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 1220 GMT (2020 HKT) October 16, 2020
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9:31 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Trump says he would accept peaceful transfer of power, while continuing to cast doubt on election results

From CNN's Ali Main

After hesitating to make the commitment for weeks, President Trump said he would accept a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election, but he continued to sow doubt on the election results and made baseless claims about Obama administration officials spying on his 2016 campaign. 

"They spied heavily on my campaign and they tried to take down a duly elected sitting president, and then they talk about 'will you accept a peaceful transfer?' And the answer is, yes, I will, but I want it to be an honest election and so does everybody else," the President said, adding, "when I see thousands of ballots dumped in a garbage can and they happen to have my name on it, I'm not happy about it," in an NBC town hall on Thursday night.

In his exchange with NBC's Savannah Guthrie, he made a variety of false claims about "unsolicited" and "fraudulent ballots." You can read CNN's fact checks on thrown out ballots and unsolicited ballots

Presented with the claim by his own FBI director that there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud, Trump again took a swipe at FBI Director Christopher Wray, saying "oh really? Then he's not doing a very good job."

Asked why he seemed to be laying the groundwork for doubt in the election results, the President claimed "I don't want that to happen."

"I want it to be clean and I...I really feel we're going to win, but I want this to be clean," Trump said.

After giving several answers riddled with election disinformation, the President gave his final thoughts on the matter: "Peaceful transfer...I absolutely want that, but ideally, I don't want a transfer because I want to win."
9:29 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Trump says he will "take care of" DACA program, but provides few details

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Trump vowed to “take care of” the DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, program, an Obama-era program that shields certain undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children from deportation, but provided few details.

Trump said months ago during an interview with Telemundo he would be signing a “very major immigration bill” in the form of an executive order, but one has yet to come to fruition. He reiterated Thursday that something “very, very good” was coming.

Asked whether he would pursue his previous efforts to make cuts to the DACA program, he said he would “take care of” the program.

“We are going to take care of DACA. We are going to take care of Dreamers. It's working right now, we're negotiating different aspects of immigration and immigration law,” Trump said, touting wall construction at the US-Mexico border. 

“We want people to come into our country. They have to come in, legally, but we are working very hard on the DACA program, and you will be, I think, very happy over the course of the next year,” he added.

But pressed by moderator Savannah Guthrie on the fact that his administration has systematically curtailed the program, he blamed the coronavirus pandemic and cases in Mexico, even though there are more cases per 100,000 people in the US.

“Because of the pandemic, much changed on the immigration front, Mexico is heavily infected, as you know, and we've made it very, very difficult to come in because of the pandemic and other reasons and crime, but we have a very strong border right now, and we have to keep it that way. But we want people to come into our country but they have to come in through a merit system and they have to come in legally,” he said, adding that the US has to be “extra cautious.”

 

10:52 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Trump says he hasn’t discussed any potential election case or Roe v. Wade with Amy Coney Barrett

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

President Trump said at Thursday’s NBC town hall that he doesn’t expect his Supreme Court nominee, judge Amy Coney Barrett, to rule a certain way on two hot-button issues — a potential case over the results of the 2020 general election or a case revisiting abortion access.

“I think she’ll have to make that decision. I don’t think she has any conflict at all,” Trump said when asked if he expected Barrett to rule in his favor if a case over disputed 2020 election results heads to the Supreme Court. “It would be totally up to her. I would think that she would be able to rule either for me or against me. I don’t see any conflict whatsoever.”

“Believe it or not, I never talked about it,” Trump claimed.

The President also defended his decision to appoint Barrett so close to the presidential election, arguing that, “If you put the shoe on the other foot, if (Democrats) had this, they would do it.”

Trump also asserted that “the whole ball game changed when I saw the way that they treated Justice (Brett) Kavanaugh” — Trump’s previous Supreme Court nominee and now Supreme Court justice, who faced intense scrutiny over allegations of sexual assault during his confirmation.

The President also carefully toed the line on whether the landmark Supreme Court decision on abortion, Roe v. Wade, should be overturned. He said he did not tell Barrett how to rule on the issue.

“I think it would be inappropriate to talk to her about it,” Trump said, adding, “I would like to see a brilliant jurist, a brilliant person who has done this in great depth and has actually skirted this issue for a long time, make a decision. And that’s why I chose her. I think that she’s going to make a great decision.”

While most anti-abortion conservatives argue that the the law should be overturned, Trump said he didn't want to be accused of signaling Barrett either way.

CNN previously reported on several instances where Barrett appeared to advocate for anti-abortion causes.

In 2006, Barrett signed onto a "right to life ad," sponsored by a group that opposes abortion. Ten years later, Barrett told an audience at Jacksonville University she believed that while Roe wouldn't be overturned, access to abortion could eventually be limited.

She also initially failed to disclose two talks she gave in 2013 hosted by two anti-abortion student groups on paperwork provided to the Senate ahead of her confirmation hearing to become the next Supreme Court justice.

Watch the moment:

9:12 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Fact check: Biden's comments on Trump and bleach

From CNN's Holmes Lybrand

Former vice president Joe Biden claimed that President Donald Trump said injecting bleach could help combat the virus.  

“President Trump says things like…crazy stuff he’s walking away from now, ‘inject bleach in your arm and that’s going to work,’” Biden said. “I’m being a bit — I’m not being facetious though; he actually said these things.”  

Facts First: This is misleading. Biden was recalling a moment from a Trump briefing that attracted broad derision. Biden, however, overstated some of the specifics.  

During an April 23 press briefing, which included a discussion of tests that appeared to show disinfectants like bleach and isopropyl alcohol quickly killed the coronavirus on surfaces in lab studies, Trump expressed interest in exploring the possibility of “injection inside or almost a cleaning” with disinfectants. Here’s what he said: 

 “(T)hen I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning, because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it’d be interesting to check that, so that you’re going to have to use medical doctors with, but it sounds interesting to me.” 

9:11 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Trump's town hall has wrapped

President Donald Trump listens during an NBC News Town Hall with moderator Savannah Guthrie, at Perez Art Museum Miami on Thursday.
President Donald Trump listens during an NBC News Town Hall with moderator Savannah Guthrie, at Perez Art Museum Miami on Thursday. Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump's town hall with NBC has ended. Trump was pressed by moderator Savannah Guthrie on his coronavirus response, the Supreme Court and immigration.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's town hall on ABC is still on air and will wrap at 9:30 p.m. ET.

Both Trump and Biden's competing town halls began at 8 p.m. ET.

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.”