President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden started off their final presidential debate on Thursday without interrupting each other but disagreeing on the coronavirus pandemic in a head-to-head match with a dramatically different tone from their first one.
The microphones of each candidate was muted for the first two minutes of their response and that moment of discipline, put in place by the Commission on Presidential Debates after Trump repeatedly interrupted Biden in their first meeting, carried through the first segment of the debate.
But the two men disagreed with one another on the coronavirus – the topic of the first segment – with Biden repeatedly criticizing Trump’s handling of the pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 Americans.
‘Anyone who is responsible for that many deaths should not remain president of the United States of America,’ Biden said.
President Trump cited his own experience with the virus and said the country was turning a corner. ‘It will go away and as I say, we are rounding the turn, we are rounding the corner, it’s going away,’ he said.
The two men were careful to make their points in a presidential way, letting each other talk and requesting time to respond from moderator Kristen Welker.
The change in tone was remarkable from their first meeting in Cleveland, which resembled a boxing match.
Biden argued the situation with COVID was going to get worse.
‘We are about to go into a dark winter. A dark winter. And he has no clear plan and there is no prospect that there’s going to be a vaccine available for a majority the American people before the middle of next year,’ he said.
The president, who has pushed for the country to reopen and return to normal, said the country has learned more about the disease and is ready to move forward.
‘We will not have a dark winter at all,’ the president said. ‘We are opening up the country, we’ve learned and our understanding the disease, which we didn’t at the beginning.’
The second presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden kicked off in Nashville Thursday at Belmont University’s Curb Event Center arena with 200 people in the audience
The night started with the topic of COVID-19 and both Trump and Biden took coronavirus tests Thursday and tested negative before meeting onstage
President Trump brought Hunter Biden’s ex-business partner Tony Bobulinksy (pictured) to the debate as a way to confront Biden on his son Hunter’s foreign business dealings
The two men were careful to make their points in a presidential way, letting each other talk and requesting time to respond from moderator Kristen Welker
The debate took on its first urgency as the two men clashed on their visions for reopening the country.
‘He did virtually nothing,’ Biden said of Trump’s response to the pandemic.
Biden took on Trump’s repeated statements not to ‘worry.’
‘There’s not another scientist in the world who thinks it’s going to be over soon,’ Biden said.
‘We can’t lock ourselves up in a basement like Joe does,’ Trump responded, turning to a personal attack.
‘But he has this thing about living in a basement,’ Trump claimed, pointing to Biden’s decision to drastically cut back appearances and travel, although both men have campaigned around the country in recent weeks.
‘It’s his ineptitude that caused the country to have to shut down in large part,’ Biden said.
Biden shot back with a reference to Trump’s golfing, and brought up a relief bill the House passed in March that hasn’t been enacted.
‘Instead of in a sand trap in his golf course he should have been negotiating,’ Biden said.
‘All he does is talk about shutdowns,’ Trump said, as the most substantive contrast got going.
‘Democrats, they shut down so tight and they’re dying. And he supports all these people,’ Trump said.
‘All he talks about are shutdowns. We’re not going to shut down and we have to open our schools,’ Trump said.
Trump pointed to his former hometown of New York. ‘It’s a ghost town,’ he said, with the two men separated by plexiglass, a precaution that began following his coronavirus infection.
‘You talk about plexiglass? These are restaurant that are dying,’ Trump said. ‘It’s not the answer. You’re going to sit there in a cubicle wrapped around in plastic.’
This debate is different from the last, as the candidates’ microphones are muted and therefore can’t interrupt each other
‘Anyone who is responsible for that many deaths should not remain president of the United States of America,’ Biden said of Trump’s handling of the pandemic
Both Trump and Biden took coronavirus tests Thursday and tested negative before meeting onstage.
On Air Force One he tested negative for the coronavirus, according to Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. ‘We tested him on the way here and he tested negative,’ Meadows told reporters.
Earlier, the Biden campaign said he, too, tested negative for COVID-19.
Tonight’s debate is the final debate of the election – the previous one got scratched after Trump refused to take part in a ‘virtual’ format after getting the coronavirus – and represents an opportunity with dwindling time for the president to try to reset the race.
President Donald Trump has invited Hunter Biden’s former business partner Tony Bobulinski (pictured) to be his debate guest
Trump hoped he could throw his rival off balance and demonstrate that his mind is ‘shot’ by repeatedly attacking and interrupting him during the first debate in Cleveland. But Biden ended up getting a slight bump in national polls taken afterward.
Now, the president has telegraphed he will accuse his rival of ‘corruption’ just like he has at his campaign rallies leading up to Thursday – and will not hold back from torching Hunter Biden after the release of emails that Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani put out and said came from Hunter’s laptop.
President Trump brought Hunter Biden’s ex-business partner Tony Bobulinksy to the debate as a way to confront Biden on his son’s foreign business dealings.
Bobulinsky spoke to reporters at the Marriott in downtown Nashville three hours before start time of the final presidential debate – and said he will turn over three cell phones to the FBI and meet with Republican senators about his former business deals.
He said he was angry with Hunter after he wanted to use funds for a prospective deal with a Chinese energy company was his ‘Hunter’s personal piggy bank.’
‘I will be providing to the FBI the devices which contain the evidence corroborating what I have said so I will not be taking any questions at this time,’ he told reporters who make up President Donald Trump’s traveling press pool.
‘I have heard Joe Biden say he’s never discussed the business with hunter – that is false. I have firsthand knowledge about this because I directly dealt with the Biden family including Joe Biden, said Bobulinsky.
‘I was told this past Sunday by somebody who was also involved in this matter that if I went public with this information, it would bury all of us, the Bidens included. I have no wish to bury anyone.’
He described what he said was a May 2, 2017 meeting with Joe Biden to discuss a business venture involving China that would invest in infrastructure, real estate and technology in the U.S.
‘At my approximately hour-long meeting with Joe that night we discussed the Biden’s history, the Biden’s family business plans with the Chinese with which he was plainly familiar at least at a high level,’ he said.
‘After that meeting, I had numerous communications with Hunter, [partner Robert] Walker, [James] Gilliar, and Jim Biden regarding the allocation of equity ownership of the sinohawk, the firm they created.
Daughter and Senior Advisor to the US President Ivanka Trump (L) and daughter of the US President Tiffany Trump (C) wear facemasks as they arrive to attend the final presidential debate
First Lady Melania Trump arrives at the final presidential between U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden
Wife of former US Vice President Joe Biden Jill Biden wears a facemask as she attends the final presidential debate
Golfer John Daly looks on before the second 2020 presidential debate
The carpet is vacuumed as final preparations are made ahead of the second and final presidential debate
The televised statement came after Bobulinsky told conservative media outlets that text messages that appeared to show Hunter Biden’s business negotiation and references to his father were authentic.
‘To me it seems like distraction and spectacle,’ Biden backer Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware told Fox News, which aired Bobulinsky’s statement in full.
‘We’ve got Rudy Giuliani with one hand coming up with a hard drive and a computer, and this man on the other hand coming up with last minute cell phones,’ he said, saying it makes him ‘seriously wonder.’
He said the emails and texts ‘aren’t being sourced, aren’t being verified,’ and noted that Biden unlike Trump, has released his tax returns.
The Biden campaign released a statement calling the attacks a ‘smear’ and saying there is ‘no indication’ Joe Biden ever got ‘any money from anybody in these business deals.’
‘Joe Biden has never even considered being involved in business deals with his family, nor in any overseas business dealing whatsoever,’ according to the statement.
Musician Kid Rock, who is an outspoken Trump supporter, puts on a face mask at the final presidential debate
Former South Carolina Governor and former Ambassador to United Nations Nikki Haley arrives at the final presidential debate
Guests are sitting in the audience where masks are required. If you take your mask off and decline to put it back on you will be escorted out
Trump pulled a similar stunt in 2016 when he paraded three women who accused President Bill Clinton of varying degrees of sexual harassment and assault – Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick – around before and after the debate and had them sit in the audience to face his rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Trump had also invited Kathy Shelton. Hillary Clinton had been her accused rapist’s defense lawyer.
Trump says he’ll bring up Hunter Biden, after days of disclosures from Hunter’s laptop.
Biden sent a signal of his own – blowing up at a reporter who asked him about the subject several days ago.
On Wednesday, he teed off when a local Wisconsin reporter asked him about it in a TV interview. ‘This is the same garbage Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s henchman, it’s a last-ditch effort in this desperate campaign to smear me and my family,’ Biden said.
Trump can also use the Hunter saga to point to China – a country he repeatedly accuses of bringing the ‘plague’ into the U.S. He named China as the nation’s top adversary on ’60 minutes.’
Most political observers agree the pressure is on Trump to get something out of the debate. Biden’s leads have been durable, and millions of his supporters have already voted. He also has an advertising advantage on air, with more money in the bank, after the Trump campaign blew through the more than $1 billion it raised since 2017.
Trump left the White House with first lady Melania Trump shortly after midday for the flight to Nashville, TN, for the debate. It was the first time she has been seen since being diagnosed with coroanvirus after the first debate
Off to debate: Joe Biden flew from New Castle in Delaware to the debate just after Donald Trump, with a thumbs up as he boarded his chartered jet
Jill Biden (left) and Joe Biden (right) arrive in Nashville, Tennessee before Thursday night’s presidential debate
Jill Biden arrives in Nashville, Tennessee wearing a ‘VOTE’ facemask, similar to one sported by President Barack Obama in Philadelphia on Wednesday
Trump was holding a fundraiser in Nashville just five hours before the debate was set to start.
Biden’s national lead is up to 8 percentage points in the Real Clear Politics Average. Analyst Charlie Cook suggests observers look to Senate races for the real ‘drama.’ A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday had the two men tied in Texas, 47-47.
Trump has softened up the ground by going after moderator Kristen Welker. But he is still likely to face follow up questions from the first debate and town hall about the coronavirus (with more than 1,200 U.S. deaths reported Wednesday alone), and his tax returns, which got leaked to the New York Times.
A Times follow-on report this week revealed Trump’s company had an undisclosed bank account in China.
Biden has struggled when pressed on whether he supports court packing, but may have found his answer in his 60 Minutes interview, saying he would appoint a bipartisan commission to study court reforms.