Final Presidential Debate

Live Updates And Fact Checks

What You Need To Know

President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden found little common ground in the final debate of the 2020 election. Both attacked one another’s records on a number of issues, including on criminal justice, immigration, climate change and even Abraham Lincoln.

Catch up on our fact checks and analysis of Thursday’s debate below.

Watch: Final Presidential Debate Recap

President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden met for their second and final debate heading into the final sprint to Election Day. NPR’s Asma Khalid has more from the event, where new debate rules kept the conversation focused on policy issues.

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That’s A Wrap On The 2020 Election Debates

The final presidential debate has come to an end, and with 11 days left until Election Day, President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden head into the final stretch of the campaign.

Trump and Biden sparred over several policy issues Thursday night, but the debate featured noticeably fewer interruptions between the candidates compared with the first presidential debate, in September.

In the next week and a half, Trump and Biden will make their final attempts to persuade voters around the U.S., but as of Thursday, nearly 49 million Americans had already voted, according to the U.S. Elections Project.

For a full list of state-by-state deadlines to register to vote, as well as deadlines to vote by mail or early in person, refer to NPR’s tracker.

For continued election updates, fact checks and analysis, be sure to subscribe to the NPR Politics Newsletter and The NPR Politics Podcast.

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Fact check

Biden Counters Trump’s Fracking Attack

President Trump has campaigned in the critical swing state of Pennsylvania on the claim that Joe Biden wants to ban fracking. Hydraulic fracturing produced a natural gas drilling boom in the state, making it the second-largest gas-producing state, behind Texas.

BIDEN: “I’ve never said I oppose fracking.”

Biden has said in his climate plan that he would take executive action to ban “new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters.” During a primary debate in March, he briefly appeared to go further in supporting a ban on all fracking — which would include private land, which is where most fracking occurs in Pennsylvania.

But Biden’s campaign later clarified that he misspoke.

Trump also has overstated the number of jobs that would be at stake if fracking were banned in Pennsylvania, claiming 600,000 jobs, and at times up to 900,000 jobs, would be killed. This claim appears to come from a 2019 U.S. Chamber of Commerce report.

But WHYY’s Susan Phillips reported this month that there are only about 26,000 oil and gas jobs in the entire state. And the Chamber of Commerce report itself says about 21,000 direct jobs would be affected. As PolitiFact reports, the rest would be jobs that indirectly depend on the oil and gas industry.

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Trump Attacks Biden Over 1994 Crime Bill

TRUMP: He never did a thing except in 1994 when he did such harm to the Black community. And they were called — and he called them — superpredators, and he said it. He said it: superpredators. And can never live that down: 1994, your crime bill, the superpredators.

During a segment on race, President Trump tried to attack former Vice President Joe Biden over his role in the now controversial 1994 crime bill.

Biden denied ever calling anybody a superpredator. (Hillary Clinton did use the term in 1996 and apologized for it during the 2016 campaign.)

Biden, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, did have a key role in helping write the 1994 crime bill and ushering it through Congress and into law.

At the time it was passed, the U.S. had sky-high crime rates, particularly violent crime. The bill aimed to bring those rates under control.

The bill authorized more than $30 billion in funding to help law enforcement and to tamp down crime, and it included provisions such as mandatory life sentences for three-time violent federal offenders.

The legislation enjoyed the support of many in the African American community at the time. The majority of the Congressional Black Caucus, for example, voted in favor of it.

But now, more than two decades later, views have shifted. The bill has been blamed for the mass incarceration of African Americans and other people of color. And many people who once supported the legislation now criticize aspects of it. Biden, for one, defends aspects of it but also says elements of it were a “mistake.”

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Fact check

Trump’s Cost Estimates Of Climate Plan Are Inflated

TRUMP: “Look, a real plan costs $100 trillion. If we had the best year in the history of our country for 100 years, we would not even come close to a number like that.”

President Trump’s claim about the cost to reduce U.S. carbon emissions is overstated.

Joe Biden says his climate plan would cost $2 trillion. It appears Trump is referring to a claim about the Green New Deal, which Biden has called “a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face.” Trump and other Republicans have tried to use the Green New Deal as a political cudgel against Biden, whose plan diverges from it in key ways. Biden’s plan leaves room for some fossil fuels and aims for net-zero emissions instead of a 100% renewable and zero-emissions energy goal, which is included in the Green New Deal.

The $100 trillion figure that Trump referred to is based on a calculation, now widely debunked, by a conservative think tank. No one really knows how much the Green New Deal would cost because it includes a set of lofty ambitions and ideas — not legislation or regulations whose numbers can be crunched.

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On The Issues: Biden’s And Trump’s Environmental Plans

In the final segment of the night’s debate, President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden discussed their stances on and plans for the environment. Here’s what the candidates have said throughout the campaign on this topic.

Biden has released an extensive $2 trillion clean energy plan that pledges to hit net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. His plan would usher in further climate-centered reforms within a number of areas, including in American infrastructure and the auto and transportation industries. Biden says the plan will create 1 million new jobs and also calls for the construction of 1.5 million “sustainable homes.” Trump said tonight that he doesn’t believe America can afford such plans.

Trump’s bulleted campaign agenda lists his administration’s claims about maintaining clean air and water levels but does not go into further specifics. The president has worked to promote America’s oil and gas sector and has undone several Obama-era climate policies throughout his term, including pulling out of the Paris climate agreement. Trump belongs to the “not even science knows what’s taking place” school of climate change skepticism, in contrast to Biden’s acceptance of the scientific consensus.

Take an in-depth look at Biden’s and Trump’s plans to address the environment here.

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After Biden Snipe, Trump Clarifies He Is Not Actually Abraham Lincoln

President Trump felt compelled to explain that he is not actually the long-dead revered signee of the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln, after rival Joe Biden took a dig at Trump’s claim that he harbored no racial animus.

“With the exception of Abraham Lincoln — possible exception — but the exception of Abraham Lincoln, nobody has done what I’ve done [for Black Americans],” Trump, who has for years dismissed complaints of racist behavior, said in response to a question about race relations in America.

Biden, in a moment of uncharacteristic snark, responded: “Abraham Lincoln here is one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history. He pours fuel on every single racist fire, every single one,” sarcastically referring to Trump as Lincoln.

Trump has long associated himself with Honest Abe, likening his own record on race to that of Lincoln, who signed the document that marked the official end of chattel slavery in the United States.

Despite his own very recent invocation of the statesman Lincoln, Trump appeared confused by Biden’s sarcastic quip.

“He made a reference to Abraham Lincoln. Where did that come in?” Trump responded incredulously.

“You said you’re Abraham Lincoln,” Biden said.

“Where did that — no, no. I said not since Abraham Lincoln has anybody done what I’ve done for the Black community. I didn’t say, ‘I’m Abraham Lincoln,’ ” Trump answered, clearly offended by the suggestion.

In the minutes following the debate, various iterations of Lincoln’s name trended on Twitter.

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Trump, Clemency And Criminal Justice

BIDEN: “Granted, he did in fact let 20 people — he commuted 20 people’s sentences. We commuted over 1,000 people’s sentences.”

In a year of racial reckoning characterized by renewed conversations about mass incarceration and its disproportionate impact on people of color, both President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden sought to highlight their efforts to reform the nation’s criminal justice system.

During his administration, Trump has supported the First Step Act, which reduced sentences for some federal drug crimes. The plan was supported by prominent white evangelical leaders but got mixed reviews from some advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposed the House version of the bill in 2018.

Biden noted that the Obama administration commuted “over 1,000” sentences — more commutations than any U.S. president before him. This week Trump granted clemency to several people, most incarcerated for drug offenses. He has also granted several high-profile pardons and commutations to his political allies.

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Fact check

Trump Is Not The Best President For Black America Since Lincoln

TRUMP: Nobody has done more for the Black community than Donald Trump. And if you look, with the exception of Abraham Lincoln, possible exception, but the exception of Abraham Lincoln, nobody has done what I’ve done.

President Trump has repeatedly made this untrue claim. The president and his allies point to his support for programs such as “opportunity zones,” his use of his clemency powers and his support for legislation that makes it easier for federal prisoners to be released early.

The president also has consistently shown hesitance when asked to condemn white supremacy. He also has questioned the existence of systemic racism and has barred racial sensitivity training for federal employees and contractors. Trump used offensive language to describe Haiti and many African nations. Trump’s now-estranged former attorney claimed the president frequently uses racist language in his private conduct. All of this has alarmed many Black voters and other members of communities of color. And the claim that he’s the best president for Black America with the “possible exception” of Abraham Lincoln is factually incorrect.

Here are a few, but not all, of the presidents who have done more: Harry Truman desegregated the military. Lyndon B. Johnson backed almost 200 pieces of legislation under what was known as the Great Society that were aimed at stopping poverty and racial injustice. These laws included the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which outlawed federal, state and local electoral practices designed to disenfranchise Black voters, such as literacy tests. Johnson’s program also included the Civil Rights Act in 1964, often referred to as the crowning achievement of the civil rights movement. It banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion or national origin and stopped segregation in public places. Barack Obama became the nation’s first Black president, and some point to his Affordable Care Act as important legislation aimed at addressing racial and economic disparities in access to health care.

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Fact check

Trump Claims Carbon Emissions Are Down, But That’s Misleading

TRUMP: We have the best carbon emission numbers that we’ve had in 35 years under this administration.

While President Trump takes credit here for declining emissions, his administration’s policies have had little to do with that. The collapse of coal has reduced carbon emissions in the electric power sector. Overall, the EPA and the latest full-year estimates from the Rhodium Group have shown emissions slightly increased since 2016. The economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic have reduced them this year, but Trump’s policies are likely to lead to increases in the future.

The Trump administration has been nothing if not dogged in its efforts to undo a host of Obama-era regulations to reduce greenhouse gases, from those emitted by power plants to pollution from cars and trucks. As a result, the U.S. is falling considerably short of the relatively moderate emissions-reduction goals that the Obama administration set under the 2015 Paris climate accord, an agreement Trump swiftly abandoned.

Trump’s dismantling of his predecessor’s climate initiatives means that the U.S. is on track to emit more than 1.8 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by 2035, according to The New York Times. That exceeds the annual energy emissions of Germany, the United Kingdom and Canada, combined, The New York Times estimates.

Clarification: An earlier version of this post called Trump’s claim false and had not taken into account the effects of the pandemic shutdowns.

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Fact check

How The Obama Administration Handled Swine Flu

TRUMP: Frankly, he ran the H1N1 swine flu — it was a total disaster, far less lethal but a total disaster. Had that had this kind of numbers, 700,000 people would be dead right now, but it was a far less lethal disease.

It’s not true that the Obama administration did nothing or waited a long time to act on the H1N1 influenza pandemic. The Obama administration declared a public health emergency early in the outbreak of the H1N1 influenza, also known as the swine flu, and accelerated the development of treatments and vaccines.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that around 61 million people caught swine flu in the U.S. between April 2009 — when the disease was first detected in California — and April 2010. More than 12,000 people died.

By contrast, there are now more than 8 million cases of the coronavirus in the U.S., and more than 222,000 people have died.

The first case of H1N1 influenza was detected in the U.S. in mid-April 2009; later that month, the U.S. government declared a public health emergency when there were 20 confirmed cases in the United States. A new test to detect the virus, approved by the Food and Drug Administration, was sent out domestically and globally starting May 1.

Several H1N1 vaccines were developed and approved by Sept. 15, 2009 — five months after the first case was detected; by late December, an H1N1 vaccine was available to anyone who wanted one, according to the CDC’s timeline of events. The H1N1 vaccine distribution was considered problematic at the time — it didn’t reach all target populations in a timely way, and people’s interest in getting a vaccine waned as the flu strain turned out to be milder than initially feared.

Health officials are trying to incorporate lessons learned from H1N1 vaccine distribution into their plans for a COVID-19 vaccine — which involves outreach to priority groups, as well as the public.

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Fact check

DOJ: Most Migrants Show Up For Immigration Court Dates

TRUMP: We got rid of catch and release. We got rid of a lot of horrible things that they put in and that they lived with.

President Trump has long made somewhat misleading claims to attack laws designed to protect migrants seeking asylum in the United States.

Trump accused former Vice President Joe Biden during the debate of — by virtue of being in the Obama administration — allowing murders and rapists to come into the country and releasing them into the population. But there is no law or policy called “catch and release.”

Instead, Trump is criticizing existing laws that require releasing migrants from detention while they await immigration court proceedings. They are released, in part, because of limited bed space at detention centers and huge backlogs of cases in front of immigration judges.

But Trump argues it’s ridiculous to expect migrants to return to court for deportation proceedings. During tonight’s debate, he said perhaps only “those with the lowest IQ” come back.

According to the Justice Department, however, 44% of migrants who were not in custody fail to show up for their court dates.

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Fact check

Why Trump Left The Paris Climate Accord

TRUMP: “The Paris accord, I took us out because we were going to have to spend trillions of dollars. And we were treated very unfairly.”

The Paris Agreement was the result of years of negotiations among the world’s nations to reduce heat-trapping emissions in ways that would be politically and economically palatable. The policies that the U.S. intended to follow to cut emissions would have cost jobs in certain industries, such as coal mining.

But most economists pointed out that new jobs would have been created, too, and that the shifts would not have resulted in huge layoffs. The alleged economic damage from adhering to the Paris Agreement also ignores the vast harm that climate-change-fueled extreme weather events already inflict on the broader economy and individual lives.

2020 is on track to be “the sixth consecutive year … in which 10 or more billion-dollar weather and climate disaster events have impacted the United States,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Joe Biden says the U.S. will rejoin the Paris climate agreement if he’s elected president.

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Fact check

Trump Claims To Have Saved HBCUs

TRUMP: I saved historically Black colleges and universities.

While discussing race in America, President Trump claimed that after meeting repeatedly with the leaders of America’s historically Black colleges and universities, he successfully pushed for long-term funding legislation.

In December 2019, Trump did sign the Future Act, a bill that made permanent a funding stream of $250 million a year for HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions. While the president can rightly claim credit for supporting the bipartisan legislation, it’s a stretch to say he “saved” these schools from financial ruin.

Joe Biden has also proposed bolstering HBCUs, including $18 billion in grants to four-year HBCUs, “equivalent to up to two years of tuition per low-income and middle class student.”

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Fact check

Biden: Trump Without Plan On Pandemic

BIDEN: We’re in a circumstance where the president thus far still has no plan. No comprehensive plan.

Trump’s campaign has not released a full COVID-19 action plan for his second term, even after President Trump himself contracted the coronavirus.

His agenda for battling the virus centers on having a vaccine widely available by the end of the year. Health experts, including those in the federal government, say that timeline is highly unlikely. Trump has promised that during a second term, he will hold China “fully accountable” for the spread of the virus.

The White House has pledged to create 300 million doses of a vaccine by January 2021. The plan, published by the Department of Health and Human Services, outlines that “steps will proceed simultaneously” as government-funded companies continue with their research and trials of possible vaccines.

Public health experts have repeatedly called for a better-coordinated national response.

“I think we’ve got about the worst response to this pandemic that you could possibly have,” said Dr. William Foege, who served as CDC director from 1977 to 1983, spanning the Carter and Reagan administrations.

Foege blames the White House, which he says has not allowed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation’s public health agency, to apply its considerable knowledge to the pandemic response.

As for testing, the United States is doing better on testing than it was. More than 127 million tests have now been conducted in the U.S., and on some days more than 1 million tests are being done, but public health experts say this still falls short of what’s needed. For a country the size of the U.S., millions of tests need to be done every day to bring the pandemic under control and prevent new outbreaks from occurring, experts say.

Trump has used some of his authority under the Defense Production Act, but critics argue that the federal government should use the powers of that law more broadly to direct the production of needed medical supplies.

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Biden Says He’s Running As His Own Man

At multiple points in the night during the debate over health care, President Trump tried to accuse Joe Biden of socialism-by-association — an allegation that Republicans have tried to stick to the Democratic presidential nominee in the past. At one point, Trump repeatedly referenced Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ vision of “socialized medicine” at such length that Biden responded: “He’s a very confused guy.”

“He thinks he’s running against somebody else. He’s running against Joe Biden. I beat all those other people because I disagreed with them,” the Democratic presidential nominee said. If some of Biden’s primary opponents supported a “Medicare for All” system, Biden does not.

Biden also notably referred to his own health care plan, which would add a public option to the Affordable Care Act, as “Bidencare.” A public option is a government-run health care product that would compete with those now offered by private insurers, with a goal of increasing access. Biden has long run on the Obama legacy and has talked about “my buddy Barack” in stump speeches, but that health care proposal would go further on policy than Obamacare.

Later in the night, during a portion on immigration, Biden tried to create an additional distinction between his and Obama’s policies. When asked about the Obama administration’s record on deportations, Biden acknowledged that he believes mistakes were made and then added the other reason voters should trust him to push for an immigration overhaul now is that he’ll “be president of the United States, not vice president.”

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Fact check

Trump Blames Obama, Biden For ‘Cages,’ Family Separations

Pressed about reports that more than 500 children remain separated from their parents because of his immigration policy, President Trump attacked former Vice President Joe Biden for the Obama administration’s actions.

Trump: They built cages. They said I built cages. …That was him. They built cages.

The cages in question are enclosures where migrant children have been held. Trump said Democrats tweeted pictures in 2018 of young immigrants in steel cages while criticizing him. But those photos had actually been taken in 2014, during the Obama administration, which also faced criticism for detaining children.

One key difference between the two policies: The Obama administration detained apprehended immigrant children with their parents, while the Trump administration separated children from their parents. Lawyers for the Justice Department and the American Civil Liberties Union said this week that they have been unable to reunite 545 of these children with their parents, who were removed to their home countries.

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Fact check

Biden Says He Pushed Back Against China’s Xi On Chinese Air Zone

BIDEN: When I met with [Chinese President] Xi when I was still vice president, he said: ‘We’re setting up air identification zones in the South China Sea. You can’t fly through them.’ I said we’re going to fly through them. We just flew B-52, B-1 bombers through it. We’re not going to pay attention. They have to play by the rules.

Joe Biden was apparently referring to a meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing in 2013. That year, China established an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea, off the country’s central coast. The Obama administration flew two B-52 bombers through the new zone within days of that declaration in a show of force.

Analysts say China has been planning an ADIZ for the South China Sea, where it is locked in territorial disputes involving multiple countries, but has yet to announce one.

More broadly, Trump has repeatedly claimed that Biden is weak on China. The argument leans, in part, on the fact that Biden served as vice president in the Obama administration, which Trump accuses of failing to stand up to China.

Biden’s interactions with China reach further back, though, to when he served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. At the time, Biden favored fostering relations with Beijing and welcomed China’s economic rise. He was hardly alone. The consensus in policy circles through much of the 1990s and 2000s was that economic development and engagement would lead China to be a more open country, both economically and politically.

In recent years, the notion that this approach was flawed has gained currency – and Biden’s rhetoric has changed too. On Thursday night, he referred to Xi as a “thug” and pledged to team up with allies to press China to follow global rules.

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Fact check

What A $15 Minimum Wage Might Mean For Employment

In response to a question about Joe Biden’s support of a $15 federal minimum wage, he and President Trump debated whether such a higher wage would cause widespread firings.

“When you’re forcing wages, what’s going to happen and what’s been proven to happen is when you do that, these small businesses fire many of their employees,” Trump said.

“There is no evidence that when you raise the minimum wage, businesses go out of business. That is simply not true,” Biden said.

The federal minimum wage has been set at $7.25 since 2009, though some states have set higher wages — with some up to $15 an hour.

Economists differ on what the effects of a $15 minimum wage would be. A 2019 study from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that particular wage floor could reduce business income and also cost 1.3 million jobs.

But there is by no means consensus about what such a wage would do.

A 2015 survey found that top economists were divided on the question of whether a $15 federal minimum wage would meaningfully lower employment. And some recent studies have found that kind of hike wouldn’t cause substantial job losses.

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Fact check

Technically, Trump And Republicans Didn’t ‘Terminate’ The Individual Mandate

TRUMP: Through the legislature, I terminated the individual mandate. That is the worst part of Obamacare, as we call it. The individual mandate, where you have to pay a fortune for the privilege of not having to pay for bad health insurance.

President Trump’s statement that he “terminated” the individual mandate isn’t quite true.

The 2017 Republican tax cuts did reduce the penalty for not having insurance to $0. That’s as close as Republican lawmakers could get to repealing the Affordable Care Act.

The mandate required that all U.S. residents either have health insurance or pay a penalty. It was intended to help keep the premiums for ACA policies low by ensuring that more healthy people entered the health insurance market, to offset the cost of people with higher health costs.

Making the penalty $0 opened a new avenue of attack against the entire ACA in the courts. Back in 2012, the ACA had been upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, because the penalty was essentially a tax, and Congress is allowed to create a new tax.

In December 2018, a federal judge in Texas ruled that because the penalty is now $0, it’s a command, not a tax, and is therefore unconstitutional. He also reasoned that it cannot be cut off from the rest of the law, so he judged the whole law to be unconstitutional. The case has gone all the way to the Supreme Court and is set to be argued Nov. 10, just after the election.

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Fact check

What The Stock Market Doesn’t Indicate

BIDEN: The idea that the stock market is booming is his only measure of what’s happening. Where I come from, Scranton and Claymont, the people don’t live off the stock market. Just in the last three years, during this crisis, the billionaires in this country made, according to The Wall Street Journal, $700 billion more. $700 billion more. Because that’s his only measure. What happens to the ordinary people out there? What happens to them?

It’s true that President Trump frequently points to the stock market as a score card. Stocks have mounted a remarkable comeback since falling sharply in the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the broader S&P 500 index have both rebounded more than 50% since bottoming out in March. Since Trump took office, the Dow is up 44%, the S&P is up 53% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq has more than doubled.

Keep in mind, though, that most of the recent gains have been driven by a handful of big technology companies. What’s more, those gains overwhelmingly flow to the wealthiest Americans. According to the Federal Reserve, more than half of all stock is held by the wealthiest 1% of the country, while the bottom 90% of the population holds less than 13%.

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On The Issues: Biden’s And Trump’s Health Care Plans

President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden clashed over health care. Here is what their campaigns have proposed.

Trump has largely criticized the Affordable Care Act but has yet to propose an alternative. He has pledged throughout his term to lower prescription drug prices and insurance premiums, though health experts have argued that he has taken minimal action on this.

Biden has put forward a public-option health care plan that builds on the Affordable Care Act and is a separate insurance from Medicare. The former vice president is also pledging to lower the price of prescription drugs within Medicare and establish an independent commission that would monitor new drug pricing. In an additional plan, Biden proposes investing $775 billion in caregiving for younger and older Americans.

Take an in-depth look at Biden’s and Trump’s plans to address health care here.

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Fact check

Biden Says Trump Payroll Tax Puts Social Security At Risk. Here Are The Caveats

BIDEN: If he continues with his plan to withhold the tax on Social Security, Social Security will be bankrupt by 2023 with no way to make up for it.

This requires context. After Congress rejected President Trump’s call for a payroll tax cut, he directed the Treasury Department to simply hold off collecting the tax for the last four months of this year. The move would boost take-home pay for workers making up to $104,000 a year. But the break is only temporary, and workers have to pay double taxes in the first four months of 2021 to make up the difference. The president has said he’d like to end the payroll tax permanently, which would take an act of Congress and could jeopardize funding for Social Security, which the tax pays for. The administration has said the lost revenue would be replaced with other funds, which is what happened during a payroll tax holiday between 2010 and 2012.

Four Democratic senators asked the Social Security Administration’s chief actuary how the president’s proposal to permanently scrap payroll taxes would affect the popular safety net program. Actuary Stephen Goss responded that if the tax revenue were replaced with other funds, there would be no effect. However, if revenue from the payroll tax were not replaced, Goss estimated that Social Security would run out of money to pay disability benefits next year and exhaust its ability to pay retirement benefits in 2023.

Many private employers have opted to keep collecting the payroll tax to avoid problems for themselves and their workers down the road. However, most federal employees, including members of the military, had no choice but to take part in this payroll tax boomerang.

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Trump Says Republicans Will Retake The House. That’s Highly Unlikely

President Trump claimed, implausibly, that Republicans are going to retake the House of Representatives in November.

“I think we’re going to win the House, OK,” Trump said. “You’ll see, but I think we’re going to win the House.”

He may be employing the power of positive thinking, but it’s highly unlikely Republicans will win enough seats to take back the speaker’s gavel.

The Cook Political Report, which digs into the details of each congressional race, rates only 207 seats as being likely/lean Republican or toss-ups. It takes 218 to make a majority in the House.

Rather than Republicans gaining seats, the Cook Political Report’s House analyst, Dave Wasserman, wrote on Wednesday that “overall, we’re revising our outlook in the House from a Democratic net gain of five to ten seats to a gain of between five and 15 seats.”

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Fact check

The State Of The Minimum Wage

TRUMP: Some places $15 is not so bad. In other places, other states, $15 would be ruinous.

President Trump is referring to Joe Biden’s support for a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour, more than double the current minimum of $7.25. While the federal minimum hasn’t increased in more than a decade, many states have raised their own minimums, which has contributed to an increase in wages for those at the bottom of the income ladder. Before the coronavirus pandemic struck, average wages were rising faster than inflation, increasing workers’ real purchasing power. Since March, low-wage workers have been hit particularly hard by job losses, skewing the income statistics.

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Fact check

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un: Friend Or ‘Thug’?

North Korea’s nuclear program has been a vexing issue for successive U.S. administrations. President Trump, who has met three times with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, says that the Obama administration left him “a mess,” that it is a good thing that he has a “very good relationship” with Kim and that “there is no war.”

TRUMP: They tried to meet with him. He wouldn’t do it. He didn’t like Obama. He didn’t like him. He wouldn’t do it. I know for a fact they tried. He wouldn’t do it.

Biden says Kim wouldn’t meet Obama because the U.S. was demanding that North Korea denuclearize, and he accused Trump of legitimizing “a thug” by calling him his “good buddy.”

BIDEN: They have to play by the rules. And what’s he do? He embraces guys like the thugs like in North Korea and the Chinese president and Putin and others, and he pokes his finger in the eye of all of our friends, all of our allies.

North Korea recently unveiled new missile technology at a military parade. The Trump administration’s response was muted. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would say only that North Korea has not carried out any long-range missile tests recently.

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Fact check

Trump Says Fauci Flip-Flopped On Face Masks

Trump: But Anthony [Fauci] said don’t wear masks. Now he wants to wear masks.

This is true. President Trump often points out that in the early months of the pandemic, health officials including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Surgeon General Jerome Adams told the public that people did not need to wear masks. That’s true. In a March 27 interview, Fauci said that masks were in short supply and that they should be reserved for health care providers to protect them from infection. “When we say you don’t need to wear a mask, what we’re really saying is make sure you prioritize it first for the people who need the mask,” Fauci said at the time. He also said people should wear masks if they were sick to prevent them from spreading infection.

But official guidance on masks changed after it became clear that people who were not showing any symptoms of illness from COVID-19 could still be spreading the coronavirus. In early April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that Americans wear face coverings in public to help curb the spread of the virus.

Public health experts say that masks help prevent the spread of the coronavirus by catching virus particles that come out of infectious people’s noses and mouths when they’re speaking or breathing — and by offering the wearer some protection against breathing them in. Even if masks are not 100% effective, research (funded by the National Institutes of Health) shows that adopting universal face coverings in public could keep people from getting infected and reduce deaths by a minimum of 3% to 5% — and more, if the masks are highly effective (i.e., surgical masks). Even if a mask wearer does get infected, some doctors theorize that masks may reduce the severity of COVID-19 because they reduce the amount of virus the wearer is exposed to. And experts say wearing masks is even more important indoors — even if you are more than 6 feet away from other people — since, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has now acknowledged, the coronavirus can spread in the air.

Research also suggests that masks can greatly reduce the spread of the coronavirus during airplane travel — if mask-wearing is rigidly enforced on board.

Meanwhile, health officials have been warning that a vaccine may work in only 50% of the people who get it. This means a vaccine may not be the magic wand that ends the pandemic — and even after a vaccine is approved, mask-wearing, social distancing and hand-washing may be part of our lives for a while yet.

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Fact check

Uninsured Rate Declined, Then Rose

BIDEN: How many at home are worried rolling around in bed tonight wondering what in God’s name are you going to do if you got sick because you’ve lost your home — your health insurance or your company has gone under. We have to provide health insurance for people at an affordable rate — that’s what I would do.

TRUMP: Excuse me, he was there for 47 years. He didn’t do it.

This is half true. (The Biden half.) Health insurance coverage rose during the Obama-Biden administration and has fallen since. According to the Census Bureau, 9.2% of Americans went without health insurance last year. That uninsured rate declined steadily following passage of the Affordable Care Act. But after falling to 8.6% in 2016, the rate has risen for the past three years in a row. Most Americans still get their health insurance through an employer, though pandemic job losses have stripped millions of people of their health care coverage as well. President Trump campaigned against the Affordable Care Act, and his administration continues to challenge Obamacare in court. While Trump has repeatedly promised to offer a GOP alternative to the Affordable Care Act that would replace its protections for those with preexisting medical conditions, he has yet to do so.

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Fact check

Did Biden Call Trump ‘Xenophobic’ Over The Ban On Travel From China?

Early in the debate, President Trump said Joe Biden faulted the president for being “xenophobic” for shutting down travel from China in early spring.

“When I closed and banned China from coming in heavily infected and then ultimately Europe, but China was in January, months later [Biden] was saying I was xenophobic and I did it too soon,” Trump said.

In response, Biden said, “He is xenophobic, but not because he shut down access from China.”

This isn’t the first time Trump has made this claim.

In fact, it’s a line he’s repeated in recent days on the campaign trail, including during rallies in Tucson, Ariz., and Carson City, Nev.

It appears Trump is referring to a tweet from Biden in February after the travel ban was announced, where the former vice president wrote that Trump has a “record of hysteria, xenophobia and fear-mongering.”

He repeated the sentiment during a press conference in March, where Biden said the country shouldn’t “panic or fall back on xenophobia. Labeling COVID-19 a foreign virus does not displace accountability for the misjudgments that have been taken thus far by the Trump administration.”

But it appears that Biden’s labeling of Trump as “xenophobic” has to do with Trump’s rhetoric surrounding the virus, like calling it the “China virus,” and not his administration’s halt to travel from China.

So while Biden has labeled the president as “xenophobic,” his tweets and public statements indicate what he said on stage tonight: that he’s not directly referring to Trump’s actions on the travel ban itself.

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Fact check

Trump’s Claim On NATO Funding

President Trump often makes misleading claims about NATO funding, as NPR has pointed out and as The Washington Post Fact Checker regularly reports

TRUMP: I’ve got the NATO countries to put up an extra $130 billion going to $420 billion a year.

Back in 2014, NATO countries pledged to spend 2% of their gross domestic product on defense spending by 2024. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg gives President Trump some credit for encouraging others to boost their spending. But as Stoltenberg pointed out this month, military spending has risen for a sixth consecutive year. His latest figures show that 10 countries are meeting the 2% goal.

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Fact check

Trump Again Promises To Protect Preexisting Conditions, But He Hasn’t Offered A Plan

TRUMP: “Preexisting conditions will always stay. What I would like to do is a much better health care, much better will always protect people with preexisting. So I’d like to terminate Obamacare, come up with a brand new beautiful health care..”

Ensuring that people who have preexisting conditions can have access to health insurance is an extremely popular provision of the Affordable Care Act.

The Trump administration is arguing in a lawsuit that will be heard by the Supreme Court Nov. 10 that the entire ACA should be struck down as unconstitutional — all while the president has taken pains to reassure the public that this particular part of the law would be preserved.

He has not offered details on how he would do that.

Also, his administration has not offered any alternative plan to replace any other provisions of the ACA, were it to be struck down. President Trump recently signed an executive order instructing his agencies to find ways to protect preexisting conditions, but it’s more proclamation than policy.

If the law were to be struck down by the Supreme Court, experts say it would cause “chaos” in the health care system.

More than 20 million people have health insurance because of programs created by the ACA — the Obamacare exchanges and Medicaid expansion.

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Trump Says He Closed Chinese Bank Account Before Running For Office

TRUMP: I was thinking about doing a deal in China like millions of other people. I was thinking about it. And I decided I’m not going to do it. … So I closed it [the bank account] before I even ran for president, let alone became president.

The New York Times, citing an analysis of the president’s tax records, reported on Oct. 20 that Trump maintains an account with a Chinese bank. It said the account is controlled by Trump International Hotels Management, which paid $188,561 in taxes in China while pursuing licensing deals there from 2013 to 2015, according to The Times.

Trump said the bank account was opened in 2013 and “I believe” closed it in 2015.

According to The Times, China, Ireland and Britain are the only three foreign countries where Trump has bank accounts.

A lawyer for the Trump Organization told the newspaper the company had opened the account in order to pay local taxes associated with the business there. The lawyer said “no deals, transactions or other business activities ever materialized and, since 2015, the office has remained inactive.”

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Fact check

Trump Gave Aid To Farmers, But Consumers Hurt By Tariffs

TRUMP: "China paid $28 billion and you know what they did to pay it, Joe, they devalued their currency and they also paid up. And you know who got the money, our farmers, our great farmers because they were targeted."

This needs context. Farmers have been facing a variety of challenges, both natural and human-made. Crop prices have been depressed – partly as a result of the president’s trade war. Cash farm income from corn, soybeans, hogs, cattle and milk all declined in 2020. But federal aid to farmers ballooned to more than $37 billion, accounting for nearly one-third of all cash farm income this year.

While President Trump has long insisted China pays the tariffs he imposed, much of the cost is actually paid by U.S. businesses and consumers. According to the American Farm Bureau lobby group, family farm bankruptcies have slowed during the pandemic, but bankruptcies are still elevated, especially in the Midwest, with the swing state of Wisconsin leading the way.

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Fact check

Touting Coronavirus Response, Trump Claims He Saved Millions Of Lives

TRUMP: As you know, 2.2 million people modeled out were expected to die. We closed up the greatest economy in the world in order to fight this horrible disease that came from China.

The 2.2 million number appears to have originated in a projection made in late March when the coronavirus pandemic was just beginning to pick up speed in the United States.

Though President Trump has never cited his source, it seems to be derived from an estimate by Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London that if the pandemic were left unchecked — without any interventions such as social distancing or masks — there would be 2.2 million deaths in the U.S. and about half a million in the United Kingdom.

Trump has used the “2 million lives saved” claim more frequently in the past two weeks. Since there have been roughly 220,000 deaths in the U.S. so far, it appears he has subtracted that number from the March projection to come up with 2 million. But, of course, the pandemic is not over yet, so it’s not possible to put a number on lives saved. And measures like self-quarantining and isolation, along with face coverings and social distancing, have had a significant impact — even though the president downplays the value of these mitigation measures, particularly masks.

The U.S. kept out Chinese citizens and others traveling from China starting Jan. 31, when there were just over 10,000 cases in China. But that action did not apply to U.S. citizens, permanent residents or other authorized travelers, so it’s possible they brought the virus into the United States.

Also, many early cases in New York, where the pandemic first hit hardest in the U.S., have been traced to Italy. There was no limit on travel from Italy or other European countries until March 26, when major outbreaks were already underway.

And again, U.S. citizens and residents were allowed to reenter the U.S. while others were banned, making travel restrictions a less-than-effective tool for controlling the spread of the coronavirus. Microsoft founder Bill Gates told Fox News recently that the restrictions may have made the situation worse by causing people to come back to the country at a time when the U.S. couldn’t test or quarantine them.

But opinions differ on how useful travel restrictions were. Health experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health credit the travel restrictions for slowing down the virus’s spread. A modeling paper in Science found that they may have slowed the spread for a few weeks at the start, but it made no difference by March.

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So Far, A Different Kind Of Debate

Well, so far, this is a very different debate than the cacophonous and, at times, incomprehensible first one.

President Trump made a decision to be calmer and go along with the rules of the debate. The first half hour was about the coronavirus pandemic. Each candidate got their shots in, and Trump was again on the defensive.

Biden has been having one of his stronger debates of this cycle. Benefitted by the more normal style of debate, Biden was able to parry Trump’s attacks — and conspiracies — rather effectively.

On attacks on corruption and Biden’s son Hunter, Biden pivoted to Trump’s lack of releasing his tax returns, something Trump then had to spend time defending.

So far, Trump’s attacks haven’t seemed to fluster Biden or stick to him. The night is still young, but Biden’s campaign has to feel good about how it’s gone for the former vice president, who simply needs to be steady and retain his leads around the country.

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Fact check

Trump Says Vaccine Is Going To Be Announced Within ‘Weeks’

TRUMP: We have a vaccine that’s coming. It’s ready. It’s going to be announced within weeks and it’s going to be delivered.

It’s possible a COVID-19 vaccine will be ready by the end of the year, but it would still take some time to distribute the vaccine, and limited supplies initially will make it impossible to vaccinate every American right away.

As of this week, none of the large trials underway to determine if a COVID-19 vaccine is viable has been completed.

Two — one from Johnson & Johnson and the other from AstraZeneca/Oxford University — are suspended while researchers investigate whether an illness affecting volunteers in each of the studies is related to the vaccine. The other two — one by Pfizer/BioNTech and one by Moderna — continue. Moderna announced today that it has completed enrollment of approximately 30,000 people in its trial. Pfizer is reportedly closest to completing its trial.

The FDA says it wants to see two months of follow-up data after a subject completes the vaccination schedule in order to be reasonably sure a vaccine is not causing any health problems of its own. Given that, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla wrote in an open letter dated Oct. 16 that, assuming positive data, Pfizer “will apply for Emergency Authorization Use in the U.S. soon after the safety milestone is achieved in the third week of November.”

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Fact check

Trump Alludes To Hunter Biden’s Emails

Trump: “I don’t make money from China. You do. I don’t make money from Ukraine. You do.”

President Trump’s allegations last year against Joe Biden and his work in Ukraine touched off a chain of events that led to Trump’s impeachment. Yet Trump continues making unproven claims against Biden, with a focus on emails allegedly written by Biden’s son Hunter Biden.

Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani gave the New York Post what he says was a copy of the hard drive of Hunter Biden’s computer. The FBI is believed to have a copy of the computer, but neither the bureau nor any other government agency has confirmed the authenticity of the computer or the emails.

One of the emails suggests that Hunter Biden, while working for a Ukranian energy company, may have arranged a 2015 meeting between an executive at the company and his father, who was then the vice president and the U.S. government’s point man on relations with Ukraine. The Biden campaign says no such meeting took place.

Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine was public knowledge when he took a seat on the board of Burisma, a gas company, and critics said he appeared to be profiting from his father’s position. But there’s no evidence that Joe Biden profited from the arrangement.

“Nothing was unethical,” Biden said in response to Trump. “The guy who got in trouble in Ukraine was this guy.”

The larger question is whether Trump’s allegations regarding the convoluted Hunter Biden saga will boost the president’s support at the polls.

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Biden: Russia ‘Will Pay A Price’ If Elected

Former Vice President Joe Biden repeated his warning tonight that if he becomes president, he’ll act tougher toward Russia than he says President Trump has in response to the “active measures” that have changed American political life since they hit a peak in the 2016 election, aimed at helping Trump.

“They will pay a price if I’m elected,” Biden said. “They’re interfering with American sovereignty, that’s what’s going on — interfering with American sovereignty.”

Russian and also Iranian interference in the U.S. elections is underway now, national security officials said this week.

Biden faulted Trump for what he called his deference to Russian President Vladimir Putin and what Biden called the Trump’s camp’s eagerness to accept political help from Russia, including in the current election. The Treasury Department has sanctioned a Ukrainian politician it declared a Russian agent and part of Moscow’s scheme, who met with Trump’s lawyer and political adviser, Rudy Giuliani.

Trump repeated his claim that he’s tough on Russia — his administration has sustained sanctions and ejected some Russian intelligence officers, as well as agreeing to supply some weapons to Ukrainian forces battling Russian and Russian-backed troops in Ukraine’s east. Those weapons actually have been rarely used at all, but Trump said he’d done a better job than Biden and Obama had during their presidency, which is when Putin invaded and seized portions of Ukraine in order to push the de facto frontier with his country further west.

Ukraine had thrown out its Russia-friendly regime and sought to face Europe with a new desire for modernization and integration — one Obama and Biden welcomed; Biden ran the Ukraine portfolio during that time. But that has proven to be the source of intense political complexity since; Biden’s son Hunter sought to broker influence there, and Trump and Giuliani sought to extract concessions from Ukraine’s government in exchange for American military assistance authorized by Congress.

Ukraine’s leaders ultimately never agreed to announce the investigation into the Bidens that Trump wanted, and Ukrainian prosecutors concluded Hunter Biden broke no laws, but Democrats impeached Trump over what they called an abuse of the president’s power.

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Fact check

Trump Has Kept His Tax Returns Private

BIDEN: "Release your tax return or stop talking about corruption."

President Trump has been unusually secretive about his taxes. The New York Times reports that Trump paid just $750 in federal income tax in 2016 and again in 2017, and paid nothing at all in 10 of the previous 15 years.

Trump has denied that. But in contrast to every presidential candidate for the past four decades, he has refused to release his tax returns, and he has fought aggressively to keep prosecutors and members of Congress from obtaining them.

The Times report suggests that despite representing himself as a successful business tycoon, Trump squandered hundreds of millions of dollars on money-losing ventures and used legally questionable deductions (including more than $70,000 for personal hair styling) to reduce his taxable income.

IRS audits of the wealthy have declined steadily over the past decade as the agency’s budget has been cut.

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Fact check

A National Plan To Reopen Schools

BIDEN: I would make sure that we set up national standards as to how to open up schools

Joe Biden was the first candidate tonight to mention school reopening, and he did so promising “national standards” to help guide those decisions. His website offers more clarity, claiming Biden “would task the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and other federal agencies with establishing basic, objective criteria to guide state, tribal, and local officials in deciding if and how reopening can be managed safely in their communities.”

This is a common complaint of school district leaders and local public health directors — that throughout this pandemic the CDC has been reluctant to provide objective, science-driven guidance to help districts and states decide when and how schools can safely reopen.

A few minutes later, Biden also pledged to provide more emergency funding for schools to improve ventilation in aging buildings, reduce class sizes and hire more teachers.

President Trump has also backed a $70 billion relief package for schools, though half of the proposed funding would have been reserved for schools that reopen for in-person learning.

Schools are staring down a very real funding crisis. They get about half their funding from state tax revenues, which have taken a big hit in the pandemic. And, while the coronavirus relief bill back in March did provide K-12 schools with more than $13 billion in emergency funding, the money came with tight restrictions on how it could be spent and won’t begin to cover schools’ skyrocketing costs.

Where kids are back in person, schools have to spend big on things like sanitizer and facility cleaning. If schools run online-only, they’re buying extra laptops and internet hot spots. For schools attempting to do both, it’s a double whammy of new costs to go along with all those budget cuts. "And we haven’t even talked about the financial impact of the catastrophic learning loss that we know is happening," says Rebecca Gifford Goldberg at Bellwether Education Partners.

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‘220,000 Americans Dead’: Biden’s Key Opening Argument

For months, Joe Biden’s main critique of President Trump has focused on how his administration has handled (or mishandled) the pandemic. And that remained a key argument for Biden in the opening portion of the debate. He pointed out that 220,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, with an estimated 1,000 people dying every day.

“Anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain president of the United States of America,” Biden said in his opening remarks.

The Democratic presidential nominee insisted that if he were elected he would have a plan to deal with the virus — he would invest in rapid testing, set up national standards to reopen schools and businesses and encourage everyone to wear masks.

The general election has unfolded against the backdrop of COVID-19. How the two men are responding to the crisis was symbolically evident from the first moments of tonight’s debate as Biden walked out wearing a black mask that he removed as he approached the lectern. The president walked out maskless.

Biden criticized Trump for taking a lax approach to the severity of the virus, even after being hospitalized, and telling people that the crisis would be “over soon.”

Trump said he didn’t say that — he was saying that Americans have no choice but to learn to live with the virus. “We can’t lock ourselves up in a basement like Joe does. He has the ability to lock himself up,” Trump said, referring to the former vice president’s relatively light campaign travel schedule. “People can’t do that.”

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On The Issues: Biden’s And Trump’s COVID-19 Plans

The first presidential debate kicked off with a discussion over President Trump and Vice President Joe Biden’s plans to fight COVID-19. Here’s where the candidates stand on responding to the pandemic.

Biden has released a COVID-19 response plan that prioritizes improving accessibility to testing and personal protective equipment (PPE.) His plan also addresses the disparate effect the virus has had on people of color.

Trump has vowed to have a vaccine by the end of the year and implement a large distribution plan by early 2021. When pressed by moderator Kristen Welker tonight, the president said he could not guarantee the vaccine would be ready in the next few weeks.

Take an in-depth look at Biden’s and Trump’s plans to address COVID-19 here.

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Fact check

Is It Accurate That 200,000 More May Die By 2021?

BIDEN: The expectation is we’ll have another 200,000 Americans dead between now and the end of the year.

There are different predictions for COVID-19 deaths, though some experts say there are just too many uncertainties to forecast beyond a month.

But a forecast from one of America’s leading coronavirus modeling groups projects that the pandemic’s total death toll in America could be anywhere from 275,000 to 335,000 by the end of the year. About 223,000 have died so far.

“Unfortunately, in the United States, it’s still the first wave of the outbreak,” says Ali Mokdad, professor of health metrics sciences at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, which developed the model.

The model forecasts three different scenarios to reflect the potential impact of policies and people’s behavior on outcomes. The worst-case scenario assumes social distancing mandates continue to be rolled back, and it projects nearly 483,000 cumulative deaths by Feb. 1. The rosiest scenario assumes that communities reimpose such mandates when deaths reach a certain level per capita and that nearly everyone wears masks. In that case, cumulative deaths could still reach nearly 315,000.

Currently, the U.S. averages over 700 deaths a day. IHME projects that number could rise to more than 2,000 a day by mid-January, rivaling the most fatal days during this past spring.

So far, Mokdad says, the data clearly show that the U.S. is stuck in a reactive cycle: When cases spike in their communities, people change their behavior significantly — they stay home more and wear masks, even in places where it’s not required.

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Early Moments: Fewer Interruptions, More Eye Rolls

Debate organizers’ tactic to cut candidates’ microphones during the first two minutes of speaking time led to more reserved responses from President Trump and Joe Biden, but that didn’t stop the pair from giving their fair share of eye rolls and smirks at certain claims from their opponent.

The early part of the debate centered around the coronavirus, with each candidate given two minutes to state his position uninterrupted before the other’s microphone would be turned back on.

“[The coronavirus] will go away, and as I say, we’re rounding the turn, we’re rounding the corner,” Trump said during his opening response, eliciting a smirk from Biden.

“220,000 Americans dead. You hear nothing else I say tonight, hear this: Anyone who is responsible for not taking control … anyone who is responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America,” Biden responded during his time, while Trump rolled his eyes. In an exchange after, Trump said he does take “full responsibility,” but also that the coronavirus coming to the U.S. was China’s fault, not his.

Tonight’s debate is the final face-to-face appearance of a truncated debate season. The shortened schedule follows Trump’s diagnosis with the coronavirus, and later, his campaign’s refusal to adhere to more stringent safety measures as a result.

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Fact check

What Biden Has Said About Shutting Down The Economy

TRUMP: "All he does is talk about shutdowns."

The claim that Joe Biden wants to shut down the economy needs context. Biden did say, in an August interview with ABC, that he would follow the advice of scientific experts if they recommended stricter limits on economic activity in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“I would be prepared to do whatever it takes to save lives,” Biden said. “We cannot get the country moving until we control the virus.”

That’s in contrast to President Trump, who has often ignored the advice of scientists in his push to rapidly open schools and businesses. Trump defended that approach even after he and his wife and many key White House staffers contracted the virus.

“We’re going back to work. We’re going to be out front,” Trump said in a video released as he returned to the White House after undergoing treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. “I know there’s a risk, there’s a danger, but that’s OK.”

Research has shown that economic activity slows or stops even without government restrictions, if consumers don’t feel safe going out in the midst of a pandemic. A number of states that moved aggressively to reopen businesses early in the pandemic later had to backtrack in the face of rising infections.

Historians who’ve studied the 1918 flu pandemic found cities that adopted the strictest social distancing measures not only suffered fewer deaths. In the long run, they also performed better economically.

In his town hall with ABC last week, Biden reiterated that reasonable precautions to prevent the spread of the virus can avoid the need for more restrictive measures.

“You don’t have to lock down if you are wearing the mask,” Biden said.

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Fact check

Trump: ‘Rounding The Turn’ On The Coronavirus

TRUMP: It will go away. And as I say, we’re rounding the turn. We’re rounding the corner. It’s going away.

Few, if any, health experts would say the U.S. is turning the corner.

The country still has more cases (over 8 million) and deaths (over 222,000) than any other country in the world.

Nationally, the number of new daily infections has grown by more than 30% over the past two weeks, according to an NPR analysis. Cases are climbing in a majority of states, and the country is averaging about new 60,000 cases a day — similar to where it was at the beginning of August. Public health experts agree: The U.S. is heading into a new wave of infections that will probably be worse than those during the spring and summer.

A new report from the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that over the last five months, the rate of deaths in the U.S. per capita, both from COVID-19 and other causes, has been far greater than in 18 other high-income countries.

“The United States really has done remarkably badly compared to other countries,” says Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, a professor of health policy and medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the authors of the study. “I mean, remarkably badly.”

Coronavirus cases are now surging across the country, especially in rural communities, which are seeing an unprecedented spike in infections and hospitalizations. This is particularly alarming because many of these less populated areas rely on small hospitals, which don’t have the beds or staff to absorb a crush of patients, especially those who require high levels of care.

It is true that death rates are dropping among hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Two new peer-reviewed studies show declines in mortality, even among older patients and those with underlying conditions, suggesting that physicians are getting better at helping patients survive their illness. The number of people dying every day from COVID-19 is also lower than it was during peak periods in the spring and summer.

But the number of Americans dying of COVID-19 remains stubbornly high, with more than 700 people dying every day on average.

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Trump Family Enters With Masks On, And Appears To Leave Them On

President Trump’s daughters entered the debate hall wearing blue surgical masks and, unlike at the first debate, appear to have kept them on. First lady Melania Trump opted for a black mask, which complemented her black dress. Trump son Eric Trump was wearing one too.

According to a pool reporter in the room, attendees received temperature checks before entering and were greeted with signs that read: “For the safety of all attendees, any individual entering the debate hall is required to wear a medical mask.”

Kid Rock, a guest of the president’s, was photographed without a mask but put it on when asked.

During last month’s debate in Cleveland, even though coronavirus safety protocols called for everyone in the debate hall to wear a mask at all times, Trump’s adult children took their masks off after taking their seats. (Joe Biden’s family members kept theirs on.)

As we all know, three days later Trump tested positive for the coronavirus and was later hospitalized. The first lady, his campaign manager, his press secretary, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (who helped with debate preparations) and numerous others in and around the White House later tested positive as well.

Christie recently penned an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal expressing regret about not wearing a mask and argued that doing so is “not a partisan or cultural symbol, not a sign of weakness or virtue.”

As for Trump, he pointedly removed his mask when he returned from the hospital, is rarely seen wearing one and has often expressed ambivalence about their effectiveness.

“I’m good with masks. I’m OK with masks. I tell people, ‘Wear masks,’ ” Trump said at an NBC News town hall last week before inaccurately asserting: “Just the other day, they came out with the statement that 85% of the people that wear masks catch it.” Trump misrepresented the science.

In an interview with 60 Minutes that the president released today ahead of it airing on CBS, Trump said he feels “masks possibly work,” adding that people must also socially distance and keep a safe space.

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Who Is Kristen Welker? Debate Moderator, White House Correspondent

NBC’s Kristen Welker, who has covered the White House since 2011 and is co-host of the network’s Weekend Today show, is set to host tonight’s final presidential debate.

Welker is the second Black woman to moderate a U.S. presidential debate solo. Last November, she was one of four female journalists to moderate the fifth Democratic presidential primary debate.

President Trump repeatedly disparaged Welker ahead of the debate, saying that her reporting is biased against him and criticizing her for deleting her Twitter account. He has taken this approach with numerous journalists who, he says, ask him tougher questions than they do his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden.

Tonight’s debate follows a tense and argumentative first debate, moderated by Fox News’ Chris Wallace. The originally scheduled second presidential debate was canceled following logistical disagreements between the campaigns after Trump contracted the coronavirus and was hospitalized.

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Ex-Hunter Biden Business Associate Invited To Debate By Trump Campaign

The Trump campaign brought an alleged former business associate of Hunter Biden to tonight’s debate in Nashville.

Trump’s campaign showcased Tony Bobulinski with a statement before TV cameras in what Biden’s camp calls a continued attempt by the Trump campaign to draw the spotlight away from the president’s handling of the coronavirus.

It is another attempt by the Trump campaign and its allies to draw attention to a series of New York Post articles that make unverified allegations about the Bidens — allegations the Biden campaign denies. The Post stories are based on materials found on a laptop that allegedly belonged to Hunter Biden. The computer was purportedly found in a Delaware computer repair store and provided to Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney.

As for the campaign’s invitation to Bobulinski for debate night, Trump employed a similar strategy in 2016 when he invited several women who had accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct to a debate against Hillary Clinton. Trump was facing — and continues to face — a chorus of accusations about his own alleged sexual misconduct.

Bobulinski says he was a business associate of Hunter Biden’s in 2017 — after Joe Biden had left office — involved in a proposed business deal with a Chinese firm. Bobulinski alleges the former vice president was aware of Hunter’s business proposal and even had a shadow stake in it. Although Hunter Biden hasn’t been charged with breaking any law, critics fault the way they say he sought to trade on his famous family name and politically connected father.

Bobulinski said he plans to meet with Republican-led Senate committees that have investigated Hunter Biden’s business dealings. He also said he would turn over his electronic devices to the FBI, and he said because of that he didn’t want to take questions.

Biden spokesperson Andrew Bates slammed the Bobulinski allegations, calling it “a desperate, pathetic farce executed by a flailing campaign with no rationale for putting our country through another four years of hell.”

“Joe Biden has never even considered being involved in business with his family, nor in any overseas business whatsoever,” Bates said in a statement. “He has never held stock in any such business arrangements nor has any family member or any other person ever held stock for him.”

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More Than 40 Million Americans Have Already Voted

The old mythos of American elections held that debates were supposed to help voters tuning in comparatively late make up their minds by hearing directly from the candidates. The reality always has been more complicated, and this year significant numbers of people aren’t waiting for the debates to be complete before casting their ballots.

More than 40 million people have voted already, according to statistics this week, as the result of a combination of unusual circumstances. One is the coronavirus pandemic, which has prompted many states to relax their requirements for voting early and voting by mail so that people can keep apart and maintain social distance.

Another reason is a live controversy over the integrity of voting itself. President Trump has attempted to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the race, often relying on incorrect statements and despite his own practices and those of his camp, which include a history of voting by mail. That has prompted many Americans to try to vote earlier, including some via long in-person lines, to be sure their choices are recorded.

Then there are the merits of the election itself, whose outcome is widely considered to be heavily consequential for the nation.

For these reasons and more, this year is on track to achieve a turnout that could not only be higher than usual but may bring out a record number of voters — perhaps more than 157 million, according to another study out this week.

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Trump On ‘60 Minutes’: I Want The Supreme Court To Overturn ACA

Ahead of tonight’s debate, President Trump released interview footage in which he said he wants the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The court this term will hear its third challenge to that law.

The footage was an unedited version of an interview he did with Lesley Stahl of CBS’ 60 Minutes.

“I hope that they end it. It’ll be so good if they end it,” he said of the Supreme Court and Obamacare.

Trump’s comments on the topic seem likely to come up in tonight’s debate, given that health care is a top concern for many Americans, particularly during a pandemic. In addition, the confirmation process for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, is ongoing.

The public’s views of the Affordable Care Act have grown more favorable during the Trump presidency — more than half of Americans now view Obamacare favorably, compared with 39% who see it unfavorably. Before Trump took office, more Americans saw the ACA unfavorably than favorably.

Stahl in particular pressed Trump on the issue of preexisting conditions. Obamacare’s preexisting-condition protections are a popular part of that law, as NPR’s Selena Simmons-Duffin reports. Trump has said he wants the law overturned and also wants protections for people with preexisting conditions, but he has yet to produce any sort of plan saying how he would do that.

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Debate Commission Removes Plexiglass From Stage

The Commission on Presidential Debates has removed the plexiglass barriers that were to have been between President Trump and his opponent, Joe Biden, according to NBC News, which is hosting the debate.

The commission is citing Trump having tested negative for the coronavirus on Thursday and said it had consulted with Dr. Anthony Fauci, NBC reports. (The Biden campaign says he also tested negative Thursday.)

A correspondent for the network, Shannon Pettypiece, posted a picture of the unobstructed lecterns to Twitter. The network reported that both campaigns had agreed to the decision.

The move is noteworthy because of the panic surrounding and following the first debate, on Sept. 29. Days after that event, Trump and several members of his close circle were confirmed positive with the coronavirus, leading to questions about whether he was already infected at the time of the maskless showdown.

It was later reported that an “honor system” to have both candidates tested prior to arriving at the venue had possibly been broken by the Trump campaign.

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Read Up: Biden And Trump On The Issues

Tonight’s debate marks the final time President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will go head-to-head on policy (and other issues) before Election Day. They are expected to be asked about six topics, as proposed by moderator and NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker:

  • COVID-19

  • climate change

  • national security

  • race in America

  • American families

  • leadership

Biden and, to a lesser extent, Trump have addressed these issues throughout the campaign. NPR’s political team has combed through their proposals and statements addressing the coronavirus pandemic, the environment, racial equity, criminal justice, the economy, health care, education, immigration and national security.

In addition, we have much more on the candidates’ health care, global health and climate plans and track records, from our health and science colleagues.

Biden, the challenger, has released a larger set of proposals than Trump has. Biden has put forward major plans on responding to COVID-19, issues involving racial justice and the economic recession.

While incumbent presidents often run on smaller, more focused policy agendas compared with their opponents, Trump’s campaign has stood out in this regard, providing minimal proposals for his second term and sticking with much of his 2016 platform. He has notably taken a firm stance on COVID-19 vaccine production, pledging to have a vaccine available by early 2021.

Read our synopses of all the plans proposed by Trump and Biden here.

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With New Rules, Debate Organizers Try to Exert More Control After Chaotic 1st Debate

After a chaotic first debate marred by crosstalk and interruptions — primarily by President Trump — the Commission on Presidential Debates promised to add additional structure to ensure order during the next one.

The commission ended up with extra time to weigh changes, given that the originally scheduled second debate never happened after the president refused to participate virtually. Instead, Joe Biden and Trump participated in competing town halls hosted by ABC and NBC, respectively.

For tonight’s debate, the commission has announced it will give each candidate two minutes of uninterrupted time at the beginning of each 15-minute segment, followed by a period of open discussion.

Debate organizers will try to enforce the rule by opening only the microphone of the candidate who has the floor. Both candidates’ microphones will remain on during the open-discussion portions.

In a statement this week, commission members acknowledged that the campaigns may not be happy with the decision, for either going too far or not doing enough to assert control over the discussion. After the first debate, the commission faced calls from some Democrats to give the moderator the power to cut off mics at the moderator’s discretion.

The Trump campaign bristled at the suggestion. An official from the commission will be in charge of turning mics on and off, not moderator Kristen Welker.

“We are comfortable that these actions strike the right balance and that they are in the interest of the American people, for whom these debates are held,” the commission members wrote.

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Masks Will Be Required For Debate Audience

Two plexiglass barriers were originally set to stand between President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden on the debate stage in Nashville, Tenn., tonight. But later Thursday evening, the commission removed them, having confirmed both candidates tested negative for the coronavirus.

Organizers added the barriers in an attempt to decrease the risk of any possible spread of the coronavirus between the two candidates. Similar shields were used during the vice presidential debate this month in Salt Lake City.

The rush to add new safety measures began after President Trump announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus three days after the first presidential debate, in Cleveland, last month. In the days after the debate, a coronavirus cluster began to emerge inside the president’s inner circle, traced back to a Rose Garden ceremony in September to announce the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court.

The White House and the president have declined to say when Trump last tested negative for the coronavirus before he tested positive. Fox News’ Chris Wallace, who moderated the first debate, has said that the campaigns were under an “honor system” and that Trump’s arrival in Cleveland did not leave enough time for a test.

Members of the Trump campaign and his family did not wear masks inside the hall, despite being required to by the event’s co-host, the Cleveland Clinic, and requests to put them on.

Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., co-chair of the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, told MSNBC on Thursday that tonight, anyone who enters the debate hall will need to have tested negative for the coronavirus and wear a mask.

He said both campaigns have agreed to keep masks on while in the audience. And though Fahrenkopf said the commission would work with the campaigns to confirm the negative test results, he declined to answer whether people would need to prove they had tested negative.

As for the plexiglass, Fahrenkopf said he was “not sure that the Trump campaign wanted it.”

Scientists caution that the barriers on their own might not do a whole lot to prevent the spread of the virus.

“The problem is that a plexiglass barrier does not block aerosols — it only blocks spray,” Donald Milton, an infectious disease aerobiologist at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, told NPR.

Experts say store-bought box fans with HEPA filters duct-taped to them would be more helpful tools.

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5 Questions Ahead Of The Final Presidential Debate

Tonight’s debate is the last, best chance for the president, who has been consistently behind in this race, to gain some momentum.

It’s also the last, best chance for both candidates to make their arguments to a broad audience of the American public. After Thursday night, there won’t be any opportunities like this left.

That brings us to our questions about what we are watching for in this debate, which begins at 9 p.m. ET.

1. Will Trump engage in an actual debate?

President Trump’s antics in the first meeting meant there was little to no debate on substance. Will Trump have a repeat performance, or will he adhere — at least a little more — to rules and decorum, especially now with coronavirus cases spiking again?

2. How low does it go?

Joe Biden was understandably surprised by how Trump conducted himself the first time these two squared off. Biden tried to focus on people watching at home by talking straight to the camera. So how will he respond to interruptions this time?

Biden’s only response so far to a questionable report about his son, Hunter, and his involvement in Ukraine was to get prickly with a campaign reporter who brought up the story. Trump has never shied away from conspiracies or attacking family, so expect he’ll bring it up.

3. Can Biden keep up the momentum?

With Biden’s expanded lead after the first debate, there isn’t much of anywhere to go but down.

Biden now has a 10-point lead in an average of national polls and leads in every competitive state, except Ohio and Texas, albeit much more narrowly than his national lead in many cases. So Biden’s job tonight will be to maintain and solidify those leads.

4. Will the moderator be able to … moderate?

The moderator is Kristen Welker of NBC News. As a White House correspondent, she has, at times, had a contentious relationship with the president. It’s an unenviable position to be in to attempt to moderate a debate that involves someone like Trump who doesn’t play by the rules.

The debate commission is also instituting a rule that two-minute opening statements will be uninterrupted — and that the other candidate’s microphone will be muted during that time.

5. Will Trump commit to a peaceful transition of power?

Trump obviously does not want to give any indication at all that he’s even thinking about losing. But does he clean up what has been a confusing and noncommittal line with less than two weeks to go until Election Day?

Read more here.

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