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First Presidential debate: Full coverage and fact checks

It was the first time the two candidates faced off on the debate stage after months of tweets and attack ads.
President Donald Trump and Joe Biden will meet during the first presidential debate in Cleveland on Tuesday night.Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden faced off on the debate stage Tuesday for the first time.

The 90-minute debate quickly descended into chaos after Trump began to interrupt both Biden and the moderator, Fox News' Chris Wallace. The night didn't get much calmer from there.

Read highlights from Tuesday's debate below:

Fact-check: How many people are there in the U.S. with pre-existing conditions?

Trump and Biden came out of the gate with conflicting statements over how many people in the U.S. have pre-existing health conditions. Biden said that there are 100 million such people — and that they would lose their health care coverage should the Affordable Care Act be eliminated. Trump insisted that Biden's number was wrong.

"There's 100 million people who have pre-existing conditions, and they'll be taken away, as well," Biden said. Trump shot back, "There aren't 100 million people with pre-existing conditions."

Studies show a range that would technically make both men correct.

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimated in 2018 that at least 53.8 million adults had pre-existing conditions that would make them unable to buy insurance.

Another study, conducted by Avalere, a health care consulting firm, estimated that 102 million Americans had pre-existing conditions that would make them unable to buy insurance.

A 2017 study from the Department of Health and Human Services estimated that 133 million people had pre-existing conditions that would make them unable to buy insurance.

Fact-check: Trump says GOP health plans protect people with pre-existing conditions

Trump claimed: "Obamacare is no good. We made it better. And I had a choice to make very early on. We took away the individual mandate. We guarantee pre-existing conditions."

It's true that Republicans eliminated the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate — a provision designed to force people to purchase health care coverage or pay fines through their taxes — as part of their 2017 tax bill. But Trump is wrong about pre-existing conditions. We've fact-checked this at length before, and it's still false.

Trump has long insisted that he and the GOP will protect people with pre-existing conditions from losing their health insurance — but he has pursued legislation, litigation and executive actions to dismantle those protections under the Affordable Care Act.

A Republican bill backed by Trump included ACA state waivers that would allow insurers to charge higher prices for people with pre-existing conditions, potentially pricing them out of the market. It passed the House and died in the Senate in 2017. Trump has also used executive actions to expand the use of short-term insurance plans that aren't required to cover pre-existing conditions.

Trump recently signed a symbolic executive order affirming the protections Obamacare created, but his administration is backing a Republican-led lawsuit claiming that the actual protections in the law should be struck down. Republicans have yet to offer a plan that would restore protections for pre-existing conditions.

Biden: Trump 'panicked' on Covid-19

Biden criticized Trump for his response to the coronavirus pandemic, portraying the president as someone who cracked under pressure. 

"The president has no plan. He hasn't laid out anything. He knew all the way back in February how serious this crisis was," Biden said, referring to Trump's interview with Bob Woodward. 

"He's on tape as acknowledging he knew it. He said he didn't tell us or give people a warning of it because he didn't want to panic the American people. You don't panic. He panicked." 

Biden opened his response to Chris Wallace's question by acknowledging the more than 200,000 people who have died in the U.S. — a devastating number that Trump has largely avoided recognizing publicly.

Fact-check: Trump mischaracterizes Biden's health care plan

Trump, during a testy exchange about health care, said of Biden's health care plan, "The bigger problem that you have is you're going to extinguish 180 million people with their private health care that they're very happy with."

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.

Biden's plan wouldn't end private insurance, as some of Biden's Democratic primary opponents proposed. 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. 

'Would you shut up, man?': Biden's attempt to stop Trump's interruptions

As Biden fights for an uninterrupted moment, the former vice president lost his cool and asked Trump, "Would you shut up, man?"

The two presidential candidates had been trading barbs over Obamacare, but Trump had hardly allowed Biden to speak without interruption. 

The first moment that Biden was able to provide a few clear sentences, he hit Trump regarding the many promises he has made for healthcare coverage after stripping Obamacare of the individual mandate: "He does not have a plan."

Biden didn't appear to only be speaking about health insurance, however, adding, "This man does not know what he's talking about." A few moments later, he asked the president to "shut up."

Trump family members ignore mandatory mask rule

The Trump family and other members of the administration entered the debate hall, where rules mandated everyone in the room wear masks, without masks.

From your pool era vantage point, all family members who entered without a mask, members of his administration and other guests were not wearing a mask. A Cleveland Clinic doctor in a white lab coat started to approach Trump family guests to ask them to put on masks. She offered them one in case they didn’t get one. She never approached any family members but as she got closer to them, someone shook their head and no one she reminded to put on a mask ended up putting one on. 

Jill Biden, Sen. Chris Coons and others sitting in the Democratic section began to look over. Trump family members began to ask their guests what had happened. 

When the doctor, who refused to comment to the press, walked off the floor, a debate hall staffer told her “That’s all you can do."

 

Fact-check: Biden says GOP lawsuit 'will strip 20 million people' of their insurance

Biden claimed that the Republican-backed lawsuit targeting Obamacare would strip 20 million people of their health care coverage.

This checks out, according to multiple studies. The Center for American Progress estimated in a recent analysis that 23.3 million would lose their health care if the GOP-backed legal challenge to the law succeeds before the Supreme Court. An estimated 20 million people gained coverage under Obamacare, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In the first 20 minutes, both candidates stay mostly on topic

Health care and the Supreme Court dominated the first 20 minutes of the debate. Both Trump and Biden stayed mostly on topic. Follow our live tracker here

Supreme Court debate turns into a health care battle

The argument over having Amy Coney Barrett confirmed to the Supreme Court quickly turned into a battle over health care policy.

Barely any time was spent on the Supreme Court nomination before Trump and Biden began debating health care policy.

But there was barely any “debate” over their policies. Trump repeatedly interrupted Wallace and Biden. Barely any complete sentences were said.

Wallace, who wanted to be 'invisible,' spars with Trump

Trump has come out the gates with energy, but Wallace has interrupted Trump to let Biden speak and then sparred with the president over a question on health care and the Affordable Care Act.

After a back and forth in which Trump repeatedly interrupted Wallace, Wallace fired back, "Sir, you're debating him, not me. Let me ask my question."

First question takes on Supreme Court

Wallace opened the debate by asking both Trump and Biden about why they’ve got the right take on the Supreme Court vacancy.

Trump said he has the right to nominate Amy Coney Barrett because Republicans control both the Senate and White House.

"We won the election and we have the right to do this," Trump said. 

Biden argued that the American people have a right to say who is on the court and that we should wait to see the outcome of the election.

Interestingly, he does not personally bash Barrett but argued that her conservative stance would be harmful to the court for people in the county who have pre-existing conditions because Obamacare could be struck down. 

Biden got into long crosstalk with Trump about the question, which set the tone for the contentious debate.