AS IT HAPPENED: Trump, Biden face off in final US Presidential Debate

US President Donald Trump (L) and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden take the stage for the final presidential debate at Belmont University on October 22, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee. (AFP)
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Updated 23 October 2020

AS IT HAPPENED: Trump, Biden face off in final US Presidential Debate

  • The mute button is among a handful of changes implemented by the nonpartisan debate commission to help ensure a better sense of safety and order

NASHVILLE: After the first presidential debate was panned so widely that organizers introduced a mute button, Thursday's second and final debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden was far more civil.

Whether because of that button or the terrible reviews — especially for Trump — the two interrupted each other far less frequently, even as they clashed on issues ranging from the coronavirus to crime.

Trump, in particular, was on his best behavior early, especially with the moderator, whom he'd repeatedly attacked before the debate.

“So far, I respect very much the way you’re handling this," Trump said to NBC's Kristen Welker when she gave him time to respond to Biden at one point.

Because of the pandemic, only around 200 people were seated inside the debate hall in the massive college arena in Nashville. That included a representative of the Commission on Presidential Debates, who was tasked with ensuring each candidate had a two full minutes of uninterrupted time to deliver opening answers on six major topics, according to debate commission chair Frank Fahrenkopf.

The button was among a handful of changes implemented by the nonpartisan debate commission to help ensure a more orderly debate following the raucous and widely criticized opening debate 23 days ago.

Follow how the debate played out below... (All times GMT)

02:35 - So, the final debate comes to a close - who do you think won that one?

02:15 - We’re now discussing race and race relations in the US. Trump, once again, makes it clear that he believes “nobody has done more for African-Americans than Donald Trump” and that racism is not a widespread problem in American society.

Biden refutes that, and acknowledges that racism is a systemic problem and institutionalized. He lays out what he will do if elected to address the issue.

On reforming policing and policy on community relations, Biden lays out his plan if elected. Trump asks why Biden did not do any of those things while he was Vice President under Barack Obama - “all talk, no action” he says. “Because we had a Republican Congress,” is Biden’s answer.

“I am the least racist person in this room,” Trump claims -- Biden responds: “He is one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history.”

TOP QUOTE: “I ran because of you, and Barack Obama, you did such a poor job, I ran because of you...” Trump says, looking straight at Biden.

02:00 - We move onto immigration - and the big focus of discussion is Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy, which has seen parents separated from children on the US-Mexico border, something which Biden rams home in his response.

Asked by the moderator about the 545 children whose parents are still not found, Trump says his administration is “trying very hard” to locate them.

01:50 - In echoes of his interview with 60 Minutes, Trump says he hopes the Supreme Court will dismantle the Affordable Care Act -- also known as Obamacare -- and that he would like to “terminate” it.

Trump said he hoped the supreme court would dismantle the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

“Obamacare is no good,” Trump said. “What we’d like to do is terminate it.” He then accuses Biden of supporting “socialized medicine,” which prompts one of the best quips of the night...

TOP QUOTE: “He’s a very confused guy. He thinks he’s running against somebody else... he’s running against Joe Biden. I beat all those other people because I disagreed with them.”

01:45 - Healthcare next - Trump’s favorite stick to beat the Democrats with...

01:35 - Trump’s tax returns, once again, come up -- he claims to have paid millions of dollars in pre-paid taxes -- as well as his allegedly receiving money from Russia and China.

Biden instantly goes on the attack on the Moscow and Beijing front: “Any country that interferes in American elections will pay a price... they are interfering with American sovereignty. That’s what's going on right now.”

Trump then touches upon Biden's fundraising records in August and September - the Democratic candidate raised nearly $365 million in September. But Trump hasn’t got time for praising his opponent. “I could blow away your records like you couldn’t believe,” he says.

Trump claims a foreign policy victory by ensuring there is “no war with North Korea” and says he has a great relationship with Kim Jong-un. Biden, who accuses the president of “legitimizing” the North Korean leader, says he would meet with Kim if president, but only if denuclearization was discussed.

01:25 - National security comes up next, and Russian and Iranian interference in the election campaign. Should be interesting...

01:10 - Our first topic, as expected, is how both men would beat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) - Trump uses his two minutes to claim a vaccine is “ready” and “going to be announced within weeks.” Trump’s summation, after saying he got over the virus, is: “We're turning the corner, it's going away.”

Biden cites the growing death toll in the US, and claims that any leader who lets more than 220,000 people die does not deserve to be president of the United States. “This is the same fellow who told you it was going to end by Easter... he has no clear plan.”

TOP QUOTE: “No, it’s not a guarantee, but I think it will be by the end of the year... I think my timeline is going to be more accurate.” Trump's claims on the readiness of COVID-19 vaccine.

01:05 - Both men are on the stage, we’re ready to go...

00:55 - Our moderator for tonight is Kristen Welker of NBC News, a woman who Trump has criticized in the build-up to this debate, calling her “a very biased person.”

00:45 - So with all the changes made to the protocols for this debate, here’s hoping we have a slightly more civilized affair from the first debate between Trump and Biden earlier this month...

Biden is in the building, and he had a one-word message to his supporters. His running mate Kamala Harris will be his biggest supporter tonight too, by the looks of things.

* With AP


Exposed: UK Daesh cell fundraising for jailed jihadi brides

Updated 29 November 2020

Exposed: UK Daesh cell fundraising for jailed jihadi brides

  • Fake donation by undercover reporters reveals sophisticated terror network

LONDON: A Daesh fundraising operation based in the UK seeking to free Western jihadi brides from Syrian refugee camps has been exposed by the Mail on Sunday newspaper.
Undercover journalists spoke with a “fixer” in Turkey before exposing a “courier” in London collecting what he thought was a £4,500 ($5,987) donation to the operation.
But the brown envelope hidden at the “dead drop” by undercover journalists contained only a crossword book. In response to the revelations, London’s Metropolitan Police have opened an investigation.
The Syrian camps targeted by the operation for escape bids include Al-Hol, where Shamima Begum, who fled Britain aged 15 to join Daesh, was held.
A report last week revealed the existence of an Instagram group called Caged Pearls, run by British women detained in Al-Hol who are raising money to finance their escape from the camps.
The page promotes awareness of its mission through a poster reading: “Al-Hol — The cradle of the new Caliphate.”
One woman raising funds in the camp was named as “Sumaya Holmes,” who had been smuggled out of the camp and traveled to Turkey.
Holmes is said to be the widow of a British Daesh fighter who died in Syria, and the current wife of a Bosnian extremist serving jail time in his home country.
Holmes asks for donations on her Facebook page and posts pictures of women holding up posters begging for help.
One poster said: “I am a sister from camp Al-Hol and I need $6,000 so that I can escape from PKK (the Kurdistan Workers’ Party). Please, I ask everyone to help me and donate as much as they can.”
Holmes captioned the image: “This is my friend and she is in need of help. She sent me this photo yesterday. Please, even if you can’t help, pass it to those who can donate to her.”
Another image posted by Holmes shows a woman holding a piece of paper that says: “I am your Muslim sister in Al-Hol camp. I need help from my brothers and sisters to be freed from the hands of the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces). I need $7,000 to be able to get out with my children.” The message added: “You can trust Sumaya Holmes on Facebook, she is trying to help me raise money needed.”
A Mail on Sunday reporter posed as a drug dealer who had converted to Islam. They messaged Holmes on Facebook to offer support and money.
Holmes then requested to communicate on Telegram, an encrypted messaging app favored by extremists and criminals for its high levels of security and privacy.
She asked for a Bitcoin donation but the undercover reporter declined. She then suggested making a bank deposit in an associate’s account in Jordan, and then hawala, an Islamic method of transferring money that uses a broker system. But the undercover journalist declined again.
Holmes finally provided details of a man called “Anas” in London who could collect funds in person. When an offer to donate was made, Holmes accepted.
In the meantime, she had been actively posting her support for Daesh on Facebook. In one post, she described the Chechen who beheaded teacher Samuel Paty last month as a “hero.”
In London, a second undercover reporter set up a meeting with “Anas” to deliver cash for the operation.
But the reporter changed the plan and left an envelope containing only a crossword book at the agreed-upon location.
As the journalists watched carefully, a man wearing a white crash helmet soon arrived on a scooter.
He found the package and messaged the reporter: “File received, let me check the money and tell you.”
He soon discovered the ruse, telling the undercover reporter: “There are no money in the envelope, there is only a book? It seems that you are not serious about your subject.”
When confronted again, “Anas” denied any involvement in the exchange, which would be illegal under British law had the envelope contained cash. “No, no, I don’t take anything, you are wrong,” he said.
Later, Holmes also denied her involvement. “That’s not true, good luck with publishing your lies,” she said.
The latest estimates suggest that about 300 of the 900 Britons who traveled to Syria to join Daesh are back on British streets.
Dr. Vera Mironova, a Daesh expert and research fellow at Harvard University, said: “To escape from the camps costs about $18,000 and the success of these campaigns shows the sheer amount Daesh are able to raise online.”
She added: “Once the women are smuggled out, it is impossible to monitor them. The women who collect money online are still with Daesh and are trusted and supported by members worldwide. They work with a network of supporters globally.”