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LIVE coverage of the first US presidential debate

LIVE Last updated September 30, 2020 9:45AM AEST Hello! And welcome to our live coverage of the first US presidential debate. President Donald Trump and Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden have been slagging each other off from a distance for months. Now, finally, they have to face each other in person. We are just 34…

LIVE

Last updated September 30, 2020 9:45AM AEST

Hello! And welcome to our live coverage of the first US presidential debate.

President Donald Trump and Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden have been slagging each other off from a distance for months. Now, finally, they have to face each other in person.

We are just 34 days away from the election. Here in Australia, that’s the length of a full election campaign. In the United States, where everyone starts running for president years ahead of time, it very much qualifies as the final stretch.

So, this debate and the two others that will follow represent the best, and perhaps the last real chance either candidate will have to win over voters.

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This one is happening in Ohio, a crucial swing state which is certain to play a role in deciding the election. It’s being moderated by Chris Wallace, a veteran political journalist from Fox News with a reputation for asking tough questions of both sides.

Mercifully, the format is pretty simple – ninety minutes, no ad breaks, and six broad topics of discussion, each of which was selected by Wallace ahead of time.

Those subjects are: the Trump and Biden records, the Supreme Court, the coronavirus pandemic, the economy, race and violence in America’s cities, and the integrity of the election.

If the final hours of lead-up are any indication, we are in for a wild time.

A baseless conspiracy theory suggesting Mr Biden might wear an earpiece during the debate, allowing advisers to feed him answers, suddenly blew up on Facebook and YouTube this morning.

At 7:28am US time, a bunch of Facebook pages with names like “US Conservative”, “Defiant America” and “The Unhinged Left” published the same meme, which said Mr Biden “should be inspected for a hidden earpiece” before the debate. It was shared thousands of times.

A few hours later, a New York Post reporter said the Biden campaign had “agreed to an inspection for electronic earpieces at tonight’s debate several days ago but are now declining“. She cited an anonymous source. 

That report then gained traction on conservative media sites, such as Breitbart, and among Mr Trump’s supporters on social media.

“If Joe Biden isn’t hiding anything, why won’t he consent to a third party checking for an earpiece before tonight’s debate?” said conservative activist Charlie Kirk, for instance.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany posted the report as fact on her own Facebook page. And the Trump campaign’s communications director Tim Murtaugh issued an official statement.

“Joe Biden’s handlers several days ago agreed to a pre-debate inspection for electronic earpieces but today abruptly reversed themselves and declined,” Mr Murtaugh said.

“Biden’s handlers have asked for multiple breaks during the debate, which President Trump doesn’t need, so we have rejected that request.

“With his 47 years as a failed Washington politician, how much help does Biden want?”

The Biden campaign says these claims are flat out false.

“Of course he’s not wearing an earpiece, and we never asked for breaks,” spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield told reporters.

“It is pathetic, it’s weak. Once again the Trump campaign is lying.”

So that is where we’re at as we count down to the debate. What, you thought these two would play nice?

Read on for all the latest news.

Live Updates


Sam Clench

Joe Biden is making it pretty damn obvious that he’s going to bring up that explosive investigation from The New York Times into Donald Trump’s finances.

In case you missed it, two days ago the newspaper published the first in a series of articles based on Mr Trump’s tax returns, which he has refused to release to the public.

It revealed the self-described billionaire had paid just $US750 in federal income tax in both 2016 and 2017, and no income tax at all in 11 of the 18 years examined.

The investigation also discovered the President has $421 million in personal debts, most of them coming due in the next four years – in other words, during his hypothetical second term in office.

Plus a bunch of other revelations that were less than flattering.

Mr Trump has labelled the report “fake” and “made up”, while also claiming it’s based on “illegally obtained” information.

How do we know Mr Biden will mention it during the debate? Well first of all, he’d be thick as a brick not to. But he also signalled his intentions earlier today by releasing his own tax returns.

Those tax returns show Mr Biden and his wife Jill earned a combined $945,000 in taxable income last year, paid $346,000 in taxes, and received a refund of $47,000.

Vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris was even better off, with over $3 million in income and $750,000 in taxes paid.

The timing of this release is no coincidence. Expect Mr Biden, at the first available opportunity, to challenge Mr Trump to release his own tax returns.

If the President refuses, Mr Biden will accuse him of trying to hide how much – or how little – tax he pays.


Sam Clench

If the final hours of lead-up are any indication, we are in for a wild time.

A baseless conspiracy theory suggesting Mr Biden might wear an earpiece during the debate, allowing advisers to feed him answers, suddenly blew up on Facebook and YouTube this morning.

At 7:28am US time, a bunch of Facebook pages with names like “US Conservative”, “Defiant America” and “The Unhinged Left” published the same meme, which said Mr Biden “should be inspected for a hidden earpiece” before the debate. It was shared thousands of times.

New from me: The viral earpiece conspiracy theory was pushed by coordinated Facebook accounts at the same second this morning.

Then Fox News picked it up. Then, the Trump campaign sent it to your phone.https://t.co/rVXf7BRJrL pic.twitter.com/VoN07IuwC6

— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) September 29, 2020

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

A few hours later, a New York Post reporter said the Biden campaign had “agreed to an inspection for electronic earpieces at tonight’s debate several days ago but are now declining“. She cited an anonymous source. 

That report then gained traction on conservative media sites, such as Breitbart, and among Mr Trump’s supporters on social media.

“If Joe Biden isn’t hiding anything, why won’t he consent to a third party checking for an earpiece before tonight’s debate?” said conservative activist Charlie Kirk, for instance.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany posted the report as fact on her own Facebook page. And the Trump campaign’s communications director Tim Murtaugh issued an official statement.

“Joe Biden’s handlers several days ago agreed to a pre-debate inspection for electronic earpieces but today abruptly reversed themselves and declined,” Mr Murtaugh said.

“Biden’s handlers have asked for multiple breaks during the debate, which President Trump doesn’t need, so we have rejected that request.

“With his 47 years as a failed Washington politician, how much help does Biden want?”

The Biden campaign says these claims are flat out false.

“Of course he’s not wearing an earpiece, and we never asked for breaks,” spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield told reporters.

“It is pathetic, it’s weak. Once again the Trump campaign is lying.”

So that is where we’re at as we count down to the debate. What, you thought these two would play nice?

By the way, if all this talk about earpieces feels vaguely familiar to you, that is probably because Mr Trump’s supporters floated the same conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton four years ago.


Sam Clench

So here we are, about an hour-and-a-half away from the start of the debate. Are you pumped? You should be. To quote one of Joe Biden’s more infamous gaffes, this is a big effing deal.

I honestly haven’t been this excited for a showdown since Cleganebowl. No doubt some of you will not get that reference. All I can say is, you need better taste in television.

Anyway let’s preview what, exactly, we should expect from this debate.

It runs for just 90 minutes, with no breaks of any kind. Those of you who were around for the three-hour marathon debates during the Democratic primaries will know that is good news.

Our moderator today is veteran Fox News journalist Chris Wallace, who is known for being tough on both sides of politics.

The discussion will be split into six broad topics, though if you’ve ever seen Mr Trump and Mr Biden speak before, you’ll know that both men are prone to going off on delightfully incoherent tangents.

Here are the six subjects, chosen by Wallace ahead of time:

+ The Trump and Biden records;

+ The Supreme Court;

+ The coronavirus pandemic;

+ The economy;

+ Race and violence in America’s cities;

+ The integrity of the election.

That’s the basic rundown.

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