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US Election 2016: twists and turns aplenty

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WASHINGTON: The 2016 presidential campaign has been a roller coaster ride with twists and turns that left voters alternately elated, distraught and sometimes flat-out flummoxed.

As Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump scramble for final votes during their last week on the campaign, here are some of the election’s most memorable moments:

Clinton email redux

Clinton thought a controversy over her use of a private server to send email while secretary of state had been put to rest in July when FBI chief James Comey recommended no criminal charges against her.

All that changed Friday — just 11 days before the election — when Comey surprised  Americans by announcing the discovery of new, potentially relevant emails without giving further details.

Although the effect on the election is yet to be determined, Trump has repeatedly called the revelations “the biggest political scandal since Watergate.”

The 69-year-old former first lady once again apologized Monday for using the private server, which her opponents say put classified information at risk, saying it “was a mistake and I regret it.”

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Trump video revealed

Trump has taken flak for his demeaning remarks about women, but a video made public on October 7 marked a new low that opened the candidate to accusations of sexual assault.

In the 2005 clip, Trump is apparently unaware his microphone is on when he used vulgar, predatory language.

Since the video’s release, around a dozen women have accused the 70-year-old real estate mogul of unwanted and aggressive advances.

“He has said that the video doesn’t represent who he is,” Clinton said during an October 9 debate. “But 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.”

Trump dismissed the comments as “just words” and “locker room talk,” and denied assault allegations, threatening to sue his accusers after the elections.

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The billionaire’s taxes

Trump, a billionaire real estate mogul, has refused to release his income tax returns, defying a four-decade tradition among candidates for the White House.

During a September 26 debate, Clinton offered several hypotheses as to why Trump might decline to make that information public, musing “maybe he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes.”

Trump seemed to imply the accusation was correct, responding only: “That makes me smart.”

Clinton wobbles, literally

Clinton endured Trump’s taunts about her “stamina” and questions about her health in September after abruptly leaving a 9/11 memorial ceremony at Ground Zero in Manhattan.

Feeling unwell, the former secretary of state left 90 minutes into the ceremony. A passerby filmed her legs giving way, prompting two Secret Service officers to support her as she climbed into a minivan.

Clinton’s doctors later said that she was suffering from pneumonia, and needed to take a break from the campaign.

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‘Basket of deplorables’

Clinton ignited a firestorm of criticism after she denigrated Trump voters on September 9 at a fundraiser in New York.

“To just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables,” she said.

Republicans immediately seized on the phrase “basket of deplorables” to drive a wedge between Clinton and white, working-class voters. “INSULTING” Trump tweeted.

Clinton later said she regretted the comment.

Muslim soldier’s father

Trump became locked in a war of words in July with the parents of a Muslim American soldier killed in a suicide bombing in Iraq in 2004.  In a speech before the Democratic National Convention, the soldier’s father, a Pakistani immigrant named Khizr Khan, charged that Trump had “sacrificed nothing” for the country.

The Republican shot back on ABC News that he has made “a lot of sacrifices,” then raised the stakes by tweeting: “Mr. Khan, who does not know me, viciously attacked me from the stage of the DNC.”

The remarks, and Trump’s refusal to apologize for suggesting that Khan’s wife stood silently at his side at the convention because she was not allowed to speak, triggered an uproar within his party.

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