The 90-minute debate, moderated by NBC's Kristen Welker, took place at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, covered a wide range of topics, including Covid-19, race, immigration and climate change.
This live coverage has ended. Continue reading election news from October 23, 2020.
Read highlights, fact checks and takeaway below:
Fact check: Trump claims Biden got $3.5 million from Russia. No evidence for this.
Trump, as part of a lengthy string of unverified allegations about Biden and his family's financial interests, claimed that Biden received millions "through Russia."
"Joe got $3.5 million through Russia, and it came through Putin because he was very friendly with the former mayor of Moscow," the president said.
“You made $3.5 million, Joe!” he said.
The president’s claims appear to be rooted in far-right conspiracy theories that the business dealings of the former vice president’s son, Hunter Biden, were somehow funneling foreign dollars to the vice president and the rest of his family. There’s no evidence of wrongdoing on either Biden's part, and Biden strenuously denied any foreign revenue streams from the debate stage.
Republicans on the Senate Homeland Security Committee released a report resurfacing allegations that Hunter Biden had foreign business deals that posed “potential conflicts of interests” with Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings considering his father was the sitting vice president.
Largely focusing on those optics, the report doesn’t say that Hunter Biden’s work changed U.S. policy. Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates slammed the report as an “attack founded on a long-disproven hardcore rightwing conspiracy theory” that Johnson “has now explicitly stated he is attempting to exploit to bail out Donald Trump's re-election campaign."
One of the main claims about Hunter Biden raised in the GOP report is that he received $3.5 million from a Russian businesswoman.
The GOP report says the Russian wired $3.5 million to a firm associated with Hunter Biden. Hunter Biden’s lawyer, George Mesires, told Politico that it was “false” to say the younger Biden received that money because he has no “interest in” the firm.
'C’mon!' Biden leans into his catchphrases
Biden-isms were on full display as the former vice president expressed disbelief at Trump’s claims during the debate.
He called Trump’s claims on Biden’s alleged foreign entanglements “malarkey,” what Biden would say is something he picked up in a working-class Irish Catholic family.
Also, he has said “c’mon!” every time Trump dredges up a baseless attack on him.
It's important to note that the interrupting has returned, but not as much as in the first debate. Trump has been demanding more response time and interrupting the moderator.
Graphic: The top topics in the debate at the halfway mark
In tonight’s debate, Covid-19 has dominated the discussion.
Get the latest breakdown of time spent on topics with the NBC News presidential debate tracker.
Trump's answers on his finances take twists and turns
Pushed to answer questions about his personal finances, Trump's answers took viewers on a winding road.
On his taxes, Trump says his accountants won't let him release them, then says former special counsel Robert Mueller went through his taxes (which the redacted version of Mueller's report does not mention), and also claims he pre-paid his taxes (that could mean he took deductions on his losses).
Then on his bank account in China, Trump says he had an account, then closed it and then ran for president. One of the lawyers for the Trump Organization told The New York Times the account remains open but unused.
Almost halfway into the debate, not too many interruptions but plenty of attacks
Chaotic it’s not. A toned-down President Donald Trump and an on-the-attack Joe Biden spent the first 35 minutes of the debate talking about the issues while lobbing attacks on each other.
Interruptions, a mainstay of the previous debates, have been infrequent at best.
Get the latest numbers on attacks and interruptions with the NBC News presidential debate tracker.
Biden responds to attacks about son’s business dealings
Biden responded to attacks involving his son Hunter Biden and his business dealings, emphatically saying he has never taken any cash from a foreign government, that his son was not paid by China, and the neither of them did anything wrong with regard to Ukraine.
Biden hits Trump on China
Trump has spent much of his campaign trying to attack the former vice president as “Beijing Biden.”
But that smear has not seemed to stick, especially after The New York Times reported this week on Trump’s business and financial ties to China.
“We learned that this president paid 50 times the tax in China, has a secret bank account with China, does business with China, and in fact is talking about me taking money? I have not taken single penny from any country whatsoever,” Biden said.
“The only guy that has made money from China is this one,” Biden added, responding to criticism about his son Hunter.
Fact check: Trump claims vaccine announcement coming 'within weeks'
Trump on Thursday again offered an overly optimistic assessment of when a vaccine for Covid-19 will be made available.
"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," Trump said Thursday.
The Food and Drug Administration released guidelines for Covid-19 vaccine makers, stating that the companies would need to track tens of thousands of study participants for at least two months to look for any possible safety issues before the agency would consider authorization.
Given the timeline of when phase 3 clinical trials began, the new guidance indicates that the earliest a Covid-19 vaccine could possibly apply for an emergency use authorization (EUA) would be the end of November.
Last week, Pfizer said it was on track to have that data by the third week of November, and that it would not apply for an EUA before that point. However, the FDA would still need to review the data before granting an EUA.
Kristen Welker, the debate moderator, asked if the president's statement was a guarantee.
"Yes, no, it's not a guarantee. It will be distributed by the end of the year," Trump said.
Biden calls for shutdowns where hot spots are occurring
Biden was unwilling to back a national shutdown of businesses to control Covid-19’s spread, but he said Trump could impose shutdowns and require social distancing where hot spots are occurring.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who was late to close businesses and impose mask mandates, has kept businesses closed in communities where Covid-19 hospitalizations exceed 15 percent of total hospital capacity. Abbott, a Republican, imposed those tailored restrictions after a summer surge of cases that swamped hospitals around the state.
Trump and Biden are both staying on topic
From Covid-19 to the election, Trump and Biden are sticking to the question topics in the first 30 minutes of the debate. We're tracking live here.
About that election interference
Biden and Trump were asked about recent reports of election interference. The context is that the FBI announced Wednesday night that Iran was behind emails sent to some Florida Democrats that purported to be from the extremist group The Proud Boys.
On Thursday, two U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News that Russia remains the greatest threat to the election and that Iran and Russia had hacked local governments and obtained voter registration and other personal data.