The latest on the 2020 election

By Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 10:05 PM ET, Wed September 30, 2020
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1:45 p.m. ET, September 30, 2020

Commission on Presidential Debates mulling changes 

From CNN’s Oliver Darcy

Olivier Douliery/Pool/Getty Images
Olivier Douliery/Pool/Getty Images

In the aftermath of the off-the-rails debate, the Commission on Presidential Debates said in a Wednesday statement that it is mulling structural changes moving forward. 

“Last night’s debate made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues,” the CPD said. “The CPD will be carefully considering the changes that it will adopt and will announce those measures shortly.” 

The CPD added that it is grateful for Chris Wallace moderating the debate, despite his failure to keep control.

“The Commission is grateful to Chris Wallace for the professionalism and skill he brought to last night’s debate and intends to ensure that additional tools to maintain order are in place for the remaining debates.”

Moderator Chris Wallace steps in to restate debate rules: 

1:55 p.m. ET, September 30, 2020

How GOP lawmakers are reacting to Trump's refusal to condemn white supremacy

From CNN's Capitol Hill team, Maegan Vazquez and Paul LeBlanc

President Donald Trump participates in the first presidential debate at the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University on September 29 in Cleveland, Ohio.
President Donald Trump participates in the first presidential debate at the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University on September 29 in Cleveland, Ohio. Scott Olson/Getty Images

President Trump refused during last night's debate to condemn white supremacists for inciting violence at anti-police brutality demonstrations across the country, claiming instead during the presidential debate that violence was coming from "the left wing."

The stunning moment came when moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump if he was ready to condemn white supremacists and say they need to stand down during ongoing demonstrations across the country.

Here's a look at how some Republican lawmakers are reacting:

Sen. Tim Scott

Asked on Wednesday whether he finds it concerning that President Trump refused to condemn white supremacists at last night’s debate, Sen. Tim Scott, the lone Black Senate Republican, said “I think he misspoke.”

“I think he misspoke in response to Chris Wallace's comment,” the South Carolina Republican said. Adding, “He was asking Chris what he wanted to say, I think he misspoke. I think he should correct it, if he doesn't correct it, I guess he didn’t misspeak.”

Off camera, CNN's Ted Barrett followed up with Sen. Scott after his meeting with Judge Amy Coney Barrett on Wednesday morning to see if he intended to speak directly with President Trump about whether he misspoke when he refused to condemn white supremacists last night.

“I’ve already sent my comments to the chief of staff,” Scott replied.

Scott said White House chief of staff Mark Meadows had no specific response other than saying thank you.

Sen. Mitt Romney

Asked by CNN’s Manu Raju whether he thinks the President should have condemned white supremacy at the presidential debate last night, Sen. Mitt Romney said, “Of course. Of course.”

When Raju followed up, asking what he thinks the impact will be of Trump refusing to denounce white supremacy, Romney replied, “I don't know what impact, I’m not a political pundit, so I can't tell you what impact that will have.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy argued President Trump condemned white supremacists during Tuesday night’s debate, although Trump refused to explicitly do so.

“I think the President has been very clear that he’s against anybody committing violence in the streets,” McCarthy said at an event Wednesday morning.

McCarthy noted that in Trump’s exchange with moderator Chris Wallace, Wallace asked if the President would denounce white supremacists, and Trump initially responded in the affirmative.

“How many times does he have to say it? If the question is would you denounce it and the answer is yes, he did that,” McCarthy said in response to a question from CNN’s Manu Raju.

But when pressed during the debate to condemn white supremacists and racists directly, Trump merely told members of the Proud Boys group to “stand back and stand by.”

McCarthy didn’t respond to Manu’s questions on whether that response was acceptable. He said Trump’s proposal to designate the KKK as a terrorist group shows his opposition to white supremacy. The plan unveiled by the President on Friday would also allow for the prosecution of Antifa as a terrorist organization.

“Not only did his words speak it, but his actions have taken it,” he said.

Sen. Todd Young

Indiana Sen. Todd Young, who chairs the election committee for Senate Republicans, repeatedly refused to criticize President Trump for not condemning White supremacy at Tuesday's debate.

But, standing before cameras Wednesday, Young loudly declared that he opposes “White supremacy” and “all extremist groups,” separating himself — and perhaps the vulnerable GOP candidates he’s trying to help get re-elected — from the President’s controversial comments.

Young, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, also refused to say if Trump’s comments or combative approach at the debate would hurt Republicans’ ability to maintain control of the White House or Senate and kept turning the conversation back to how Republicans are energized by the Supreme Court nomination.

Although, at one point, Young acknowledged that “we did not great clarity about the difference in vision for the future of the country and I did think that was unfortunate.” 

Sen. John Thune

CNN's Manu Raju asked Senate Majority Whip John Thune, the No. 2 Republican, if Trump should have condemned white supremacists at Tuesday night's debate. "In his mind he did," Thune said on Wednesday.

Asked if it were appropriate for Trump to tell the Proud Boys to "stand by," Thune said: "That's a question you'll have to ask to them. I think it's probably important for them to clear up that statement." 

1:21 p.m. ET, September 30, 2020

Trump tweets voting disinformation about New York ballot misprint

From CNN's Sam Fossum, Marshall Cohen and Ross Levitt

President Trump, seizing a ballot misprint in New York, is falsely claiming "Big Fraud" as he continues to sow doubt and spread disinformation about the US election and discourage people from mail-in voting. 

"Wow! 100,000 Mail In Ballots in New York City a total MESS. Mayor and Governor have no idea what to do. Big Fraud, Unfixable! Cancel Ballots and go out and VOTE, just like in past decades, when there were no problems!" the President tweeted Wednesday.

Remember: CNN reported Tuesday that a misprint by a third-party vendor has caused roughly 100,000 Brooklyn voters to receive absentee ballot return envelopes with the wrong address and names. 

On Wednesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office made a recommendation to the New York City board of elections to send corrected envelopes rather than new ballots to the affected voters, according to his senior adviser.

Problems with misprints are more likely to lead to voter disenfranchisement than voter fraud since there are multiple protections within the voting process to prevent someone from voting with someone else's ballot.

12:58 p.m. ET, September 30, 2020

Biden says he's "looking forward" to the next two debates

Pool
Pool

Following last night's first presidential debate, Democratic nominee Joe Biden said he's "looking forward" to the next two.

The former vice president noted how often Trump interrupted him and moderator Chris Wallace and suggested debate organizers should find a solution.

"I just hope there's a way in which the debate commission can control the ability of us to answer the question without interruption," he said.

"But I'm looking forward to it," Biden added.

Here's what we know about the next two debates:

  • The second presidential debate will be a town hall on Oct. 15, at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami. Steve Scully of C-SPAN will moderate it. According to debates.org, Trump and Biden "will have two minutes to respond to each question and there will be an additional minute for the moderator to facilitate further discussion. The town meeting participants will be uncommitted voters selected under the supervision of Dr. Frank Newport, Senior Scientist, Gallup."
  • The final presidential debate will take place on Oct. 22 at Belmont University in Nashville. The debate, moderated by Kristen Welker of NBC News, will follow the same format as last night's, meaning there will be six, 15-minute segments.

Watch:

12:47 p.m. ET, September 30, 2020

Young voters say "Generation Z knows better" than to give up on election

From CNN's Rachel Janfaza

Young Americans told CNN they were disappointed but not surprised that the first presidential debate turned to chaos Tuesday.

While young voters were struck by President Donald Trump’s failure to condemn white supremacy, they say his rhetoric wasn’t shocking given his track record

“I expected nothing different,” Zyahna Bryant, 19-year-old community organizer and activist in Charlottesville, Virginia, said of Trump’s rhetoric Tuesday.

Bryant, a Black woman, was in Charlottesville during the white nationalist Unite the Right rally in 2017.

“I remember being out on August 12 in Charlottesville, and watching [Trump] speak on the TV immediately following the car attack in downtown. I remember him equating social justice activists to vile white supremacists and racists who took to the streets that day. I have no high expectations for this president. I never have,” she told CNN.

Still, she noted: “Nevertheless, we must continue to fight and organize in our communities, because we keep us safe.”

Bryant and a number of other young voters say that while the President intends to stoke fear and division, young people can’t shy away from what’s at stake in the 2020 election.

“This debate reminds me that Generation Z knows better. We know better, and therefore must expect better. We cannot be convinced that it is not important for us to show up, in all ways, to the polls, and in our communities. Our work is not done,” Bryant said.

Sanaa Abrar, a 29-year-old Pakistani immigrant and the advocacy director for United We Dream Action PAC, said that while Trump continues to “operate on an agenda of fear,” young and first time voters must stay engaged.

“We know what’s at stake. You know what your parents and families are going through in this Covid crisis. You know what’s at stake with climate change and immigrant rights. We’re fighting for those issues,” Abrar said.

Young voters on both the left and the right say they are committed to fighting for a brighter future.

According to Mike Brodo, 20 and a co-founder of gen z gop, an organization which seeks to provide a home for young Republicans who feel lost in the current political landscape, the debate set a “bad precedent for young voters looking to formulate a positive vision for the country’s future.”

“I hope Gen Z voters can cut through this noise, now and in the future,” Brodo told CNN. He added that “the lack of respect” at the debate is motivating him to remain involved.

Parker Stohlton, 23 and a member of College Republicans for Biden, says the debate encouraged him to keep fighting for Biden.

“I’m feeling motivated to keep fighting for Biden. Tonight, Trump displayed his incompetency as leader of the free world. I found it especially concerning that he didn’t condemn white supremacy, and that he continued to sow seeds of doubt in the democratic process. I’m fed up with his lies and lack of decency,” Stohlton said.

Across the board, young voters felt a lack of representation during Tuesday’s debate and would have liked to hear more about issues pertaining to young people. According to Pew Research, one in 10 eligible voters in the 2020 election is a member of Gen Z and one in three eligible voters is non white.

While many young people appreciated moderator Chris Wallace’s question about climate change and Biden’s response — during which he expressed his commitment to fighting climate change — young voters would have liked to hear more from the candidates about gun violence, affordable health care, access to affordable education and immigration.

“I was disappointed that once again, the young people were left unaddressed,” Mana Shooshtari, 20 and a field organizer with Grassroots Democrats HQ, said.

11:36 a.m. ET, September 30, 2020

What did you think about last night's debate?

From CNN's Melissa Mahtani

President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden faced off in a chaotic presidential debate last night filled with interruptions and insults. They were grilled on the Supreme Court, economy, coronavirus and other topics.

We want to hear your thoughts. Leave them below and we may use them in a CNN article.

11:11 a.m. ET, September 30, 2020

White House press secretary says Trump believes he won the debate

From CNN's Sam Fossum and Joe Johns

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaks during a news conference at the White House on September 24 in Washington, DC.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaks during a news conference at the White House on September 24 in Washington, DC. Patrick Semansky/AP

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Wednesday President Trump believes he won last night's chaotic debate, and that the President was "in very good spirits" last night. 

"Yes, he does, he was in very good spirits. He brought the fight that the American people wanted to see. The American people wanted to see the president question Joe Biden in a way that the media never does. He gets a pass," McEnany said in an interview on Fox Business. 

When asked about Trump's chaotic style and whether there will be any adjustments moving forward, McEnany hinted that it's possible and pointed to the second debate's different format. 

"One thing I'll note is that the next debate is a much different format. It's a townhall, he'll be talking to voters, so by nature it will be a different format, a different tactic," McEnany said, adding: "Because the President was on offense, the American voter left that debate with a distinct answer and look at this... candidate that they had not had previously." 

Asked about a potential criminal case following the New York Times bombshell report earlier this week on Trump's personal finances, she said it was up to the Justice Department but did not hold back from criticizing the newspaper. The New York Times obtained Trump's tax returns from someone who had legal access to them, per the paper.

"Look that's up to the DOJ as to whether they open an investigation, but we're very concerned when the private documents of the President of the United States or any American are leaked to a media outlet," McEnany said.  

Asked about the verdict from some commentators that Biden won the debate because he had no serious gaffes, she said: "I think no gaffes, that's a really subjective interpretation," before going on to attack Biden for his comments on Antifa. However, Biden last night was directly quoting Trump's own FBI director when he asserted that Antifa is an ideology, and not a formalized group.  

During Wednesday's interview, McEnany was not asked about Trump's refusal to directly condemn the Proud Boys when given a chance and his decision to instead tell the far-right group to “stand back and standby."

She did not stop to gaggle with reporters after her hit, but did say there would not be a briefing today. 

10:53 a.m. ET, September 30, 2020

Biden: Trump has "broken his promise" to "forgotten Americans he said he was going to fight for"

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event to launch a train campaign tour at Cleveland Amtrak Station September 30 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event to launch a train campaign tour at Cleveland Amtrak Station September 30 in Cleveland, Ohio. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden slammed Trump's approach to the economy, saying the President has "broken his promise" and "forgotten the forgotten Americans he said he was always going to fight for."

Biden spoke in Ohio before embarking on his campaign train tour across eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania that focuses on the economy and working families.

"In the end, his measure of economic health is the stock market. And in four years as President, he's broken his promise. He's forgotten the forgotten Americans he said he was always going to fight for. But I never will forget. I know the middle class and working people built this country, and I measure the economic success by what families are talking about around their kitchen tables this morning," he said.

Biden was born in Pennsylvania, in the deep blue city of Scranton. The commonwealth's 20 electoral votes went to Trump in 2016, but are in play this year, with Democrats hoping to win them over from the President.

10:50 a.m. ET, September 30, 2020

Biden reacts to debate: "Last night's debate...was supposed to be about you"

From CNN’s Sarah Mucha

Kicking off his train tour through Ohio and Pennsylvania in Cleveland, Ohio, Wednesday, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden provided his initial thoughts on last night's debate, arguing that the President does not care about Americans.

"Last night's debate ... was supposed to be about you," Biden began, continuing to lean into his Scranton versus Park Avenue message by saying that it was supposed to be about people in Youngstown and Claymont, Delaware, and "all the people who make a difference." 

He asked, "Does your President understand at all what you're going through?" 

Biden said that he thinks the President "looks down on us" and added, "He lies to you." 

Here are some key moments from from the off-the-rails first debate between Biden and Trump