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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:

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.

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.

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

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

A tale of two town halls

Biden press secretary slams Trump's health care answer

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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