US President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Thursday night held their second and final debate in Nashville.
The two were expected to be separated by plexiglass dividers, a repeat of the safety measures used during the vice presidential debate, but the debate commission removed the two barriers before the start of the debate. This was implemented after both tested negative for COVID-19.
The debate was moderated by NBC News’ Kristen Welker and featured a new rule allowing organizers to cut the candidates’ microphones at certain times in order to prevent them from interrupting one another as was case in the first debate.
The debate began with a discussion on the COVID-19 pandemic with both candidates receiving two minutes to explain how they would fight the crisis.
Trump said the coronavirus vaccine is “ready” and “going to be announced within weeks.” Asked by Welker if that was a guarantee, he replied, “No, it’s not a guarantee, but I think it will be by the end of the year.”
When Welker noted that experts have said it will take months before a vaccine is widely available, Trump said, “I think my timeline is going to be more accurate.”
He also spoke about his own bout with COVID-19 and said he was “immune” from the virus because he contracted it earlier this month.
Biden expressed skepticism about Trump’s timeline for the release of a coronavirus vaccine and accused him of having no plan to fight the virus.
“This is the same fellow who told you it was going to end by Easter. He has no clear plan,” charged Biden. He also predicted the country was about to enter a “dark winter” as the number of new cases rises in dozens of US states.
Trump criticized Biden’s proposals on the coronavirus response and said, “All he talks about is shutdowns. No, we’re not going to shut down.”
Biden responded by saying, “I’m going to shut down the virus, not the country.”
Trump was pressed by Welker on his comments earlier this week attacking Dr. Anthony Fauci as a “disaster” and other health experts as “idiots.”
Trump downplayed his differences with Fauci but also added, “I think he’s a Democrat, but that’s okay.”
Trump explained he does not say the pandemic will be over soon but that Americans "are learning to live with it. We have no choice."
Biden slammed Trump's response and said, "[Trump] says, we're learning to live with it. People are learning to die with it.”
The second topic of the debate was the warning by top security officials that Russia and Iran are attempting to meddle in the November 3 election. Biden and Trump took the opportunity to attack each other over their business dealings.
Biden called on Trump to release his tax returns, noting the President has been promising to release them since his 2016 campaign.
“Show us. Just show us. Stop playing around,” Biden said, to which Trump replied he had “prepaid millions and millions of dollars in taxes.”
Biden “got $3.5 million from Russia and it came through Putin,” Trump said. Biden defended his son Hunter’s business activities in Ukraine and China before pivoting attacking Trump and said, “The guy who got in trouble in Ukraine was this guy - trying to bribe the Ukrainian government to say something negative about me.”
Biden tried to pivot away from Trump’s attacks on his son and claimed, “There’s a reason why he’s bringing up all this malarkey. There’s a reason for it. He doesn’t want to talk about the substantive issues.”
He then added, “It’s not about his family and my family. It’s about your family, and your family is hurting badly.”
Biden criticized Trump and said he “legitimized” North Korea by meeting with its leader Kim Jong Un and accused the President of buddying up to a “thug.”
Trump responded by mocking President Barack Obama and said Kim didn’t want to meet with Obama because “he didn’t like him.”
The President also said that it is important to have good relationships with other leaders and noted, “We’re not at war.”
Biden then fired back by saying that the nation had a good relationship with Hitler before he invaded Europe.
On the topic of racial discrimination, Biden accused Trump of being “one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history”. Trump responded by saying that no President since Abraham Lincoln has done more for the black community than he has.
“I am the least racist person in this room,” the President stressed.
Trump took a shot at Biden during the debate and said he ran for President because of Joe Biden and Barack Obama.
"Joe, I ran because of you. I ran because of Barack Obama. Because you did a poor job. If I thought you did a good job I would have never run. I would have never run. I ran because of you. I'm looking at you now, you're a politician, I ran because of you," Trump said.