First Presidential Debate: Trump vs. Biden Highlights

This combination of pictures created on September 29, 2020 shows Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden (L) and US President Donald Trump speaking during the first presidential debate at the Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio on September 29, 2020.

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President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday night had their first chance to challenge each other face to face. They did – a lot.

Hardly a minute went by in the hour-and-a-half debate without one of the candidates angrily interrupting the other, whether on the coronavirus pandemic, the Supreme Court, the economy or anything else, including each other’s families.

“Will you shut up, man?” Biden told Trump at one point. “You’re the worst president America has ever had,” he said later.

“China ate your lunch,” Trump shot back at Biden during questions on the economy.

Even the moderator, Fox News’ Chris Wallace, couldn’t always stay above the fray.

“I hate to raise my voice, but why shouldn’t I be different than the two of you?” the exasperated host said at one point.

Here are the highlights:

Attacks from the outset

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the first 2020 presidential campaign debate with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, held on the campus of the Cleveland Clinic at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., September 29, 2020.

Brian Snyder | Reuters

The first question was about the Supreme Court, where Trump has nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

“We won the election,” Trump began. “Elections have consequences.”

Biden responded that “the American people have a right to have a say,” and that “we should wait” until after the presidential election to select another justice.

But Trump jumped in before the former vice president had finished his answer. The two candidates started sparring, first over Barrett’s record but quickly moving on to other territory.

Wallace jumped in after a few exchanges, and himself began to bicker with Trump.

“Please let the vice president talk,” Wallace admonished Trump at one point.

Trump and Biden continued to interrupt each other. “Would you shut up, man?” Biden snapped at Trump.

As Wallace moved onto the coronavirus, Biden said with a laugh: “That was really a productive segment.” 

Trump spars with the moderator: ‘I guess I’m debating you’ 

US President Donald Trump speaks during the first presidential debate at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, on September 29, 2020.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

As Wallace asked the second question of the night, Trump jumped in to push back on the “Fox News Sunday” anchor.

Wallace began asking about health care, and Trump interrupted Wallace to dispute his line of questioning about having not introduced a comprehensive plan to replace the Affordable Care Act implemented by former President Barack Obama. Wallace continued to try to get through his question, asking Trump to let him finish.

After a few moments of cross-talk, Trump said, “I guess I’m debating you, not him,” referring to Biden. 

Wallace repeatedly asked Trump and Biden to maintain order throughout the debate — though he acknowledged that he had to admonish Trump more.

“Your campaign agreed that both sides would get two-minute answers,” Wallace told Trump late in the debate.

Biden: Trump didn’t take Covid-19 seriously until it hit stocks

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden gestures as he participates in the first 2020 presidential campaign debate with U.S. President Donald Trump held on the campus of the Cleveland Clinic at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., September 29, 2020.

Brian Snyder | Reuters

Biden swiped at Trump over the president’s early handling of the coronavirus pandemic, alleging that the administration only started to inform the public of the disease’s severity when it hit the stock market.

“Do you believe for a moment what he’s telling you in light of all the lies he’s told you about the whole issue relating to Covid?” Biden asked. “He still hasn’t even acknowledged that he knew this was happening — knew how dangerous it would be back in February — and he didn’t even tell you.”

“He panicked, or just looked at the stock market, one of the two,” Biden added. “Because guess what? A lot of people died and a lot more are going to die unless he gets a lot smarter or a lot quicker.”

Biden and Trump battle over the economy

U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in their first 2020 presidential campaign debate held on the campus of the Cleveland Clinic at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., September 29, 2020.

Morry Gash | Reuters

Both candidates took turns trumpeting their qualifications to navigate the U.S. economy through the Covid-19 pandemic.

Trump highlighted his business-friendly tax cuts and stock-market gains while Biden noted significant job creation while he was vice president in the Obama administration.

Trump: “When the stock market goes up, that means jobs. It also means 401(k)s.”

Trump at Biden: “If you got in … if you ever became president with your ideas — you want to terminate my taxes [tax cuts], I’ll tell you what. You’ll lose half of the companies that have poured in here. … They’ll leave.”

Biden: “We were able to have an economic recovery that created the jobs you’re talking about. We handed him a booming economy. He blew it.”

He continued: “Even before Covid, manufacturing went in the hole. Manufacturing went in the hole.”

“I’m the guy that brought back the automobile industry. I was asked to bring back Chrysler and General Motors. We brought them back right here in the state of Ohio and Michigan. He blew it.”

Trump and Biden spar over their adult children

Biden and Trump sparred over their children, with Trump launching a misleading attack on Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, over his consulting business.

“China ate your lunch, Joe. No wonder, your son goes in and he takes out — billions of dollars. takes out billions of dollars to manage. He makes millions of dollars,” Trump said.

“That’s simply not true,” said Biden.

Trump continued with another unfounded claim: “Why is it, just out of curiosity, the mayor of Moscow’s wife gave your son $3.5 million?” 

“None of that is true,” Biden said again.

“He didn’t get $3.5 million?” Trump demanded. According to Politifact, there is no evidence that Hunter Biden had anything to do with the deal in partnership in question.

This kind of sparring continued for several minutes, until Biden pivoted.

“Here’s the deal. You want to talk about families and ethics? i don’t want to do that. His family, we can talk about all night,” Biden said, referring to Trump’s adult children.

“My family lost a fortune coming down and helping with government,” Trump shot back. “Every single one of them.”

“This is not about my family. It’s not about your family. It’s about the American people,” said Biden. 
Wallace then changed the subject.

But Trump returned to Hunter late in the debate.

“Hunter got thrown out of the military,” Trump said of Biden’s son. “He got thrown out.”

— CNBC’s Thomas Franck and Lauren Feiner contributed to this report. 

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