St. Louis: Donald Trump dismissed his obscene and vulgar comments captured in a 2005 video as nothing more than “locker room talk" and tried to deflect from the issue by attacking Hillary Clinton over her e-mail use and past accusations of sexual misconduct against her husband.

“Don’t tell me about words. I absolutely apologize for those words," Trump said at the second presidential debate Sunday night in St. Louis. “But President Clinton was impeached."

The second presidential debate between Trump and Clinton quickly lived up to expectations as a bitter, personal face-off where Trump repeatedly accused her of failing to make any difference in her 30 years in public service and Clinton shot back that his vulgar words and actions disqualified him for the presidency.

The Republican nominee also threatened if elected to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate her use of a private e-mail server while secretary of state. “You should be ashamed of yourself," Trump said.

Clinton declined to respond directly to the comments about her husband, but she lit into Trump, saying his comments caught on the video are a reflection of the kind of man he is. She said by talking about her husband and the e-mails Trump was trying to draw attention away from the collapse of his campaign and the defection of top Republicans.

Trump’s words

“What we all saw and heard on Friday was Donald talking about women, what he thinks about women, what he does to women," Clinton said. “And he has said that the video doesn’t represent who he is. But I think it’s clear to anyone who heard it that it represents exactly who he is."

In response to Trump’s remarks on her e-mail, the Democratic nominee said she took responsibility for the decision to use a private server rather than the government system and called it a mistake.

Also Read: Damaged but defiant, Donald Trump limps toward debate with Hillary Clinton

“There is no evidence that anyone hacked the server that I was using" or that any classified material was stolen, she said. “I know you’re into big diversion tonight, anything to avoid talking about your campaign and the way it’s exploding and the way Republicans are leaving you,’’ Clinton said as the exchange continued.

In a sign of how bitter and ugly the campaign has become, the two candidates didn’t even shake hands as they took the stage.

Bill Clinton’s accusers

Before the debate started at Washington University, Republican operatives worried Trump could make matters worse by attacking Clinton through the infidelities of her husband. He did exactly that, about 90 minutes before began, at a nearby hotel.

Trump hastily called in reporters to an appearance with three women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct during his time as Arkansas governor and as president. A fourth woman who appeared with Trump was a victim of rape at age 12 and Hillary Clinton was the court-appointed lawyer for the man accused of the crime. Trump’s official Facebook page showed the gathering live.

Also Read: Donald Trump’s remarks on women ‘unacceptable, offensive’: Melania Trump

“Bill Clinton raped me," Broaddrick said. He has denied the claim through an attorney, and no charges were ever brought. But Broaddrick has emerged as one of the former president’s most vocal accusers, and also a strong supporter of Trump. Broaddrick and the women were in the audience at the debate venue, as was the former president.

Clinton’s allies called Trump’s event an act of desperation.

Russian hacking

Responding to a question about purported excerpts of speeches she gave to Wall Street that were released by WikiLeaks, Clinton tried to turn it into a question of why the Russians were trying to influence the U.S. election by hacking and stealing documents. She suggested that the Russian government would rather have Trump in office instead of her. She also turned his complaints about a lack of transparency into a plea for him to release his tax returns.

Trump denied being influence by Russia or it’s president, Vladimir Putin. Although the U.S. has blamed Russia for the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and and attempts to breach state election systems, Trump questioned whether Russia really was being the hacking. He said the U.S. would benefit by having better relations with Russia.

Clinton and Trump also clashed over Obamacare, the battle against terrorism, immigration and taxes.

The debate closed out a weekend of drama that had Trump’s White House bid sinking, Republican leaders openly rebelling against him, and the party that he technically leads facing its biggest crisis in decades.

In the video of Trump, unearthed by the Washington Post, he bragged in obscene terms that his celebrity status allowed him to grope women in the most personal of spots. It was widely reported and played repeatedly on television all weekend. It triggered a rush of Republican officeholders -- including Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the party’s 2008 nominee -- to distance themselves or call for his exit from the race.

Trump vowed never to quit his campaign and lashed out on Twitter against the Republicans abandoning him: “So many self-righteous hypocrites. Watch their poll numbers - and elections - go down!"

Some veteran Republican strategists have concluded Trump is too damaged to rebound whatever he does. With less than a month before the election, the timing of the video’s release could hardly be worse for Trump and his party. Ballots are already being cast in about a dozen states and the situation threatens the party’s hold on the Senate and potentially the House.

Even before the latest controversy, polls showed Clinton widening her lead nationally and in key states such as Ohio that Trump probably needs to win.

Given the weekend drama, viewership could approach the record political audience of more than 84 million for the first debate between Clinton and Trump on Sept. 26. This time, they’re also competing against Hurricane Matthew coverage and a NFL game between the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers.

Trump was already struggling to recover from one of the worst stretches of his campaign following a shaky performance in the first debate, his comments disparaging a beauty pageant winner’s weight and personal life, and a New York Times report that he may not have paid any federal taxes for almost two decades following an almost $1 billion business loss.

The town hall-style debate featured about half the questions coming from uncommitted voters screened by Gallup, with the rest posed by moderators Martha Raddatz of ABC News, and Anderson Cooper of CNN.

The third and final presidential debate is scheduled for Oct. 19 at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. Bloomberg

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