Final 2020 presidential debate

By Meg Wagner, Kyle Blaine, Jessica Estepa, Melissa Macaya and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 2:27 p.m. ET, November 23, 2020
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1:34 p.m. ET, November 23, 2020

What Biden and Trump said about New York state's response to the coronavirus pandemic

President Donald Trump answers a question as Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden listens during the second and final presidential debate on Thursday in Nashville.
President Donald Trump answers a question as Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden listens during the second and final presidential debate on Thursday in Nashville. Morry Gash/Pool/AP

New York, one of the states hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, took center stage tonight during the final presidential debate as Democratic nominee Joe Biden and President Trump disagreed on how the state has handled the health crisis.

Trump called New York City "a ghost town," where restaurants "are dying" due to shutdowns and its Democratic-led government.

"If you go and look at what's happened to New York, it's a ghost town. It's a ghost town. And when you talk about Plexiglas, these are restaurants that are dying. These are businesses with no money," Trump said. "Putting up Plexiglas is unbelievably expensive, and it's not the answer. I mean, you're going to sit there in a cubicle wrapped around with plastic? These are businesses that are dying, Joe. You can't do that to people. You just can't — take a look at New York and what's happened to my wonderful city for so many years. I loved it. It was vibrant. It's dying. Everyone's leaving New York."

Biden championed New York state for stemming the number of Covid-19 infections and deaths.

"Take a look at what New York has done in terms of turning the curve down in terms of the number of people dying. And I don't look at this in the terms that he does, blue states and red states. They're all the United States," Biden said. "And look at the states that are having such a spike in the coronavirus. They're the red states. They're the states in the midwest. They're the states in the upper midwest. That's where the spike is occurring significantly. But they're all Americans. They're all Americans. And what we have to do is say wear these masks, number one."

More about the pandemic in New York City: The New York City public school system, the largest school district in the country, has so far been able to reopen for in-person instruction without a massive outbreak of coronavirus cases.

Aside from New York City, the remaining nine of the nation's top 10 school districts started their school years online. New York's preliminary success could potentially serve as a resource for other districts embarking on a return to in-person learning.

Meanwhile, a new study said that nearly two-thirds of New York restaurants could be out of business as soon as January without some sort of additional government aid.

Restaurants across the Empire State have been struggling to stay in business since the coronavirus pandemic forced them to shut down in March. On Sept. 3, the New York State Restaurant Association released the findings from its latest survey of more than 1,000 restaurateurs across the state.

Nearly 64% of restaurant owners said they are likely or somewhat likely to close by the end of this year unless they receive financial relief. And about 55% of those who are likely to close said they expect to shut down before November.

Only about 36% said they expect to still be in business by January.

Some context about a surge in Covid-19 cases nationwide: The US is now grappling with a new Covid-19 surge — one that could overwhelm hospitals, kill thousands of Americans a day by January and leave even young survivors with long-term complications.

"We went down to the lowest point lately in early September, around 30,000-35,000 new cases a day. Now we're back up to (about) 50,000 new cases a day. And it's going to continue to rise," Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said on Oct. 13.

"This is the fall/winter surge that everyone was worried about. And now it's happening. And it's happening especially in the northern Midwest, and the Northern states are getting hit very hard — Wisconsin, Montana, the Dakotas. But it's going to be nationally soon enough."

Across the country, more than 30 states have reported more Covid-19 cases this past week than they reported the previous week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

9:49 p.m. ET, October 22, 2020

Trump on further lockdowns over coronavirus: "We can't close our nation"

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville on Thursday.
President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville on Thursday. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

After a lengthy section on coronavirus, the key distinction President Donald Trump sought to make was his aversion to any further lockdowns to prevent further contagion.

“We can’t close our nation,” Trump said. “We can’t lock ourselves up in a basement like Joe does.”

His argument, even as Biden insisted he favored adhering to benchmarks that would govern when states open or apply new restrictions, was that Democratic governors have placed their states in undue lockdowns.

Instead, Trump said the focus should be on protecting vulnerable populations; it’s the same goal of a controversial plan called the Great Barrington Declaration that his administration has endorsed but which other health experts have said is dangerous.

“We have to open up,” Trump said. “We have to protect our elderly.”

Biden, meanwhile, used a new line suggesting his goal was not to keep the country locked down.

"Shut down the virus, not the country,” he said — a catchy slogan, though not one that provides a lot of explanation for his plan.

Here's the moment:

9:50 p.m. ET, October 22, 2020

Fact check: Trump falsely claimed 2.2 million people were "expected to die" from Covid-19

From CNN's Holmes Lybrand and Tara Subramaniam 

In response to the first question of the night on coronavirus, President Trump claimed 2.2 million people were “expected to die.”

Facts First: This is false.

Trump is likely citing a report posted in March by scholars from the Imperial College in London that predicted that a total of 2.2 million Americans could die from Covid-19 if no preventative measures were installed on any level of society.

In other words, that would be the loss of lives if no action were taken at all to mitigate it.

The report did not analyze what would happen if just the federal government took no action against the virus but rather what would occur if there were absolutely no "control measures or spontaneous changes in individual behavior.” 

2:08 a.m. ET, October 23, 2020

Trump downplays fundraising struggles: "We don't need money. We have plenty of money."

From CNN's Dan Merica

President Donald Trump answers a question during the second and final presidential debate on Thursday in Nashville.
President Donald Trump answers a question during the second and final presidential debate on Thursday in Nashville. Morry Gash/Pool/AP

President Trump downplayed his struggles with campaign fundraising on Thursday night, telling the debate audience that his campaign has “plenty of money” despite its shrinking bank account.

“I could blow away your records like you wouldn’t believe,” Trump said of Biden’s strong fundraising. “We don’t need money. We have plenty of money.”

Trump pointed to the fact that he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 with a “tiny fraction” of the money she raised.

Biden and the Democratic Party outraised Trump and the Republicans by $135 million in September — $383 million to $247.8 million.

Trump’s comments came during an attempt to attack Biden for taking money from Wall Street. Biden noted that his campaign’s average contribution is $43.

Watch the exchange:

9:33 p.m. ET, October 22, 2020

Who has talked the most so far

After the first section at tonight's debate, which was on the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump manages an early lead on speaking times ahead of former Vice President Joe Biden by nearly three minutes.

9:34 p.m. ET, October 22, 2020

Trump just attacked Biden over recently published emails. The FBI is investigating if they are part of Russia’s disinformation campaign.

From CNN’s Marshall Cohen, Zachary Cohen, Michael Warren, Evan Perez, Alex Marquardt and Mark Morales

President Donald Trump and democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden participate in the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville on Thursday.
President Donald Trump and democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden participate in the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville on Thursday. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

US authorities are investigating whether recently published emails that purport to detail the business dealings of Joe Biden's son in Ukraine and China are connected to an ongoing Russian disinformation effort targeting the former vice president's campaign, a US official and a congressional source briefed on the matter said.

The conservative-leaning New York Post claimed in a series of articles that it obtained "smoking-gun" emails about Hunter Biden and his dealings in Ukraine. CNN has not determined the authenticity of the emails.

President Donald Trump and his allies have used this topic to smear the Bidens over the past year and seized on the recent articles to attack Biden in the final weeks of the presidential election. The specific new allegations touch on the same topics as the Kremlin's ongoing disinformation campaign against the Bidens, which the US intelligence community said this summer was intended to weaken Biden's candidacy against Trump.

The FBI is leading the investigation, the official and congressional source said. NBC was first to report the inquiry.

The probe is part of a larger investigation into Russian disinformation that dates back to before the impeachment inquiry last fall. The alleged disinformation campaign is aimed at tying the former vice president to his son's dealings with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, according to US officials familiar with the matter.

 Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, during an appearance on Fox Business this week, said there was "no intelligence to support" claims that Russian disinformation were behind the articles. The FBI said in a letter Tuesday night that it had "nothing to add" to his comments, but suggested that the review was continuing.

"If actionable intelligence is developed, the FBI in consultation with the Intelligence Community will evaluate the need to provide defensive briefings to you and the Committee pursuant to the established notification framework," wrote Jill C. Tyson, FBI assistant director for congressional affairs.

The New York Post says it obtained the emails through two Trump confidants: His personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his former chief strategist Steve Bannon.

Giuliani has openly coordinated with a known Russian agent to promote disinformation about the Bidens. The Washington Post reported last week the White House, and Trump personally, were warned in 2019 that Giuliani "was being used to feed Russian misinformation" to the President. Separately, Bannon was recently charged by the Justice Department with orchestrating a million-dollar fraud scheme and accused of deceiving thousands of donors to his nonprofit.

Senate Republicans investigated the Bidens' dealings in Ukraine -- a probe that received bipartisan criticism as being a politically motivated endeavor. The Republican in charge even said he hoped the findings would convince people not to vote for Biden, but the investigation ended in September without uncovering any evidence that Biden abused his powers or changed US policy because of his son's business ties.

2:06 a.m. ET, October 23, 2020

Fact check: Trump's claim that the virus is "going away"

From CNN's Holmes Lybrand

President Trump claimed during the debate that coronavirus virus is going away. "We're rounding the corner. It's going away,” Trump said. 

Facts FirstThis is falseThe US coronavirus situation – as measured by newly confirmed cases, hospitalizations and the test positivity rate -–  is getting worse, not better. There is no basis for his vague claim that we are "rounding the corner."

Trump has baselessly claimed for eight months that the virus would disappear or was currently disappearing. 

2:06 a.m. ET, October 23, 2020

Biden: Trump says we're learning to live with coronavirus, but "people are learning to die with it"

CNN's Aditi Sangal

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden answers a question during the second and final presidential debate Thursday in Nashville.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden answers a question during the second and final presidential debate Thursday in Nashville. Morry Gash/Pool/AP

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden slammed President Donald Trump's response to the state of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.

"[Trump] says, we're learning to live with it. People are learning to die with it," he said.

This came after President Trump claimed he does not say the pandemic will be over soon but that Americans "are learning to live with it. We have no choice."

Biden added: "You tell the people it's dangerous now? What should they do about the danger? And you say I take no responsibility."

About the pandemic: More than 222,000 people have died from coronavirus in the US. The country leads the world in total confirmed coronavirus cases, with more than 8.4 million infections since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University data. India, Brazil and Russia follow behind.

Watch the moment:

2:05 a.m. ET, October 23, 2020

Trump's first answer indicates he isn't changing his approach on coronavirus

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

President Donald Trump participates in the final presidential debate against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden at Belmont University on October 22 in Nashville.
President Donald Trump participates in the final presidential debate against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden at Belmont University on October 22 in Nashville. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In perhaps a sign of things to come, President’s Trump’s first answer — which was meant to state how he would lead during the next stage of the coronavirus — relied instead on looking backward and wishful thinking about a vaccine.

“It will go away and as I say, we’re rounding the turn, we’re rounding the corner. It’s going away,” he said.

As he does nearly every time he is pressed on his pandemic response, Trump cited his decision to close travel to China, though thousands of people were exempt and were still able to enter the country. He insisted the United States was suffering alongside Europe, which is also experiencing new spikes. But unlike Trump, leaders there — including French President Emmanuel Macron — have imposed new lockdowns.

And he placed nearly all of his optimism on a vaccine, which he claimed would arrive “within weeks.” There is no indication that is true; vaccine trials are still underway and the Food and Drug Administration has imposed rules requiring months of data for emergency use of a new vaccine. Later, Trump acknowledged his promise of a vaccine “within weeks” was not a “guarantee.” But he said he was hopeful for one by the end of the year.

His answers were a sign that Trump doesn’t plan to change his approach to coronavirus, even as cases surge. He said as much earlier this week; in a town hall event, Trump responded when asked what he would do differently: “Not much.”

This is how the question played out: