First 2020 presidential debate

By Melissa Macaya, Veronica Rocha, Kyle Blaine and Jessica Estepa, CNN

Updated 1324 GMT (2124 HKT) September 30, 2020
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11:15 p.m. ET, September 29, 2020

CNN's Jake Tapper: Tonight's debate was "a hot mess, inside a dumpster fire"

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

CNN's Jake Tapper described tonight's chaotic presidential debate as "a hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck." 

"That was the worst debate I have ever seen," said Tapper. "In fact, it wasn't even a debate. It was a disgrace and it's primarily because of Trump who spent the entire time interrupting not abiding by the rules he agreed to." 

"I can tell you one thing for sure, the American people lost tonight because that was horrific," he added.

CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer said the tone and tenor of the exchange was the most chaotic he'd ever seen and could endanger two more debates planned between President Trump and Joe Biden later this fall. 

"Clearly, this was the most chaotic presidential debate I've ever seen and I suspect most of you if not all have ever seen," said Blitzer, just moments after the debate had concluded.

"It will certainly raise a lot of questions... about the future of a presidential debate between these two candidates," he added. "I wouldn't be surprised, by the way, if this is the last presidential debate between the President of the United States and the former vice president."

Currently, Trump and Biden are slated to face off twice more before the election, once in Miami and once in Nashville.

Here is the moment:

2:18 a.m. ET, September 30, 2020

Here's who talked the most in the first debate

We tracked how much time both candidates spoke in tonight's debate. President Trump edged out former vice president Joe Biden speaking more than 39 minutes while Biden spoke for over 37 minutes.

10:49 p.m. ET, September 29, 2020

Trump refuses to condemn white supremacists

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

President Donald Trump participates in the first presidential debate against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
President Donald Trump participates in the first presidential debate against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Trump refused to call out white supremacists for inciting violence at anti-police brutality demonstrations across the country, saying during Tuesday’s debate that the violence wasn’t an issue cause by the right.

When debate moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump if he was ready to condemn white supremacists and say they need to stand down during ongoing demonstrations across the country, Trump told one group to “stand back and stand by.” He also asserted that violence at the protests was not an issue caused by conservatives.

“Sure, I’m willing to (tell them to stand down), but I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not from the right wing. I’m willing to do anything. I want to see peace,” Trump said.

“Say it. Do it. Say it,” Biden responded, encouraging Trump to condemn the groups.

“Who would you like me to condemn?” Trump asked Wallace. “Proud Boys — stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what. I’ll tell you what. Somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not a right wing problem(.)”

Members of the Proud Boys, a far-right group, have been seen in their black and yellow polo shirt uniform at multiple 2020 Trump campaign rallies. 

CNN has reported on how white supremacists have posed as Antifa online, calling for violence. Before it emerged the account was run by white supremacists, Donald Trump Jr., the President's son, pointed his 2.8 million Instagram followers to the account as an example how dangerous Antifa is.

And the President has previously defended the actions of Trump supporters who apparently fired pepper spray and paintballs at demonstrators. Trump also previously said that Kyle Rittenhouse — who faces homicide charges as well as a felony charge for attempted homicide in Kenosha, Wisconsin — "probably would have been killed" had he not acted as an armed vigilante during anti-police violence protests, claiming that the 17-year-old had been "very violently attacked."

Watch the moment:

10:32 p.m. ET, September 29, 2020

Trump keeps trying to bring the debate back to Hunter Biden

From CNN's Kevin Liptak:

President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden appear in the first Presidential debate.
President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden appear in the first Presidential debate. Meg Vogel/Cincinnati Enquirer/USA Today Network

Just as his advisers previewed ahead of time, President Trump keeps working to bring the debate back to Hunter Biden, an attack they hoped would goad Joe Biden into losing his cool.

This time the issue arose as Biden sought to criticize the President for reportedly calling US war dead “losers.” Raising his late son Beau — who served in Iraq before succumbing to brain cancer in 2015 — the former vice president declared he wasn’t a “loser.”

Instead of rebutting the claims about his views of the military, Trump sought to return the debate to Hunter Biden.

"I don't know Beau Biden,” Trump scoffed.

As Trump launched into an attack on Hunter Biden, including raising his past issues with drug addiction, Biden again turned to the camera and addressed the issue, even as Trump was seeking to interrupt. 

"My son had a drug problem, but he's overcome it and I'm proud of him,” Biden said.

10:29 p.m. ET, September 29, 2020

Trump is controlling tonight's debate — that doesn't mean he's winning it

Analysis from CNN's Jeff Zeleny

President Donald Trump speaks during the first presidential debate against former Vice President and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
President Donald Trump speaks during the first presidential debate against former Vice President and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Morry Gash/Pool/Getty Images

President Trump is controlling tonight’s debate – that doesn’t mean he’s winning it.

For much of the first hour, Trump dominated the discussion, talked over his rival, steamrolled the moderator – often without any interruption. 

It’s clear that the President is trying to win the moment, while Joe Biden seems to be playing more of a long game. Yet at times, he seemed to all recede from the stage. To those listening – and not watching – he went for stretches of time without speaking, intent on biting his tongue. 

Judging the winner may be an impossible task. Finding the loser is easy: American voters.

It’s an open question whether any undecided voters – believe it or not, they do exist – were given any measure of clarity. Perhaps that was the President’s aim — to muddy the waters and run out the clock.

But with more than one million ballots already cast, it’s hard to see how the first debate changed the trajectory of the race. And Trump needed that tonight.

10:29 p.m. ET, September 29, 2020

Fact check: Trump claims Biden wants to shut down the country

From CNN's Tara Subramaniam

President Donald Trump claimed several times that Joe Biden wants to shut down the country to address the coronavirus. “He wants to shut down this country and I want to keep it open,” Trump said.

10:21 p.m. ET, September 29, 2020

Biden: Trump’s view of the suburbs is backward

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate.
President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate. Olivier Douliery/Pool/Getty Images

President Trump has been warning throughout the campaign that suburbs are at risk of succumbing to what he describes as something like an anarchist revolution – a thinly coded appeal to White voters the President believes are turned off by anti-racist protests against police violence.

Joe Biden dismissed those claims and fired back tonight, telling a much different story of who lives in the suburbs and the threat they’re facing.

“I was raised in the suburbs. This is not 1950,” Biden said. “All these dog whistles and racism don't work anymore. Suburbs are by and large integrated.”

Biden continued, saying, “What really is a threat to the suburbs and their safety is his failure to deal with Covid-19.”

The former vice president also described climate change as the kind of existential threat that Trump attributes to protests.

“His failure to deal with the environment" is a bigger issue, Biden said. "They're being flooded and burned out because (of) his refusal to do anything. That's why the suburbs are in trouble.” 
10:17 p.m. ET, September 29, 2020

Here's who has talked the most in the first hour

We're just over an hour into the debate, and both candidates were about even in speaking time at the one hour mark with more than 27 minutes.

10:31 p.m. ET, September 29, 2020

Biden: Trump uses "everything as a dog whistle to try to generate racist hatred"

From CNN's Dan Merica

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participates in the first presidential debate against U.S. President Donald Trump.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participates in the first presidential debate against U.S. President Donald Trump. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Joe Biden said that President Trump attempts to make everything into a racial “dog whistle” tonight, arguing that the President has “done virtually nothing” for African Americans during his time as president.

During a prolonged segment on race, the two fought over who would handle issues of race, culminating in Biden calling Trump a racist.

Asked why he would be better at tackling issues of race, Biden attacked Trump for equivocating on the racist right-wing rally in Charlottesville in 2017 with the protests in response and the fact that protesters outside the White House were forcibly moved earlier this year so the President could walk to a nearby church.

“This is a president who uses everything as a dog whistle to try to generate racist hatred, division,” Biden said. “This man has done virtually nothing” for Black Americans.

Trump responded to the attack by noting Biden’s role in passing the 1994 crime bill, a law that led to significant increases in the incarceration of Black Americans.

“I’m letting people out of jail…” Trump said, pointing to criminal justice reform he passed in his first term. “You have treated the Black community about as bad as anybody in this country.”

Watch the exchange: