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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9:08 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Fact check: Trump's claim about 2.2 million expected deaths from Covid-19 is misleading

From CNN's Holmes Lybrand and Tara Subramaniam

President Trump claimed the US was "expected to lose 2,200,000 people and maybe more than that" from coronavirus. 

Facts First: This is misleading. 

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 behaviour.” 

9:32 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Biden says his position on court-packing "depends on how this turns out"

From CNN's Eric Bradner

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

Joe Biden said he is "not a fan" of court-packing, but whether he ultimately seeks to push for more seats on the Supreme Court depends on how Senate Republicans handle the confirmation process of Amy Coney Barrett.

"It depends on how this turns out," Biden said. Pressed on what that means, he said, "if there's actually real, live debate on the floor" of the Senate.

If that does not take place and Republicans rush to confirm Barrett before the election, he said, "I'm open to considering what happens from that point on."

Biden said he would take a clearer position on court-packing before the election, after seeing how the confirmation process plays out. But he also said he was hesitant to take a specific position at this stage because he wants attention to focus on what confirming Barrett and handing conservatives a 6-3 Supreme Court majority would mean for abortion rights, health care, LGBTQ rights and more.

"If I answer the question directly, then all the focus will be on, what's Biden going to do if he wins, instead of if it is appropriate what is going on now," Biden said. "This is a thing the President loves to do, which is always take our eye off the ball."

Here's the moment:

9:03 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Biden: Amy Coney Barrett dodged questions and didn’t lay out "much of a judicial philosophy"

From CNN's Dan Merica

Joe Biden had biting words for Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump’s most recent nomination to the Supreme Court, on Thursday, faulting her for not directly answering many questions and not laying out “much of a judicial philosophy."

The Senate held days of hearings on Barrett’s nomination this week, but because Republicans control the legislative body and few appear willing to break with the Republican president.

Biden said, because he was traveling, he was unable to watch the hearings, but had read about them.

“My reading online what the judge said was she didn’t answer very many questions at all,” Biden said. “And I don’t even think she’s laid out much of a judicial philosophy in terms of the basis in which she thinks.”

The question came from a man named Nathan, who asked about the safeguards in place to ensure LGBTQ rights if another conservative justice is approved.

“I think there’s great reason to be concerned for the LGBTQ,” Biden said. “I fought very hard for a long time to make sure there’s equality across the board.”

Biden said he also has concerns for the future of health care, an issue that is top of mind to a number of voters and the topics that most Democratic senators focused on during their time in the confirmation hearings.

8:55 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Fact check: Trump falsely claims that 85% of people who wear masks get coronavirus

From CNN's Daniel Dale

President Trump made a dramatic claim about Covid-19 during Thursday night’s town hall.

“Just the other day, they came out with a statement that 85% of the people that wear masks catch it,” Trump said.

It was a repeat of a similar claim he had made two times earlier in the day, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the source for that number. 

Facts First: Trump’s claim is false. A CDC study released in September, did not say that 85% of people who wear masks get infected with coronavirus. In fact, it did not even attempt to figure out what percentage of people who wear a mask get infected with the coronavirus. 

Rather, the study looked at the behavior of 154 symptomatic people who had tested positive for the coronavirus in July around the country and 160 people who reported symptoms but tested negative in July. 

The study found that, of those 154 people, 85% said they had worn a mask either “always” or “often” over the 14 days prior to the onset of their illness. That’s where the 85% figure comes from.

Of the 160 people in the study who had tested negative, however, 88.7% said they had worn a mask either “always” or “often.” So there’s really no difference between people who wore masks and those who didn’t. 

And that’s not even the point here. 

Trump was suggesting that the CDC found that 85% of all people who wear masks get coronavirus. But the CDC was just looking at the behavior of these 314 symptomatic people who sought out testing at 11 particular sites around the country in July. 

Here’s how one of the co-authors, Christopher Lindsell, co-director of the Health Data Science Center at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, described the study’s data on masks:

“The data suggest that among a group of patients who are already showing symptoms that prompted them to get testing for the virus, there was no statistical evidence of a difference in mask wearing behavior between those who tested positive and those who tested negative,” Lindsell said in an email. “This is very different from the question of whether wearing masks prevents you becoming infected with the virus, and it is also different to the question of how many or what percentage of people who wear masks contract the virus. The study was not designed to answer these questions.”

8:57 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Biden says crime bill "was a mistake" but places blame on the states

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Biden on Thursday both defended aspects of the 1994 crime bill, which he authored, and called it a “mistake,” though he blamed some of its most destructive effects on state governments.

“Yes, it was mistake,” Biden said when pressed. “But the mistake came in terms of what the states did locally.”

From the beginning of the Democratic primary, Biden has sought a middle ground on a law that is now broadly viewed as a root cause of mass incarceration in America.

“The crime bill itself did not have mandatory sentences, except for two things. It had three strikes and you’re out, which I voted against in the crime bill, but it had a lot of things in it that turned out to be both bad and good,” he said, before noting his work on the Violence Against Women Act and an assault weapons ban.

He also pledged again to decriminalize marijuana – a step short of many other Democrats, who want to legalize it on the federal level – and said he wanted to wipe clear the records of anyone who’s been arrested for possession.

When the follow-up questions turned to Biden’s relationship with the police, the former vice president said he still believed – as he did back in 1994 – that more officers on the streets mean less crime. But he qualified that argument, saying it was true only “if, in fact, they’re involved in community policing.”

Biden then said he would convene a “national study group” – including police, social workers and minority communities – to sit down in the White House and work together to sketch out “significant reforms.”

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

Biden and Trump were asked about Barrett's SCOTUS confirmation. Here's where things stand.

From CNN's Alex Rogers and Paul LeBlanc

The Senate Judiciary Committee this morning announced it plans to vote to approve Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination next Thursday following her nomination hearings this week where she was grilled on health care, voting rights and abortion.

Democratic senators moved to indefinitely delay the proceedings because millions of Americans are voting for the next president. They argued that there's never been a Supreme Court justice nominated this close to the election and confirmed before it. The Senate has taken half the average time to consider the nomination.

Republicans disagreed, saying that a Republican president and a Republican-led Senate confirming a conservative justice on the Supreme Court is compliant with the Constitution and the Senate's history.

Here's what the confirmation process looks like for the next few days:

  • Today: The Judiciary Committee has already announced plans to vote on Barrett's nomination next week.
  • Thursday: Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on the nomination.
  • Next Friday: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he plans to put Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination on the Senate floor on Oct. 23. 
  • The week of Oct. 26: According to McConnell's timeline, Barrett's final confirmation vote is teed up for the first half of the week of Oct. 26. 

Read more here.

8:54 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Trump says he's been treated poorly by the IRS and is under audit

President Donald Trump speaks during an NBC News Town Hall, at Perez Art Museum Miami on Thursday.
President Donald Trump speaks during an NBC News Town Hall, at Perez Art Museum Miami on Thursday. Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump said he is under audit and has been "treated very badly by the IRS."

Trump's comments were made in response to questions about his taxes and why he has yet to release his tax records to the public while running for office.

"I'm treated very badly by the IRS. They treat me very, very badly. You have people in there from previous administrations. They treat me very badly. But we're under audit. It's very routine in many ways. But we're under audit. They like to change the game, change the rules, do everything," Trump said at NBC's town hall.

Some context: Trump is personally liable for debts and loans totaling $421 million, The New York Times reported, and most of it comes due in the next four years, an amount that former intelligence officials, Democratic lawmakers and legal experts warn could be used as leverage against him, and in turn, the US itself.

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.