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 policyissues.
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 thecampaign.
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. ElectionsProject.
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’stracker.
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 inPennsylvania.
But Biden’s campaign later clarified that hemisspoke.
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 Commercereport.
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 gasindustry.
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, thesuperpredators.
During a segment on race, President Trump tried to attack former Vice President Joe Biden over his role in the now controversial 1994 crimebill.
Biden denied ever calling anybody a superpredator. (Hillary Clinton did use the term in 1996 and apologized for it during the 2016campaign.)
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 intolaw.
At the time it was passed, the U.S. had sky-high crime rates, particularly violent crime. The bill aimed to bring those rates undercontrol.
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 federaloffenders.
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 ofit.
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.”
Trump’s Cost Estimates Of Climate Plan AreInflated
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 likethat.”
President Trump’s claim about the cost to reduce U.S. carbon emissions isoverstated.
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 NewDeal.
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 becrunched.
On The Issues: Biden’s And Trump’s EnvironmentalPlans
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 thistopic.
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 suchplans.
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 scientificconsensus.
After Biden Snipe, Trump Clarifies He Is Not Actually AbrahamLincoln
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 racialanimus.
“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 inAmerica.
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 asLincoln.
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 UnitedStates.
Despite his own very recent invocation of the statesman Lincoln, Trump appeared confused by Biden’s sarcasticquip.
“He made a reference to Abraham Lincoln. Where did that come in?” Trump respondedincredulously.
“You said you’re Abraham Lincoln,” Bidensaid.
“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 thesuggestion.
In the minutes following the debate, various iterations of Lincoln’s name trended onTwitter.
BIDEN: “Granted, he did in fact let 20 people — he commuted 20 people’s sentences. We commuted over 1,000 people’ssentences.”
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 justicesystem.
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 in2018.
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 politicalallies.
Trump Is Not The Best President For Black America SinceLincoln
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’vedone.
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 releasedearly.
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 factuallyincorrect.
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 healthcare.
Trump Claims Carbon Emissions Are Down, But That’sMisleading
TRUMP: We have the best carbon emission numbers that we’ve had in 35 years under thisadministration.
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 thefuture.
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 swiftlyabandoned.
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 andvaccines.
By contrast, there are now more than 8 million cases of the coronavirus in the U.S., and more than 222,000 people havedied.
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 May1.
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 initiallyfeared.
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 thepublic.
DOJ: Most Migrants Show Up For Immigration CourtDates
TRUMP: We got rid of catch and release. We got rid of a lot of horrible things that they put in and that they livedwith.
President Trump has long made somewhat misleading claims to attack laws designed to protect migrants seeking asylum in the UnitedStates.
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 andrelease.”
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 immigrationjudges.
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” comeback.
According to the Justice Department, however, 44% of migrants who were not in custody fail to show up for their courtdates.
TRUMP: “The Paris accord, I took us out because we were going to have to spend trillions of dollars. And we were treated veryunfairly.”
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 coalmining.
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 individuallives.
TRUMP: I saved historically Black colleges anduniversities.
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 fundinglegislation.
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 financialruin.
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 classstudent.”
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 thecoronavirus.
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 thevirus.
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 possiblevaccines.
Public health experts have repeatedly called for a better-coordinated nationalresponse.
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 pandemicresponse.
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, expertssay.
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 medicalsupplies.
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 confusedguy.”
“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 doesnot.
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 thanObamacare.
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 vicepresident.”
Trump: They built cages. They said I built cages. …That was him. They builtcages.
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 detainingchildren.
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 homecountries.
Biden Says He Pushed Back Against China’s Xi On Chinese AirZone
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 therules.
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 offorce.
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 announceone.
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 toChina.
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 andpolitically.
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 globalrules.
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 widespreadfirings.
“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,” Trumpsaid.
“There is no evidence that when you raise the minimum wage, businesses go out of business. That is simply not true,” Bidensaid.
The federal minimum wage has been set at $7.25 since 2009, though some states have set higher wages — with some up to $15 anhour.
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 millionjobs.
But there is by no means consensus about what such a wage woulddo.
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 joblosses.
Technically, Trump And Republicans Didn’t ‘Terminate’ The IndividualMandate
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 healthinsurance.
President Trump’s statement that he “terminated” the individual mandate isn’t quitetrue.
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 CareAct.
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 healthcosts.
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 newtax.
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.
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 tothem?
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 thandoubled.
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 than13%.
On The Issues: Biden’s And Trump’s Health CarePlans
President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden clashed over health care. Here is what their campaigns haveproposed.
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 onthis.
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 olderAmericans.
Biden Says Trump Payroll Tax Puts Social Security At Risk. Here Are TheCaveats
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 forit.
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 and2012.
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 in2023.
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 taxboomerang.
Trump Says Republicans Will Retake The House. That’s HighlyUnlikely
President Trump claimed, implausibly, that Republicans are going to retake the House of Representatives inNovember.
“I think we’re going to win the House, OK,” Trump said. “You’ll see, but I think we’re going to win theHouse.”
He may be employing the power of positive thinking, but it’s highly unlikely Republicans will win enough seats to take back the speaker’sgavel.
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 theHouse.
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 15seats.”
TRUMP: Some places $15 is not so bad. In other places, other states, $15 would beruinous.
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 incomestatistics.
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 nowar.”
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 doit.
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 “goodbuddy.”
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 ourallies.
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 testsrecently.
Trump: But Anthony [Fauci] said don’t wear masks. Now he wants to wearmasks.
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 spreadinginfection.
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 thevirus.
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 theair.
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 whileyet.
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 woulddo.
TRUMP: Excuse me, he was there for 47 years. He didn’t doit.
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 doso.
Did Biden Call Trump ‘Xenophobic’ Over The Ban On Travel FromChina?
Early in the debate, President Trump said Joe Biden faulted the president for being “xenophobic” for shutting down travel from China in earlyspring.
“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,” Trumpsaid.
In response, Biden said, “He is xenophobic, but not because he shut down access fromChina.”
This isn’t the first time Trump has made thisclaim.
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 andfear-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 Trumpadministration.”
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 fromChina.
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 banitself.
TRUMP: I’ve got the NATO countries to put up an extra $130 billion going to $420 billion ayear.
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.
Trump Again Promises To Protect Preexisting Conditions, But He Hasn’t Offered APlan
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 healthcare..”
Ensuring that people who have preexisting conditions can have access to health insurance is an extremely popular provision of the Affordable CareAct.
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 bepreserved.
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 thanpolicy.
Trump Says He Closed Chinese Bank Account Before Running ForOffice
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 becamepresident.
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 TheTimes.
Trump said the bank account was opened in 2013 and “I believe” closed it in2015.
According to The Times, China, Ireland and Britain are the only three foreign countries where Trump has bankaccounts.
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 remainedinactive.”
Trump Gave Aid To Farmers, But Consumers Hurt ByTariffs
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 weretargeted."
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 thisyear.
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 theway.
Touting Coronavirus Response, Trump Claims He Saved Millions OfLives
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 fromChina.
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 UnitedStates.
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 UnitedKingdom.
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, particularlymasks.
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 UnitedStates.
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 alreadyunderway.
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 quarantinethem.
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 byMarch.
Well, so far, this is a very different debate than the cacophonous and, at times, incomprehensible firstone.
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 thedefensive.
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 — rathereffectively.
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 timedefending.
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 thecountry.
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 bedelivered.
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 rightaway.
As of this week, none of the large trials underway to determine if a COVID-19 vaccine is viable has beencompleted.
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 itstrial.
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 ofNovember.”
Trump: “I don’t make money from China. You do. I don’t make money from Ukraine. Youdo.”
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 HunterBiden.
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 theemails.
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 tookplace.
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 thearrangement.
“Nothing was unethical,” Biden said in response to Trump. “The guy who got in trouble in Ukraine was thisguy.”
The larger question is whether Trump’s allegations regarding the convoluted Hunter Biden saga will boost the president’s support at thepolls.
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 helpingTrump.
“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 Americansovereignty.”
Russian and also Iranian interference in the U.S. elections is underway now, national security officials said thisweek.
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, RudyGiuliani.
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 furtherwest.
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 byCongress.
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’spower.
BIDEN: "Release your tax return or stop talking aboutcorruption."
President Trump has been unusually secretive about his taxes. TheNew 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 15years.
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 obtainingthem.
TheTimes 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 taxableincome.
BIDEN: I would make sure that we set up national standards as to how to open upschools
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 theircommunities.”
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 safelyreopen.
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 moreteachers.
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-personlearning.
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’ skyrocketingcosts.
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 EducationPartners.
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 everyday.
“Anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain president of the United States of America,” Biden said in his openingremarks.
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 wearmasks.
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 outmaskless.
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 “oversoon.”
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 dothat.”
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 thepandemic.
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 ofcolor.
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 fewweeks.
BIDEN: The expectation is we’ll have another 200,000 Americans dead between now and the end of theyear.
There are different predictions for COVID-19 deaths, though some experts say there are just too many uncertainties to forecast beyond amonth.
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 sofar.
“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 themodel.
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 nearly315,000.
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 pastspring.
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 notrequired.
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 theiropponent.
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 backon.
“[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 fromBiden.
“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, nothis.
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 aresult.
What Biden Has Said About Shutting Down TheEconomy
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 thecoronavirus.
“I would be prepared to do whatever it takes to save lives,” Biden said. “We cannot get the country moving until we control thevirus.”
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 thevirus.
“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’sOK.”
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 bettereconomically.
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 restrictivemeasures.
“You don’t have to lock down if you are wearing the mask,” Bidensaid.
TRUMP: It will go away. And as I say, we’re rounding the turn. We’re rounding the corner. It’s goingaway.
Few, if any, health experts would say the U.S. is turning thecorner.
The country still has more cases (over 8 million) and deaths (over 222,000) than any other country in theworld.
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 andsummer.
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-incomecountries.
“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, remarkablybadly.”
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 ofcare.
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 andsummer.
But the number of Americans dying of COVID-19 remains stubbornly high, with more than 700 people dying every day onaverage.
Trump Family Enters With Masks On, And Appears To Leave ThemOn
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 onetoo.
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 medicalmask.”
Kid Rock, a guest of the president’s, was photographed without a mask but put it on whenasked.
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 theirson.)
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 aswell.
Christie recently penned an op-ed in TheWall 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 orvirtue.”
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 theireffectiveness.
“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 thescience.
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 safespace.
Who Is Kristen Welker? Debate Moderator, White HouseCorrespondent
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 presidentialdebate.
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 primarydebate.
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, JoeBiden.
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 washospitalized.
Ex-Hunter Biden Business Associate Invited To Debate By TrumpCampaign
The Trump campaign brought an alleged former business associate of Hunter Biden to tonight’s debate inNashville.
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 thecoronavirus.
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 personalattorney.
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 sexualmisconduct.
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 connectedfather.
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 takequestions.
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 ofhell.”
“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 forhim.”
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 theirballots.
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 socialdistance.
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 arerecorded.
Then there are the merits of the election itself, whose outcome is widely considered to be heavily consequential for thenation.
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 thisweek.
Trump On ‘60 Minutes’: I Want The Supreme Court To OverturnACA
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 thatlaw.
The footage was an unedited version of an interview he did with Lesley Stahl of CBS’ 60Minutes.
“I hope that they end it. It’ll be so good if they end it,” he said of the Supreme Court andObamacare.
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, isongoing.
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 thanfavorably.
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 dothat.
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 thedebate.
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 negativeThursday.)
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 thedecision.
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 masklessshowdown.
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 Trumpcampaign.
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 KristenWelker:
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 economicrecession.
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 early2021.
Read our synopses of all the plans proposed by Trump and Biden here.
With New Rules, Debate Organizers Try to Exert More Control After Chaotic 1stDebate
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 nextone.
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 opendiscussion.
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-discussionportions.
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’sdiscretion.
The Trump campaign bristled at the suggestion. An official from the commission will be in charge of turning mics on and off, not moderator KristenWelker.
“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 memberswrote.
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 thecoronavirus.
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 LakeCity.
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 SupremeCourt.
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 atest.
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 themon.
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 amask.
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 testednegative.
As for the plexiglass, Fahrenkopf said he was “not sure that the Trump campaign wantedit.”
Scientists caution that the barriers on their own might not do a whole lot to prevent the spread of thevirus.
“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, toldNPR.
Experts say store-bought box fans with HEPA filters duct-taped to them would be more helpfultools.
Tonight’s debate is the last, best chance for the president, who has been consistently behind in this race, to gain somemomentum.
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 thisleft.
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 actualdebate?
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 spikingagain?
2. How low does itgo?
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 thistime?
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 itup.
3. Can Biden keep up themomentum?
With Biden’s expanded lead after the first debate, there isn’t much of anywhere to go butdown.
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 thoseleads.
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 therules.
5. Will Trump commit to a peaceful transition ofpower?
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 ElectionDay?