Russian President President Vladimir Putin holds up a glass during a toast at a luncheon hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Monday, Sept. 28, 2015, at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Hillary Clinton forcefully accused Donald Trump of favoring Russia’s leader over American military and intelligence experts Oct 19 night, as the Republican nominee pointedly refused to accept the U.S. government’s assertion that Moscow has sought to meddle in the presidential election.

In a combative exchange in the final presidential debate, Clinton charged that Russian President Vladimir Putin was backing Trump because “he’d rather have a puppet as president of the United States.”

Trump denied any relationship with Putin and said he would condemn any foreign interference in the election. But he notably refused to accept the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia was involved in the hacking of Democratic organizations. The Clinton campaign has also said the FBI is investigating Russia’s involvement in the hacking of a top adviser’s emails.

The third presidential debate opened with a measured, policy-focused discussion — a stark contrast to the heated and highly personal clashes that defined the earlier contests. However, Trump quickly reverted to his previous style of repeatedly bursting in to interrupt Clinton as well as moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News. (AP)