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: Biden suggests Trump could deplete Social Security by 2023. Needs context.
Biden suggested Thursday that Trump's policies could bankrupt Social Security.
The president is "the guy that the actuary of Medicare said, of Social Security, that if in fact he continues to withhold, his plan to withhold the tax on Social Security, Social Security will be bankrupt in 2023, with no way to make up for it," Biden said.
The Biden campaign has cited a letter by the Social Security Administration’s chief actuary that said that permanently eliminating all payroll taxes without a replacement would deplete the Social Security trust fund by 2023. But this is not Trump’s current position and the same letter noted that if Congress mandated the cost of the tax cuts come out of the general fund, as Trump has suggested, then benefits would be “essentially unaffected.”
The Biden campaign immediately alleged that Trump was arguing for a de facto gutting of Social Security, since it is funded by payroll taxes.
But the White House quickly clarified that Trump doesn’t actually want to eliminate payroll taxes entirely, only to permanently forgive a four-month payroll tax holiday he issued via executive order during the coronavirus crisis. On Aug. 13, for example, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters: “What he was meaning yesterday is that he wants permanent forgiveness of the deferral.”
Trump has also said he’d use deficit spending to fund his tax holiday plan, which would not affect Social Security.
Another important thing to keep in mind: There’s no scenario in which Trump could make any permanent changes to the tax system without the OK of Congress.
Trump calls other countries 'filthy' in question on climate change
Asked about climate change, Trump pointed the finger at countries like China, Russia and India, calling them “filthy.”
“Look at China,” Trump said. “How filthy it is! Look at Russia. Look at India. It’s filthy!”
The president was immediately referencing pollution, but the word carries a connotation far beyond that.
It was reminiscent of when the president referred to some African and Latin American countries as “s---holes.”
Biden and Trump spar, again, on whether the stock market is the economy
Trump said the stock market would “boom” if he were to be re-elected, and that if Biden were elected, markets would “crash.”
“Where I come from...people don't live off of the stock market,” Biden replied, noting the deepening divide between Wall Street and Main Street.
While Trump has frequently touted the stock market’s rise as a proxy for his own success, it has been seen as both cause and symptom of the widening gap between the country's haves and have-nots.
By the numbers, the rich are getting richer and the less well off are staying that way — or worse.
There are 644 billionaires in the U.S. and during the pandemic they gained $1 trillion in net worth, according to a new analysis.
A study from UBS and PwC showed that billionaire wealth increased by 27.5 percent during the spring lockdowns, with the stock market pushing the fortunes of the world’s richest citizens past the $10 trillion mark for the first time.
The world’s richest man, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, has seen his fortune almost double so far this year, from $115 billion to just over $200 billion. The bulk of Bezos' fortune comes from his Amazon shares, which hit a high this year amid record demand from housebound consumers who turned to the e-commerce giant for everything from toilet paper to streaming services, and saw continuing strong demand for its cloud computing services.
Journalists of color respond to Trump calling himself 'least racist'
Trump's 'lowest IQ' remark about migrants slammed on Twitter
After Trump said immigrants "with the lowest IQ" might show up for asylum hearings after having been released into the country, the comment quickly drew clapbacks on Twitter.
"Trump says he 'hates' to insult someone by saying they're 'low IQ'. As we've seen over the years, he doesn't hate it enough," Arianna Huffington tweeted.
Fact check: Was U.S. the first country to shut down travel from China after Covid-19 emerged?
Biden on Thursday said Trump only "shut down" travel from China at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic "late, after 40 countries had already done that."
This is true.
Starting on Feb. 2, the U.S. barred entry by foreigners who had traveled in China in the past two weeks, with some exceptions.
According to a list kept by the Council on Foreign Relations of countries that shut down travel from China because of the Covid-19 pandemic — and when they did it — at least 42 did so before the United States.
The best carbon emission numbers in 35 years? Not so much
Trump just said that U.S. has achieved the best carbon emission numbers in 35 years.
But he has cut funding to EPA and gotten rid of more than 70 environmental regulations, weakening climate protections. The U.S. actually saw the biggest spike in carbon emissions in 2018 since 2000 — that was under Trump.
‘Look at us closely’: Biden draws contrast with Trump
Biden, looking directly into the camera, laid out clearly and effectively what has been at the heart of his campaign message — what he said was the sharp contrast between him and Trump.
“You know who I am, you know who he is," Biden said. "You know his character, you know my character. You know our reputations for honor and telling the truth. I am anxious to have this race. I am anxious to see this take place. The character of the country is on the ballot,” Biden said. “Look at us closely.”
Biden was prompted by criticism from Trump that the Obama-Biden administration had not accomplished numerous things during their eight years in office and had been “all talk and no action.”
Fact check: Does Biden want a fracking ban?
Trump claimed that Biden wants to ban fracking.
"Just like he went at it with fracking," Trump said. If Biden wins, he said, “We’re not gonna have fracking. We’re gonna stop fracking, we’re gonna stop fracking.”
"Then he goes to Pennsylvania after he gets the nomination, and he got very lucky to get it, and he goes to Pennsylvania, and he says, 'Oh, we’re gonna have fracking,'" Trump added.
This well-worn attack against Biden is not true, although Biden’s position on the issue is complicated.
Biden has repeatedly said he will not ban fracking; the policies he has released only call for no new fracking on federal lands. His policy also allows for existing fracking on federal lands to continue, and existing and new fracking on privately owned land to continue.
Biden, however, has also called for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 — a plan that would include a systematic departure from the use of fossil fuels, which has implications for fracking. He hasn’t explicitly said how or when that move away from fossil fuels would affect fracking, but Trump has used the proposal to tell audiences, inaccurately, that his opponent wants to ban fracking now.
Hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, is a practice used to tap into natural gas reserves deep below the earth's surface. It’s a critical issue in states like the battleground of Pennsylvania, where the practice has brought economic prosperity to several once-impoverished areas. It is controversial because many of the chemicals used in the process are toxic to humans and have been known to cause serious health problems in populations near fracking fields.
Trump mocks some undocumented immigrants as having low IQs
During the segment on immigration policy, Trump said the only undocumented immigrants who show up for court hearings are those “with the lowest IQ.”
He was referring to the practice of catch and release, which allows migrants to stay in the country while they wait for hearings on their immigration cases.
The comment drew immediate backlash on Twitter. Trump has questioned the IQs of others in the past, many of whom were people of color.
Fact check: Trump falsely claims 180 million people will lose health care if Biden wins
Trump said Thursday, "We have 180 million people out there that have great private health care — far more than what we’re talking about with Obamacare."
"Joe Biden is going to terminate all of those policies," he added.
"Under what he wants to do, which will basically be socialized medicine, he won’t even have a choice, they want to terminate 180 million plans," Trump added.
Trump has made this claim repeatedly, and NBC News has fact checked it repeatedly. This claim is false. It conflates Biden's plan with those of other Democrats pushing "Medicare for All."
While estimates vary about how many Americans have private insurance, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimates that 180 million people have private insurance.
But Biden's plan wouldn't end private insurance, though that was part of some of Biden's Democratic primary opponents proposals. Instead, Biden's health care plan would create a public option for those who want to get government health insurance while allowing those with private insurance to stay on their plans.
Many Republicans have sought to tie the proposals for "Medicare for All" to all Democrats — and it is true that many Democratic members of Congress are sponsoring the bill (118 in the House and 14 in the Senate). But Biden has criticized "Medicare for All" throughout his campaign.
On immigration, Biden gives a gentle diss to Obama
Pushed by Trump on immigration and asked about what his administration would do differently from his time as vice president, Biden referenced Barack Obama, but not in a particularly fond way.
"It was a major mistake," Biden said of the Obama-era immigration policies. "It took too long to get it right."
Biden added that things will be different if he's in the big chair.
"I'll be president of the United States, not vice president of the United States," Biden says.
Fact check: Who pays tariffs? Trump says China, Biden says taxpayers
Trump, responding to a question about confronting China, said the country is “paying billions and billions of dollars" to the U.S. and suggested this was money his administration has used to bail out American farmers.
Biden interjected to say that was “taxpayer money” going to the farmers.
So, who is paying for tariffs?
We’ve fact checked this before, and Biden’s right. Tariffs are taxes on goods coming in to the U.S., paid by the importer; those taxes are largely tacked onto the purchase price paid by American consumers.
Tariffs are designed to make foreign-made goods more expensive, boosting domestic producers or, sometimes, forcing international exporters to slash prices to stay competitive. But there's no evidence China has been cutting prices to accommodate Trump’s tariffs, and there’s clear evidence that American families are picking up the tab.
Fact check: Where does Kamala Harris stand on health care?
Trump claimed that Biden's running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., supports "socialized medicine."
"He wants socialized medicine, and it's not that he wants it — his vice president, I mean, she is more liberal than Bernie Sanders and wants it even more," Trump said.
Harris' position on health care — at least when she was a presidential candidate — was, in fact, difficult to pin down. In January 2019, she appeared to call for abolishing all private insurance, only to walk it back in May.
Then, during a Democratic primary debate in June 2019, she raised her hand when candidates were asked whether they would get rid of private health insurance. The next day, she said that she had misunderstood the question and that she wouldn't abolish private health insurance in favor of "Medicare for All" if elected — but then she struggled to clarify her position about the role private insurers had to play.
Then, in July 2019, she released a plan that sought to stake out a territory somewhere between "Medicare for All" and the Affordable Care Act, with private insurers allowed to compete in a controlled marketplace dominated by government insurance options. So charges that she has flip-flopped on the issue largely ring true.
But that's mostly irrelevant: As vice president, Harris would be charged with helping to implement Biden's vision on health care — not her own.
Biden's health care plan involves improving Obamacare and creating a public option for those who want to get government health insurance while allowing those with private insurance to stay on their plans.
This is who’s staying on topic (spoiler: both candidates are)
An hour into the debate and the nominees have stuck close to the moderator’s questions.
According to an NBC News analysis, Joe Biden and President Donald Trump have stayed on topic 82 percent of the time. This is better than the first presidential debate on Sept. 29, when the candidates were on topic close to half the time, also according to an NBC News analysis.
Biden tended to stay more on topic for questions about Covid-19. He was on topic for those about 89 percent of the time, and deviated more for questions relating to China, where he has only been on topic for 75 out of 113 seconds. Trump has stayed on topic for questions relating to ethics, where he was on topic the whole time, compared to staying on topic a little more than half the time for questions relating to the election.
See the latest on what the candidates are talking about and whether they’re staying on topic with the interactive NBC News presidential debate tracker.
No one knows what Trump’s ‘big, beautiful health care’ looks like
Trump has long promised a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, with a plan that will provide people "big, beautiful health care,” going back to January 2017, when he told The Washington Post he would provide “insurance for everybody.”
The president has continued to say he will soon pass a new health care plan and told his supporters not to worry about overturning Obamacare because his plan will protect pre-existing conditions. In July, Trump told Fox News he would sign a bill within two weeks. In August, he said at a press briefing they would have the plan at the end of the month.
The White House and Republicans still have not disclosed their plan, and it is unclear whether they have one.
Analysis: Trump rips states he needs to win
Trump said he didn't want to spend more federal Covid-19 relief money to help "Democrat" cities and states.
Those include the critical swing states of ... Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, all of which elected Democratic governors in the Democratic mid-term wave in 2018.
Biden and Trump have attacked each other more than 120 times combined
Fact check: Trump gets rates of recovery for Covid-19 wrong
Trump said Thursday that "99.9 [percent] of young people recover" from Covid-19 and that "99 percent of people recover" from the virus.
Neither statistic is true.
Last month, a research paper published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that among more than 3,200 adults ages 18 to 34 who were hospitalized with the disease, 21 percent required intensive care, 10 percent required mechanical ventilation and nearly 3 percent died.
Of those who survived, 3 percent — 99 patients — had to be discharged to another health care facility to continue their recoveries.
The claim that 99 percent of people infected with Covid-19 recovered is also false. There have been 8.4 million confirmed Covid-19 infections in the U.S. and more than 224,000 deaths from the virus.
A cursory calculation of the U.S. death rate, based on those numbers, would mean that 2.6 percent of all people with confirmed infections have died of the virus.
Experts have explained that the exact death rate is far more difficult to identify, because there could be a far greater number of people who were infected but were never tested because they were asymptomatic.
Separately, Trump's claim that so many "recover," as well as the figures above, don't take into consideration people who were infected who have suffered from symptoms that have lingered for months, and in some cases have been debilitating.
Analysis: Sarcasm isn’t working for Biden
A couple of times, Biden has turned to sarcasm to make a point about Trump. It’s not his strong suit because it’s so deadpan it’s hard to tell he’s being sarcastic. The last one involved the ultimate debate loser: Adolf Hitler.
Biden was trying to make the point that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un didn’t meet with then-President Obama because Kim wouldn’t agree to give up nuclear weapons. Trump said Obama should have met with Kim and that Trump’s meetings were important.
Biden’s response: "We had a good relationship with Hitler before he invaded the rest of Europe. C’mon man."
The point was Hitler was always bad and so is Kim. But it sounded like he was saying it made sense for the U.S. to have ties to Hitler before World War II. And, for the record, President Franklin Roosevelt pressed Hitler, through letters, to refrain from invading other countries.
First mic cut of the night goes to Trump
Trump’s discursive response about protecting health care and preexisting conditions while also dismantling the Affordable Care Act resulted in the first mic cut of the night.
His mic was muted just as he was trying to finish his response. It was an effective way to keep the moderator in control and get a response from Biden.
Mention of 'witch hunt' draws Biden eye roll
As the words “witch hunt” rolled off Donald Trump’s tongue, Joe Biden gave up any veneer of tolerance. He looked up to the ceiling, rolling his eyes upward, while taking in a deep breath. He wasn’t saying anything, but the body language spoke to exasperation.
Trump praises Welker, whom he has attacked for days
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.
Welker's moderating praised on Twitter
Trump targets Whitmer during debate
Trump again took a shot at Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, comparing the coronavirus restrictions in her state to being imprisoned.
The Democratic governor and Trump have feuded in recent days after the FBI thwarted a kidnapping plot against her. The conspirators were so-called militiamen who used similar language to the president's.
Whitmer placed blame at the president’s feet, calling him complicit. Trump has pushed back and accused Whitmer of wanting to be a “dictator.”
Analysis: Toned-down Trump says the same stuff only in more dull fashion
Trump obviously came into the debate with the goal of behaving more like a traditional president than the version that harangues moderators and rivals. But the loss of bluster hasn’t been complemented by the presence of logic.
"I take full responsibility," Trump said of responding to Covid-19. "It’s China’s fault."
It may even sound less attached to reality when it’s said in a calm voice than bellowed. Now, he’s spouting disinformation theories.
Trump (again) downplays impact of children contracting Covid
Making an argument for schools to re-open, Trump spoke of his son Barron, 14, who also tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this month.
“We have to open our schools," Trump said. "As an example, I have a young son. He also tested positive. By the time I spoke to the doctor a second time, he was fine, it just went away. Young people, I guess it’s their immune systems."
Trump has repeatedly pushed false information about how young kids are impacted by the virus, inaccurately claiming that it’s not much to worry about.
Art of the deal? Not so much
Trump notes that people are losing their jobs and are feeling depressed because of the economic realities they are facing during the pandemic, but he has been unable to reach a deal with Democrats and Republicans to bring back the unemployment insurance that kept people afloat through the early months of the outbreak.
It has been 83 days since the $600 a week, provided by the CARES Act, expired. No deal has been struck, partly because Trump has not been in sync with Republican leaders let alone the Democrats.
Fact check: Trump claims coronavirus is 'going away.' U.S. leads in deaths, cases.
"It will go away and as I say, we are rounding the turn, we are rounding the corner, it's going away," Trump said, referring to the coronavirus pandemic that's killed more than 224,000 Americans.
There’s no evidence of this. The U.S. has an uncontrolled outbreak, reporting more than 69,000 new Covid-19 cases today. Cases are climbing in most states, and the U.S. has more cases than any country, with more than 8.3 million, and more deaths than any country, recently surpassing 220,000.
Biden hits Trump over Covid-19 response
Trump attempted to downplay criticism of his administration’s response to Covid-19 by saying people are learning to live with it.
Biden hit back saying “people are learning to die with,” speaking directly to the camera to talk to voters who have lost loved ones to the virus.
It’s a strong line from Biden, whose strategy at tonight’s debate seems to be reminding the public of the virus and how Trump has handled it. He also spoke directly to the camera in the first debate, which was seen an effective way to cut through the interruptions from Trump.
Fact check: Biden's managing of the swine flu epidemic was a 'disaster'
Trump has frequently called the Obama-Biden administration's handling of the swine flu a "disaster."
"Frankly, he ran the H1N1, swine flu, and it was a total disaster. It was less lethal, but it was 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," Trump said Thursday.
This is not true and requires additional context. Ron Klain, Biden’s former chief of staff, has credited luck — and not the Obama administration response — with the fact that the swine flu did not kill more people. (Klain did not head up the response to the H1N1 virus, he was working for Biden at the time. He was, however, the administration’s Ebola czar.)
“We did every possible thing wrong — 60 million Americans got H1N1,” he said at a biosecurity summit in May 2019. “It is purely a fortuity that this isn’t one of the great mass casualty events in American history. It had nothing to do with us doing anything right. It just had to do with luck.”
The swine flu is estimated to have killed 12,000 in the U.S., far fewer than the more than 200,000 who have died of Covid-19 to date.
Klain later told Politico his comments referred to the administration’s difficulties producing enough of the vaccine they developed, and argued the Obama team quickly adapted to the pandemic — quickly responding and distributing supplies from the federal stockpile, for example — and made very different choices than the Trump administration.
It’s also worth noting that the Obama administration received generally high marks for its response to the swine flu. While government reports after the fact identified room for growth they also highlighted successes, like rapid research and development of a vaccine that arrived in less than six months. There’s little contemporaneous reporting on the Obama administration response that portrays the kind of unmitigated disaster Trump is suggesting occurred.
Few interruptions in the first 20 minutes — partly because of mic cuts
Both Biden and Trump have attacked each other more than a dozen times in the first 20 minutes of the debate, but surprisingly there have been limited interruptions. Mic cuts appear to be working.
The quiet before the storm? Mute button prompts calmer debate so far
The mute button — so far — has resulted in a calmer debate as Trump and Biden debate the response to Covid-19.
The candidates are criticizing each other without crosstalk, and the moderator has control over the debate as a result. Trump also appears to be taking notes, which he has not done in previous debates. He has also been clearer and more coherent than in past debates.
Fact check: Is Trump 'immune' after Covid-19 infection? Needs context.
Trump has said this before, and it requires more context.
"Now they say I am immune. Whether it's for a month or lifetime, nobody has been able to say that but I'm immune," Trump said Thursday.
There is some evidence that coronavirus infection may confer immunity that lasts for a few months after a person has recovered from a Covid-19 infection, though research is ongoing.
Some infections result in lifelong immunity (think chicken pox) while other infections will produce short-term immunity in recovered patients. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said he believes the coronavirus confers at least some short-term immunity.
Biden brings up New England Journal of Medicine editorial
In his response to Trump's answer on the pandemic, Biden refers to a scathing editorial that The New England Journal of Medicine published earlier this month.
The 35 editors who signed the editorial did not call out President Trump by name, the article is filled with references to his actions.
"The response of our nation’s leaders has been consistently inadequate," they wrote. "The federal government has largely abandoned disease control to the states. Governors have varied in their responses, not so much by party as by competence. But whatever their competence, governors do not have the tools that Washington controls."
Fact check: Trump says 2.2 million people were projected to die from Covid-19
Trump, defending his administration's pandemic response, claimed Thursday that "2.2 million people — modeled out — were expected to die" from the coronavirus.
Trump has made this claim previously — that original projections for coronavirus deaths in America said the country would lose 2.2 million people to the virus.
This is misleading. Trump is referring to a model published on March 17 by Imperial College London, which did predict that 2.2 million people in America could die from the virus, but only if no mitigation efforts whatsoever were in place.
In late March, White House Coronavirus Task Force response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx told NBC's "Today" that the projection of 1.6 million to 2.2 million deaths referred to what could happen if America did "nothing" to stop the spread of the virus.
"If we do things together, well, almost perfectly, we could get in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 fatalities," Birx said at the time.
As of Thursday evening, there have been 223,262 deaths attributed to the virus in America, according to NBC News data.
First question on Covid-19
The candidates squared off on the pandemic to start off Thursday’s debate, with Trump saying that if he hadn’t acted as he did, way more people would have died, and Biden saying the president’s incompetence needlessly cost thousands of additional lives.
With cases and hospitalizations on the rise, Welker asked both candidates how they will fight the upcoming stage of the pandemic.
“As you know, 2.2 million people modeled out were expected to die,” Trump said. “We closed up the greatest economy in the world.”
The president said the vaccine will come soon. He did not elaborate on anything different he would do in combating the virus, though he did point to his recovery from Covid-19 as proof that conditions are improving.
“We rounding the corner,” Trump claimed. “It’s going away.”
Biden pointed to the 220,000 Americans who have died.
“Anyone who’s responsible for not taking control — in fact saying, 'I take no responsibility' — anyone who [has that] response to that many deaths should not remain president of the United States of America.”
Biden said Trump “still has no plan, no comprehensive plan.”
Biden added he would work toward national standards on reopening businesses and a ramping up the testing strategy.
“I will make sure we have a plan,” he said.
Welker fact-checks Trump in real time
Candidates arrive on stage. One in a mask, one without.
Debate commission co-chair goes over changes to final debate
Frank Fahrenkopf, the co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates, went over the rules of the debate ahead of the 9 p.m. start time, reminding participants that they agreed weeks ago that they would respect the two-minute response time allotted to each candidate per question before diving into a back-and-forth debate.
“Unfortunately, if you happened to watch the first debate, those rules were not necessarily followed," he said. "The commission felt that we could not put in a new rule, and what we thought we would do was put in a way to enforce what they had agreed to, the original rule: no interruption.”
Fahrenkopf explained that at the start of each of the six subject areas, the candidate who is not giving his two-minute opening response will have his mic muted. Once they have both delivered their 2-min opener, their mics will both be hot for debate.
Attacks, interruptions and topics: Follow along live
NBC News' Welker to moderate tonight's debate
Moderating Thursday's final debate is NBC News' Kristen Welker.
Welker has served as a White House correspondent for NBC News since 2011. Last November, she served as one of four moderators at the fifth Democratic primary debate.
In the lead-up to the debate, Trump and his allies have targeted Welker, as they did with the first debate's moderator, Fox News' Chris Wallace.
"Look at the bias, hatred and rudeness on behalf of 60 Minutes and CBS," Trump tweeted Thursday, complaining about his recent interview with CBS' Lesley Stahl. "Tonight’s anchor, Kristen Welker, is far worse!"
In a statement, NBC News President Noah Oppenheim said, "Kristin Welker is focused on delivering for the American people a substantive conversation about the issues that voters care about and she’s going to do everything in her power to make that happen."
Inside the debate hall: Lots of masks and some notable VIPs
The view from inside the debate hall: masks. Lots of them. We haven’t seen anyone without one, though, notably, the Trump family hasn’t arrived yet. They were the main ones defying the mask mandate at the Cleveland debate.
The president’s motorcade is set to arrive any minute, and Joe Biden is already here. Seats are marked off for some of those members of the first family — Melania, Eric and Ivanka Trump. The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, is also here in the hall as are some former members of Congress: Democrat Lincoln Davis and Republican Jimmy Duncan Jr. among them.
The arena is bigger and less intimate than the room for the first debate in Cleveland, and in another contrast, people are freely mingling and chatting. The vibe is pretty low-key.
Pete Buttigieg fires back on Hunter Biden allegations on Fox News
Pete Buttigieg has made several viral appearances on Fox News in recent weeks as a Biden surrogate. On Thursday night, he appeared again and offered a retort to the accusations leveled against Hunter Biden.
"If they want to make this about the business deals of a government official, let's talk about the president of the United States having a secret Chinese bank account," Buttigieg said.
The Trump campaign had previously sought to push the accusation that Hunter Biden's relationships in the Ukraine were illegal, and has recently shifted its focus to China.
Buttigieg made the case that Trump's business relationships with China were more pressing to the public than Hunter Biden's.
"And they won't even tell us what bank it's with," Buttigieg said. "Does that bother Americans? I'm pretty sure it bothers Americans a lot more than what they're trying to whip up for the last 12 days of this election season."
Kid Rock makes an appearance at Thursday's debate
Kid Rock showed up at the debate tonight. Asked if he was supporting Trump's re-election, he told NBC News his presence would do his speaking for him.
"I think being here says it all, right?" he said. "Happy to be invited.”
The ponytailed-and-jumpsuited musician wasn't wearing a mask when he arrived at the debate venue and was later handed one by debate staffers.
Meadows called Fauci about Plexiglass barriers
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows called Dr. Anthony Fauci during the debate walkthrough on Thursday and put Fauci on the phone with an individual from the Commission on Presidential Debates to discuss the merits of having physical plexiglass barriers on stage during the faceoff, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Fauci told that person that all the barriers would do was provide a false sense of security.
The CPD didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
As NBC News reported earlier Thursday, the two plexiglass barriers that were initially positioned between the candidates’ lecterns were removed after the debate commission’s medical adviser consulted with Fauci.
Inside the campaign to 'pizzagate' Hunter Biden
Some of the same people who pushed a false conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton that first emerged in 2016 are now targeting Hunter Biden, Joe Biden's son, with similar falsehoods. Their online posts are garnering astronomical numbers of shares on social media.
The fantastical rumors, which NBC News is declining to repeat verbatim, echo specific plot points central to "pizzagate," a viral disinformation campaign that predates QAnon but also falsely alleges a vast conspiracy of child abuse.
There is an important difference, however. The pizzagate-style rumors in 2016 were largely confined to far-right message boards like 4chan and parts of Reddit. But the Hunter Biden iteration of the same conspiracy theory took off last weekend with the help of speculation from conservative TV hosts and members of Congress. Their theorizing can be traced back to a new website that has been promoted by President Donald Trump and his surrogates.
Michelle Obama throws shade at Trump's '60 Minutes' interview
Plexiglass barriers removed from stage after candidates test negative for Covid
Two plexiglass barriers that were initially positioned between the candidates' lecterns have been removed, Commission on Presidential Debates co-chairman Frank Fahrenkopf, Jr. said.
Fahrenkopf told NBC News that after the commission’s medical advisor, HCA, learned President Trump and Joe Biden tested negative for Covid-19 today and consulted with Dr. Anthony Fauci, HCA changed its recommendation that the barriers were necessary. They have been removed and, Fahrenkopf said, both campaigns agreed to that decision.
Political ads are flooding YouTube
YouTube said Thursday that some political campaigns were running into difficulty finding advertising space at the times and locations they wanted because of rising demand.
A spokesperson for YouTube said the company still has plenty of advertising inventory, but certain slots were booked because of demand from a variety of advertisers, including ad campaigns unrelated to the election targeted at car buyers and holiday shoppers.
Politics has exploded on the popular online video service this year, as Trump and Biden bought up prominent YouTube ad space and others have used YouTube to drive up voter turnout, raise money or court livestreamers. The coronavirus pandemic also has more people turning to streaming video.
Bloomberg News first reported Thursday that YouTube was struggling to place all the ads in front of the desired audiences that political campaigns wanted. Prices for some slots in presidential swing states had doubled, it said.
YouTube said it was not seeing a consistent spike in particular states and that the pattern of increased spending was across the board.
Sen. Mitt Romney: Trump has '40 percent' chance of getting re-elected
Now, Romney feels less certain that is going to happen.
"Not as confident as I was before," Romney told reporters in the capitol on Thursday when asked about Trump's chances. "I think he’s got better, a better chance than the prognosticators are predicting at this stage. I think I saw a tweet today saying it’s 12 percent chance, someone else said 10 percent chance. I think it’s much more like 40 percent, but time will tell.”
Trump and Biden prepare for final bout with debate to focus on Covid-19, race
The gloves will be off and so will the mics in the final showdown between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
The stage, complete with plexiglass barriers, is set for the rivals’ second and final debate, which will kick off at 9 p.m. ET in Nashville on Thursday with NBC News’ Kristen Welker in the moderator's chair.
Over the course of 90 commercial-free minutes, the candidates will spend about 15 minutes on each of six topics: fighting Covid-19, American families, race in America, climate change, national security and leadership.
And in a new twist, each candidate will have two uninterrupted minutes to address each topic while the others’ microphone is turned off in order to avoid a repeat of the shouty first debate in Cleveland.
Read the story, which will be updated throughout the night.
Trump focuses on Hunter Biden; Biden campaign says 'be our guest.'
Trump plans to focus attention on Biden’s son Hunter and his business activities overseas.
As part of that strategy, Trump’s guest list includes Tony Bobulinski, the former Hunter Biden business partner who told the New York Post that Joe Biden was in line to take a cut of a Chinese business deal negotiated by his son in early 2017.
Biden’s aides told NBC News they’re not worried about the topic.
"Be our guest," Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield told NBC News ahead of the debate in Nashville. "He’s been trying to land this for 18 months. It got him impeached. It hasn’t worked."
Bedingfield also said she would not "dignify" the question of whether material allegedly retrieved from Hunter Biden’s laptop with the help of indicted former Trump campaign manager Steve Bannon and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is real.
NBC has reported the FBI is looking into how the material was acquired.
North Carolina GOP asks Supreme Court to roll back extra time for accepting mail-in ballots
Republicans in the presidential battleground state of North Carolina asked the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday to block lower court rulings that allowed six extra days for accepting ballots sent by mail.
The Trump campaign, the state and national Republican parties, and Republican leaders of the state legislature said decisions by North Carolina's Board of Elections, upheld by federal courts, "pose an immediate threat to the integrity of the federal elections process."
The final showdown: 5 things to watch in last Trump-Biden debate
Any Americans still on the fence — and who haven't been among the hordes of early voters — will have one final chance to hear from President Donald Trump and Joe Biden in their last debate Thursday, during which the president will try to re-energize his base and close the polling gap behind Biden.
Thursday's debate in Nashville, Tennessee, was supposed to be the third faceoff of 2020, but will instead be the second of only two presidential debates after Trump declined to participate in one scheduled for last week after it was moved to a virtual format following his Covid-19 diagnosis.
Trump's polling deficit has only solidified since the poorly reviewed first debate in Cleveland and with more than 30 million votes already cast and, less than two weeks before Election Day, he is running out of time.
Voter who didn't cast ballot in 2016 explains why 2020 is different
David Litko didn't bother voting in 2016. He didn't think his vote mattered.
That's not how the McKeesport, Pennsylvania, resident is approaching 2020. He is voting this time around — and he's backing former Vice President Joe Biden in the pivotal swing state.
Litko, 61, represents a crucial 2020 voting block — people who did not vote in the 2016 presidential race but are this time. He told NBC News that he was disturbed by President Donald Trump's repeated efforts at delegitimizing mail-in voting — saying the president's "anti-democratic leanings" led him to register.
"I didn't vote in 2016 because, well, I didn't think it mattered. Then Pennsylvania was won by just, what was it? 44,000 votes?" Litko said, adding, "I was afraid that Trump was trending toward wanting to become president for life, invalidating democracy, and so I wanted to vote against that."
Cher and Lizzo lend their voices to Biden campaign
Former President Obama will not be the only star stumping for Joe Biden this week. The Biden campaign getting help from two of music’s biggest names.
Singer and songwriter Lizzo will be hitting the campaign trail for the Democratic candidate. Tomorrow, she will be making two stops in the Detroit area to discuss early voting, with a focus on young people.
Last week, Lizzo wore a custom Christian Siriano dress to the Billboard Music Awards and told the audience "there's power in your voice."
Superstar singer Cher will also be hitting the trail for the Biden-Harris ticket. The Grammy-winning singer and Oscar-winning actress will make stops in Nevada and Arizona this weekend on behalf of the campaign.
Photo: Debate's socially distanced seating
Trump tests negative for Covid-19 on plane ride to debate
President Trump tested negative for Covid-19 on his way to the debate.
“We tested him on the way here (on the plane) and he tested negative,”said White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
Also traveling with the president were a mix of staffers and family including Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Tiffany Trump, Jason Miller, Robert O’Brien, Dan Scavino — with no mask — and Kayleigh McEnany.
Biden ready to fight back if Trump goes after his family, campaign says
Ahead of tonight’s debate, the Biden campaign is telegraphing that if President Trump goes after Joe Biden’s family, it plans on attacking him for spreading and amplifying Russian disinformation.
In a pre-debate press call with reporters, the campaign's deputy manager, Kate Bedingfield, said that the campaign expected Trump “to continue to bully” and attack Hunter Biden and his foreign dealings during tonight’s debate. She said that Biden is prepared for those attacks as well, hoping to flip the attention to the fact that Trump is more obsessed with Biden’s family than America's families amid a pandemic.
“Here's the thing, these attacks are backfiring on Trump. You know, despite leveling them in the first debate, poll after poll showed voters resoundingly thought Biden won that debate because voters are sick and tired of Trump's lies and we've heard the same debunked attacks for over a year,” she said.
A senior campaign adviser, Symone Sanders, also commented on the Commission on Presidential Debate’s decision to mute the microphones, saying that the debate will serve as “a test of presidential temperament,” especially for the president.
Biden leads Trump by 10 points in new Quinnipiac national poll
Joe Biden holds a 10-point lead over President Trump ahead of tonight's final presidential debate, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll of likely voters released Thursday afternoon.
Biden leads with 51 percent of likely voters, while Trump lags behind him at 41 percent. The new poll is the third Quinnipiac national survey of likely voters since September that has shown the former vice president with a 10-point lead.
"Three straight polls in the double-digit zone," Quinnipiac University polling analyst Tim Malloy said in a statement. "For Biden-Harris, flush with cash and propelled by consistent support, it remains steady as she goes through the turbulent waters of a bitter, personal, and unsettling campaign."
Beyond the top line, likely voters in the new poll said Biden has a sense of decency by a margin of 64-30, while likely voters said 60-37 that Trump does not have a sense of decency.
Top former Obama adviser: Biden should 'prepare for a bunch of different Trumps'
Trump will vote in-person in Florida on Saturday
President Trump plans to vote early and in-person on Saturday in West Palm Beach, per White House spokesman Judd Deere.
That follows the president’s previously-announced stops in battleground Florida on Friday for events at The Villages and in Pensacola.
Trump releases video of unedited, contentious '60 Minutes' interview that he abruptly left
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Thursday released what appeared to be the full, unedited interview that he did with “60 Minutes” earlier this week that he abruptly walked out of because he said that it showed the media’s bias against him.
Trump released a video of the interview — segments of which CBS was set to air on Sunday — that lasted nearly 38 minutes and showed only the angle of a White House camera that faced him, which White House officials and the network agreed would be used for only archival purposes.
Throughout the interview, the president expressed frustration that the questions posed by correspondent Leslie Stahl would not be asked of former Vice President Joe Biden, his Democratic challenger.
Read more here.
Hallie Jackson shuts down Trump campaign spokesman on election interference, fraud claims
MSNBC anchor Hallie Jackson cut short her interview with Trump campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley after he baselessly floated claims about widespread voter fraud in the presidential election and dodged when asked if the president had confidence in FBI Director Christopher Wray.
"There is no widespread evidence of voter fraud, Hogan. You know that," Jackson said, before reiterating a question about whether President Trump would "back off" claims about fraud in the 2020 race. She added that Wray has said the FBI has not seen evidence of widespread voter fraud.
Gidley did not directly answer a question about whether Trump still had confidence in Wray. Instead, he replied in part that Trump has "confidence the American people want a free and fair election."
In response to a separate question, Gidley said the Trump campaign had not been briefed ahead of time that Iran and Russia were working to influence election, which the FBI announced at a news conference Wednesday night.
Schumer, Wyden call on FBI director to resist pressure from Trump for a political investigation
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray on Thursday calling on him not to launch any political investigations that would influence the election.
They referred in a press release to "a widely questioned article in the New York Post, that alleged to have obtained stolen Hunter Biden emails from the president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani" and noted that Trump has called on the Justice Department to investigate.
“We are deeply concerned about the possibility that in response to these reports the Trump Administration will take actions before Election Day that would seek to damage the Democratic presidential candidate and undermine the rule of law,” Wyden and Schumer said.
They are urging Wray "to resist pressure from President Trump and other partisan actors to take any actions intended to benefit President Trump politically on the eve of the election. Succumbing to such pressure would deeply undermine our national security interests and the credibility of law enforcement, and could have devastating consequences for the resiliency of our democracy.”
Biden gets pre-debate pep talk from Brayden Harrington
The Biden campaigned released a new video in honor of International Stuttering Awareness Day. The video shows the former vice president watching a recorded message from Brayden Harrington, the New Hampshire boy he met before the primary in February and who delivered a memorable address at the Democratic National Convention.
In the video from Brayden, he jokes that Biden probably won’t be able to get in a word during tonight’s presidential debate but he’s rooting for him. And if Biden hits a block during the debate, to do what he normally does and “keep faith in his heart.”
Biden met Brayden Harrington at a town hall event in Concord, New Hampshire. His parents told the Democratic candidate that Brayden wanted to hear Biden speak because he [Brayden] also stutters. In a touching moment, Biden tells Brayden to not let his stutter define him.
“I know about bullies. You know about bullies — the kids who make fun. It’s going to change, honey. I promise you,” Biden said. The former Vice President kept in touch with Brayden and his family leading to Brayden speaking at the Democratic convention in August.
Trump allies have been characterizing Biden as declining. Some going as far as mocking his stutter. But, in his video, Brayden reminds Biden that he’ll always be rooting for him.
Poll shows Democrats lead in three Iowa House districts and fourth tightening
New polling in Iowa shows a tightening race in the state’s single Republican-held House seat while Democrats hold leads in the other three districts. A Monmouth University poll released Thursday shows two first-term Democratic incumbents leading in their races while the Democratic candidate leads in an open seat held by the party.
- Iowa-01: First-term Rep. Abby Finkenauer holds an 8-point lead among registered voters over Republican challenger Ashley Hinson, 52 percent to 44 percent. Women back Finkenauer by a 61 percent to 35 percent margin while men prefer Hinson, 53 percent to 43 percent.
- Iowa-02: The race to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack flipped from a slight GOP lead in the summer to a Democratic lead now. Rita Hart leads Mariannette Miller-Meeks by six points, 49 percent to 43 percent among registered. Miller-Meeks had a 47 percent to 44 percent lead in August.
- Iowa-03: First-term Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne widened her lead over former Rep. David Young in a rematch from 2018 since August — she currently leads 52 percent to 43 percent. Axne has a 25-point lead among registered voters in Polk County, which she won by 16 points two years ago.
- Iowa-04: The race to replace controversial GOP Rep. Steve King, who lost his primary to Randy Feenstra, has tightened since the summer with Feenstra leading Democrat J.D. Scholten, who lost to King two years ago, by six points, 48 percent to 42 percent. The Republican held a 20-point lead over Scholten in August.
The Monmouth poll was conducted by telephone and online from October 15- 20, sampling 1,547 Iowa registered voters from a voter list file. The results have a margin of error between +/- 4.8 and +/- 5.2 percentage points, depending on the district.
See more Iowa polls here.
'We’re gonna call nonsense': Donald Trump Jr. says they'll be watching who controls the mute button
Donald Trump Jr. said that the campaign is going to be monitoring the person who controls the mute button during tonight's debate. He told “Fox and Friends” host Ainsley Earhardt that they’re going to have someone in the room and promised, “We’re gonna call nonsense when we see nonsense.”
Trump Jr. claims that the Commission on Presidential Debates messed up his father’s microphone in 2016 during his debate against Hillary Clinton.
He criticized the commission's handling of the debates, saying that they’re biased.
New polls show tightening races for control of the Senate
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kelly’s lead over Arizona Republican incumbent Martha McSally appeared to narrow in a race that could determine control of the Senate, a Reuters/Ipsos poll shows.
Here are the latest results for three Senate races on which Reuters/Ipsos is polling:
- Arizona: Kelly leads McSally, 51 percent to 44 percent in a poll conducted from Oct. 14-21, but Kelly held a 11-point lead in a previous poll.
- North Carolina: Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham and incumbent Thom Tillis were tied at 47 percent in a poll conducted from Oct. 14-20. A poll conducted the week before showed Cunningham leading Tillis by four points.
- Michigan: Democratic incumbent Gary Peters held a 5-point lead over GOP challenger John James, 50 percent to 45 percent, in a poll conducted from Oct. 14-20. Peters led James by eight points in a poll conducted the week before.
The poll was conducted online and in English. The Arizona survey included 658 likely voters and had a credibility interval of 4 percentage points. The earlier Michigan poll surveyed 686 likely voters and had a credibility interval of 4 percentage points. North Carolina’s surveyed 660 likely voters and had a credibility interval of 4 percentage points.
Biden tests negative for Covid-19 ahead of debate
Joe Biden was tested for the coronavirus ahead of tonight's debate and his results came back negative.
“Vice President Biden underwent PCR testing for COVID-19 today and COVID-19 was not detected,” the Biden campaign said in a statement passed along by the pool.
BIDEN'S 13 NEGATIVE TESTS SINCE Oct. 2:
Friday Oct. 2 – negative x2
Sunday Oct. 4 – negative
Tuesday Oct. 6 – negative
Thursday Oct. 8 – negative
Saturday Oct. 10 – negative
Monday Oct. 12 – negative
Wednesday Oct. 14 negative
Thursday Oct. 15 - negative
Friday Oct. 16 – negative
Monday Oct. 19 – negative
Tuesday Oct. 20 – negative
Thursday Oct. 22 - negative
Trump administration's child separations a voter issue
After taking a back seat to the coronavirus pandemic, the reminder that the Trump administration intentionally separated babies and children from their parents to deter Central American migration is back in the news, two weeks before the presidential election.
This week, American Civil Liberties Union lawyers told a federal judge they have yet to locate the parents of 545 children and that the overwhelming majority of the children’s parents were deported.
The revelation — while many people are voting early — inserts an issue into the election cycle that was such a lightning rod in the 2018 midterms, Republicans tried distancing themselves from the administration’s separation strategy.
As the administration’s systemic separating of families returns to the forefront of the American consciousness, Trump will have to contend with the re-emergence of images of horrified parents pleading to know the whereabouts of their children, the sounds of crying children as they are mocked by an agent, children caged in pens of chain-link fencing and stories of young children who died while in custody.
Click here to read the full story.
Analysis: Trump and Biden look to seal the deal in final debate
It's the last chance — for President Donald Trump, Democratic nominee Joe Biden and undecided voters.
Thursday night's second presidential debate, held before a limited in-person audience at Belmont University here and tens of millions of Americans watching from their homes, matches up two candidates still looking to seal the deal with a small fraction of the electorate.
The race remains close enough that everything matters. Biden holds narrow leads — within the margin of error or just outside it — in nearly every swing-state poll, and FiveThirtyEight.com gives him an 87 percent chance, or about 7 in 8, of winning. And yet both Republicans and Democrats say they are feeling déja vu from the 2016 campaign, when Hillary Clinton's polling leads in key swing states evaporated on Election Day.
It's impossible to know how the debate will affect the race, if at all, before the two candidates square off. But one thing that's worth watching is whether either breaks out new promises or behaves in a markedly different way from past public appearances.
What is likely is that the debate will help a limited set of voters decide whether they're done with Trump and comfortable with Biden or whether they will look past Trump's flaws because they think Biden isn't right for the job.
Read more of Jonathan Allen’s analysis here.
Trump has prepped for tonight's debate even less than last one
President Trump has done even less traditional debate prep for the second and final contest tonight in Nashville than he did for the first face-off, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions.
Trump has been counseled by aides and allies to not interrupt as much, though it’s unclear how much he will follow that advice. The president indicated he is not pleased with the new microphone-muting adjustment and says he will plan to speak up when he feels it’s appropriate.
The president has also been told by advisers to let former Vice President Joe Biden speak more than he did on the stage in Cleveland, in their view, to allow the Democratic nominee to potentially stumble or make a mistake.
Expect Trump to raise Hunter Biden and China throughout the debate. The president has suggested as much in recent days.
The team that helped prepare the president last time did not reassemble this time around, partially because several of them were still recovering from coronavirus. As a reminder, the following people got sick around the time the president and first lady did: senior aide Hope Hicks, senior aide Stephen Miller, outside adviser Kellyanne Conway, former Gov. Chris Christie and campaign manager Bill Stepien.
A few back-and-forth practice meetings took place on Air Force One over the last week while the president was traveling to battleground states. Those sparring rounds were more topic-oriented discussions with aides, however, and did not resemble formal sessions.
Trump, for his part, told reporters he considers his exchanges with them “prep,” in addition to the 13 rallies he’s done since his return to the trial last week after his hospitalization for Covid-19.
Biden calls for 'bipartisan commission' to propose ways to 'reform the court system'
WASHINGTON — Joe Biden told “60 Minutes” he would set up a "bipartisan commission of scholars" from across the ideological spectrum to explore ways to change the Supreme Court.
“And I will — ask them to over 180 days come back to me with recommendations as to how to reform the court system because it’s getting out of whack,” Biden said, according to excerpts released Thursday ahead of an interview to air Sunday.
“And it’s not about court packing,” Biden said. “There’s a number of other things that our constitutional scholars have debated and I’ve looked to see what recommendations that commission might make.”
The answer comes as Biden faces pressure to take a position on the push to add seats to the Supreme Court in response to what Democrats describe as a theft by Republicans for enabling President Trump to fill a vacancy in an election year after preventing Barack Obama from doing so in 2016.
Read more here.
Plexiglass will stay on debate stage between Trump and Biden's lecterns
The Commission on Presidential Debates' co-chair Frank Fahrenkopf, Jr., says the two plexiglass barriers placed between each candidates’ lecterns on stage at Belmont University in Nashville will remain in place “at the recommendation of the commission’s medical advisors.”
“I’m not sure that the Trump campaign wanted it," he said on MSNBC.
Fahrenkopf also noted:
—Anyone who enters this hall has to pass a covid test (meaning test negative) and must be wearing a mask.
—Both campaigns and their invited guests have agreed to keep their masks in while in audience.
—CPD is working with each campaign to confirm their tests.
Fahrenkopf would not answer if people need to show or prove their negative test results to CPD or the debate's medical advisors
Trump's debate topics tonight: China and Hunter Biden
Alyssa Farah, the White House director of strategic communications and assistant to the president, said expect President Trump to discuss two topics at tonight's debate: China and Hunter Biden
"We need to have a real discussion on China," Farah said Thursday on Fox Business News.
"Traditionally the third debate is really a foreign policy debate. But this one’s got a whole lot of different topics," she said. "So the president’s going to go in ready to make his case on the issues he sees as most important —the economy, holding China accountable, the economic recovery."
"And I do think we are going to, whether it's asked or he has the opportunity to bring it up, he is going to get into this issue of Hunter Biden," she said. "The American people need to know if the Biden family in any way is beholden to China."
Cybersecurity company finds hacker selling info on 186 million U.S. voters
WASHINGTON — A cybersecurity company says it has found a hacker selling personally identifying information of more than 200 million Americans, including the voter registration data of 186 million.
The revelation underscored how vulnerable Americans are to email targeting by criminals and foreign adversaries, even as U.S. officials announced that Iran and Russia had obtained voter registration data and email addresses with an eye toward interfering in the 2020 election.
Much of the data identified by Trustwave, a global cybersecurity company, is publicly available, and almost all of it is the kind that is regularly bought and sold by legitimate businesses. But the fact that so many names, email addresses, phone numbers and voter registration records were found for sale in bulk on the so-called dark web underscores how easily criminals and foreign adversaries can deploy it as the FBI said Iran has done recently, by sending emails designed to intimidate voters.
"An enormous amount of data about U.S. citizens is available to cyber criminals" and foreign adversaries, said Ziv Mador, vice president of security research at Trustwave, which found the material.
Read more here.
Google saw evidence of fake email operation linked to Iran
Google said in a statement Thursday that the tech company and others have seen evidence that an operation linked to Iran “sent inauthentic emails to people in the U.S. over the past 24 hours.”
“For Gmail users, our automated spam filters stopped 90% of the approximately 25,000 emails sent. Additionally, this morning we removed one video file on Drive and one video on YouTube with fewer than 30 views, and terminated the associated Google accounts,” Google PR said.
“We referred the matter to the FBI and will continue to work with law enforcement and others in the industry to identify and remove any related content.”
The FBI announced at a briefing Wednesday evening that Iranian intelligence was responsible for a recent campaign of emails sent to intimidate Florida voters. Officials also said that Russia was also working to influence the election.
'Exciting moment': Obama votes by mail, runs down instructions
Trump says he plans to release an 'unedited preview' of that '60 Minutes' interview
Trump on Thursday said he would soon be releasing an "unedited preview" of the interview he abruptly left earlier this week with CBS News' Lesley Stahl of "60 Minutes."
"I will soon be giving a first in television history full, unedited preview of the vicious attempted 'takeout' interview of me by Lesley Stahl of @60Minutes. Watch her constant interruptions & anger. Compare my full, flowing and 'magnificently brilliant' answers to their 'Q’s," he tweeted.
The White House agreed to record the interview for archival purposes only. His threat came after the show released a clip Thursday morning in which Stahl asked Trump to identify his biggest domestic priority.
"Well, ultimately, let me tell you, it was happening, we created the greatest economy in the history of our country. And the other side ... ," Trump said.
"You know that's not true," Stahl said.
"It is totally true," Trump responded.
"No," Stahl said.
"The priority now is to get back to normal, get back to where we were, to have the economy rage and be great with jobs and everybody be happy," Trump said.
The newsmagazine also released a clip of its interview with Joe Biden, during which he said he would create a national, bipartisan commission of constitutional scholars to review the nation's court system and put together recommendations for reforms.
Iran says claims by U.S. of interference in 2020 election are 'absurd'
An Iranian official rebuted claims made by U.S. officials that Iran has been interfering in the 2020 presidential election.
"Unlike the U.S., Iran does not interfere in other country's elections. The world has been witnessing U.S.'s own desperate public attempts to question the outcome of its own elections at the highest level," a spokesman for the Iranian mission to the U.N., Alireza Miryousefi, said Thursday.
"These accusations are nothing more than another scenario to undermine voter confidence in the security of the U.S. election and are absurd. Iran has no interest in interfering in the U.S. election and no preference for the outcome," Miryousefi said. "The U.S. must end its malign and dangerous accusations against Iran.”
White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said that “Unlike the Obama-Biden administration, President Trump has and will always put America First. He has directed the FBI, DOJ, and defense and intel agencies to proactively monitor and thwart any attempts to interfere in US elections, and because of the great work of our law enforcement agencies we have stopped an attempt by America’s adversaries to undermine our elections.”
This comes after the FBI announced Wednesday that Iranian intelligence was responsible for a recent campaign of emails sent to intimidate Florida voters into voting for Trump. Officials also said that Russia was working to influence the election.
Trump national security adviser says president would accept results if he loses on Nov. 3
President Donald Trump's White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien says that the president would accept the results of the election if he loses and it's called on Election Day, Nov. 3.
“If he loses, of course he will,” O'Brien said in an interview with Politico. “If he loses the election, I’m certain the president will transfer power over, but we’ve got to make sure there’s no fraud in the election and we need to make sure it’s a free and fair election, just like we demand of other countries overseas, we need to make the demand of ourselves."
This comes as Trump has been preemptively been casting doubt on the legitimacy of the results, suggesting that mail-in ballots shouldn't count and that the Supreme Court may have to decide the outcome of the election, while also dodging questions on a peaceful transition of power should he lose.
Obama to campaign for Biden in key battleground state of Florida on Saturday
President Obama will hit the campaign trail again for his former vice president on Saturday in the key battleground state of Florida, the Biden campaign announced Wednesday.
Obama held his first in-person event for Biden on Wednesday in Philadelphia in which he delivered a blistering speech against the current president, saying he has been unable to take "the job seriously."
"We've got to turn out like never before. We cannot leave any doubt in this election," Obama said. "We can't be complacent. I don't care about the polls. There were a whole bunch of polls last time. Didn't work out. Because a whole bunch of folks stayed at home and got lazy and complacent. Not this time. Not in this election."
Cindy McCain on why she's backing Biden: 'Every time you think it couldn't get much worse, it does'
Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., campaigned for Biden with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Wednesday and told voters why she believes the former vice president should be elected.
"Every time you think it couldn't get much worse, it does," McCain said about why she's backing Biden during the virtual event for Minnesota Women for Biden.
“And so for me I know people want to figure out why I would — I would vote for a Democrat number one, but I’ve known Joe Biden for 40 years,” said McCain.
Everything you need to know about the last debate
The second and final presidential debate is set for Thursday night, giving President Trump an opportunity to make up ground against Joe Biden.
Trump, who's trailing in national polling by about 9 points, will have to be more disciplined than he was in the chaotic first debate, while Biden has to avoid any major missteps.
Just catching up? Here's what you missed
Here's what you missed from the trail this week:
Packed crowds, few masks at Trump's NC rally
Several thousand people were packed together outside President Trump's North Carolina rally, largely without masks despite a statewide mask mandate for both indoor and outdoor public spaces. Campaign staff and volunteers were asking attendees to put on their masks as they entered the rally and they handed out disposable ones to anyone who didn’t have a mask.
Earlier Wednesday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, announced the state would remain in Phase 3 for three more weeks, so as it stands "the limits on mass gatherings will remain at 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors." The crowd at Trump’s far exceeds that.
The warm-up speakers, while the crowd waits for Trump, have included the chair of the state’s Republican Party and the Republican candidate for governor, who vowed to repeal the statewide mask mandate. Diamond and Silk, video bloggers and political personalities who describe themselves as Trump’s "most loyal supporters" also spoke.
The president is scheduled to speak at 7 p.m. ET.