The first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and the Democratic nominee Joe Biden was a chaotic 90 minutes filled with cross-talk and interruptions as the moderator, Chris Wallace from Fox News, tried to keep both men on topic. Biden had a hard time getting in a word, and at times Wallace had to raise his voice as President Trump continued to interrupt Biden.
The debate was broken down into six 15-minute segments focused on the following topics: the Supreme Court vacancy, the coronavirus outbreak, election integrity, the economy, the political records of both Trump and Biden, and race relations and the violence in cities across the country.
The first question of the night was about President Trump's nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. Trump defended his pick and said that Americans elected him in 2016 and voted to maintain the Republican majority in the Senate in 2018.
"I will tell you very simply, we won the election," Trump said. "Elections have consequences. We have the Senate."
Biden said that while Barrett is a "very fine person," the American people deserve to have a say in who is nominated to the High Court. Biden warned that "what's at stake here is the president has made it clear he wants to get rid of the Affordable Care Act."
The conversation then veered towards healthcare as Biden said that striking down Obamacare would be a huge mistake because it would take away protections for the millions of Americans who have contracted COVID-19.
The two continued to talk over each other as they argued about healthcare, with Biden saying the Trump does not have a plan to replace Obamacare. At one point, Wallace asked President Trump about his plan to replace Obamacare, leading a contentious moment between Trump and Wallace.
Wallace: If I may ask my question sir. Over the last four years, you have promised to repeal and replace Obamacare, but you have never, in these four years, come up with a plan, a comprehensive plan, to replace Obamacare...
Trump: Yes, I have.
Wallace: To replace Obamacare...
Trump: Of course, I have. I got rid of the individual mandate.
Wallace: When I finish, I'll give you an opportunity to...
Trump: Excuse me, I got rid of the individual mandate...
Wallace: That is not a comprehensive plan...
Trump: It's absolutely a big thing...
Wallace: You're debating him, not me. Let me ask my question.
Wallace eventually shifted the conversation back to the Supreme Court and ended the segment by asking Biden if he was willing to pack the court in response to Trump's nomination of Barrett. Biden didn't the question and instead urged people to make their voices heard at the ballot box.
"The election has already started," he said. "Tens of thousands of people have already voted. The thing that should happen is we should wait. We should wait and see what the outcome of this election is."
Wallace then moved on to the next topic, COVID-19. Biden blasted Trump's response to the global pandemic and said he purposely downplayed it.
"Do you believe for a moment what he's telling you, in light of all the lies, he's told you about the whole issue relating to COVID," Biden said. "He still hasn't even acknowledged that he knew this was happening, knew how dangerous it was going to be back in February, and he didn't even tell you."
President Trump defended his administration's response and told Biden that if he were president, even more people would have died.
"We got the gowns. We got the masks. We made the ventilators. You wouldn't have made ventilators. And now we're weeks away from a vaccine. We're doing therapeutics already. Fewer people are dying," Trump said. "I'll tell you, Joe, you could never have done the job that we did. You don't have it in your blood. You could've never done that, Joe," Trump added.
Wallace asked President Trump about the report that he paid only $750 in federal income tax in 2016 and 2017. Trump denied the report and said he "paid millions of dollars" each year. He said that he took advantage of the tax code that was put in place while Biden was in the Senate.
"Chris, let me tell you something, I don't want to pay tax," Mr. Trump said. "Like every other private business person, unless they're stupid, they go through the laws."
"Show us your tax returns," Biden interjected.
"You'll see it as soon as it's finished," Trump replied.
Wallace then shifted the conversation towards the economy. President Trump defended his record and said that the economy was booming before the coronavirus pandemic, adding that it was already starting to recover.
The conversation devolved when President Trump brought up Biden's son, Hunter, mentioning allegations that the wife of Moscow's mayor gave him $3.5 million: "What did he do to deserve that?"
"None of that is true... it's been totally discredited," Biden said.
On the topic of racism, Biden accused Trump of being a racist who has done nothing for Black Americans.
"This is a president who uses everything as a dog whistle to try to generate racist hatred, division," Biden said. "This man has done virtually nothing" for Black Americans.
President Trump countered by bringing up the 1994 Crime Bill, which was passed while Biden was in the Senate and disproportionately hurt minorities. Trump then boasted that his criminal justice reform package was responsible for freeing numerous people jailed as part of the war on drugs.
Trump said that he has helped bring some of the violence occurring in American cities under control and said that Biden supports the riots and would wreck the suburbs.
"We believe in law and order, you don't," Trump said.
Biden said that he doesn't want to destroy the suburbs and that Trump's response to COVID-19 was the biggest threat.
"I was raised in the suburbs. This is not 1950," Biden said. "All these dog whistles and racism don't work anymore. Suburbs are by and large integrated."
"What really is a threat to the suburbs and their safety is his failure to deal with Covid-19," he added.
During the segment on the integrity of the upcoming election, President Trump said he was concerned with voter fraud because of mail-in voting and expects the Supreme Court to "look at the ballots" before a winner is declared.
"This is going to be a fraud like you've never seen," Trump said. "We might not know for months because these ballots are all over. It's a fraud, and it's a shame."
When asked if they would wait until all the ballots are counted to declare victory Trump was non-committal, while Biden answered with a simple, "yes."
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