Joe Biden and Donald Trump lay into each other in second presidential debate

Joe Biden and Donald Trump clashed on the Nashville debate stage over Hunter Biden's emails, with the Democratic nominee telling the audience he's 'never' taken a cent from a foreign power.


It was surprisingly Biden who brought up Rudy Giuliani first, asserting that he's being used as a Russian 'pawn.'

'We are in a situation where we have foreign countries trying to interfere in the outcome of our election,' Biden charged. 'His own national security adviser told him that what's happening with this buddy - I shouldn't, I will - his buddy Rudy Giuliani, he is being used a a Russian pawn.'

Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, has been the central character in the public release of emails and photos purportedly from Biden's son Hunter's laptop.

Biden brought up the former New York City mayor as he lashed out at Trump for not calling out Russia and other foreign powers for election meddling.

In turn, Trump claimed Biden had enriched himself with foreign dollars alongside his son.

'I don't make money from China, you do. I don't make money from Ukraine, you do. I don't make money from Russia, you do,' Trump said.

The president alluded to Tony Bobulinski, a former business partner to Hunter Biden that Trump brought to the debate as his guest. But it was only a passing mention given the drama Trump's campaign had orchestrated just hours before the clash on stage.

Prior to the debate, Bobulinski addressed White House reporters and claimed he had proof that the former vice president was aware of his son's business dealings with China.

'All of the email, the emails, the horrible emails of the kind of money you were raking in,' Trump said. 'And Joe, you were vice president when some of this was happening.'

'And I think you owe an explanation to the American people, why is it - somebody just had a news conference a little while ago - who was essentially supposed to work with you and your family, but what he said was damning,' Trump continued.

'And regardless of me I think you have to clean it up and talk to the American people. Maybe you can do it right now,' the president added.

Biden pointed to New York Times reports that said Trump had a secret Chinese bank account - and he's barely paid any taxes.

'We learned that this president paid 50 times the tax in China, has a secret bank account with China, does business in China,' Biden said. 'Release your tax returns or stop talking about corruption.'

Trump also revealed that he had called his accountants to see how much in federal taxes he had paid, brushing off the reported amount of $750 as a 'filing fee.'

'I prepaid my tax,' Trump claimed, saying he had paid 'tens of millions of dollars.'

'I prepaid because at some point they think ... I may have to pay tax, so I already prepaid it,' he added.

The president also pledged, 'I'm going to release them as soon as I can.'

Biden thought that was laughable.

'He's been saying this for four years. Show us. Just show us. Stop playing around,' Biden said. 'You've been saying for four years are going to release your taxes.'

The storm of charges and counter-charges would have been enough to confound casual viewers who were not up on the latest revelations about either candidate's finances or family members. 

After helping precipitate the clash by bringing up Giuliani, Biden sought to use it to further his campaign message.

'You know who I am. You know who he is. You know his character. And you know my character,' he said.

'The character of the country is on the ballot. Our character is on the ballot look at us closely.'

It was a theme he revisited in his closing debate remarks. 'What is on the ballot here is the character of this country. Decency, honor respect, treating people with dignity. Making sure that everyone has an even chance.'

Trump also found a way to tie Biden's complaints to his own primary grievance: the Russia probe. After Biden tried to tie the apparent information dumps about his son to Russian election interference, the president scoffed.

'You mean the laptop is now the Russia, Russia, Russia hoax?' Trump asked, incredulously.

'The laptop is Russia, Russia, Russia? You got to be kidding. Here we go with Russia,' he said – taking the issue that most endangered his presidency and brought on the multi-year Mueller probe and turning it on his rival.

Trump found ways to get in many of his favorite digs as the exchange went on and on. He called Hunter's laptop the 'laptop from hell.' He also found ways to put Biden on his heels by asking when he pitched various plans: 'Why didn’t you do it in the eight years' serving with Obama. Biden could only summon a brief answer that only hinted at the GOP opposition he once had to contend with in the House. 'We had a Republican Congress. That’s the answer,' he said, without expanding. 

Even with the personal animosity and charges of corruption, the debate lacked much of the fire of the first encounter in Cleveland, in part due to the technological change with the microphones, and possibly due to deliberate decisions by the candidates to hold some of their impulses in check.

But a comparatively calm debate that some analysts were already calling a draw denied Trump the opportunity to reset the race, with Biden leading him by 8 points in the Real Clear Politics polling average. 

COVID-19 

The candidates started off their final presidential debate 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 were 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 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.'  

Shutdowns 

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 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.'

Healthcare

Trump went on the offensive on health care, an issue Democrats used to pick up seats in 2018 and are seeking to ride to victory in 2020.

Trump has been under pressure for saying for more than a year that he would produce a health plan but failing to do so. He has said it will come out after the Supreme Court takes up a case on Obamacare.

'We have done an incredible job on health care, and we will do even better,' Trump said, having succeeded in knocking out the individual mandate that people get insurance, but failing to take down the Affordable Care Act.

Trump said of his own forthcoming plan: 'But it no longer is Obamacare because without the individual mandate it's much different.'

The president tried to identify Biden with 'socialized medicine,' forcing Biden to point out that he championed continued private insurance during the Democratic primaries.

'Joe Biden is going to terminate all of those policies,' Trump said – playing to polls that show most Americans with private insurance want to keep their plans.

'Not one single person with private insurance would lose their insurance under my plan nor would they under Obamacare,' countered Biden. He said he would add a 'public option' that Congress couldn't clear under Obama.

He said Trump 'wants to take away' people's policies and pointed to 10 million who have lost private insurance under the Trump administration.

'All the people from COVID are going to have preexisting conditions. What are they going to do?' Biden said.

'The fact that there's a public option and people can chose, that makes it socialist?' Biden asked. 'This is something that's going to save people's lives.'

Trump claimed Biden 'didn't do anything' in his 47 years in office ­– although he was there for enactment of Obamacare.

During crosstalk, Trump took time to compliment Welker. 'I respect very much so far the way you're handling this,' he told her.

'He keeps talking about it he hasn't done a thing for anybody,' said Biden.

'He says public option he's talking about socialized medicine,' said Trump.

Then Biden pointed out that he beat back challenges from people like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

'He thinks he's running against someone else. He's running against Joe Biden. I beat all those people because I disagreed with them,' Biden said.

Biden was the first candidate to be caught open-mouth when he tried to interrupt President Trump but his microphone was on mute.

Race

The moment came in the last 20 minutes of the debate as the topic turned to race.

President Trump was criticizing Biden for his role in passing the 1994 crime bill, of which Biden, who was then a senator, co-sponsored. The legislation ended up longer sentences for minorities due to its mandatory minimums provision.

'He never did a thing except in 1994 when he did such harm to the black community and there were calls, and he called them super predators, and he said that, super predators, and they can never live that down,' Trump said of Biden. '1994, crime bill. The super predators. Nobody has done more for the black community than Donald Trump, and if you look, with the exception of Abraham Lincoln, possible exception, but with the exception of Abraham Lincoln, nobody has done what I've done.'

As the president talked about 'super predators' Biden could be seen mouthing words. But the debate commission muted the microphones for the first two minutes of each candidate's response at the beginning of each topic segment.

The rule came about because President Trump repeatedly interrupted Biden in the first debate. But it ended Biden being caught by it on Thursday night.

Biden was given a chance to respond after the president got his two minutes.

'My response is I never, ever said what he accused me of saying. The fact of the matter is, in 2000, after the crime bill had been the law for a while, this is a guy who said the problem with the crime bill is there's not enough people in jail,' he said.

While President Trump called himself the 'least racist person in this room,' Biden gave the exact opposite assessment during a tussle over race during the Nashville presidential debate.

'Abraham Lincoln here is one of the most racist presidents in modern history,' Biden said.

Trump had tried to tarnish Biden's civil rights record by pointing to his Senate vote in the 1994 crime bill and falsely claimed the former vice president had referred to black men as 'super predators.'

'Nobody has done more for the black community than Donald Trump ... with the exception of Abraham Lincoln, possible exception, but with the exception of Abraham Lincoln, nobody has done what I've done,' Trump said, repeating a boast he's been making all year, name-dropping the president who ended slavery.

The president pointed to his record of funding historically black colleges and universities, signing the bipartisan First Step act - a big criminal justice reform bill - and creating so-called 'opportunity zones' to boost minority communities.

Moderator Kristen Welker asked Trump about a different part of his record - noting how he had called the Black Lives Matter movement a 'symbol of hate.'

She also mentioned how Trump had shared a video of a man chanting 'white power' and he lashed out at athletes who have taken a knee over racial inequality.

'The first time I ever heard of Black Lives Matter, they were chanting 'Pigs in a blanket,' talking about our police, 'fry them like a bacon,' I said that is a horrible thing,' the president said. 'I thought it was a terrible thing.'

He then made the claim, 'I am the least racist person in this room.'

Biden then made fun of Trump's Abraham Lincoln line.

'He pours a fuel on every single racist fire,' Biden said. 'Every single one.'

'He started his campaign coming down the escalators that he was going to get rid of those Mexican rapists. He banned Muslims because they are Muslims. He said about the poor boys last time he was on stage, he told them to stand down and stand ready,' Biden said

He messed up the name of the right-wing group, the Proud Boys.

'Come on, this guy is a dog whistle about as big as a fog horn,' Biden said.

Trump bristled that Biden had smacked him for his Lincoln boast, pointing out the Democrat got the context wrong.

'He made a reference to Abraham Lincoln, where did that come in?' Trump said. 'No, I said not since Abraham Lincoln has anybody done what I've done for the black community. I didn't say I'm Abraham Lincoln.'

Trump returned to his attack line on the crime bill.

Biden uttered, 'Oh God.'

Earlier in the conversation Biden had flat-out said the crime bill 'was a mistake.'

He pushed that no American should be on jail for just drug charges, they should be placed in rehabilitation instead.

Oil industry and climate change  

Joe Biden vowed he would move to transition away from oil and replace it with wind and solar by 2050 – as Trump claimed he knows more about wind energy than the Democratic nominee, as he lamented windmills 'kill all the birds'.

'Would you close down the oil industry?' Trump asked Biden during a back-and-forth on the environment and energy sources.

'I would transition from the oil industry, yes,' Biden affirmed, vowing to put a process in place to do so by 2050 if he were elected.

'Oh, a transition. That's a big statement,' Trump said.

Biden shot back: 'It is a big statement.'

'Why would you do that?' Welker, cut in.

'Because the oil industry pollutes it significantly,' Biden said. 'Because it has to be replaced by renewable energy – over time, over time. And I've stopped giving to the oil industry, I would stop giving them federal subsidies. You won't give federal subsidies to the gas -- excuse me, to solar and wind. Why are we giving them to the oil industry?' 

'We actually do give them to solar and wind and that is the biggest statement in terms of business, that is the biggest statement because basically what you're saying – he is destroying the oil industry. Will you remember that, Texas? Will you remember that, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Ohio?' Trump lamented.

The president also boasted Thursday that he knows 'more about wind' power than Biden, as he reupped his peculiar claim that windmills 'kill all the birds'.

'We are energy independent,' Trump assured after Biden claimed the 'fastest growing industry in America' is solar energy and wind.

'I know more about wind than you do,' the president touted. 'It's extremely expensive, kills all the birds, is very intermittent, it's got a lot of problems, and they happen to make the windmills in both Germany and China. And the fumes coming up, if you are a believer in carbon emission, the fumes coming up to make these massive windmills is more than anything were talking about with natural gas, which is very clean.'

'Find me the science that says that,' Biden countered.

The former vice president vowed while remaining on the topic of the environment and energy, that his plan would bring the total emissions to zero by 2050.

'We have to move toward a net zero emissions,' Biden said. 'The first place to do that by the year 2035 is an energy production. By 2050, totally.'

As Trump went all in against wind energy, he praised solar for being the better option of the two, but claimed it's not 'quite there yet.'

'It's not powerful yet to really run our big, beautiful factories that we need to compete with the world,' Trump claimed.

'False,' Biden cut-in.

Trump also railed against Biden for his vow to ban fracking, which the former vice president has claimed was taken out of context.

'He takes everything out of context, but the point is, we have to move toward a net zero emissions,' Biden said.

Trump slammed the idea as a 'pipe dream.'

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.

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. 

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.   

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.  



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