DELAWARE, Ohio --Donald Trump opened the door Thursday to the the possibility he'll contest the results of the presidential election if there's a "questionable result," teasingly promising to fully accept the outcome "if I win."
The Republican presidential nominee said he was reserving his right to "contest or file a legal challenge" if he loses. The comments came a day after he sent shockwaves through the campaign by saying in the final debate that he might not accept the results. Yet he brushed off the likelihood of that happening with a confident prediction that "we're not going to lose."
"I would like to promise and pledge to all of my voters and supporters and to all of the people of the United States that I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election," Trump said. Then after letting that vow hang in the air for a few seconds, he added, "If I win."
Trump's campaign was reeling from near-universal astonishment over his refusal to commit to the time-honored American tradition of the election's loser acceding gracefully to the winner. Trump has warned repeatedly of impending, widespread voter fraud, despite no evidence to support him and plenty of evidence to the contrary.
Asked at the debate whether he'd accept the outcome, Trump said: "I will tell you at the time. I will keep you in suspense."
As he entered the campaign's final stretch on Thursday, Trump tried to turn the tables on Hillary Clinton by accusing her of "cheating" and questioning whether Clinton should "resign from the race." He cited a hacked email that showed Clinton's campaign was tipped off about a question she'd be asked in a town hall meeting during the Democratic primary.
"Can you imagine if I got the questions? They would call for the re-establishment of the electric chair, do you agree?" Trump asked supporters at a rally in Ohio.
Trump's effort to shift the conversation back to Clinton centered on an email from longtime Democratic Party operative Donna Brazile to Clinton's campaign in March with the subject line "From time to time I get the questions in advance." It contained the wording of a question about the death penalty that the email suggested Clinton would be asked. She was ultimately asked a version of the question at the CNN town hall.
Brazile, who later became the acting Democratic National Committee chairwoman, was a CNN contributor at the time she sent the email to Clinton's team. The email was one of thousands disclosed publicly by the site Wikileaks after her campaign chairman's emails were hacked. Clinton's campaign has said Russia was behind the hack.
Brazile has insisted publicly she didn't get town hall questions in advance, but has not explained why she stated explicitly that she did in the email. Brazile and Clinton's campaign have declined to confirm or deny the authenticity of the stolen emails, but there have been no indications they were doctored.
"She used these questions, studied the questions, got the perfect answer for the questions and never said that she did something that was totally wrong and inappropriate," Trump said of Clinton. He said that Brazile should resign as the head of the DNC.