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article imageElection 2016: twists and turns aplenty

By AFP     Nov 9, 2016 in Politics

The 2016 presidential campaign has been a roller coaster ride with twists and turns that left voters alternately elated, distraught and in the end, just downright exhausted.

Donald Trump is headed to the White House after defeating Hillary Clinton in a shock upset, concluding a bruising 18-month campaign unlike any other in modern American history.

As America and the world look back on a campaign fraught with insults and surprises, here's a snapshot of some of the 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 in late October, just 11 days before the election, when Comey surprised Americans by announcing the discovery of new, potentially relevant emails without giving further details.

The news was a boon for Trump, who repeatedly called the revelations "the biggest political scandal since Watergate." He saw a bump in the polls.

The 69-year-old former first lady once again apologized for using the private server, which her opponents said put classified information at risk, calling it "a mistake."

Comey closed the case again just two days before the election, saying the new review had not changed the FBI's conclusions from July. It was welcome news for the Democrat but certainly played a role in deflating her momentum in the sprint to the finish line.

- Trump video revealed -

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

In the 2005 clip, Trump is apparently unaware his microphone is on when he describes groping and forcing himself on women in vulgar, predatory language.

"When you're a star, they let you do it. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything," Trump is heard bragging.

Following the video's release, around a dozen women came forward to accuse the 70-year-old real estate mogul of unwanted sexual advances in the past.

"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 the sexual assault allegations, threatening to sue his accusers after the election.

- The billionaire's taxes -

Trump 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."

On October 1, The New York Times reported that it had obtained three pages of Trump's 1995 tax returns from an anonymous source. The documents showed that the businessman had declared a loss that year of nearly $1 billion, allowing him to legally avoid paying taxes for almost two decades.

- Keep 'em guessing -

Trump launched an unprecedented assault on American political convention at the final debate, when he refused to say that he would respect a Clinton victory on Election Day.

For weeks, he lambasted the political system, saying the vote was "rigged."

When asked whether he would commit to recognizing the result of the vote no matter what, the reality television star said: "I'll tell you at the time. I'll keep you in suspense, OK?"

Clinton declared herself "appalled" by what she said was an attack on 240 years of US democracy.

- 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 out, prompting two Secret Service officers to support her as she climbed into a minivan.

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

- '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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