.

The first question goes to Clinton—she’s asked about the negative tone of the election season. She focuses on optimism, positivity and “overcoming divisiveness,” a smart tactic she has stuck to in past confrontations with Trump’s campaign.

“I have been a politician,” Trump admits—and an interesting tactical change for a candidate focused on staying outside the mainstream political arena. Trump also sounds curiously low-energy, compared to his usual gusto.

Trump speaks directly to the camera, while Clinton responds to the audience member who asked the question.

6:03 p.m. PDT: Waiting on the nominees to take the stage:

5:47 p.m. PDT:

For clarification: Prior to the release of the lewd “Access Hollywood” interview released on Friday, allegations of sexual misconduct have been raised against Donald Trump. Earlier this year, The New York Times published interviews with a handful of women who allege unwanted advances and inappropriate conduct by Trump.

Additionally, Trump is facing a lawsuit from a “Jane Doe” in which she alleges he raped her in 1994.

5:38 p.m. PDT: Apparently, all four women whom Trump featured at his “press conference” will be at the debate. In other breaking news: Billy Bush, the “Access Hollywood” correspondent featured in the lewd exchange with Trump, has been suspended by NBC.

Back in 2002, “Trump said Paula Jones should have run faster from Bill Clinton,” according to CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski:

Meanwhile, on Twitter, social media enthusiasts share their disdain for Trump’s last-minute move:

5:20 p.m. PDT:

Although it’s unclear if the women featured in Trump’s “press conference” will be in the audience during the night’s debate, Trump has already laid the groundwork for his attack via Twitter. Over the last few days, he shared Juanita Broaddrick’s story. Broaddrick accused Bill Clinton of rape in 1999, and recently gave a new interview to conservative website Breitbart News.

Some question Trump’s strategy, considering it’s Hillary who is the one actually running for president. Broaddrick has accused Hillary Clinton of enabling the sexual assault, so it’s likely that Trump will continue this specific line of attack throughout the debate tonight — especially in an effort to quiet down the allegations of sexual assault he is currently facing.

5:05 p.m. PDT: With less than an hour before the debate is scheduled to begin, Donald Trump has decided to hold a news conference — featuring four of the women who have accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual assault. Streamed live onto his Facebook page, Trump labeled the conference his “debate prep.”

In response, Hillary Clinton’s campaign released a statement on her Twitter account:

According to analysis from The New York Times, three of the women featured were Paula Jones, Kathy Shelton and Juanita Broaddrick. The Associated Press reports that the fourth woman is Kathleen Willey.

“If anyone was wondering how ugly tonight is going to get,” reporter Maggie Haberman commented, “Trump just answered it.”

3:45 p.m. PDT: The past several days have cemented the 2016 presidential election as one of the most unconventional in American history, as GOP leaders abandon their presidential nominee less than a month before the general election. Considering that the first presidential debate broke viewership records, odds are that tonight’s debate will also go down in the books.

A quick recap: On Friday, The Washington Post released a three-minute video of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaking to Billy Bush of “Access Hollywood” in 2005. In the recording, Trump discusses his advances toward a married woman (“I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there”), how his fame allows him to take advantage of women (“When you’re a star, they let you do it”) and how, if he wishes, he can “grab them by the pussy.”

On Saturday, CNN added to the political chaos by releasing segments of nearly two decades worth of interviews between Howard Stern and Trump. “Among the topics Trump discussed: his daughter Ivanka’s physique, having sex with women on their menstrual cycles, threesomes, and checking out of a relationship with women after they turn 35,” CNN writes.

The flood of recordings incited immediate outrage on both sides of the aisle, and some top Republicans have since renounced their endorsements of the nominee. Trump initially apologized “if anyone was offended,” but as the outrage grew, he released a longer video apology.

Trump has continued to deliver uninhibited remarks about the controversy via his Twitter account, however, and has only responded negatively to those who have spoken against him:

Twitter remarks were only the beginning of Trump’s attacks on Republicans who have disavowed him. “In a set of talking points sent to supporters on Sunday morning, Mr. Trump instructed his backers to attack Republican leaders—and vowed to win without them,” The New York Times reports. “While some strategists have suggested that Mr. Trump should strike a humble tone at the debate, many are bracing for the tenor to become even nastier.”

Based on remarks made by Trump throughout the past few days, his strategy for the town-hall-style debate Sunday night at Washington University in St. Louis is to try and turn the tables by reminding viewers of Bill Clinton’s indiscretions while in office. “Mr. Trump has been threatening for weeks that he would force Mrs. Clinton to respond directly to old allegations of harassment and assault against her husband in front of a national audience of tens of millions of people,” The New York Times continues. “Mr. Trump is clearly enraged by news media coverage of his own offensive and inappropriate behavior, and believes that hypocrisy and special treatment have deflected attention from Mr. Clinton.”

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, has her own challenges moving forward. While much of the mainstream media swarmed around the lewd Trump recordings, WikiLeaks released a new set of emails that contain segments of her private speeches made to Wall Street banks such as Goldman Sachs. In April 2013, for example, she told her private audience that politicians “need both a public and a private position” on policies. She will likely have to face questions on these emails during the debate Sunday night.

The Trump campaign continues to fear additional leaks of inappropriate content from past episodes of “The Apprentice.” BuzzFeed reports:

A powerful Hollywood ally of Donald Trump has threatened staffers who could release potentially damaging outtakes of the show, a source close to Mark Burnett told BuzzFeed News.

Burnett, the producer of The Apprentice, and his production company have not responded to requests for comment from BuzzFeed News and many other outlets since grotesque outtakes from another show rocked Trump’s campaign Friday, even as former staffers have suggested on Twitter (without clear evidence) that The Apprentice material could be just as damaging. …

More than 20 former contestants, crew members, and editors told the Associated Press that Trump treated women on the show inappropriately, including talking about which contestants he would like to have sex with and rating them by breast size.

These are just a few of the recent events that will influence the direction of Sunday night’s debate. While many believe that the pressure is on Trump to pull himself out of the political minefield, Clinton faces equal pressure to perform well. And ultimately, the unprecedented developments of the past few days detract from serious topics that Americans want their next commander in chief to address.

“A large number of issues have simply been absent from the conversation this campaign—such as health care, energy, job creation and economic growth,” NPR writes. “Will voters tonight ask for specifics on any of these topics, or are they happy to watch another chapter in the food fight that campaign 2016 has become?”

Follow along as Truthdig live-blogs Sunday night’s critical second presidential debate. We’ll be looking at your comments as the evening progresses, so be sure to send us your thoughts in the section at the bottom of the page. You can also live-stream the debate through YouTube, Twitter, Facebook (also in Spanish) and more. The debate begins at 6 p.m. PDT / 9 p.m. EDT.

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