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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.

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.