The two presidential candidates have pressured each other on a range of issues – starting from the coronavirus pandemic and finishing with election integrity, with their views clashing on almost every point.
US President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden have had an intense first presidential debate in Cleveland on Tuesday.
During the debate, Trump and Biden were constantly interrupting and sniping at each other, making it hard for moderator Chris Wallace to follow the time limits set for each speaker. He even had to raise his voice when the debaters interrupted each other or diverged from the topics they were supposed to discuss.
Seeking to dispel rumours of his age-related sluggishness, Biden called Trump “the worst president America has ever had” and energetically attacked his handling of the coronavirus outbreak, economic crisis and racial unrest, while the incumbent defended his record.
“Under this president we have become weaker, sicker, more divided and more violent”, the former vice president said.
At one point, in trying to fend off the interruptions, Biden called Trump a “clown”. Trump, for his part, at multiple points questioned Biden’s intelligence.
“You graduated either the lowest or almost the lowest in your class”, Trump said. Biden responded by laughing.
The former vice president called Trump “Putin’s puppy” and criticized him for failing to raise with the Russian President the issue of bounties that Russia allegedly pays to Afghan militants for killing American soldiers. US administration officials said that they checked, but failed to find any proof of the story.
‘We Won Election’: Trump on Right to Fill Supreme Court Vacancy
During the debate, Trump insisted that the Senate can proceed with the confirmation of his Supreme Court pick, Amy Coney Barrett, arguing that he has a four-year mandate and is duty-bound to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.
“We won the election, elections have consequences”, the US president said.
He also indicated that if Democrats were given such an opportunity, they would never miss it. “By the way, the Democrats wouldn’t think about not doing it…there’s no way they’d give it up”, Trump said.
According to Biden, however, the election is already underway, so it is “just not appropriate to do this before the election”, he said.
Trump argued that the Supreme Court will need to weigh-in on the millions of mailed ballots that will be cast. The president has for months claimed that mail-in ballots will lead to widespread voter fraud.
Trump, Biden Clash on Healthcare
The US president accused Democrats of “socialist” inclinations, saying, “They’re going to dominate you, Joe, you know that”, to which Biden replied that he already is “the Democratic Party”.
When pressured on providing a comprehensive healthcare programme, Trump said that he has cut down drug prices, especially making insulin “so cheap, it’s like water”, which Biden could have done in his 47 years in the office, “but [he] didn’t do it”.
Biden, in response, claimed Trump was pursuing “wishful thinking” and actually “doesn’t know what he’s talking about”.
Trump on COVID-19: ‘We’ve Done a Great Job’ Compared to Biden’s Response to Swine Flu
Trump said that thanks to his administration, the country is weeks away from getting a vaccine to fight the coronavirus. At the same time, he accused Biden of sowing distrust in potential vaccines, adding that he never had enough stamina to do the job his administration did.
“You could never have done the job that we did”, Trump told Biden. “You don’t have it in your blood.”
Biden said he doesn’t believe what the president is saying and claimed Trump did not even have a comprehensive plan on combating the virus.
Trump said that his coronavirus response was much better compared to that of Biden during the swine flu epidemic in the US, to which Biden replied that only 14,000 people died – less than the 200,000 that that have died from COVID-19 in the US.
Trump accused Biden of wanting to shut down the economy again and warned of accompanying societal problems, including alcoholism, drug abuse and divorces.
According to Biden, all Trump is concerned about economically is the stock market to the benefit of a handful of billionaires.
Trump inherited a booming economy and he blew it, Biden claimed. He added that the incumbent will be the first US president to leave the office with fewer jobs than he had when assuming it.
Trump alleged that under the Obama-Biden administration the US had the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression and accused them of giving up on manufacturing, which he took credit for bringing back from overseas.
Trump Pressured on Tax Returns, Biden Responds to Allegations About Son Hunter
Citing a New York Times report that claimed Trump only paid $750 in federal income tax in 2017, Wallace asked the president to comment on his tax records, supported by Biden, who said, “Show us your tax returns”.
The US president responded he’s paid “millions of dollars” in taxes, but could only provide exact numbers once his tax return “is finished”.
“You’re the worst president America has ever had”, Biden replied.
Commenting on Biden’s intention to reverse taxes, Trump said that it would leave US companies for other countries and he will see a “depression of the likes you’ve never seen”.
Biden had to respond to allegations that his son Hunter received hefty sums from foreign businessmen and firms, including Ukraine’s Burisma and the wife of the former Mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov.
“None of that is true, [it is] totally discredited”, Biden said as Trump launched the allegations.
‘We Believe in Law & Order, You Don’t’: Trump to Biden
The candidates also clashed on the violent protests that have engulfed the country this year, initially erupting after police-involved killings of Black citizens.
The US president once again accused local Democratic leadership of inciting protests in the cities. “They’ve got you wrapped around their finger, Joe”, he told Biden.
Trump said that Biden would not be able to restore law and order and accused the former vice president of wanting to “defund” the police. Biden sternly rejected the accusation and fired back.
“I am totally opposed to defunding police”, Biden said.
Biden said Trump wants to cut $400 million from law enforcement budgets.
Trump said the spike in innercity violence is a “political party issue” and continued to blame Democratic mayors.
On climate change, Trump tried to persuade viewers that Biden embraces a “green” environmental legislation that has been pushed by left-leaning members of the Democratic Party. Biden rejected the allegations. He did, however, vow to rejoin the Paris climate accord if elected.