Trump and Biden hold dueling town halls

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

Updated 8:20 AM ET, Fri October 16, 2020
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8:48 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Biden touts education and economic plans when confronted with "you ain't Black" remark

From CNN's Eric Bradner

Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden participates in an ABC News town hall event at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on October 15.
Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden participates in an ABC News town hall event at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on October 15. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden highlighted his plans to increase funding for low-income schools, help first-time homebuyers make their downpayment and increase small business funding when asked Thursday night why Black people should support him.

A young Black man in ABC's audience recalled Biden's flip comment to radio host Charlamagne tha God that if someone was struggling to decide between support him and Trump, "you ain't Black."

"Besides 'you ain't Black,'" the man asked, how could Biden convince Black voters to take part "in a system that has failed to protect them?"

Biden delivered a lengthy answer that highlighted a number of his economic and educational proposals.

He said he would triple Title I funding for low-income schools from $15 billion per year to $45 billion, as well as provide funding for pre-school options for 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds, and help schools pay for more social workers and psychologists.

Biden also said he would seek a $15,000 credit for first-time homebuyers, telling the man it's a crucial step toward helping low-income families accumulate wealth.

He pointed to a proposed $70 billion in new funding for historically black colleges and universities, which he said lack the foundational support that other universities with large endowments have.

And he said he would seek to direct funding to young Black entrepreneurs who have trouble obtaining loans.

8:50 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Trump claims there are "two stories" on masks

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Donald Trump looks on during a commercial break during a live one-hour NBC News town hall forum with a group of Florida voters in Miami on Thursday.
President Donald Trump looks on during a commercial break during a live one-hour NBC News town hall forum with a group of Florida voters in Miami on Thursday. Carlos Barria/Reuters

President Donald Trump didn’t appear to indicate that his recent bout of coronavirus changed his opinion on masks in a contentious exchange during Thursday’s town hall in which he repeatedly invoked misinformation and claimed there were “many different stories” from public health officials.

Infectious disease experts have provided substantial evidence that wearing a mask is one of the most important mitigation strategies. Trump’s own coronavirus task force has promoted the importance wearing of masks, even during small household gatherings.

“I was good with it, but I've heard many different stories on masks,” Trump said, launching into a story in which someone served him a meal but had touched his mask and Trump opted not to eat the meal.

“On the masks, you know, you have two stories: You have a story where they want, a story where they don't want,” Trump said.

Pressed on the fact that a University of Washington model that projects the expected deaths could be cut in half if everyone wore a mask, Trump referenced his adviser Dr. Scott Atlas, whom he described as “one of the great experts of the world,” who has not recommended mask usage. Atlas is a neuroradiologist but not an infectious disease expert.

Trump also suggested an oft-repeated claim that Dr. Anthony Fauci said not to wear masks. Fauci initially didn’t advocate for the wearing of masks due to the possibility of a shortage for frontline healthcare workers, but has since strongly promoted mask usage.

“I say, wear the mask. I'm fine with it. I have no problem. We're on the same side,” he ultimately said.

9:12 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Trump refuses to denounce QAnon once again

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

President Donald Trump looks on during a break in an NBC News town hall event at the Perez Art Museum in Miami on Thursday.
President Donald Trump looks on during a break in an NBC News town hall event at the Perez Art Museum in Miami on Thursday. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

In a heated exchange with NBC News’ Savannah Guthrie during Thursday night’s town hall, President Trump once again refused to denounce the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Guthrie asked Trump if he could state that the conspiracy — centered around the belief Democrats run a satanic pedophile ring and that Trump is an anti-pedophilic savior — was not true.

Trump responded, “I know nothing about QAnon."

“I just told you,” Guthrie said.

Trump fired back, saying, “What you tell me doesn’t necessarily make it fact.”

The President claimed that all he knows about the conspiracy theory movement, which has had a prevalent presence at his campaign rallies, is that “they are very much against pedophelia” and that he agrees with that sentiment.

The President also tried to separate himself from his recent retweet of a conspiracy theory from an account linked to QAnon, which baselessly claimed that former Vice President Joe Biden orchestrated to have Seal Team Six killed to cover up the fake death of Osama bin Laden.

“I know nothing about it,” Trump claimed. “That was a retweet — that was an opinion of somebody. And that was a retweet. I’ll put it out there. People can decide for themselves.”

But Guthrie responded, “I don’t get that. You’re the President. You’re not like someone’s crazy uncle who can retweet whatever.”

Trump has frequently used his social media platform to promote various QAnon-associated accounts and their theories. In August, he went so far as to embrace their support.

"I don't know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate," Trump said in August.

He has also defended his decision to endorse a Republican congressional candidate in Georgia with history of promoting QAnon theories and making racist and anti-Semitic remarks.

Watch the exchange:

8:40 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Trump's town hall gets contentious early on

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

President Donald Trump.
President Donald Trump. Source: NBC

President Trump is conducting a town hall tonight instead of a debate by his choice. But the result was 20 minutes of contentious live grilling with only himself in the spotlight — a rarity for a President who sticks mostly to a friendly bubble of conservative media.

A lawyer by training, moderator Savannah Guthrie would not let up when Trump evaded questions about his coronavirus diagnosis, whether he was tested the day of the debate, his stance on White supremacy, his ties to QAnon or his view of mail-in voting.

Without a rival on the stage, Trump was alone in fielding the questions. And he had no opponent to pepper with his own attacks.

Instead, Trump found himself on the defensive and increasingly angry — including scoffing at a question Guthrie asked by calling her “cute.”

It’s the type of performance some of Trump’s advisers had hoped to avoid, recognizing it’s that type of behavior that has turned off women voters and senior citizens. Trump has appeared more moderated when answering questions from the town hall participants. But his first 20 minutes were the type of contentious and sustained questioning that have been exceedingly rare during his presidency.

8:38 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Trump was just asked about Obamacare. Here's what would happen if it disappears.

From CNN's Tami Luhby, Jeremy Herb and Clare Foran

President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during an NBC News town hall event at the Perez Art Museum in Miami on Thursday.
President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during an NBC News town hall event at the Perez Art Museum in Miami on Thursday. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump pledged in 2016 to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but that hasn’t happened. Now, his administration is backing a court challenge that’s scheduled for the Supreme Court just after the election in a case brought by a coalition of Republican state attorneys general and the Trump administration, who argue the law's individual mandate is unconstitutional, and the entire law must fall.

Trump's Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett was grilled by Democrats about the health care law during her confirmation hearings this week. Barrett said she had made no commitments to the President or anyone else about how she might rule on a case aimed at dismantling the Affordable Care Act or on a potential dispute in the upcoming presidential election.

If the court wipes away Obamacare, it would have a sweeping impact on the nation's health care system and on the lives of tens of millions of Americans — not only for the roughly 20 million people who've gained coverage on the Affordable Care Act exchanges and through the expansion of Medicaid to low-income adults.

The law is also what allows parents to keep their children on their health insurance plans until age 26 and obtain free mammograms, cholesterol checks and birth control. And one of its most popular provisions is its strong protections for those with pre-existing conditions, including barring insurers from denying coverage or charging higher premiums based on people's health histories.

Read more here.

8:31 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Biden says his pledge to eliminate Trump tax cuts is aimed at the wealthy, not the middle class

From CNN's Dan Merica

Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden participates in an ABC News town hall event at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on October 15.
Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden participates in an ABC News town hall event at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on October 15. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Joe Biden said Thursday that his pledge to eliminate the tax cuts that Donald Trump enacted in his first term were aimed only at tax cuts for the wealthy, not the middle class.

Republicans have tried to hammer Biden as someone who wants to raise taxes on the middle class because of his pledge to end the tax cuts signed into law by Trump.

“When I said the Trump tax cuts, about $1.3 trillion of the $2 trillion in his tax cuts went to the top one tenth of 1%,” Biden said. “That’s what I’m talking about eliminating. Not all the tax cuts that are out there.”

Biden implied that most of that change would focus on the corporate tax rate, something that was cut under Trump.“If you raise the corporate tax back to 28%, which is a fair tax, you’d raise over $1 trillion by that one act,” Biden said. “If you made sure that people making over 400 grand paid what they did in the Bush administration. It goes up to… another $92 billion. So, you can raise a lot of money to be able to invest in things that can make your life easier.”

Trump signed a tax overhaul into law in 2017, early in his first term. The law was Trump’s first major legislative victory of his first year in office.

When ABC's George Stephanopoulos pushed Biden if he would raise the corporate tax rate even when the economy was struggling, Biden said, “Absolutely.”

8:30 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Biden says he'll take a Covid-19 vaccine when scientists give the green light

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Carolyn Kaster/AP

Joe Biden on Thursday made it clear that he would not hesitate to receive a coronavirus vaccine once the scientific community signs on to its safety and effectiveness.

“If the body of scientists say (it’s ready) and it’s been tested, it’s gone through the three phases – yes, I would take and I would encourage people to take it,” he told a questioner who brought up a comment by his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, who expressed concern that President Trump would push forward a vaccine for political purposes.

Biden took the question as an opportunity to remind viewers of some of Trump’s most shocking and ridiculous statements about potential Covid-19 treatments, specifically when he mused, as Biden described it, about “inject(ing) bleach in your arm.”

Asked if he would mandate that others do the same, Biden did not commit to a position, noting that he – if elected – would not have that power.

As to whether he would do his best to pressure others, Biden said, “It depends on the state of the nature of the vaccine when it comes out and how it’s being distributed.”

“We should be thinking about making it mandatory,” he said, adding that, should that be the decision, he would press “every governor” and, failing that, “every mayor” to pursue a mass vaccination policy in their jurisdictions. 

8:28 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Trump: "I denounced White supremacy"

President Donald Trump speaks during an NBC News Town Hall with moderator Savannah Guthrie, at Perez Art Museum Miami, on Thursday.
President Donald Trump speaks during an NBC News Town Hall with moderator Savannah Guthrie, at Perez Art Museum Miami, on Thursday. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Trump said he denounced White supremacy tonight during a town hall on NBC after he didn't do so during the first presidential debate.

"I denounced White supremacy. I denounced White supremacy for years but you always start off with the question, you didn't ask Joe Biden whether or not he denounces Antifa," Trump said. "I denounced White supremacy. I denounce Antifa and I denounce these people on the left that are burning down our cities, that are run by Democrats."

The President's stance on White supremacy became a flash point after the first debate when Trump refused to condemn White supremacists for inciting violence at anti-police brutality demonstrations across the country, claiming instead that violence was coming from "the left wing."

During that debate, the President instead used ​his allotted time to blame ​what he called "Antifa and the left​" for violence and to tell the Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by." ​

8:18 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Biden lays out what his coronavirus response would have been, knocking Trump’s response

From CNN's Dan Merica

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Source: ABC

Joe Biden opened his ABC town hall on Thursday night by describing how he would have handled the coronavirus differently, using the comparison to lambast President Donald Trump for his somewhat uneven response to the virus.

“He missed enormous opportunities and kept saying things that weren’t true,” the Democratic nominee said, noting that Trump’s administration said the virus would go away by Easter or be eradicated by the summer heat.

Biden said his administration would have followed the pandemic plan laid out by Barack Obama’s administration before Trump took office, saying his first move would have been sending Americans to China to get the most up to date knowledge on the virus.

Biden said there should have been more national standards earlier in the pandemic and that the President should be pushing all Americans to use masks as a way to stop the spread. Biden said he would lean on governors, as president, to mandate mask use.

“He didn’t talk about what needed to be done because he kept worrying, in my view, about the stock market,” Biden said of Trump. “He worried if he talked about how bad this could be, unless we took these precautionary actions, then, in fact, the market would go down. And his barometer of success of the economy is the market.”