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Trump and Biden town halls: highlights and analysis

The events were planned after Trump pulled out of Thursday's scheduled presidential debate.

President Donald Trump and Joe Biden held separate town halls Thursday night after Trump pulled out of the night's scheduled presidential debate last week.

Trump's event, held in Miami, aired on NBC with host Savannah Guthrie from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. ET. ABC aired Biden's event, hosted by George Stephanopoulos in Philadelphia, from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. ET. Both segments were town hall-style, meaning the candidates took questions directly from voters.

Trump backed out of the second presidential debate scheduled for Thursday after organizers announced that it was going to be conducted virtually because of his recent Covid-19 diagnosis. The final presidential debate is scheduled for next Thursday, Oct. 22.

Read the latest updates below:

776d ago / 2:33 AM UTC
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776d ago / 2:26 AM UTC

5 takeaways from Trump and Biden's dueling town halls

Trump and Biden were in different cities for the dueling town halls Thursday that replaced their debate. But they may as well have been in different universes.

Replacing the presidential debate with competing conversations with voters was a fitting symbol of a politically divided and socially distanced America. Instead of speaking to, or even shouting at, each other, Trump and Biden spoke past one another on different networks, allowing Americans to choose a favored candidate to describe reality as they want to see it.

The town halls hosted by NBC in Miami for Trump and ABC in Philadelphia for Biden are unlikely to attract nearly the audience a debate would, history suggests, and even many Republicans were baffled by Trump’s decision to withdraw from the second presidential debate when he’s down in the polls and needs every opportunity possible to try disrupt the race’s status quo.

Going into the town hall, Biden led Trump by 9.2 points in the NBC News national polling average. Most swing-state polls in recent months show the Democrat to be the favorite.

It was not clear the town halls would change the trajectory.

Here are five takeaways from the two events.

776d ago / 2:22 AM UTC

Trump and Biden town halls: Fact-checking both candidates' claims

NBC News fact-checked both Trump and Biden town hall events.

Click here to read all of our takeaways.

776d ago / 2:17 AM UTC

Watch full NBC News Trump town hall

776d ago / 2:09 AM UTC

Biden fact check: Where does he stand on 'court packing'?

Biden has been evasive in recent weeks when it comes to whether he supports packing the Supreme Court with more justices, and ABC town hall moderator George Stephanopoulos tried on multiple occasions Thursday to get the Democratic nominee to take a position.

But Biden did not take the bait and his position on the critical issue remains somewhat murky.

Responding to Stephanopoulos' first attempt to pin him down, Biden said, "I have not been a fan of court packing because then it just...whatever happens, whoever wins it just keeps moving in a way that is inconsistent with what is gonna be manageable."

Expanding the court, which could be accomplished legislatively, is supported by many progressives as a way to dilute the power of conservative justices who are now in the majority. 

When Stephanopoulos followed up by asking whether that means Biden was "still not a fan" of court packing — increasing the size of the court to more than the current nine justices — Biden replied, "Well, I’m not a fan. I didn't say — it depends on how this turns out. Not on how he wins, but how it's handled," an apparent reference to the Senate confirmation vote on nominee Amy Coney Barrett. 

Later, Stephanopoulos tried again by asking Biden whether the Republican-controlled Senate voting on Barrett before Election Day would result in him being "open to expanding the court."

"I'm open to considering what happens from that point on," Biden replied.

Those responses do little clear up questions about Biden's position on the issue.

Last Thursday, Biden said he was withholding his position on the issue until after Nov. 3, telling reporters that, "you'll know my opinion on court-packing the minute the election is over.” Then, on Monday, he said he's "not a fan of court packing." Over the weekend, when asked during an interview with a Las Vegas television station whether voters deserved to know if he would pack the Supreme Court, Biden replied,  "No, they don't."

Biden said in July that he opposed any efforts to expand the size of the Supreme Court, but has backed away from having a clear position on the matter in the weeks since the mid-September death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

During the first presidential debate on Sept. 29, Biden refused to answer a question about court packing, telling moderator Chris Wallace, "Whatever position I take in that, that'll become the issue."

He also told a Wisconsin television station last month that "it's a legitimate question" but that he was "not going to answer" it.  

Biden's position on the issue has come under increased scrutiny since the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Senate Republicans have vowed to speed through the confirmation hearings of Barrett — marking a reversal of the precedent they set in 2016, when they refused to even hold hearings for President Barack Obama's court nominee because it was an election year.

776d ago / 2:07 AM UTC

'We know who's got the stamina': Biden's performance gets social praise

776d ago / 1:58 AM UTC

Fact check: Did Trump denounce white supremacy during first debate?

Pressed Thursday about his past remarks on white supremacy, Trump claimed he “denounced white supremacy” during the first debate.

Not quite. Asked if he was willing to do it, Trump said, “Sure, I’m prepared to do it,” but then immediately insisted that violence comes from those on the left and not the right.

776d ago / 1:51 AM UTC

Fact check: Trump blames stimulus failure on Pelosi. The reality is less simple.

During the NBC News town hall Thursday, Trump put the blame for the failure of a new coronavirus stimulus package squarely on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

"The problem we have is Nancy Pelosi — she couldn’t care less about the worker, she couldn’t care less about our people. We should have a stimulus, I want a stimulus, the Republicans will approve a stimulus,” he said.

Trump added, “She doesn’t want to give the money. We should have stimulus, this is not our people’s fault, this is China’s fault. And she’s penalizing our people. I’m ready to sign a big, beautiful stimulus."

In fact, Trump’s own positions have zigzagged abruptly and are out of sync with his own top administration officials, as well as Senate Republicans, who are uninterested in giving him the big deal he says he wants. Pelosi has demonstrated willingness to spend considerably more money than his party has said it can stomach. Pelosi’s Democratic-led House passed a $3.4 trillion HEROES Act in May, which Senate Republicans rejected. Extended negotiations — stopping and starting — ensued during the summer during which Trump administration officials sought to cut the price tag to about $1 trillion, which Democrats rejected.

The two sides were somewhat closer to a dollar figure when, on Oct. 6, Trump abruptly ordered an end to negotiations and told Republicans to focus on the Supreme Court vacancy. Days later, after the stock market reacted negatively, he shifted again and pleaded for a big stimulus deal. But Senate Republicans have made clear they won’t support that, and Pelosi has called their offers insufficient.

776d ago / 1:48 AM UTC

Trump gives clearest answer yet on accepting election loss

Trump told Guthrie on Thursday that he will commit to a peaceful transition of power if he isn't re-elected. 

“The answer is, yes I will, but I want it to be an honest election,” Trump said, one of his most succinct comments to date on the matter.

Trump has repeatedly refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power in recent months. Asked at a news conference last month whether he would accept a Biden win, Trump said that "we’re going to have to see what happens." He also told Fox News' Chris Wallace in June that he would "have to see" about a peaceful transfer. Pence also dodged the question at last week's vice presidential debate.

Trump then repeated several misleading claims about mail-in ballots and early voting, a frequent talking point of his that he has not been able to sustain with evidence. 

776d ago / 1:48 AM UTC

Biden sticks around to talk more with voters in audience

After the town hall wrapped, a masked Biden continued to talk to socially distanced voters in the audience. He was still with them 20 minutes after the event wrapped. 

At one point during the event, he pledged to a voter to stick around and continue to talk about issues. In a crucial and diverse state like Pennsylvania, it’s one of the few chances he gets to talk (almost) face-to-face with voters of different backgrounds at once during the pandemic.

776d ago / 1:47 AM UTC

Fact check: Trump's misleading, false claims on DACA

“We are going to take care of DACA, we’re going to take care of Dreamer, it’s working right now, we’re negotiating different aspects of immigration and immigration law,” the president claimed on Thursday night. “We’re working very hard on the DACA program.”

The idea that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program "is working right now" is extremely misleading. The president’s administration began rejecting new applicants to the program this summer about a month after the Supreme Court blocked the White House from ending the program completely.

In its ruling, the high court found that his administration was “arbitrary and capricious” in its attempt to end the Obama-era program. Existing applicants also must reapply every year, but remain in the program.

Pressed on this point by moderator Savannah Guthrie, Trump claimed his administration curtailed the program “because of the pandemic, much changed on the immigration front. Mexico is heavily infected.”

This is outright false. Trump's administration credited the change to the Supreme Court ruling in a press release.

What's more, DACA benefits some immigrants whose parents brought them to the U.S. as young children, not people coming in from Mexico in the present. The program confers certain protections from deportation and permission to legally work. Trump also referred to "Dreamer" Thursday night —  DACA recipients are commonly known as "dreamers," based on proposals that would have afforded similar protections for young immigrants that never passed Congress.

776d ago / 1:46 AM UTC

Trump campaign attacks moderators after town halls end

The Trump campaign is out with a statement following the conclusion of both candidates’ town halls, focusing its criticism on the moderators. 

“Even though the commission canceled the in-person debate that could have happened tonight, one occurred anyway, and President Trump soundly defeated NBC’s Savannah Guthrie in her role as debate opponent and Joe Biden surrogate. President Trump masterfully handled Guthrie’s attacks and interacted warmly and effectively with the voters in the room,” Tim Murtaugh, Trump 2020 communications director, said. 

“Over on ABC it was a completely different scene, as once again Biden was kept comfortable and away from any questions that might challenge him,” he argued.

776d ago / 1:38 AM UTC

Fact check: Did Trump accurately quote Ginsburg on filling Supreme Court vacancies?

Trump defended his push to confirm a Supreme Court justice with weeks to go before the election by paraphrasing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose seat he is attempting to fill after her death in September.

“When a president is elected, they're elected for a period of four years. And Justice Ginsburg said it best, I think talking about President Obama, having to do with somebody else, that the president is put there for four years, not for three years,” Trump said Thursday. 

Trump is referring to comments Ginsburg made at Georgetown University on Sept. 7, 2016, when asked if there were any "valid constitutional arguments that would prevent President Obama" from filling the seat vacated after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Although Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill the seat in March, the GOP-controlled Senate did not hold hearings for Garland.

During that 2016 event, Ginsburg replied: “The president has the authority to name appointees to the Supreme Court, but he has to do so with the advice and consent of the Senate. And if the Senate doesn’t act, as this current Senate is not acting, what can be done about it?”

“I do think that cooler heads will prevail, I hope sooner rather than later. The president is elected for four years, not three years, so the power that he has in year 3 continues into year 4,” she continued.

Trump was also asked Thursday why he now supports confirming a justice so close to an election after arguing the opposite in 2016. He justified it by pointing to now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh's contentious confirmation proceedings.

776d ago / 1:35 AM UTC

Biden fact check: He says his environmental plan isn't the Green New Deal

During an exchange about the Green New Deal with ABC's Stephanopoulos, the host noted that Biden says he's "not for it, but in your website it, you call it a crucial framework."

Biden replied, "My deal is a crucial framework. But not the New Green Deal."

That is not true, and it mischaracterizes how similar Biden's own plan to combat climate change and environmental racism and push clean energy sources and environmental justice are to the Green New Deal — an ambitious environmental policy plan supported by progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

While Biden doesn't explicitly support the Green New Deal, his own plans feature similar provisions, and his campaign website literally cites it as a "crucial framework" — meaning his denials ring false.

Over the summer, Biden released a $2 trillion plan that emphasized building new energy efficient infrastructure projects and cutting fossil fuel emissions.

Under his plan, Biden would, if elected, increase clean energy use in various areas (including transportation, electricity and buildings), and have the U.S. achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. The plan would also create 10 million clean energy jobs, according to his campaign website, with a focus on renewable energy, small nuclear reactors and grid energy storage, among other initiatives.

Biden's plans adopt many of the same pillars of the Green New Deal. One of his campaign documents even says that "Biden believes the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face." In addition, release of these plans were celebrated by many of the same groups that had touted the Green New Deal.

Biden's plans do, however, omit some of the Green New Deal's more controversial elements, such as "Medicare for All," a federal jobs guarantee and a strict zero carbon-emissions mandate.

Another critical difference is that, while Biden's plan calls for the U.S. to get to a "100 percent clean energy economy and net-zero emissions" by 2050, the Green New Deal wants it done by 2030 — a distinction Biden explicitly outlined on Thursday.

"The difference between me and the New Green Deal, they say automatically by 2030, we’re gonna be carbon free. Not possible," he said. "The New Green Deal calls for the elimination of all non-renewable energy by 2030. You can’t get there. You’re gonna need to be able to transition, George. To transition to get to the place where we invest in new technologies that allow us to get us to a place where we can get to net zero emissions."

In a statement to NBC News following the town hall, a Biden campaign official further outlined the differences between Biden's plan and the Green New Deal.

"When Biden laid out his own climate plan, he acknowledged that the Green New Deal is a crucial framework — or structure — to arrange thinking on climate because it includes two truths that he carried into his own plan," the official said. "The urgent need for action, and a recognition of the interconnectedness of our environment and economy. You can see those truths in his plan. But his plan is very much the Biden plan."

776d ago / 1:32 AM UTC

What will Biden do if he loses?

Biden was asked by a voter about what he would do if he lost the election to keep pressure on Trump on issues of racial justice and what he would do to help unify the country.

Biden had little hope that the country might be able to come together if Trump wins a second term.

“To be very honest with you, I think that will be very hard. Things have not lent themselves to him learning about what's come before,” Biden said. 

Biden said that Trump had employed a strategy of “conquer and divide” and that the president “does better if he splits us.”

“You will not hear me race-baiting, you will not hear me dividing. You will hear me trying to unify,” Biden said of his potential presidency.

Stephanopoulos asked Biden what it would say about the country if he loses. 

“It could say I was a lousy candidate, I didn’t do a good job,” Biden said. 

776d ago / 1:25 AM UTC

Parent of trans child questions Biden on transgender rights

Biden took a question from a voter who has a trans child and how he would protect trans rights in his administration. 

He took aim at the policies Trump has made to exclude trans Americans from the military and getting other protections, which the former vice president said he would swiftly reverse. 

He also acknowledged the disparities trans women of color face, particularly Black trans women and noted the high murder rate. The Human Rights Campaign has noted that at least 30 trans or gender non-conforming Americans were violently killed in 2020 so far.

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776d ago / 1:24 AM UTC

Biden fact check: Where does he stand on fracking?

Biden said Thursday, "I do not propose banning fracking."

"I think you have to make sure that fracking is, in fact, not admitting methane or polluting the well or dealing with what can be small earthquakes in how they’re drilling. So it has to be managed very well," he added.

While it's true Biden has said he will not ban fracking, his position is complicated.

The policies he has released call only 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.

ABC's George Stephanopoulos brought up at the town hall the apparent contradiction in a follow-up question, noting that "not everyone buys your denial" that he won't ban fracking and pointing to a quote from a member of the Boilermakers Local 154 union who told The New York Times that "you can't meet your goal to end fossil fuels without ending fracking."

Biden responded by saying that he had discussed the issue with the union "and went into great detail with leadership on exactly what I would do."

Biden, including in that response, has yet to explicitly say how or when that move away from fossil fuels would affect fracking. President Donald Trump has used Biden's 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.

776d ago / 1:21 AM UTC

Fact check: Trump says he’s built '400 miles of border wall'

 "We’ve built now over 400 miles of border wall, southern border,” Trump said.

Trump's administration says he's built 360 miles as of Oct. 12. The bulk of it is replacement wall for older barriers, while a small portion of that figure consists of brand new wall.

776d ago / 1:20 AM UTC

Biden says Trump’s foreign policy deserves 'a little' credit — but not a lot

Responding to a voter question, Biden said that while Trump has done some good on foreign policy, his strategy of “America first” has translated into “America alone.”

“I do compliment the president on the deal with Israel,” Biden said. “But if you take a look, we’re not very well trusted around the world.”

776d ago / 1:18 AM UTC

Fact check: Trump, attacking Obamacare, repeats false claim about pre-existing conditions

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Trump said that "we are always protecting people with pre-existing conditions" during his Thursday town hall, attacking Obamacare while reiterating his unkept campaign promise to replace the health care law with something better and cheaper.

We’ve fact checked the claim about pre-existing conditions 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 to people with pre-existing conditions, potentially pricing them out of the market. It passed the House and died in the Senate in 2017, with Republicans not coalescing around a new, comprehensive health care plan since.

Trump has also used executive actions to expand the use of short-term insurance plans that aren't required to cover pre-existing conditions.

His administration has argued that the Supreme Court should overturn the law in a case it will hear next month. When asked about that lawsuit, Trump defended it and said Republicans will "replace it with a much better health care at a much lower price and always, under all circumstances...protect people with pre-existing conditions." 

Trump recently signed a symbolic executive order affirming the protections Obamacare created and directing his administration to limit surprise billing. But the order had little effect on existing law.

776d ago / 1:14 AM UTC

Maddow: 'Well, that happened'

After Trump's town hall concluded, MSNBC cut into anchor Rachel Maddow's nightly broadcast.

Maddow started her show by saying, "Well, that happened."

776d ago / 1:12 AM UTC

Biden pressed on fracking, climate change

Biden said he would not ban fracking, a topic that his critics have seized on since his running mate, Kamala Harris, has previously said she would ban it and his position on it has slightly shifted. 

Harris has since aligned herself with Biden, who told a voter at tonight’s town hall worried about the environment he would put more stringent regulations on the practice, which is an important industry in Pennsylvania and other states. 

He also laid out his plan on transitioning the country to cleaner, renewable energy sources to fight climate change. Despite his staunch position to not ban fracking, this is likely to be a pressing issue up until election day as President Trump criticizes Biden over the issue.

776d ago / 1:10 AM UTC

Biden fact check: Dissecting the 1994 crime bill's effect on mass incarceration

Biden, responding to a question about the 1994 crime bill, which he co-wrote as a senator, acknowledged that "it had a lot of other things in it that turned out to be both bad and good."

During a discussion with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Biden said that he was against the bill's provision that helped fund state prison systems — a provision that critics have frequently said contributed to "mass incarceration."

So what's this all about?

The 1994 crime bill earmarked billions for new prisons and encouraged states to keep criminals behind bars for years by offering special grants. It also instituted a federal "three-strikes" life sentence mandate, among other things. After the bill was enacted, crime dropped and incarceration rates skyrocketed.

"The crime bill, however, was just the most high-profile legislation to increase the number of people behind bars," New York University's Brennan Center for Justice concluded in a 2016 analysis. "On their own, states passed three-strikes laws, enacted mandatory minimums, eliminated parole, and removed judicial discretion in sentencing. By dangling bonus dollars, the crime bill encouraged states to remain on their tough-on-crime course."

776d ago / 1:08 AM UTC

Trump town hall wraps with few questions answered

Trump’s hour-long town hall lacked substantive answers about his policy agenda for the next four years, despite being given ample opportunity to lay out a vision for a second term. 

When asked how he would get the economy back on track, Trump said "It's happening." On health care, the president said "I want to give great health care." And on the DACA program, Trump said "we're going to take care of Dreamers."

In his final question, Guthrie asked Trump to tell the American people why he deserves another term.

"Because I've done a great job," Trump said. 

776d ago / 1:05 AM UTC

Biden doesn’t believe in political revenge, would let DOJ decide on any probe into Trump administration

If Biden wins, he will not call for an investigation into the Trump administration — he would leave that to the Justice Department to decide.

Biden said he does not believe in political revenge and unlike President Trump, would rely on a completely independent Justice Department and hire prosecutors that pick and choose their own cases based on the law. 

Trump has criticized the attorney general repeatedly and also pushed the traditionally nonpartisan department to go after rivals and represent him in personal lawsuits. 

It’s an important question given that former special counsel Robert Mueller laid out instances of obstruction of justice by the president in his report on Russian election interference but declined to prosecute.

776d ago / 1:02 AM UTC

Trump ends town hall with little mention of his opponent

776d ago / 1:01 AM UTC

Biden fact check: Do more cops mean less crime?

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During an exchange about the 1994 crime bill that Biden co-authored, ABC News moderator George Stephanopolous noted that the bill "funded 100,000 police," prompting Biden to note that the officers placed on the streets conducted community policing, which caused crime to drop. 

"You've often said that more cops clearly mean less crime," Stephanopolous said. "Do you still believe that?

"Yes, if in fact they're involved in community policing, not jump squads," Biden replied. "For example, when we had community policing from the mid-90s on until Bush got elected, what happened? Violent crime actually went down precipitously."

Is that true?

Biden's fudging a bit here, according to government reports. The 1994 crime bill did help reduce violent crime, but whether that was a direct result of the bill's Office Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants has been disputed. Estimates also suggest that the COPS grants did not lead to a full 100,000 new police on the streets.

At passage, the crime bill aimed to put 100,000 more cops on the streets. A 2005 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found the bill resulted in about 88,000 additional officers.

The 2005 GAO report found that COPS had a "modest" effect on the drop in violent crime but noted "factors other than COPS funds accounted for the majority of the decline in crime during this period."

776d ago / 1:01 AM UTC

Fact check: Trump wrongly suggests the U.S. was facing 42 percent unemployment

“We just hit a record, 11.4 million jobs,” Trump said Thursday, pointing to recent job gains after historic pandemic losses. “So people were saying we're going to have a 42 percent unemployment. Look, this was a thing that came into our country, and it happened 100 — more than 100 years ago, and it happened now. We're talking about a 42 percent unemployment rate.”

He continued: “Just came out at 7.8 percent unemployment and people can't even believe it.”

The president is wildly inflating the economy’s successes here, as well as projections for the unemployment rate. The U.S. has replaced 11.4 million of the 22 million jobs that were lost in March and April because of the pandemic, though job growth is slowing and economic predictors suggest the recovery may be slowing.

But the U.S. was never facing 42 percent unemployment — economists predicted 20 percent unemployment. Additionally, this isn't the first time 42 percent unemployment has made its way into a false economic claim by the president. Back in 2015, Trump falsely claimed the “real” unemployment rate was 42 percent; at the time, it was 5.1 percent, PolitiFact reported.

776d ago / 12:59 AM UTC

Trump says he did not talk to Barrett about election, Roe v. Wade

Trump said he never spoke with Judge Amy Coney Barrett about how she would vote if the results of the election were contested in the Supreme Court. 

“I think she will have to make that decision. I don't think she has any conflict at all,” Trump said. “I never asked her about it. I never talked to her about it.” 

Trump said he also never talked to Barrett about how she would vote on a challenge to Roe v. Wade, but refused to say where he personally stood on abortion rights. 

“I don't want to do anything to influence anything right now,” Trump said. 

Trump in 2016 said he would appoint judges who would strike down the landmark abortion ruling.

776d ago / 12:56 AM UTC

Biden dodges court packing question, but repeats he's 'not a fan'

Biden continued to dodge questions about his position on court packing when asked about Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. 

The former vice president stuck to his talking point that he would not talk ad nauseam about adding additional justices to the court because it would be a distraction from what he suggested is a hypocritical process by the Republicans. 

Biden previously said he does not like court packing and conceded at tonight’s town hall that he is “not a fan,” but said he will let voters know his full position depending on how the Senate handles Barrett’s confirmation.

He said her nomination puts health care and other issues in jeopardy.

776d ago / 12:55 AM UTC

Mary Trump, Trump's niece, responds to Guthrie's 'crazy uncle' comment

776d ago / 12:54 AM UTC

Fact check: Trump's claims on voter fraud, ballots 'dumped in dumpsters'

In response to a question about accepting the results of the 2020 election, Trump insisted Thursday that voter fraud was rampant. 

"When I see thousands of ballots, right, unsolicited ballots being given out by the millions and thousands of them are dumped in dumpsters and when you see ballots with the name — Trump military ballots from our great military and they're dumped in garbage cans," he said.

Moderator Savannah Guthrie pointed out that the president was referring to anecdotal reports, adding, "Your own FBI director said there's no evidence of widespread fraud."

Trump responded: “Oh, really? Then he's not doing a great job. 50,000 in Ohio, the great state of Ohio. 50,000 in another location, I think North Carolina. 500,000 applications in Virginia. No, no. There's a tremendous problem.”

This is not true. Numerous studies have debunked the notion that there is substantial, widespread voter fraud in American elections, whether those elections are conducted predominantly by mail or otherwise.

Trump is citing election infrastructure errors — like 50,000 flawed absentee ballots sent out in one county in Ohio and later reprinted by officials, or a half million absentee ballot application that were mailed by a nonpartisan group encouraging mail voting that included inaccurate return mailing addresses — as proof of fraud, instead of what they are, which is errors and inefficiencies.

There have been reports of misdirected ballots found in dumpsters — like 100 blank ballots found in Kentucky — but that does not automatically indicate fraud. There are numerous safeguards in place, such as signature matching, to ensure that only eligible voters can cast a ballot.

There's no reason to believe either of these errors will result in fraudulent ballots being counted. Only verified and registered voters can cast a mail ballot. 

776d ago / 12:45 AM UTC

Biden given, and taking, plenty of time to answer questions

As voters ask Biden a question on a variety of topics, Biden has been able to answer the questions at great length with very little interference from the moderator. 

Stephanopoulos has interjected and pressed Biden further, but the floor largely belongs to Biden as he interacts with voters.

It could be good prep to hone his answers for the next presidential debate a week from today.

776d ago / 12:45 AM UTC

Trump declines to name whom he owes money to

Trump was asked about the recent The New York Times report about his tax documents, which alleged that he's deeply in debt. Asked whom he owes money to, Trump declines to say whom or what he owes.

Trump claims that it is a small amount of money (he reportedly is on the hook for loans worth around $421 million), and also says that the number is wrong. 

Asked if he'll release his taxes, Trump dodges again.

776d ago / 12:44 AM UTC

Trump claims stalled stimulus talks are a 'negotiation' tactic

When pressed as to why he has been unable to shepherd a new round of coronavirus relief, Trump said, "You ever hear a word called negotiation?"

Talks over another coronavirus bill have been a bit of a mess in Washington, often with the president derailing progress and changing his mind at the last minute, catching lawmakers off guard and sending everyone back to square one.

Trump attempted to place much of the blame on Nancy Pelosi, saying that "the problem you have is Nancy Pelosi. She couldn't care less about the worker."

Guthrie then pointed out that Republicans lawmakers have also clashed with Trump on the size of the relief bill.

776d ago / 12:40 AM UTC

Fact check: Trump says Obama administration 'spied' on his campaign. False.

President Trump, during Thursday's NBC News town hall, once again accused the Obama administration of spying on his campaign — a claim that Trump has made on numerous occasions and remains false.

"They talk about the peaceful transfer," Trump said, about questions posed to him about whether he would accept a peaceful transfer of power if he loses in November. 

"They spied on my campaign and they got caught," he said, a reference to his claim about the Obama administration. 

A review conducted by the Justice Department’s own watchdog deemed in December that the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election — a probe that deeply touched the 2016 Trump campaign — was justified.

The 434-page report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz raised questions about the FBI's use of confidential human sources to gather information from individual members of the Trump campaign. FBI officials said it was a normal investigative technique, but the inspector general questioned whether there should be special guidelines when it comes to political campaigns.

The report did, however, clearly refute the notion that the FBI placed a "spy" in the Trump campaign.

"We found no evidence," the report said, that the FBI sent any confidential sources to join the Trump campaign, or sent them to campaign offices or events, or tasked them to report on the Trump campaign.

The inspector general said he examined more than a million documents and interviewed more than 100 witnesses to reach the report’s conclusions.

776d ago / 12:37 AM UTC

A tale of two town halls

776d ago / 12:37 AM UTC

Biden press secretary slams Trump's health care answer

776d ago / 12:36 AM UTC

Biden answers question on energizing young, Black voters

Biden was pressed by a young Black voter, one of the crucial voting blocs in this election, about how to energize that base, which is more likely to not vote for either candidate. 

Biden has large support among Black voters, but is lagging in younger Black voters. He has also been sharply criticized for some of his past comments on race, such as saying “you ain’t Black” in response to a question of what he would say to a Black voter who votes for Trump. 

The former vice president did deftly answer the question, however, by talking about making systemic changes to American institutions from criminal justice to homeownership to early childhood learning to closing the racial wealth gap between Black and white Americans.

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776d ago / 12:35 AM UTC

Biden fact check: The former VP says Trump downplayed the virus. Did he?

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Biden said Thursday that he recognized as early as February, writing in an editorial for USA Today, that Covid-19 was a "serious problem," while accusing Trump of having "denied it."

"We later learned that he knew full well how serious it was when he did an interview with...Bob Woodward, and at the time, he said he didn’t tell anybody because he was afraid Americans would panic."

The facts show that Trump downplayed the severity of the pandemic.

Here’s what Trump said in the early days of the pandemic.

— “We have it very much under control in this country,” Trump said Feb. 23.

— “It’s a little like the regular flu that we have flu shots for.  And we’ll essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner,” Trump said Feb. 26

— “It’s going to disappear.  One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear,” he said February 27. 

— “No, I’m not concerned at all. No, we’ve done a great job with it,” Trump said March 7, when asked by a reporter if he was worried about the virus.

And in interviews with journalist Bob Woodward, referenced by Biden, Trump revealed he knew the virus was deadly and admitted playing it down.

"You just breathe the air and that’s how it's passed," Trump told Woodward on Feb. 7, according to The Washington Post. "And so that's a very tricky one. That's a very delicate one. It's also more deadly than even your strenuous flus."

In a March 19 interview, Trump acknowledged he'd been playing down the threat from the start.

"I wanted to always play it down," Trump said. "I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic."

776d ago / 12:34 AM UTC

Lots of praise for Guthrie on social media

776d ago / 12:34 AM UTC

Fact check: Trump misleads on coronavirus death projections

Trump on Thursday claimed that original projections for coronavirus deaths in America said the country would lose 2.2 million people to the virus. 

“We were expected to lose, if you look at the original charts from original doctors who are respected by everybody, two million [and] two hundred thousand people," Trump said. 

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 218,744 deaths attributed to the virus in America, according to NBC News data. 

776d ago / 12:32 AM UTC

Trump still iffy on wearing a mask, despite his own administration's recommendations

Even after being diagnosed with Covid-19, Trump refused to acknowledge the importance of wearing a mask. 

A Miami voter asked Trump if his own experience had made him think differently about wearing a mask, to which Trump responded: "No, because I was OK with the masks. I was good with it. But I have heard many different stories about masks."

Trump inaccurately cited different studies which he claimed cast doubt on the impact of mask-wearing. When Guthrie pushed back, noting that if everyone wore a mask the U.S. could see a significant decrease in cases, Trump appeared to give in.

“Savannah, I say wear the masks," he said. "I am fine with it."

The first half of the town hall focused almost entirely on the virus.

776d ago / 12:30 AM UTC

Biden fact check: Have 1 in 5 minority businesses closed because of Covid-19?

Biden on Thursday said at the ABC town hall, "You had in one in five, one in six, minority businesses closing, many of them permanently" because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This appears to be true — and Biden may be understating the closures.

According to a study conducted by Stanford University, more than 1 million black-owned businesses in the U.S. were open in February 2020. But by April, 440,000 black business owners had closed, a drop of more than 40 percent.

776d ago / 12:29 AM UTC

Fact check: Trump touts 'amazing' response to Covid-19. The U.S. leads in cases, deaths.

“What we’ve done has been amazing, we’ve done an amazing job,” Trump said on Thursday, claiming that the U.S. is “rounding the corner” with the pandemic.

This is false. The U.S. is facing an uncontrolled outbreak and there are few signs of a turnaround. The U.S. has more cases than any country, with more than 8 million, and more deaths than any country, recently surpassing 218,000.

Cases are high and rising in 28 states; cases are low and rising in 19 states, according to New York Times data. 

776d ago / 12:22 AM UTC

Trump dodges QAnon question: 'I know nothing about QAnon'

Trump is asked to denounce QAnon. He does not.

Instead, Trump says he doesn't know about QAnon except that they're against pedophilia, which he says he agrees with. It's at least the second time that Trump has had a chance to put QAnon to rest and avoided it. 

"I know nothing about QAnon," he told Guthrie.

Guthrie pushes Trump hard on whether he knows about QAnon, and Trump pivots to ask her why she's not asking about antifa. 

776d ago / 12:22 AM UTC

Biden questioned on if he would take a vaccine approved under Trump

An undecided voter in this election, who voted for President Trump in 2016, asked Joe Biden about his running mate’s comments on taking a vaccine approved under the president. 

Sen. Kamala Harris said during the vice presidential debate last week that if Trump announces a Covid-19 vaccine she wouldn’t take. 

Biden walked a tight line answering the question because Harris was criticized for undermining public health by making the remark. Biden continued to say he would trust doctors and public health experts, but noted that the president has made outrageous comments related to the virus and has also sowed seeds of doubt about treating it.

776d ago / 12:22 AM UTC

Biden fact check: Did Trump say people could inject bleach to fight Covid?

Biden on Thursday said at the ABC town hall, "President Trump says things like, everything from ‘that's crazy stuff,’ then he walks away and says inject bleach in your arm and that's gonna work."

That comment is inference to Trump's suggestions that people should inject bleach in their arm to effectively fight off Covid-19.

Trump did indeed speculate that an injection of disinfectants like bleach could have a curative effect. 

"And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?" Trump said during a news conference at the White House in April, after a briefing from a Homeland Security official who described the ability of disinfectants like bleach to kill the coronavirus on surfaces. 

"Because, you see, it gets on the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it'd be interesting to check that. So that you're going to have to use medical doctors, but it sounds — it sounds interesting to me."

776d ago / 12:20 AM UTC

Trump clashes with Guthrie after question about white supremacy

Trump came under fire in the last debate after he failed to denounce white supremacists and the Proud Boys.

“I denounced white supremacy for years,” Trump claimed, complaining that Guthrie and other people in the media keep bringing up the topic.

But Trump repeatedly dodged attempts to get him to condemn these groups that have expressed support for him, despite being given multiple opportunities to do so.

776d ago / 12:18 AM UTC

Fact check: Trump wrongly characterizes CDC study on mask wearing

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Trump wrongly characterized a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study when he claimed that "they came out with a statement that 85 percent of people who wear masks catch" the coronavirus.

That is an inaccurate read of a Sept. 10 CDC report — the study found that people who contracted Covid-19 are more likely to have eaten in a restaurant. The lead researcher says the research is actually “mask neutral” and that the data was based on self-reports and not designed to argue for or against mask wearing.

The CDC tweeted on Wednesday that “the interpretation that more mask-wearers are getting infected compared to non-mask wearers is incorrect.”

All the available evidence suggests that masks help slow the transmission of the coronavirus. A recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal Health Affairs showed that Covid-19 transmission slowed after states implemented mask requirements. Scientists believe this is because masks reduce the amount of respiratory droplets spread by the wearer. 

While some masks appear ineffective at slowing the spread of the coronavirus (like very thin masks or masks with valves), the concept of masks is not up for debate. Trump has been criticized for not aggressively promoting the use of masks, and for refusing to appear in public wearing one until months into the pandemic.