IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Harris vs. Pence: Vice presidential debate updates and analysis

Wednesday's vice presidential debate comes less than a week after Trump announced he had tested positive for Covid-19.

Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris faced off in a heated debate Wednesday night, their first and only matchup.

The 90-minute debate started shortly after 9 p.m. ET at the University of Utah's Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City.

This live coverage has ended. Continue reading more on the debate here.

The coronavirus pandemic was a prominent topic at the debate, which came less than a week after President Donald Trump was diagnosed with Covid-19. As head of the White House coronavirus task force, Pence has faced criticism over the administration's response to the pandemic.

Read highlights from the debate, including fact-checks, takeaways and who some experts think won.

 

Karen Pence flouts debate rules, takes off mask on stage

Pence vs. Harris: Four takeaways from the only VP debate

The gloves stayed on. The train never left the rails. The sparks never flew. And a fly that briefly landed on Mike Pence's head may have been the most memorable moment of the only 2020 vice presidential debate.

The debate between the vice president and Harris, his Democratic counterpart, was a return to a more normal style of politics and a glimpse at what the 2020 election might look like without the singular personality of Donald Trump — or perhaps a preview of a future election between the same two candidates.

Harris and Pence proved to be polished and prepared debaters who stuck to their talking points, mostly respected the moderator and delivered more substance. And instead of the blatant insults and outright deceptions of last week's debate, they deployed the more typical tricks of slick politicians: dodging, obfuscation and exaggeration.

Here are four takeaways.

Who won the Pence-Harris debate? Experts give their verdict

Two of the three members of an NBC News panel of debate experts gave the nod to Sen. Kamala Harris in Wednesday night's debate with Vice President Mike Pence and the third called it a draw.

The highly anticipated face off enabled both candidates to lay out their ticket's policy positions more clearly than last week's chaotic first presidential debate, but fewer interruptions from Harris helped give her the edge.

Here are their report cards.

Pence vs. Harris: Four takeaways from the only VP debate

The gloves stayed on. The train never left the rails. The sparks never flew. And a fly that briefly landed on Mike Pence’s head may have been the most memorable moment of the only 2020 vice presidential debate.

The debate between the vice president and his Democratic counterpart Kamala Harris was a return to more normal style of politics and a glimpse at what the 2020 election might look like without the singular personality of Donald Trump — or perhaps a preview of a future election between these same two candidates.

Harris and Pence proved to both be polished and prepared debaters who stuck to talking points and mostly respected the moderator and delivered more substance. And instead of the blatant insults and outright deceptions of last week’s debates, they deployed the more typical tricks of slick politicians: dodging, obfuscation and exaggeration.

Here are four takeaways.

Desi Twitter, Black Twitter point out Harris' disappointed auntie vibe

Harris' facial expressions while Pence was responding to questions about the administration's Covid-19 response were a hit across social media. And Black Twitter and Desi Twitter — the space in which young South Asians share memes, TikToks and relatable experiences — put their own spin on it. Many joked that Harris, who's the first Black person and first Asian American to appear on the vice presidential debate stage, was giving looks reminiscent of a disappointed "auntie." 

Here's how Pence prepared for the debate

Pence held three more formal 90-minute sessions in advance of Wednesday's debate, according to a source with knowledge of his debate prep.

The source, who praised Pence's performance, said several people took turns playing the role of Harris: Scott Walker, Pam Bondi and former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. 

Per another source with knowledge, as part of his debate prep Pence had a call with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; another person involved in the prep was Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. 

Trump, Biden jump into their running mates' debate from Twitter

Trump interjected on Twitter during the vice-presidential debate Wednesday night by accusing Biden and Harris of seeking to ban fracking.

After Pence said the Democratic ticket would ban fracking, Harris denied it.

"Joe Biden will not ban fracking. That is a fact. That is a fact," she said.

Trump, in response, tweeted a video of Harris saying in September 2019, "There's no question I'm in favor of banning fracking."

Biden, for his part, responded to Pence after he accused the Biden-Harris ticket of seeking to raise taxes: "Let me be clear: A Biden-Harris Administration won't increase taxes by a dime on anyone making less than $400,000 a year."

Read more here.

Fact check: Pence claims Harris did 'nothing on criminal justice reform for California'

Pence, during an exchange with Harris, claimed his opponent "did nothing on criminal justice reform for California."

Harris, who served as the district attorney for San Francisco from 2004 to 2011 and as California attorney general from 2011 to 2017, has, in fact, faced a large amount of scrutiny over her records in those two law enforcement positions. But the claim she “did nothing on criminal justice” is an overstatement.

Critics have argued that Harris fought to uphold wrongful convictions, filed appeals against arguments fighting the use of the death penalty and robustly prosecuted low-level marijuana offenses — actions that disproportionately affected people of color.

They have also noted that she, while in those jobs, resisted numerous progressive reforms, like opposing statewide standards for the wearing of body cameras by police officers.

She’s also faced a chorus of criticism for her support of a law that threatened to put in jail the parents of children who missed so many days of school that they were considered truant. 

Harris and her supporters, however, have pointed to to her roll out of racial bias trainings, her advocacy for the use of police body cameras, and other reforms as evidence that she fought for criminal justice reform in California.

Fact check: Pence's false claim about protecting people with pre-existing conditions

Harris and Pence sparred over health care, arguing over who was protecting people with preexisting conditions.

Trump “is in court trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, which means you will lose protections if you have pre-existing conditions,” Harris said, touting the gains that the ACA made in covering more Americans. 

“Obamacare was a disaster, and the American people remember it well. And President Trump and I have a plan to improve health care and protect the existing conditions for every American,” Pence countered.

The administration hasn't released a detailed heath care plan and hasn't offered a policy to cover pre-existing conditions.

While Trump has long insisted that he and the GOP will protect people with pre-existing conditions from losing their health insurance, 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. 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 the actual protections in the law should be struck down.

Pence spokesman responds to speculation about VP's eye

You probably saw something a little off about Pence's noticeably red left eye tonight.

Some online commentators speculated that he has pinkeye, which can sometimes be a symptom of Covid-19.

Pence's press secretary, Devin O'Malley, said that the VP tested negative today with a rapid antigen test and that he tested negative Tuesday with a PCR, adding that any speculation that the vice president has the coronavirus is "completely reckless" and incorrect.

Fact-check: Pence's baseless claim about voter fraud

"President Trump and I are fighting every day in courthouses to prevent Joe Biden and Kamala Harris from changing the rules and creating this universal mail-in voting that will create a massive opportunity for voter fraud," Pence said.

There's no evidence that "universal mail-in voting" would create a "massive opportunity for voter fraud."

Numerous studies have debunked the notion that there is substantial, widespread voter fraud in American elections, whether they are conducted predominantly by mail or otherwise. The voter fraud commission that Pence himself chaired failed to find substantive evidence of voter fraud in the U.S.

Both campaigns are in court litigating over the specifics of how mail-n voting works, but in court filings the Trump campaign is reported to have struggled to prove that mail-in voting creates opportunities for fraud.

Pence's use of the term "universal mail-in voting" is misleading, too, because every state is handling mail-in voting differently, mostly by expanding their absentee voting systems to accommodate more people than usual because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The five states that already voted almost entirely by mail before the pandemic do not report higher rates of fraud or coercion than states that vote in person mostly at polling sites, and there are numerous systems and methods that keep mail voting secure.

Election authorities say that when rare incidents of fraud do occur — as in a local New Jersey election in May that saw an attempted fraud operation, for example —  they are referred for prosecution.

Fact-check: Pence again falsely accuses Obama admin of 'spying' on 2016 Trump campaign

Pence repeated a false claim that Trump made during the first presidential debate — accusing the Obama administration of spying on their 2016 campaign. 

We checked this during the first debate, and it is false. 

"When Joe Biden was vice president of the United States, the FBI actually spied on President Trump and my campaign," Pence said. 

A review conducted by the Justice Department's own watchdog found in December that the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election — an inquiry 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, sent them to campaign offices or events or tasked them with reporting 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. 

Pence also pointed to documents released this week by the director of national intelligence saying the CIA "made a referral to the FBI documenting that those allegations were coming from the Hillary Clinton campaign." 

The document, released by National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe, claimed that intelligence agencies "obtained insight into Russian intelligence analysis alleging" that Clinton's campaign had a plan to "stir up a scandal against" Trump by "tying him to Putin and the Russians' hacking of the Democratic National Committee."

Ratcliffe didn't declassify much else related to that accusation, and a former top intelligence official has accused him of having selectively released information to play politics. 

Harris: Biden has a 'history of lifting people up'

Harris got the last answer of the night, in response to a question from an eighth grader about how Americans are supposed to get along in a time of such division. She said Biden has a "history of lifting people up."

"One of the reasons that Joe decided to run for president is after Charlottesville ... it so troubled him and upset him, like it did all of us, that there was that kind of hate and division," she said, adding that Biden decided to run because of all of the division and hate that have erupted over the last four years.

"Joe has a long-standing reputation of working across the aisle, working in a bipartisan way," she said. "That's what he's going to do as president. Joe Biden has a history of lifting people up and fighting for their dignity."

Moderator ends debate as it started — with a touch of civility

Moderator Susan Page ended the debate wishing the president and the first lady speedy recoveries from Covid-19 and extended the same well-wishes to the millions of other people who are battling the coronavirus. 

Page began the debate with the same message and helped set a more civil tone than that of the chaotic presidential debate last week. 

The second presidential debate is next week in Miami. It is town hall-style format, and, as of now, both Biden and Trump are expected to participate in person.

Harris attacks Trump comments on white supremacists, Pence goes after her record as AG

Harris brought up Trump's comments on white supremacy during the presidential debate last week. 

“Not true,” Pence quickly muttered. 

“Then he said, when pressed, ‘stand back, stand by,’ and this is a part of a pattern of Donald Trump’s. He called Mexicans rapists and criminals. He instituted as his first act a Muslim ban,” Harris said. 

Pence then questioned how Harris could say those things when Trump has Jewish grandchildren, a point that many on Twitter took issue with.

The vice president also attacked Harris’ career in California, arguing that she did nothing on criminal justice reform as attorney general of the state and district attorney in San Francisco. Harris defended her record, noting that the state introduced racial bias training and was the first to require that police wear body cameras.

Biden's campaign wastes no time

Where the candidates landed on attacks, interruptions and topics

Harris points out lack of Black judicial appointees under Trump

Harris didn't say whether a Biden administration would expand the number of justices on the Supreme Court. But she did bring attention to the lack of diversity among Trump's judicial appointees. In a July analysis, the Pew Research Center found that Trump was more likely than other recent president to appoint judges who are white.

Fact-check: Do Biden and Harris support 'abortion up to the moment of birth'?

"Joe Biden and Kamala Harris support taxpayer funding of abortion up to the moment of birth," Pence claimed, repeating an attack he used at the Republican National Convention. 

That is misleading. Biden supports abortion rights, and elective abortions do not occur "up until the moment of birth." Just 1.2 percent occur after 21 weeks of gestation, according to the latest data. 

Biden does, however, support government funding's being used for abortions. In 2019, he reversed his long-standing support of the Hyde Amendment, which stops federal funding — including Medicaid — from being used to pay for abortions. Biden says he changed his mind because the amendment made it harder for lower-income women and women of color to get access to abortions.

Fact check: Pence says Trump 'cut taxes across the board'

This claim from Pence a bit earlier is true, but he’s leaving out key details when he emphasized the gains made by "hard-working, blue-collar Americans.”

Yes, working families likely did get a modest tax cut in the tax reform Trump signed into law in 2017, but the biggest beneficiaries of the tax bill are corporations, which have permanent cuts while individual tax cuts expire in 2025.

Fact check: Did Harris co-sponsor Green New Deal, and does Biden support it?

The Green New Deal came up frequently during the debate, with Pence pointing out that Harris was “the first Senate co-sponsor of the Green New Deal” and that the proposal “is on their campaign website.”

These claims are both true.

The Green New Deal is an ambitious and comprehensive environmental justice policy plan supported by progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. In her capacity as California’s junior senator, Harris was a co-sponsor of the original bill. 

And while Biden doesn't explicitly support the Green New Deal, his own plans borrow very heavily from it — making his aggressive 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. And as Pence noted, one of his campaign documents even says, "Biden believes the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face." Biden's plans would, 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.

Breonna Taylor focus of question about racial inequality

The death of Breonna Taylor, the Black woman who was killed in March during a police raid at her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky, became a focal point of tonight's debate.

When asked whether justice was served after none of the officers involved were indicted in direct connection with Taylor's death, Harris said it was not, and she talked broadly about systematic racism in the country and the justice system, including the death of George Floyd. 

Harris said Taylor's family deserves justice. She also said Floyd was "tortured and killed," and she talked about the peaceful protests across the country sparked by his death, which pre-empted Pence's rebuttal about some of the violence and rioting that took place. The vice president also did not say justice was served in Taylor's case. 

"Our heart breaks for the loss of any innocent American life," Pence said. "And the family of Breonna Taylor has our sympathies. But I trust our justice system."

Fly lands on Pence's head and Twitter explodes

Pence touts China travel ‘ban’

Pence repeatedly pointed to the Trump administration’s “ban” on travel from China as evidence of the government’s early actions to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but his argument exaggerates the strictness of the travel restrictions.

The restrictions took effect Feb. 2, but travel to the U.S. from Hong Kong and Macao, both Chinese special administrative regions, was allowed to continue. The measure also wasn’t a blanket ban, but rather barred entry to the U.S. to foreign nationals who had traveled to China in the past 14 days.

It’s estimated that thousands of travelers arrived in the U.S. from China even after the travel restrictions were put in place. The measure was also imposed about a month after China first announced the outbreak of a novel coronavirus, which experts have said likely means the virus was already spreading to other parts of the world.

Pence's nonanswer on abortion raises eyebrows

Asked a direct question about what he'd want his home state of Indiana to do if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Pence dodged. Pence's stance on the issue has been clear for years — he's a staunch opponent of abortion rights. 

Yet, he seemed reticent to address that topic, even though Trump has repeatedly made the subject part of his attacks on Biden and Harris

Fact check: Did Harris attack a judicial nominee for being a member of Knights of Columbus?

Pence accused Harris of having "attacked" a judicial nominee "because they were a member of the Catholic Knights of Columbus, just because the Knights of Columbus holds pro-life views." 

In December 2018, Harris asked pointed written questions to a judicial nominee about stances the Catholic group Knights of Columbus has held on abortion and same-sex marriage — beliefs shared by many conservative Catholics.

On a written questionnaire for Brian C. Buescher, who was nominated to serve on the U.S District Court in the District of Nebraska, Harris asked about beliefs held by the group, which she described as “an all-male society comprised primarily of Catholic men.”

“Were you aware that the Knights of Columbus opposed a woman’s right to choose when you joined the organization?” she asked in one question.

“Were you aware that the Knights of Columbus opposed marriage equality when you joined the organization?” she asked in another.

In his written responses, Buescher replied that he joined the organization when he was 18 years old and did not recall if the group had taken a position on either issue at that time.

“My membership has involved participation in charitable and community events in local Catholic parishes,” he said.

Buescher also added that he was not involved in the group’s policymaking.  

“I have not been involved with drafting policies or positions on behalf of the Knights of Columbus, nor have I been involved in making decisions regarding the activities of the national or international organization,” he said.

Harris was not the only Democrat on the committee to ask about the Knights of Columbus; Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii also pursued a similar line of questioning to the same nominee.

Fact check: Was Harris 2019’s ‘most liberal member’ of the Senate?

“Newsweek magazine said that Kamala Harris was the most liberal member of the United States Senate in 2019 — more liberal than Bernie Sanders, more liberal than any of the others in the United States Senate,” Pence said.

The vice president got the ranker wrong here. Newsweek didn’t rank members, though the magazine did report on the website GovTrack’s ranking. That website did rank Harris as having the most liberal ideology in 2019, based on analysis of the bills she sponsored with other members, not by reviewing or ranking her individual ideology on the issues.

It's worth noting that over a longer period of time — from 2015 to 2020, for example — Sanders is ranked as more liberal.

Harris doesn't say whether she and Biden support packing the Supreme Court

Pence accused Biden and Harris of wanting to "pack the court" if they're elected, which means to add more seats to the Supreme Court. 

Asked whether they would seek to do so, Harris didn't directly answer. 

"The American people are voting right now, and it should be their decision about who will serve on this most important body for a lifetime," she said. 

"I just want the record to reflect she never answered the question," Pence said as they moved on to the next topic.

Trump leads mentions, followed by Covid. Here's the breakdown.

What's being talked about the most at the debate tonight? We're breaking it down mention-by-mention. (As of 10:15 p.m.)

Trump: 649 mentions

Covid-19: 595

Economy: 428

Supreme Court: 282

Foreign policy: 237

Biden: 235

Climate change: 178

Vice President: 120

Tax reform: 118

Health care: 108

Race: 95

China: 45

Abortion: 43

Election: 37

Fact check: Pence says a Covid-19 vaccine could be rolled out by end of year

This claim, which Pence made a bit earlier on in the debate, is true. On Tuesday, 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 might get an emergency use authorization would be the end of November. At the same time, drug companies are manufacturing doses of their vaccines so that they will be ready to go if they receive authorization. One company, Moderna, says it is on track to produce 20 million doses by the end of the year, according to CNBC

Later, Pence said that five vaccines have entered phase 3 trials in the U.S. He's off by one. Only four have made it to phase 3 so far: Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca. However, the AstraZeneca trial is currently paused in the U.S., following reports of an adverse event in a U.K. participant.

Women react to Harris being interrupted by Pence

Women on Twitter are reacting to Harris being interrupted by Pence, identifying with being talked over by a man.

Harris calls out Pence for 'insulting' attack on her and Biden's faith

The nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court veered off into talk of religious liberty and faith. Pence suggested that the opposition to Barrett is based on hostility to her faith. 

Harris shot back, noting that Biden would be only the second practicing Catholic president if elected (after JFK). It's an interesting rebuttal, because Pence has often talked openly and unapologetically about his faith to draw a contrast with Democrats' support for policies such as same-sex marriage and abortion. 

"Joe and I are both people of faith, and it is insulting to suggest we do not respect faith," she said. 

Harris calls out Trump’s reported derision of the American armed forces

Harris called out the reporting that Trump referred to members of the armed forces as “suckers” and “losers.” 

But she didn’t only hit on that moment, referring to the counterattack Iran made on American soldiers in Iraq in which service members experienced traumatic brain injuries. Trump reportedly described their pain as “headaches.” She also mentioned that Trump said Sen. John McCain, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, didn’t deserve to be called a war hero because he was a prisoner of war.

The toughest hit, however, came at the end when she brought up that Russia had allegedly put bounties on the heads of American soldiers in the Middle East — going so far as to define what “bounty” means — and noted that the president had spoken to Putin six times and never brought up the issue.

“Joe Biden would never do that,” she said. “Joe Biden would hold Russia to account.”

Fact check: Manufacturing job losses under Obama, Trump

Pence and Harris just sparred over manufacturing job losses during the Obama and Trump administrations. 

Harris claimed that because of Trump's "so-called 'trade war with China," America lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs. 

And Pence said that "when Joe Biden was vice president, we lost 200,000 manufacturing jobs." 

Harris' estimate comes from a 2019 analysis by Moody's Analytics, which says that "since it began in earnest ... the trade war with China has cost an estimated 0.3 percentage point in U.S. real GDP and almost 300,000 jobs."

The number is a moving target because it's unclear how Trump's posture with China will turn out, while the Obama-Biden record has been written, but that was the estimate as of late 2019, before the coronavirus upended the American economy. Manufacturing jobs did grow overall under the Trump administration by about 483,000 between January 2017 and February 2020, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. But the pandemic has turned that trend around — through September 2020, there's been a net of 164,000 jobs lost during the Trump administration.

Pence's claim is true, too, by the numbers. But there's a bit more to the story. 

When Barack Obama took office in January 2009, the number of manufacturing jobs in the United States was about 12.56 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By January 2017, that number was 12.37 million. 

That means there were about 192,000 jobs fewer manufacturing jobs when Obama left office than when he became president. But it wasn’t a decline in a straight line. Manufacturing jobs were already plummeting when Obama took office, and they fell by another 1.1 million until March 2010, when they started to rebound. 

The Obama White House argued in 2016 that, because Obama had inherited an economy in freefall, the administration should be judged instead by how many manufacturing jobs were added between the low point of the recession to the end of his presidency, about 900,000 jobs. 

When the Obama administration made that argument in 2016, though, other fact-checkers dinged it as “cherry-picking” the data.

Harris pivots to push talking points

A few times tonight Harris has pivoted hard in the middle of her answers, linking together relatively disparate topics to hit on points she's clearly looking to make stick.

In the midst of an answer on abortion, Harris links the topic to women's health — and then back to the Affordable Care Act, revisiting a point she hit earlier.

Page shuts Pence down after he refuses to follow debate rules

Moderator Susan Page shut Pence down after he refused to cede time and continued to speak after his time was up, saying that he was not adhering to the rules agreed to by the Trump campaign. 

“I really have to respond to this,” Pence said as he responded to Harris about Trump’s leadership as commander in chief. Page gave him 15 seconds, but he tried to continue. 

“Joe Biden … ” Pence said. 

“Your campaigns agreed to the rules for tonight with the Commission on Presidential Debates," Page said. "I'm here to enforce them, which involves moving from one topic to another, giving roughly equal time to both of you, which is what I'm trying very hard to do. So I want to go ahead and move to the next topic, which is an important one, as the last topic was, and that is the Supreme Court.”

Fact check: Did the Trump-Pence White House scrub references to 'climate change' from websites?

Harris, during an exchange about climate change, claimed the Trump-Pence administration “took the word ‘science’ off the website” and “took the phrase ‘climate change’ off the website.”

The latter claim is true, the former one is not. 

Harris' claim appears to reference reports from 2018corroborated at the time by NBC News — that references to climate change, greenhouse gases and clean energy were scrubbed from U.S. government websites, including ones under the banners of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy and the State Department.

Attacks and interruptions grow

Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence have racked up a total of 125 attacks and 17 interruptions during the vice presidential debate as of 10 p.m.

Fact check: Would a Biden administration ban fracking, as Pence claims?

Pence claimed repeatedly that Biden and his vice president will, if elected, ban fracking. 

Harris voiced support for banning fracking when she was running for president, but Biden has not — though his position 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. Biden 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.

Harris addresses Kayla Mueller's parents, who are in the audience tonight

After Pence criticized Biden and Obama for their response to international terrorism, specifically ISIS, Harris gave condolences to the family of Kayla Mueller who was killed by ISIS members.

Her parents are his guests at tonight’s debate, in an attempt to focus on terrorism and draw a contrast with Biden. Mueller was killed by ISIS in 2015, when Obama was president.

Harris told the family she was sorry for what happened and, with her voice cracking, offered condolences for what happened. It was one of the few emotional moments so far during the debate. 

This is who's talking about Trump more

Vice President Mike Pence has spent twice as long talking about his boss than Sen. Kamala Harris has. Follow along with the latest on debate topics, attacks and interruptions.

Fact check: Did Obama and Biden leave the national stockpile empty?

"They left the strategic national stockpile empty," Pence claimed.

We’ve fact checked this before, and it is false.

Reporters saw warehouses full of supplies shortly before Trump’s inauguration, and former government officials confirm the stockpile had sizable stores of supplies on hand. 

Those same officials report that while sequestration-related budget cuts did reduce the stockpile’s stores lower than they wanted, the national stockpile was far from empty when Trump took office nearly four years ago. They also told NBC News that they’d left detailed plans for refilling the stockpile and preparing for a potential pandemic — plans they believe were ignored.

Fact check: W.H. could have done 'everything right' and 200k Americans could have still died

Pence claimed Wednesday that, when it came to taking action to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, medical experts including Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci “said that if we did everything right ... we could lose more than 200,000 Americans.”

While Birx, tapped to serve on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, did say this, subsequent models said that thousands of those deaths would be preventable. 

One widely cited model published in June by scientists at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington showed that about 33,000 American lives would have been saved in the subsequent months if 95 percent of people in the U.S wore masks. 

The model was updated in August to show that, if that level of mask wearing occurred, about 66,000 lives could be saved.

The Trump administration has provided conflicting messaging about mask-wearing over the last five months, which has, in turn, sown confusion, hampered the country's response to the pandemic and led to preventable deaths, public health experts have said. And Trump himself has repeatedly mocked Biden for wearing a mask, including at the presidential debate last month.

Upon his return to the White House from Walter Reed hospital Monday night, Trump even immediately took off his mask to pose for pictures before walking in.

Pence called Obamacare 'a disaster' but used it to expand Medicaid in Indiana

Pence called Obamacare “a disaster” during Wednesday's debate, “and the American people remember it well,” he added. The White House is now pushing to dismantle the historic health care legislation via the Supreme Court

An interesting attack from Pence, as he used the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, to expand Medicaid when he was governor of Indiana, though it required participants to pay monthly premiums to receive access to health care. 

About 560,000 people in Indiana were slated to receive health care because the Affordable Care Act allowed the state to expand Medicaid, but an analysis by researchers at Indiana University found that some were not able to access health care and coverage rates were lower than neighboring states because of the requirements imposed by Pence.

Harris, like Biden, tries to speak directly to viewers

Throughout the debate so far, Sen. Harris has spoken into the camera in an effort to speak directly to Americans as Biden did during the presidential debate last week. 

Harris did it, for example, when she was speaking about Trump’s trade war with China, which she said the U.S. has lost. 

“There are estimates that by the end of the term of this administration, they will have lost more jobs than almost any other presidential administration,” said Harris, who turned to the camera, and said, “And the American people know what I'm talking about. You know — I think about 20-year-olds. ... You know, we have a 20-year-old, 20-something-year-old, who are coming out of high school and college right now and you're wondering, is there going to be a job there for me?”

Pence addresses talking points that Trump left out

Pence has been hitting the talking point that Donald Trump’s advisers had planned for the president to use on his rival during the first debate, but blew past.

Trump’s advisers left the first debate frustrated by the lack of attacks on Biden’s record on China, NAFTA and taxes.

Pence made a concerted effort to weave those themes into his responses even when they had little to do with the question he was asked. Pence also made sure to call out on the campaign’s guests in the audience, something Trump was supposed to do in the first debate with Alice Marie Johnson, but failed to do.

Twitter reacts to Susan Page's moderating

Moderator Susan Page is coming under fire on Twitter for not interjecting when Pence goes over his time or interrupts Harris. 

Others took to Twitter to applaud Page’s time restrictions, a major shift from last week’s debate moderated by Fox News’ Chris Wallace.

Fact check: Pence calls the Obama admin's swine flu response 'a failure'

Pence called the Obama-Biden administration’s response to the swine flu “a failure" during the debate.

"Sixty million Americans contracted the swine flu,” Pence said. “His own chief of staff Ron Klain would say last year that it was pure luck, that they did 'everything possible wrong.' And we learned from that.”

Pence's got his details right, including the critique from Klain, though overall the 2009 swine flu response from the federal government was largely considered effective.

Ron Klain, Biden’s former chief of staff, indeed credited luck — and not the Obama administration response — with the fact that the swine flu did not kill more people.

“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 smaller 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. 

But it's 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.

Covid, Trump and the economy are most talked about topics so far

Forty-five minutes into the debate: More than 500 mentions of the coronavirus, 354 mentions of President Trump and the economy coming in third with a little over 200 mentions. 

We're live-tracking all the topics at the debate tonight. 

Pence's answer on climate change just doesn't line up with reality

A question directed to Pence on climate change and wildfires spurred an answer that is hard to square with the Trump administration's actions.

Pence stated that Trump and his administration will follow the science but declined to call climate change an existential threat.

The Trump administration has taken a variety of steps to undercut climate research, sidelining scientists and proposing budget cuts. Six former EPA chiefs recently called for a reset of the agency in hopes of changing course.

Trump weighs in, rails on Biden-Harris over fracking

Pence interrupts Harris again, claiming Biden will repeal the Trump tax cuts

Pence again interrupted Harris several times when she said that Biden would not raise taxes on anyone making under $400,000 a year. 

Pence appeared to say Biden would repeal the Trump tax cuts and Harris responded, “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking. I’m speaking.” 

Pence continued to interrupt, saying, “Joe Biden said twice in the debate last week that he's going to repeal the Trump tax cuts. That was tax cuts that gave the average working family $2,000 with a tax break.”

“That is absolutely not true,” Harris said.

Analysis: White House *has* spared expenses in coronavirus relief

Pence just said he and Trump have “spared no expense” in helping Americans recover from the coronavirus.

Earlier this week, Trump told his aides to break off negotiations on a Covid-19 relief package. Then, Trump said he wants to negotiate a smaller package of aid.

All along, the White House and the Senate Republicans have fought House Democrats on precisely how much to spend — which has resulted in no money being spent since the CARES Act was enacted several months ago.

Pence congratulates Harris on the ‘historic nature’ of her nomination

Pence thanked Harris and Biden for expressing their concern for the president and he also congratulated her on the “historic nature” of her nomination as the first black woman vice presidential candidate of a major party. 

"Senator, I want to thank you and Joe Biden for your expressions of genuine concern. And I also want to congratulate you, as I did on that phone call, on the historic nature of your nomination,” he said. 

Harris, meanwhile, said that Biden has been transparent about his health while Trump has not.

Harris goes after Trump on his taxes

Talking about the difference between the two candidates, Harris touted Biden’s transparency and pivoted to the bombshell New York Times report that said the president paid only $750 in income taxes the year he won the presidency and again during his first year in office, and has not paid any income taxes in 10 of the past 15 years. The president has denied that.

It was sort of a skillful pivot because the news the Times published may have gotten lost amid the chaotic presidential debate and news of the president becoming infected with Covid-19.

Plexiglass barriers aren't stopping the interruptions

Harris' facial expressions are a big hit on Twitter

Harris' facial expressions during Pence's defense of the administration's  pandemic response were a huge hit on Twitter. 

Harris says no to a Trump-endorsed vaccine

Harris needled Trump during a protracted discussion on the coronavirus and the development of a vaccine. 

"If the public health professionals — if Dr. Fauci, if the doctors tell us to take it, I'll be the first in line to take it. Absolutely. But if Donald Trump tells us that we should take it, I'm not taking it,” she said. 

It was a quip fueled by the criticism the administration has received for its response to the virus. But it also caused Pence to use it to take a swing at Harris, claiming that statement undermines public confidence in a vaccine and accusing her of playing politics.

Fact check: Trump 'minimized the seriousness' of the coronavirus

“They knew and they covered it up. The president said it was a hoax. They minimized the seriousness of it,” Harris said of the Trump administration's coronavirus response. Pence is the chair of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

This is mostly true. Trump did downplay the seriousness and dangers of the pandemic in the earliest days of the pandemic. Here are a sampling of his remarks:

In interviews with the journalist Bob Woodward, 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.” 

But Harris misstates Trump’s use of the term hoax, which Trump invoked when he said Democrats “are politicizing the coronavirus.”

Asked a day after his "hoax" remark, Trump again said he was referring to Democrats’ actions.

Pence dodges question about any agreement with Trump on issue of presidential disability

Moderator Susan Page asked Pence if he has had a conversation or reached an agreement with Trump about “safeguards or procedures” when it comes to the issue of presidential disability given Trump’s age.

Pence did not answer the question and immediately came back to the coronavirus and the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic.

Trump's not on stage, but the president is coming up a lot

Are the candidates staying on topic? We're tracking that, too. Follow along

What's a superspreader event?

The second question of the night has already hit on a major issue with the coronavirus pandemic: superspreader events

The question came in relation to the White House event — the ceremony to formally announce the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court — that is now seen as one of the reasons numerous Republicans have been infected. These events are the focus of research by scientists who are finding that such events can have an outsize role in the spread of the coronavirus.

Pence tries to interrupt Harris; she shoots him down

As Harris continued to respond to Pence’s answer defending his leadership on the coronavirus task force, the vice president tried to interrupt her, but she immediately shot him down.

“Mr. Vice President. I’m speaking. I’m speaking,” Harris said. 

Out of the gate, Harris, Pence spar over Trump coronavirus response

It’s unsurprising that the first question was about Covid-19 as the White House continues to reel from an outbreak that has infected several top aides and the president and the first lady. 

Pence, as head of the coronavirus task force, has been sharply criticized for the administration’s response. Harris was asked what a Biden administration would do, and immediately excoriated the administration for the more than 210,000 dead from the virus and the impact on the economy. 

Harris’ answer was direct, even briefly staring over at Pence and directly at the camera, as she listed what she said were the failures of the administration. She called the administration's response, “The greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country.” 

Pence defended the response, pointing to the improvement in testing and the mobilization of the private sector to help respond to the virus. He also accused the Biden plan of being the same as the Trump administration's plan, calling it “plagiarism.”

Susan Page says she’s there to enforce strict debate rules

Moderator Susan Page says that she was put in place to strictly enforce the ground rules Wednesday on behalf of the debate commission. This comes after Trump broke numerous rules during his presidential debate against Biden last week.

What will the interruptions look like tonight? We're tracking

Candidates’ families wearing masks in audience

Members of both candidates’ families are all wearing masks in the audience in front of the debate stage. 

Pence’s wife, Karen, and their other family members were seen wearing face coverings in the audience, a requirement that was strictly enforced Wednesday. This comes after President Trump’s family did not wear masks at the presidential debate in Cleveland last week. 

The socially distant debate audience

Image: Democratic vice presidential nominee Senator Kamala Harris and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence participate in their 2020 vice presidential campaign debate in Salt Lake City
Audience members sit spaced out for social distancing as they wait to watch Kamala Harris and Mike Pence debate in Salt Lake City. Brian Snyder / Reuters
Image: Democratic vice presidential nominee Senator Kamala Harris and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence participate in their 2020 vice presidential campaign debate in Salt Lake City
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez waits in the audience. Brian Snyder / Reuters

Disposable pink masks abound at the venue

Guests have started to file in and take their seats. Everyone — staffers, guests, reporters and crews — are wearing the provided disposable pink masks.

At least three of Vice President Mike Pence’s guests are seated in the orchestra level, including Ann Dorn, the wife of a retired police officer who was killed amid recent unrest in St.  Louis. (Dorn also spoke at the virtual Republican National Convention.)

The debate commission has made clear that anyone not wearing a mask tonight will be escorted out.

A departure from last week’s presidential debate in Cleveland: There are only about 20 seats on the floor — all socially distanced. A crowd of about a hundred people are seated in the balcony, several seats  spaced between them.

The plexiglass on stage doesn’t appear to be more than 5 feet tall. Both panels are secured to the floor. Workers have been taking turns polishing them all afternoon.

 

Trump eager to get back on trail as early as next week

With only 27 days until the election, Trump is eager to get back on the trail and his re-election campaign is already discussing possible events for next week, according to a person familiar with the planning.

As he said on Twitter earlier this week, the president intends to participate in the Miami debate next week "in person" and the campaign is now exploring travel options before and after that appearance. Nothing is finalized, this source stressed. 

It’s unclear when the president will be officially cleared by physicians to leave the White House and participate in events as he continues to recover from the coronavirus. Also worth noting: Trump himself tweeted the day of his hospital release that he would be on the campaign trail "soon."

Mike Pence and Kamala Harris reflect America's demographic transformation

When Americans tune in to watch Vice President Mike Pence debate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., they’ll be watching a living encapsulation of the country’s demographic transformation over the last half century.

Near the end of Pence’s childhood in 1976, 8 in 10 Americans identified as white and Christian. By his first year as vice president in 2017, that number had declined to 43 percent, according to the Public Religion Research Institute.

That trend, which is on course to continue, is a backdrop for the country’s volatile political environment, one that became more fraught after the United States elected its first Black president in Barack Obama on a message of “hope” and racial harmony and, eight years later, sent Donald Trump to the White House on a platform of building a wall and slashing immigration.

Read the full story.

How the veep debates have rated

Vice presidential debates don't usually rival presidential debates in terms of ratings — but they can. 

The most watched vice presidential debate occurred in 2008 when Sarah Palin, then the governor of Alaska, squared off against Joe Biden in St. Louis. 

Nearly 70 million viewers tuned in to watch, far surpassing the average for vice presidential debates, which falls around 40-50 million, according to Nielsen ratings data. The Biden-Palin debate even had more viewers than the first presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain. 

The previous record for a vice presidential debate of 56.7 million viewers was set in 1984 in the debate between Geraldine Ferraro and George H.W. Bush. In 2012, Biden debated Paul Ryan and had just over 50 million viewers tune in. 

The most recent debate in 2016 between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence drew about 37 million viewers. 

Congress remains vulnerable to Covid despite White House outbreak

The White House coronavirus outbreak, which has infected nearly 20 people in President Trump’s circle, sheds new light on the lack of contact tracing and safety protocols in place for the House and the Senate.

And while those working around the president are tested daily, the Capitol has no such protocols.

Since the offer of rapid testing machines was initially made by the White House in May, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have remained in agreement on one thing: no widespread testing on Capitol Hill, despite pressure from leaders on both sides of the aisle to do so.

Read the article.

ANALYSIS: The inherent conflicts at this VP debate

It’s become less common in recent years for both VP candidates to be widely regarded as future contenders for the presidency. They are this time, and that presents some inherent conflicts of interest for Pence and Harris.

Pence has all the incentive in the world to go after Harris as much, or more, than he attacks Biden. Pence figures to be a presidential candidate himself in a potentially crowded 2024 GOP field, and this is a big opportunity for him to show Republican voters that he’s got fire inside. That goal aligns with the last best chance for the Trump team to try to disqualify Harris and argue that electing Biden would put someone in line to the presidency who isn’t up to the job.

But Pence may also be tempted to put daylight between himself and Trump on personal conduct and the handling of the coronavirus crisis. Pence can’t distance himself much from the policies, but he could subtly point out that he isn’t the one who has suggested remedies like disinfectant.

On the other side, Biden is best served if Harris projects confidence and calm when dealing with Pence, while also using the platform of the debate to deliver some blows to Trump. That means the ticket’s goals could be misaligned with her personal interests. If there’s an open Democratic primary in 2024, not hitting Pence hard enough could come back to haunt her later.

It’s worth watching whether Pence is effective in advancing his own ambitions and his ticket’s mission at the same time, as well as which direction Harris takes when she comes under attack. Does she take the high road or get in a scrap?

Progressive women's groups launch effort to combat disinformation about Harris

Progressive women’s groups are putting millions toward a campaign to disrupt disinformation and sexist, racist attacks against Sen. Kamala Harris — an escalation of their attempts to combat gendered and racially biased narratives around the Democratic vice presidential nominee. 

Ultraviolet — in concert with other prominent groups such as Emily’s ListBlack PAC and Color of Change — formed the Women’s Disinformation Defense Project, an amalgamation of groups collectively set to throw more than $20 million into ads, research and offensive strategies that will counter biased narratives on social media and online in real time, especially for voters in battleground states.  

Read the full story.

Jimmy Carter praises Harris' 'talent and charisma' ahead of debate

Former President Jimmy Carter threw his support behind Harris ahead of her face-off Wednesday with Pence, saying in a statement released by the Biden campaign that she “has the talent and charisma to lead our great nation as our next vice president, and I know Americans will see that on full display during tonight's debate.” 

The former president, who turned 96 last week, said, “We need champions in the White House like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris who understand the needs and values of working Georgians."

Trump declares himself cured of the coronavirus

Despite testing positive for the coronavirus less than a week ago, President Trump returned to the Oval Office on Wednesday afternoon and released a video in which he declared himself cured as a result of an experimental antibody drug cocktail he'd been administered.

"To me, it wasn't a therapeutic. It just made me better. I call that a cure," Trump said in a five-minute video he tweeted of himself standing in front of the Oval Office. The video showed Trump, his skin looking darker than it had during his hospital stay, speaking quickly, and his voice sounded jittery.

Trump, for the first time since his diagnosis was made public, seemed to take note that the care he'd received was different from the care received by the general public.

"I walked in, I didn't feel good. A short 24 hours later I was feeling great. I wanted to get out of the hospital. And that's what I want for everybody. I want everybody to be given the same treatment as your president, because I feel great," Trump said, calling his experience a "blessing from God" and saying he selected the drug cocktail with which he was treated. "It was my suggestion," he said.

Read the full story.

New England Journal of Medicine: 'Dangerously incompetent' politicians must go

The New England Journal of Medicine, one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world, on Wednesday broke with a nearly two-century tradition of avoiding politics to lambaste U.S. politicians for their handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a first for the journal, editors called for Americans to vote out leaders who have not done enough to address the coronavirus epidemic.

“When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent,” the editors wrote. “We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.”

While the 35 editors who signed their names to the editorial did not call out President Donald Trump by name, the article is filled with allusions to his actions.

Read the full story here.

Look what Trump made her do: Taylor Swift endorses Biden

Taylor Swift on Wednesday made Joe Biden "The Man" she's voting for this November.

Swift announced her endorsement of the Democratic nominee on Twitter.

She spoke to V Magazine's Thought Leaders Issue and wished that her vote for the Biden-Harris ticket will help start the nation's "healing process."

Swift had for years stayed out of politics until her 2018 endorsement in the Tennessee Senate race.

Biden responded in a tweet later Wednesday

"Taylor — Thanks for your support and for speaking out at this crucial moment in our nation’s history," he said. "Election Day is right around the corner — are you ready for it?."

Pence, Harris to meet in vice presidential debate as Covid cases surge in the White House

Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., are set to meet Wednesday night at the University of Utah in the vice presidential debate as both candidates face intensified pressure to demonstrate they are prepared to step in as commander in chief.

The vice presidential debate typically draws little fanfare, but Pence and Harris will be examined by voters who are choosing between two senior citizens for president.

President Donald Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis last week sparked questions over the transferral of the powers of the presidency. Democratic nominee Joe Biden has said he sees himself as a "bridge" to the next generation of Democrats, raising speculation as to whether he would seek a second term.

Regardless of who wins, Trump, 74, and Biden, 77, would set a record for the oldest president to take the oath on Inauguration Day.

Read the full story.

Kamala Harris could boost Asian American voter turnout, researchers say

Veronica Hossain registered to vote for the first time during the 2008 presidential election because she wanted to vote for Barack Obama. As an Indo-Carribean American, she didn’t want to miss the opportunity to vote for a Black man for president whose values she aligned with. Ahead of the 2020 Democratic primaries, Hossain supported Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. 

Like Hossain, many Indian Americans are more likely to show up at the polls when an Indian American is running. According to a new study, the group is more than 16 percent more likely to vote when a candidate of Indian descent is on the ballot.

The study, by Sara Sadhwani, a professor of politics at Pomona College, showed that overall Asian American turnout is boosted when another Asian American is on the ballot, regardless of political party. She said Indians had the highest mobilization rate of any ethnic group she examined — Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese and Filipino.

Sadhwani said she expects this trend to continue in November.

“My research does suggest there will be a higher voter turnout from Asian Americans and specifically Indian Americans for the election, especially if they see Kamala as someone with their shared identity,” she said, noting that other factors such as the pandemic will also play a role.

Read more here.

Biden campaign to resume negative ads

Now that President Trump has been tweeting about politics again and is out of the hospital, the Biden campaign says it is resuming negative TV and digital ads after pulling them last week following the president’s coronavirus diagnosis.

"Our campaign has always been about making the positive case for Joe Biden, but there's a stark contrast between Vice President Biden and Donald Trump and their visions for our country," campaign spokesman Michael Gwin said in a statement. "We're going to continue to make a full-throated case for Vice President Biden and we will forcefully correct the record when Trump attacks and lies.”

Trump has Covid-19 antibodies. What does that mean?

President Trump's physician said Wednesday that the president has Covid-19 antibodies, though experts say it’s unclear what this means for his recovery.

"Of note today, the President's labs demonstrated detectable levels of SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibodies from labs drawn Monday, October 5th," Dr. Sean Conley wrote in a public memorandum, referring to the virus that causes Covid-19.

But medical experts — who have not personally treated the president — said the mere fact that antibodies were detected in Trump's blood does not provide a good explanation of how the president is truly recovering.

Read the full story.

Emhoff: Pence may sound 'normal,' but he'll be 'defending the indefensible'

Harris' husband, Doug Emhoff, said ahead of the debate Wednesday that Pence may sound normal, but he shares the same policies and beliefs as the president. 

“Pence will ... sound normal and nice but it's all going to be the same, defending the indefensible, and I'm looking forward to seeing Kamala draw a very sharp contrast between the abject failure of this administration,” Emhoff said during a virtual event ahead of the debate. 

Emhoff slammed the White House coronavirus task force and what he described as its failures in handling the coronavirus. He said "look at the job" Pence has done as the leader of the task force. 

Trump returns to Oval Office despite being treated for coronavirus

Trump returned to the Oval Office on Wednesday afternoon, despite testing positive for the coronavirus less than a week ago.

Trump was being briefed on Hurricane Delta and on stimulus talks, a senior administration official told NBC News. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and social media director Dan Scavino were the only staffers with him in the Oval, the official said.

"Was just briefed on Hurricane Delta, and spoke with @GovAbbott of Texas and @LouisianaGov John Bel Edwards. Please heed the directions of your State and Local Officials. We are working with them very closely — please be prepared, be careful, and be safe!" Trump tweeted after the meeting.

His presence in the office was tipped by the sight of a Marine guard standing outside. The guard was not wearing a mask.

The trip was surprising for multiple reasons — he's been undergoing treatment for Covid-19, and officials have said he wasn't diagnosed until late last Thursday. That means he's still considered contagious under his administration's own guidelines.

Read more here.

Plexiglass dividers at the VP debate won't do much, experts say

When Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris square off on the debate stage Wednesday night, a pair of plexiglass barriers will separate them.

The barriers are just one of the coronavirus precautions being added for the debate. Pence and Harris will also be positioned 12 feet from each other, instead of 7 feet. And they have each been tested for the coronavirus, as have people attending the event, who will be required to wear masks.

But despite being treated as a safety measure, the plexiglass barriers will be almost entirely for show, said Jose-Luis Jimenez, a chemistry professor at the University of Colorado who studies how the coronavirus can spread through the air.

"Aerosol transmission is basically like smoke," Jimenez said. "If one of the candidates is smoking and you put up plexiglass barriers, it won't matter. The smoke will just go around those barriers."

Read the full story here.

Pence and Harris reflect America's demographic transformation

When Americans tune in to watch Pence debate Harris, they’ll be watching a living encapsulation of the country’s demographic transformation over the last half century.

Pence traces his heritage back to Ireland and Germany and speaks of an Irish immigrant grandfather who stepped off a boat on Ellis Island before it shut down, pointing to two countries that represent some of the earliest waves of mass immigration to the United States.

Pence, 61, describes himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.” His demographic — white, Christian and male — has been the dominant force of power for most of the country’s history. But it has become less so during his lifetime.

Read more here.

Pence has one unusual debate guest tonight

Among the vice president’s guests tonight in Salt Lake City, according to a Pence aide: Carl and Marsha Mueller, the parents of killed ISIS hostage Kayla Mueller. The news comes on the same day the Department of Justice charged two ISIS fighters for their role in her murder.

Members of Pence’s family traveled with him to Utah on Monday and are expected to be in the audience tonight as well. Separately, when asked who Pence has invited tonight, a Trump campaign aide joked "Tupac."

That’s an apparent jab at Harris, who recently mentioned him when asked to name her favorite living rapper. Harris then laughed when told by the interviewer he was no longer living and acknowledged that before saying she could say other rappers but chose not to "because I think they should stay in their lane."

Trump back in Oval Office

President Trump has returned to the White House Oval Office, a senior administration official told NBC News. He is to receive a briefing with Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on coronavirus relief and Hurricane Delta.

Pelosi: 'I wouldn't go anywhere near the White House'

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that the White House, where Trump is being treated for Covid-19, is now "one of the most dangerous places in the country."

“I wouldn't go anywhere near the White House. It's one of the most dangerous places in the country, both in terms of the assault that it makes on truth as well as health,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said on "The View" when asked if she would go and negotiate directly with Trump on a coronavirus relief package.

Numerous people tied to the White House or Trump's campaign have tested positive for the coronavirus, including Trump and the first lady.

Pelosi's TV appearance marked her first since Trump, in tweets Tuesday night, effectively killed discussions on a comprehensive aid package until after the election — and then urged Congress to approve piecemeal coronavirus relief measures he said he would sign, including a new round of stimulus checks for Americans.

"Are you listening Nancy?" Trump tweeted Tuesday night, tagging her.

“When the president just popped off and made that announcement without even informing us that that was the case, he insulted the constitution of the United States,” Pelosi said on "The View" Wednesday. “It’s hard to see any clear, sane path in anything that he’s doing.”

Pelosi, who has been in talks almost daily with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, hasn’t directly engaged with Trump since October 2019 — almost one year ago.

Asked by NBC News whether she would support the president's call to pass just stimulus checks, Pelosi said, "All the president wants is his name on a check. And that doesn’t — we're here to honor our heroes, crush the virus, put money in the pockets of the American people beyond a check with his name on it."

Trump’s doctor says president told him 'I feel great!'

White House physician Dr. Sean Conley wrote in a memo released by the White House that Trump said Wednesday morning he feels “great!”

“The president this morning says "I feel great!” Conley wrote. “His physical exam and vital signs, including oxygen saturation and respiratory rate, all remain stable and in normal range. He’s now been fever-free for more than 4 days, symptom free for over 24 hours, and has not needed nor received any supplemental oxygen since initial hospitalization.”

Conley also said samples taken Monday showed Trump now has detectable traces of antibodies to Covid-19, which he remains infected with.

While the president was hospitalized at Walter Reed Military Medical Center last weekend, Conley said he had earlier offered the public a rosier picture of Trump’s condition to provide more optimistic messaging. The president was placed on a steroid treatment that is most associated with more severe Covid-19 cases and he twice required supplemental oxygen before his discharge from the hospital.

The White House has not made public when Trump’s most recent negative test was before announcing he was positive for the virus late last week. Doctors have also not revealed details of his lung scans and did not say whether he is still on the steroid treatment Dexamethasone.

The Pences test negative for Covid-19

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, were tested this morning in Salt Lake City for Covid-19 and received negative test results, a White House official told NBC News, hours before the vice presidential debate.

Pence was tested twice Tuesday and both results came back negative. 

Pence and his wife have tested negative since President Trump tested positive for the coronavirus last week. On Tuesday, senior Trump policy adviser Stephen Miller announced he had tested positive for the virus. He is among a number of people in Trump’s orbit who have tested positive.

Pence vs. Harris: 5 things to watch at their only debate

WASHINGTON — There will be 12 feet and a world of difference between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris when they face off Wednesday night for the only vice presidential debate.

VP debates are the often-forgotten sideshows to the main event, but with Trump recently hospitalized with Covid-19 and Biden hoping to be elected as the oldest president in American history, this one is expected to draw record audiences.

"Americans will be anxious to hear from these running mates, who could possibly be required to assume the presidency themselves," said Mitchell McKinney, the director of the Political Communication Institute at the University of Missouri, who has consulted with the Commission on Presidential Debates, the nonpartisan group that runs the events.

Here are five things to watch tonight.

Postal worker arrested after mail and ballots found dumped

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey announced Wednesday that a U.S. Postal Service mail carrier was arrested after bundles of mail, including nearly 100 ballots, were found dumped at a shopping center in Bergen County.

Federal prosecutors announced the arrest of Nicholas Beauchene, 26, who they charged with one count of delay, secretion, or detention of mail and one count of obstruction of mail.

The Postal Service is also investigating the incident.

White House says it has completed contact tracing for positive cases

White House staff has been informed via email that “all contact tracing” was completed for positive Covid-19 cases identified at the White House, two administration officials told NBC News.

One administration official disputed earlier reporting from Bloomberg that the White House medical staff traced the cases to the Rose Garden ceremony to announce Judge Amy Coney Barrett as Trump’s Supreme Court pick late last month.

“That’s not how contact tracing works,” the officials said, adding contact tracing is “patient based, not event based” and is “not an effort to find Patient Zero.”

The contact tracing effort is being led by a “CDC epidemiologist detailed” to the White House medical unit, one official said.

Trump posts dozens of times in seemingly endless tweetstorm as he battles Covid infection

President Trump began Wednesday much the same way he ended Tuesday — tweeting.

Between 8:18 a.m. and 11 a.m. Trump tweeted or retweeted 50 times. He’s touched on a flurry of topics, including coronavirus relief, grievances involving the 2020 election, and complaints about the news media.

His most recent tweet was written in all-caps and accused Democrats of trying to overthrow his government.

“WE ARE ENTITLED TO ASK THE VOTERS FOR FOUR MORE YEARS,” Trump wrote. “PLEASE REMEMBER THIS WHEN YOU VOTE!”

Trump ended his Tuesday night with a blast of 45 tweets.

Released from Walter Reed Military Medical Center on Monday, the president is still on the road to recovery after being hospitalized for his Covid-19 infection. Doctors placed him on a steroid treatment typically associated with more severe cases, and he has required supplemental oxygen on two separate occasions, his medical team said. 

Here's what the plexiglass barriers look like

And here’s a look at them being installed.

Meadows, Kudlow give conflicting statements about whether Trump went to the Oval Office

Top White House aides gave conflicting statements on Wednesday about whether President Trump, still battling a Covid-19 infection, went to the Oval Office on Tuesday.

Speaking with Fox News this morning, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Trump “wanted to go to the Oval yesterday” and leave the residence. 

“If he decides to go the Oval, we’ve got safety protocols,” Meadows said.

But minutes later in an interview with CNBC, top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Trump “actually showed up in the Oval Office yesterday with extra precautions, with respect to his Covid-19 and he’s getting a lot better, he’s much stronger, so there was some limited activity."

Speaking with NBC News afterwards, Meadows said Trump did not go to the Oval Office on Tuesday, saying Kudlow misspoke.

ANALYSIS: Sick with coronavirus, Trump puts his presidency on steroids

WASHINGTON — Getting sick with coronavirus didn't change President Donald Trump's approach to politics. If anything, his trip to the hospital amplified it.

The strength-at-all-costs messaging, which appeared to undermine both the stock market and his own party's strategy on a coronavirus relief bill Tuesday, represents a more highly concentrated version of the regular Trump.

This is the Trump presidency on steroids.

Read more here.

Trump's illness puts Pence in a tough spot for debate

Trump hasn’t exactly made tonight’s vice-presidential debate easy for Pence. The vice president will have to defend: 

  • Why the president held non-socially distant and largely mask-less events at the White House – with indoor activities – from which several attendees apparently got infected by the coronavirus. 
  • Why Trump, after being hospitalized at Walter Reed, jumped into a hermetically sealed SUV with Secret Service agents to wave to supporters.
  • Why the president, after returning to the White House, took off his mask in public, despite still being potentially contagious. 
  • And why the president – over Twitter – scuttled any chance for another coronavirus aid package before the election.  

None of these is easy for Pence to answer, especially a vice president who just happens to head the White House’s coronavirus task force.  

Pence and Harris prep for a debate with suddenly higher stakes

Pence and Harris are expected to take the debate stage Wednesday night against an extraordinary backdrop that has raised the stakes of an event that for decades has been a routine, inconsequential fixture of presidential elections.

No vice president has debated while the president is known to be sick and possibly still in the hospital. And never have two vice presidential nominees debated at a time when Americans are giving far more than cursory thought to how each might lead in the top job.

"Vice presidential debates oftentimes get a lot of attention at the moment, and then a few days later they're forgotten," presidential historian Michael Beschloss said. "But this year it may be different."

Here's why this year might be more memorable.

Everything you need to know about Wednesday's debate

The only vice presidential debate of the 2020 election is scheduled for Wednesday — and President Donald Trump's coronavirus diagnosis and the vice president's possible exposure are bringing extra scrutiny to the already highly anticipated showdown between Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris.

Pence, who sat in front of and across from people who were later diagnosed with Covid-19 at a Rose Garden event for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett on Sept. 26th, has so far tested negative for the coronavirus. Pence's doctor said in a letter released Tuesday that he does "not need to quarantine" and is "encouraged to go about his normal activities."

Read more here.