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Story highlights

The Facebook Live broadcast launched without warning, fewer than two hours to go before the presidential debate

The video featured Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick, Paula Jones and Kathy Shelton

(CNN) —  

Less than two hours before he was to debate Hillary Clinton Sunday night, Donald Trump tried to wrest control of the political conversation and shove it toward her husband by live streaming an appearance with three women who have in the past accused former President Bill Clinton of inappropriate sexual behavior.

Trump’s panel included Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick, Paula Jones and another woman, Kathy Shelton, whose rapist was defended by Hillary Clinton as a young lawyer. That man was convicted of a lesser charge and served 10 months in jail.

All four women attended the presidential debate in St. Louis, as is Bill Clinton.

Donald Trump holds a press conference before the debate with women who have accused Bill Clinton of inappropriate behavior.
Evan Vucci/AP
Donald Trump holds a press conference before the debate with women who have accused Bill Clinton of inappropriate behavior.

Trump’s Facebook Live broadcast came after two days of sharp criticism of the Republican nominee by many in his own party after The Washington Post discovered 11-year-old lewd and sexually aggressive comments captured behind the scenes of a TV interview. Some Republicans have even called on Trump to abandon his run, although Trump has pledged to carry on.

The Clinton campaign huddled in their office Sunday evening before the debate, discussing Trump’s decision to invite the women to the debate. Two aides acknowledged to CNN they didn’t expect this – in all their planning and were jarred by the news.

A scorched earth debate, on The Daily David Chalian

Hillary Clinton’s communications director Jennifer Palmieri responded moments after news of the live streaming video broke, saying,”We’re not surprised to see Donald Trump continue his destructive race to the bottom.”

“Hillary Clinton understands the opportunity in this town hall is to talk to voters on stage and in the audience about the issues that matter to them, and this stunt doesn’t change that. If Donald Trump doesn’t see that, that’s his loss. As always, she’s prepared to handle whatever Donald Trump throws her way.”

Jones is a former Arkansas state employee who sued Clinton in 1994 for sexual harassment. When subpoenaed in relation to the Jones case, Broaddrick filed an affidavit denying she was assaulted. She later changed her story and in 1999 accused Bill Clinton of rape in the late 1970s.

Independent Counsel Ken Starr’s team thoroughly investigated her claim and noted in his exhaustive Whitewater Report that Broaddrick had changed her story.

Congressional Republicans at the time did not think she was credible and she was not called to testify in Clinton’s impeachment trial.

“I’m here to support Mr. Trump because he’s going to make America great again … I think they should all look at the fact that he’s a good person and he’s not what other people say he’s being, like Hillary,” Jones said.

Bill Clinton’s alleged sexual misconduct: Who you need to know

“Actions speak louder than words,” Broaddrick said. “Mr. Trump may have said some bad words, but Bill Clinton raped me and Hillary Clinton threatened me. I don’t think there’s any comparison.”

Trump did respond to any questions at the event with the Clinton accusers, although reporters shouted questions to him about the newly released video in which he brags about being able to be sexually aggressive with women because of his stardom.

“Mr. Trump does your star power allow you to touch women without their consent?” a reporter shouted.

Not long after Trump’s appearance with her husband’s accusers, Hillary Clinton tweeted a looped video of snippet from Michelle Obama’s Democratic National Convention speech: “When they go low, we go high.”