Clinton, Trump crank up the vitriol in prelude to November

The crossfire between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton reached new levels of intensity Tuesday in a prelude to their expected November presidential election battle, as the candidates traded blows over everything from past Clinton scandals to claims Trump was rooting for a housing market crash before the recession.

Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, hit the presumptive GOP nominee on his years-old housing comments at a campaign stop earlier Tuesday.

"When he was talking about the possibility of a housing market crash before the Great Recession, he said, ‘I sort of hope that happens,' " Clinton said. "He actually said that, he actually said he was hoping for the crash that caused hard working families in California and across America to lose their homes, all because he thought he could take advantage of it to make some money for himself."

Trump's campaign issued a statement defending his comments, made in the mid-2000s, as the mortgage, then housing bubble began to burst.

"I am a businessman and I have made a lot of money in down markets, in some cases as much as I've made when markets are good. Frankly, this is the kind of thinking our country needs -- understanding how to get a good result out of a very bad and sad situation," Trump said in the statement.

"Politicians have no idea how to do this -- they don't have a clue. I will create jobs, bring back companies and not make it easy for companies to leave.”

The New York real estate mogul has reached the general electorate with a pro-jobs message that in part includes vows to end the kind of international trade deals that have sent U.S. manufacturing jobs overseas.

The exchange between Clinton and Trump came a day after Trump released an incendiary web video that including allegations from two women who accused Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, of sexual assault years ago.

Two polls released this past weekend show Clinton and Trump essentially tied in the White House race.

The Trump campaign on Tuesday also denied claims by Democrats and those of a former adviser that Trump helped pay the mortgage of a woman who years ago accused the former president of sexual assault and was just featured in a scathing Trump campaign video.

"There's no truth to that,” campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks told Fox News, responding to the mortgage claims.

The pushback comes after a Democrat-tied group posted the video and transcript of a February interview in which Trump ally Roger Stone described efforts to financially help Kathleen Willey, who claims former President Clinton groped her in 1993.

The Washington Post also said Monday that Trump, in a recent interview, said the 1993 death of Clinton administration attorney Vince Foster was “very fishy.”

Investigators ruled his death a suicide. But Clinton detractors have suggested the first couple was involved in Foster’s death to hide secrets. Trump, nevertheless, called the allegations of possible foul play “very serious.”