Donald Trump has claimed Hillary Clinton should be in jail and accused former US president Bill Clinton of being “abusive to women” in a tense second presidential debate.
The Republican candidate met women who have accused Mr Clinton of rape and other unwanted sexual advances shortly before the debate and claimed Mrs Clinton should be “ashamed” for attacking her husband’s accusers.
He also defended a 2005 video recording in which he was heard making lewd comments about women, describing his remarks as “locker room talk”.
“I have great respect for women,” Mr Trump said. “Nobody has more respect for women than I do.
“I’m very embarrassed by it. I hate it. It’s locker room talk.”
He denied he had ever assaulted women in the ways described in the 2005 recording, in which he talks about grabbing women “by the p***y”.
“Mine were words, his was action,” Mr Trump said of Mr Clinton.
“What he’s done to women, there’s never been any body in the history of politics in this nation that’s been so abusive to women.”
Mrs Clinton said the comments made by her Republican rival in the recording represented “exactly who he is”.
She added: “We’ve seen him insult women, we’ve seen him rate women on their appearance, ranking them from one to 10, we’ve seen him embarrass women on TV and on Twitter.”
Mr Clinton never faced any criminal charges in relation to the sexual misconduct allegations, and a lawsuit over an alleged rape was dismissed.
On the debate stage, Mrs Clinton did not respond directly to Mr Trump’s accusations but repeated comments made by First Lady Michelle Obama – “When they go low, you go high”.
Mr Trump said Mrs Clinton would be in jail if he was president after she deleted more than 30,000 emails from a private server she used while she was US secretary of state.
He said: “I hate to say it but if I win I’m going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation.
“There has never been so many lies, so much deception.
“You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”
In response, Mrs Clinton said: “It’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in this country.”
Mr Trump replied: “Because you’d be in jail.”
The billionaire tycoon admitted he used a 916 million-dollar loss he claimed in 1995 to avoid paying federal income tax, and claimed many of Mrs Clinton’s donors had also taken “massive tax write-offs”.
He added: “I lot of my write off was depreciation and other things that Hillary as a senator allowed.”
Mr Trump also claimed Mrs Clinton had “tremendous hate in her heart” after she called half of his supporters “deplorables”.
The final question of the town-hall style debate saw an audience member ask the candidates what they respected about each other.
Mrs Clinton said: “I respect his children. His children are incredibly able and I think that says a lot about Donald.”
Mr Trump said: “I will say this about Hillary – she doesn’t quit, she doesn’t give up. I tell it like it is. She’s a fighter.”
The candidates shook hands at the end of the debate after failing to do so when they entered the stage at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri.
The third debate will take place in Las Vegas on October 19 ahead of the November 8 election.