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

Update 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

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