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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12:30 a.m. ET, October 23, 2020

Fact check: Trump's claim that he’s done more for Black people except for, possibly, Abraham Lincoln

From CNN's Tara Subramaniam

Echoing comments he made during last week's town hall, President Trump claimed nobody has done more for the Black community than him, with the "possible exception" of Abraham Lincoln.  

Facts First: This is false. It's absurd to say Lincoln is a "possible" exception; emancipating enslaved people was obviously more important for Black Americans than anything Trump has done. 

President Lyndon B. Johnson also signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, monumental bills whose impact dwarfed the impact of any legislation Trump has signed. 

11:46 p.m. ET, October 22, 2020

Fact check: Biden says Trump wants to end payroll tax that funds Social Security

From CNN's Tami Luhby 

Joe Biden repeated his claim that President Trump wants to end the payroll tax that funds Social Security. 

 “If in fact he continues to withhold — his plan to withhold the tax on Social Security, Social Security will be bankrupt by 2023. With no way to make up for it,” Biden said. 

Facts First: This is not quite true. Trump signed an executive measure in August giving employers the ability to defer Social Security’s payroll taxes until the end of the year.  

When he signed the action, the President said that if he wins reelection, he’ll push to terminate the levy in 2021. Asked by Democrats to assess the impact of eliminating the tax, the Social Security Administration’s chief actuary said it would deplete the Social Security trust fund within three years if there were no alternative source of revenue.  

The White House has said that Trump was referring to forgiving the deferred amount, not canceling the levy. The Treasury Department has said that the executive measure will not harm the Social Security trust funds because the deferral is temporary, and the funds must be repaid. 

Only Congress has the power to eliminate the payroll tax, either temporarily or permanently. 

11:19 p.m. ET, October 22, 2020

Fact check: Trump is hyperbolic on Obama administration sales to Ukraine

From CNN's Tara Subramaniam

President Trump claimed that while he “sold tank busters to Ukraine,” the Obama administration sold “pillows and sheets.”  

Facts FirstTrump is being hyperbolic about the Obama administration. Obama did refuse to provide lethal aid to Ukraine, but he didn't send mere pillows; he sent counter-mortar radars, armored Humvees and night vision devices, among other things.

You can read a full fact check here. 

11:17 p.m. ET, October 22, 2020

Fact check: Trump falsely claimed Russia is meddling to defeat him

From CNN's Marshall Cohen

President Trump falsely claimed in tonight's debate that Russia is meddling in the election to defeat him. 

“About your thing last night, I knew all about that. And through John, who is -- John Ratcliffe, who is fantastic, DNI,” Trump said, using the initials for Director of National Intelligence. “He said the one thing that's common to both of them, they both want you to lose because there has been nobody tougher to Russia -- between the sanctions -- nobody tougher than me on Russia.”

Facts First: It’s false to suggest that Russia wants Trump to lose. In fact, senior US intelligence officials announced months ago that Russia is actively meddling in the election to hurt Biden. 

The top US intelligence official for election security, William Evanina, announced in August that the Russian government is interfering in the 2020 election to hurt Biden’s candidacy, primarily by spreading disinformation about alleged “corruption” by Biden and his family regarding Ukraine. 

Russia is also trying to “denigrate” Biden on social media, according to Evanina’s statement, and Facebook has already taken down Russian-backed fake accounts targeting liberal voters. 

The Russian government also interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump win, according to the US intelligence community. Trump has repeatedly rejected and questioned this finding, too.

CNN previously analyzed Trump’s claims that “there has been nobody tougher” as president on Russia than him. This is a false narrative. Trump’s administration has taken some tough steps against Russia, but Trump himself has rejected widely held US foreign policy views and aligned himself with the Kremlin on issues including Syria, NATO, election-meddling, and more.


11:00 p.m. ET, October 22, 2020

Biden and Trump spar over deadly pollution

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

President Donald Trump and democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden gesture during the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville on Thursday.
President Donald Trump and democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden gesture during the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville on Thursday. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

They got the same question. But you couldn’t tell from their answers.

Asked what they would do to fight the disproportionate effects of chemical and fossil fuel pollution on communities of color, Joe Biden said he would ramp up regulations. President Trump suggested that the illnesses connected to living in the shadows of those refineries and plants was an economic boon to the afflicted families.

“The families we're talking about are employed heavily and they're making more money than they've ever made,” Trump said, pivoting hard to a favorite talking point. ‘“If you look at the kind of numbers that we produced for Hispanic or Black or Asian, it's nine times greater, the percentage gained than it was under — in three years — than it was under 8 years of the two of them, to put it nicely,” he added – presumably referencing the unemployment numbers among minorities before the pandemic struck.

Biden spoke more fluently about the issue, which was familiar from the Democratic primary debates – and mocked Trump’s apparent ignorance.

“My response is those people live on what they call fence-lines. (Trump) doesn't understand this,” Biden said. “They live near chemical plants, that in fact pollute, chemical plants and oil plants and refineries that pollute.” 

Biden described growing up near Claymont, Delaware, in an area near the Delaware River with a glut of oil refineries. 

“When my mom got in the car with the first frost, there would be an oil slick on the window,” Biden said. “That's why so many people in my state were dying and getting cancer. The fact is the frontline communities, it doesn't matter what you're paying them. It matters how you're keeping them safe.”

11:06 p.m. ET, October 22, 2020

Fact check: Trump misleadingly uses figures in claim on NATO members' contributions

From CNN's Tara Subramaniam 

As an example of how he’s been tough on Russia, President Trump said he had gotten NATO member nations to increase their contributions to fund the alliance “to guard against Russia.” 

“I've got the NATO countries to put up an extra $130 billion, going to $420 billion a year,” Trump said. “That’s to guard against Russia.” 

Facts First: This is misleading. Trump was using actual figures but describing them inaccurately.  

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in November 2019 that non-US NATO members were expected to add a total of $130 billion to their defense budgets between 2016 and the end of 2020 — not $130 billion more per year. By the end of 2024, Stoltenberg has said, the total was expected to be $400 billion over 2016 levels. 

However, the coronavirus pandemic might impact members’ spending plans. In an email in August, NATO spokesperson Peggy Beauplet referred CNN to the transcript of a Stoltenberg news conference in July where he encouraged members to continue to invest in defense but acknowledged, “Covid-19 has created serious economic problems. And it will impact the budget situation for all allies. And I understand that allies will be faced with some very difficult and demanding decisions.”

10:55 p.m. ET, October 22, 2020

Fact check: Trump's false claim about Nancy Pelosi dancing on streets of Chinatown

From CNN's Tara Subramaniam and Daniel Dale

President Trump claimed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was “dancing on the streets in Chinatown in San Francisco,” after his administration enacted restrictions on travel from China.  

Facts First: This is false. Amid fears of anti-Asian bigotry related to the pandemic, Pelosi did go to San Francisco’s Chinatown in late February and did urge people to visit, saying it was safe. But contrary to Trump’s repeated claims, she did not call for a Chinatown parade, parties, a street fair or a march; she was not holding a street fair or a rally, and she was not dancing; she simply walked around, visited businesses and a temple, ate dim sum, and spoke to the media. 

After her visit to Chinatown, Pelosi said, “we think it's very safe to be in Chinatown and hope that others will come. It's lovely here. The food is delicious, the shops are prospering, the parade was great. Walking tours continue. Please come and visit and enjoy Chinatown."  

So, while Pelosi did speak positively about Chinatown, she was not dancing on the streets.  

11:51 p.m. ET, October 22, 2020

Fact check: Trump falsely claims "over 400 miles of brand new wall" has been built

 From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez

President Trump claimed Thursday: “We’re over 400 miles of brand new wall.” 

Facts first: This is false. 

The Trump administration is nearing 400 miles of new border wall system, but has not surpassed that benchmark yet. The majority of construction is swapping out old, dilapidated design for new, enhanced wall system. Only a small share that’s been constructed has gone up where no wall previously existed.

Earlier Thursday, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said the administration has “completed almost 400 miles of the new border wall system in high priority locations like San Diego, El Centro, Yuma, Tucson, El Paso, and the Rio Grande Valley Sectors."

According to US Customs and Border Protection, 371 miles have been completed, as of Monday (Oct. 19). The administration has set a goal of 450 miles by the end of the year.  


10:50 p.m. ET, October 22, 2020

Fact check: Trump falsely says Biden has "houses all over the place"

From CNN's Anneken Tappe

President Trump, who has long touted his own prosperity as a selling point, attacked Biden’s lifestyle, saying, “You have houses all over the place.” 

Facts first: This is false.  

While Biden has reported earning millions since leaving office, the former vice president doesn’t have houses “all over the place.” He owns two properties in Delaware. 

Biden’s main home in Greenville, a suburb of Wilmington, was constructed on land he bought in 1996 for $350,000.  

Biden bought a vacation home, also in Delaware, for $2.7 million in 2017 — after he finished his tenure as vice president and signed a lucrative book deal.