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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.

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.