US election: a complete timeline
A look back at how Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump became US presidential nominees
Bernie Sanders applauds his former rival at a rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Photograph: Justin Saglio/Getty Images
April 12th – Hillary Clinton launches campaign
Hillary Clinton officially launches her much-anticipated bid for the presidency with a sleek rollout video and a road trip to Iowa in her “Scooby Doo” van.
“Americans have come back from some pretty tough economic times. Our economy and our country are much better off because American families have basically done whatever it took to make it work. But I think it’s fair to say that as you look across the country, the deck is still stacked in favour of those already at the top. And there’s something wrong with that.”
April 30th – Bernie Sanders launches his campaign and promises a revolution
“Today, with your support and the support of millions of people throughout this country, we begin a political revolution to transform our country economically, politically, socially and environmentally.”
June 15th – Jeb Bush launches campaign, supported by mega-donors
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, the brother of former president George W Bush and son of former president George HW Bush, announces his bid for the presidency at a rally in Miami with a massive $100m war chest that promises to “shock and awe”.
June 16th – Donald Trump launches campaign by calling Mexicans rapists
His speech is long and rambling, memorable mostly for calling Mexicans “rapists” and criminals who bring drugs across the border. He did add that he assumes some are good people. Pundits and political observers aren’t yet taking his candidacy seriously.
His odd grand escalator descent began a presidential bid that his critics believed wouldn’t go very far.
August 6th – first Republican debate – Megyn Kelly gets tough with Trump
Sixteen Republicans. Two debates. What could go wrong? The 10 candidates fought it out at the Fox debate, but Trump stole the show. He lost his temper over Megyn Kelly’s grilling over his misogynistic commentary. He also proposed a wall with a “beautiful door” and refused to rule out a third-party bid if he didn’t win the nomination.
“Mr Trump, one of the things people love about you is you speak your mind and you don’t use a politician’s filter. However, that is not without its downsides, in particular, when it comes to women. You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs’, ‘dogs’, ‘slobs’ and ‘disgusting animals’.
In a later interview, Trump insinuates Kelly’s tough line of questioning was because she had “blood coming out of her wherever”.
September 8th – Clinton apologises for her emails
After the New York Times reported Clinton used a private email server back in early March of 2015, the former secretary of state makes her first formal apology on ABC News.
“As I look back at it now, even though it was allowed, I should have used two accounts. That was a mistake. I’m sorry about that. I take responsibility.”
October 13th – Democratic debate in Las Vegas. Clinton and Sanders spar
Clinton puts in a strong performance, duelling with Sanders on gun control and foreign policy.
The senator from Vermont refuses to lambast Clinton over her emails: “The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.”
Instead, he went to town on capitalism.
October 22nd – Clinton survives the Benghazi committee
Clinton testifies before the Benghazi committee for 11 hours. She faces questions over her role in failing to prevent an attack against US government facilities that led to the deaths of four Americans.
She survives the marathon grilling and fiery exchanges with Republican congressmen. She balks over the suggestion that she needs extra time to read her notes – “I can do more than one thing at a time.”
December 7th – Trump’s campaign calls for a Muslim ban
Donald J Trump calls for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on
December 19th – third Democratic debate; Goffstown, New Hampshire – Sanders apologises
Sanders apologises to Clinton directly for staffers who accessed private voter data belonging to his rival’s campaign.
“Not only do I apologise, I want to apologise to my supporters. This is not the kind of campaign that we run. If I find anybody else involved in this, they will be fired.”
January 14th – sixth Republican debate. The battle over birthright
Ted Cruz tries to knock Trump over his “New York values”, setting off a stream of internet memes defending the city – and Trump.
Trump accuses Cruz of being born in Canada and therefore ineligible to run for president. Birther issues – challenging a candidate’s American birth – is a favourite line of attack for Trump.
January 28th – seventh Republican debate; Des Moines, Iowa. Trump is a no-show
Trump cancels his appearance in Iowa after a feud with Kelly and Fox News. He holds an alternative event for veterans in the city.
The debate with the seven remaining Republican candidates, with fewer personal insults, focuses on policy – and immigration.
February 1st – Iowa caucuses. The first state to vote goes for Cruz; Clinton and Sanders results end in a ‘virtual tie’
Cruz deals a blow to Trump with his win in Iowa. Cruz’s campaign sends an email before the caucuses that hints at Ben Carson suspending his campaign.
Trump fumes after his loss.
Meanwhile, Clinton wins the Democratic caucus in Iowa by the smallest margin recorded in history: 49.9 per cent to 49.6per cent.
February 4th – fifth Democratic debate; Durham, New Hampshire. Sanders’ ‘artful smear’
Clinton shows anger over suggestions that her campaign contributions were bought.
“If you’ve got something to say, say it directly, but you will not find that I ever changed a view or a vote because of any donation I ever received, and I have stood up and I have represented my constituents to the best of my ability.”
February 6th– eighth Republican debate; Goffstown, New Hampshire. ‘Robot Rubio’
Marco Rubio malfunctions under fire and repeats the same line three times.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie pounces. He instructs the audience to listen for the senator’s pre-programmed “memorised 25-second speech”.
When it arrives, he points his finger at the senator: “There it is. There it is, everybody.”
The exchange earns him the online nickname Robot Rubio.
February 9th – New Hampshire primary. Sanders’ big win
New Hampshire selects Sanders and Trump by wide margins in a stunning rebuke of establishment politics.
Sanders tells an ecstatic crowd: “Together we have sent a message that will resonate from Wall Street to Washington ... that government belongs to all of the people.”
February 13th– ninth Republican debate; Greenville, South Carolina. Name-calling under the shadow of Justice Scalia
Justice Antonin Scalia, the leading conservative voice on the supreme court, dies at a west Texas ranch, throwing a wrench into the presidential election.
The debate begins with a tribute to the conservative justice – but any consensus quickly evaporates and devolves into an all-out brawl.
Adults learn not to interrupt each other.
February 18th – Trump feuds with Pope Francis
The pope questions Trump’s Christianity on a visit to Mexico. “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian”.
Trump has a quick response for the pontiff: “No leader, especially a religious leader, has the right to question another man’s religion or faith.”
During a later press conference, the pope insists he did not mean to sway any Americans with his comments.
February 20th – Bush drops out after the South Carolina primary
Bush suspends his presidential campaign following a bruising loss in the South Carolina primary.
February 25th – tenth Republican debate; Houston. Senators get under Trump’s skin
Rubio mocks him gleefully a number of times: “You say the same thing every night ... everyone’s dumb, I’m going to make America great again, I’m winning in the polls, lines around the states, every night.”
March 1st – Super Tuesday
It was a truly super night for Clinton and a little less so for Trump.
March 3rd – eleventh Republican debate; Detroit. Little hands, big ...
The debate kicks off with a boast by Trump about the size of his penis – “I guarantee you, there’s no problem.”
He notes that Rubio had accused him of having small hands and had implied that Trump’s penis was similarly small.
March 11th – Trump’s campaign manger accused of assault
Michelle Fields, a reporter for the rightwing news site Breitbart, accuses Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski of manhandling her when she attempted to ask the candidate a question. Trump accused her of “making it up”. She eventually resigns from Breitbart. Lewandowski becomes CEO for Trump’s campaign.
Meanwhile, a Trump rally in Chicago was called off amid scenes of violence.
March 15th – Super Tuesday round two. Rubio exits
Trump and Clinton celebrate big nights, while Rubio leaves the race after an embarrassing loss in his home state of Florida.
March 30th – Trump: women should be punished for abortions
The Republican frontrunner tells MSNBC “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who have abortions, should the procedure become outlawed under a future conservative supreme court. He reverses his statement several hours later.
April 16th – Sanders heads to the Vatican to meet the pope
Sanders says he was delighted to have met him. The pope, wanting to steer clear of politics, plays down the meeting:“If someone thinks that greeting someone means getting involved in politics, I recommend that he find a psychiatrist!”
April 19th – Clinton wins New York primary
The circus came to town, but the New Yorkers reigned in their state. Clinton of Chappaqua and Trump of Manhattan sweep the state and declare the primary races nearly finished.
Tonight, the race for the Democratic nomination is in the home stretch and victory is in sight.
May 3rd – Cruz and John Kasich suspend campaigns
Trump becomes the presumptive nominee after Cruz and Kasich lose in Indiana.
May 26th – Trump crosses delegate threshold
June 2nd – House speaker Paul Ryan says he will vote for Trump
June 9th – Obama endorses Clinton
June 20th – Trump fires campaign manager Lewandowski
June 24th – Trump visits Scotland on the morning after the Brexit vote
Britain woke up to news of the Brexit vote – and Trump. The Republican materialized on a fairway at his Turnberry golf resort in Scotland on Friday morning and hailed the British decision to leave the EU.
“They took back control of their country.”
July 5th – FBI director recommends no charges for Clinton
FBI director James Comey recommends no criminal charges against Clinton for her handling of classified information while she was secretary of state but rebukes her for being “extremely careless”.
July 12th – Sanders endorses Clinton
July 18th-21st – Republican national convention; Cleveland
Trump wins the party’s nomination to Republicans’ disbelief. Trump accepts the party nomination: “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.”
July 25th-28th – Democratic national convention; Philadelphia
Clinton becomes the first woman to accept the nomination of a major party in the US.
August 1st – Trump attacks Gold Star family
Trump attacks Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a Muslim American soldier who was killed in Iraq.
August 9th – Trump: ‘second amendment people’ could stop Clinton
At a rally in North Carolina, after referencing Clinton’s picking of supreme court judges, Trump hints at Clinton’s assassination.
August 29th – Huma Abedin separates from Anthony Weiner
Top Clinton aide suspends marriage after return of sexting scandal
August 31st – Trump meets with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto
Trump goes to Mexico, returns to make fiery anti-immigration speech in Arizona.
September 2nd – FBI releases documents on Clinton emails
There were no major revelations in the email investigation. Trump uses the event for political gain.
September 9th – Clinton calls half of Trump supporters bigoted ‘deplorables’
September 11th – Clinton stumbles at 9/11 memorial ceremony
Clinton campaign admits she has pneumonia after she stumbles at 9/11 memorial ceremony.
September 16th – Trump walks back Obama birther claims
“Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it. I finished it. You know what I mean. President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now we all want to go back to making America strong again.”
September 26th – First presidential debate; Hempstead, New York
Most watched debate in American history, with at least 80m people tuning in.
Clinton comes prepared, Trump not so much. She baited him with charges of racism, sexism and tax avoidance and he took the bait – every time.
October 3rd – New York attorney general sends cease and desist letter to Trump’s foundation
The New York Times reveals Trump could have avoided paying federal income tax for 18 years.
The Trump Foundation must immediately cease soliciting contributions or engaging in any other fund-raising activities in New York– James Sheehan, the chief of the charities bureau
October 7th– Trump describes sexual aggression on hot mic recording
“I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful women. I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. You just kiss. I don’t even wait. When you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”– Trump on 2005 Access Hollywood tape
October 9th – Second presidential debate; St Louis, Missouri
It gets ugly before the debate begins. Trump holds a press conference with women who have claimed inappropriate sexual contact with Bill Clinton. He invites them to stay and watch the debate.
The debate begins with no handshake and ended with each complimenting one another – an audience member’s request.
In between, Trump lurks behind Clinton. He threatens to jail her if elected. And he denies that he had ever inappropriately touched women. Clinton holds her own, all things considered.
October 19th – Third presidential debate; Las Vegas
The third and final debate is a wild spectacle. Bad hombres. Nasty woman. A flawed reproductive lesson. The debate ends with Trump refusing to say whether he’ll concede the election if he loses. “I’ll keep you in suspense,” he says.
October 28th – FBI reviews new emails related to Clinton server
The FBI alerts members of Congress to the existence of a new batch of emails had been discovered on laptop belonging to Weiner, the estranged husband of longtime Clinton aide Abedin. The discovery is made during a separate investigation by federal authorities looking into the online communications between Weiner and a 15-year-old girl.
November 4 th– Queen B, Jay Z & Clinton share a stage
November 5th – Trump is rushed off the stage at a Nevada rally
November 7th – FBI says there is no evidence of wrongdoing in Clinton emails
November 8th – Election day