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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8:18 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Biden lays out what his coronavirus response would have been, knocking Trump’s response

From CNN's Dan Merica

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Source: ABC

Joe Biden opened his ABC town hall on Thursday night by describing how he would have handled the coronavirus differently, using the comparison to lambast President Donald Trump for his somewhat uneven response to the virus.

“He missed enormous opportunities and kept saying things that weren’t true,” the Democratic nominee said, noting that Trump’s administration said the virus would go away by Easter or be eradicated by the summer heat.

Biden said his administration would have followed the pandemic plan laid out by Barack Obama’s administration before Trump took office, saying his first move would have been sending Americans to China to get the most up to date knowledge on the virus.

Biden said there should have been more national standards earlier in the pandemic and that the President should be pushing all Americans to use masks as a way to stop the spread. Biden said he would lean on governors, as president, to mandate mask use.

“He didn’t talk about what needed to be done because he kept worrying, in my view, about the stock market,” Biden said of Trump. “He worried if he talked about how bad this could be, unless we took these precautionary actions, then, in fact, the market would go down. And his barometer of success of the economy is the market.”

9:03 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Trump: "I don’t know, I don’t even remember" when asked whether he was tested before first debate

President Donald Trump.
President Donald Trump. Source: NBC

President Trump said he feels "good" after testing positive for Covid-19 weeks ago and couldn't recall whether he was tested on the day of the first presidential debate.

"I don't know, I don't even remember. I test all the time. I can tell you this. After the debate, like, I guess, a day or so, I think it was Thursday evening, maybe even late Thursday evening, uh, I tested positive. That's when I first found out," the President said.

Asked again whether he took a test in adherence to rules set by the Commission on Presidential Debates, he said, “I probably did and I took a test the day before.”

Asked once more, he said, “Possibly I did, possibly I didn’t.”

Trump's remarks were made during his town hall on NBC tonight, adding that he has no Covid-19 symptoms "what so ever."

"I feel good, I was in North Carolina today, a big rally with a tremendous turnout. I just feel really good. Florida, Pennsylvania, we're all over the place. It's been great," Trump said.

Trump also discussed how he felt after contracting the virus.

"I didn't feel good. I didn't feel strong. I had a little bit of a temperature," the President said.

Watch the moment:

11:16 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

The candidates are talking about Covid-19. Here are the facts you should know.

From CNN's Amanda Watts and Ben Tinker

Both town halls kicked off with questions about coronavirus. NBC's Savannah Guthrie asked President Trump about his Covid-19 diagnosis and symptoms. Meanwhile, a voter in ABC News' town hall asked Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden about Trump's coronavirus response and what policies he would implement if he were president.

The coronavirus pandemic continues to become a key issue of the 2020 election and shape the campaign as Election Day quickly approaches.

Here are key facts you need to know:

  • US deaths: More than 217,000 people have died from coronavirus in the US.
  • US cases: The US leads the world in total confirmed coronavirus cases with over 7.9 million infections, according to Johns Hopkins University data. India, Brazil and Russia follow behind.
  • Daily infections: The nation reported 59,494 new Covid-19 cases and 985 deaths on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The states are up 16% from the previous week, now averaging 52,345 new cases per day.  
  • Vaccine development: There are currently 10 Covid-19 vaccine candidates in late-stage, large clinical trials around the world as of Oct.14, according to the World Health Organization.
  • Vaccine timeline: A Covid-19 vaccine may be widely available by April 2021, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview with CBS News Wednesday. Fauci said researchers should know by “November or December” whether some vaccines trials have a safe candidate and that even in the event that a safe candidate is determined, initial quantities will likely only be a few million doses.

Here's where new cases are rising across the US in comparison to the previous week:

8:02 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Trump and Biden's competing town halls have started

From CNN's Maeve Reston and Stephen Collinson

President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden's dueling town halls have just kicked off.

The candidates are hoping to connect with voters as Covid-19 cases soar across the US and the President looks for a game-changing moment in a shaky reelection bid.

The plans for the two men to meet face-to-face at a town hall where they would take questions from voters evaporated after Trump's coronavirus diagnosis, amid fears that he could have exposed Biden and others to the virus during the chaotic first debate.

The Commission on Presidential Debates proposed a virtual debate, but Trump refused — leading Biden to make his own plans with ABC for a solo town hall. Trump's campaign then arranged for the President to do his own town hall with NBC during the same hour.

We'll be covering both events live here and fact-checking the candidates' comments. 

7:36 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Biden and Trump's competing town halls will start soon. Here are key things to watch.

From CNN's Eric Bradner, Gregory Krieg and Dan Merica

Competing town halls tonight will have President Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, facing tough questions from voters, but viewers at home will be forced to choose which one to watch live.

At 8 p.m. ET, Trump is set to take questions from voters on NBC. Biden will be doing so at the same time on ABC. The Trump town hall lasts an hour; Biden's lasts 90 minutes.

They were scheduled after the Commission on Presidential Debates canceled Thursday night's planned town hall-style debate between Biden and Trump in the wake of Trump's coronavirus diagnosis. The commission sought to shift that debate to a virtual format; Trump rejected the change.

Here are things to watch tonight:

  • Trump and the virus: The President's town hall with NBC News will be the first time he will be pressed at length and not on a friendly conservative outlet about his personal bout with the virus that has reshaped his reelection bid. Trump has made a number of dubious claims about his recovery from the virus, including claiming that an experimental drug cocktail created by Regeneron that he received is a "cure" for the virus, although there is no data even suggesting this. How the President handles pointed questions from the moderator and voters about the virus will likely determine how successful he is in the format, along with how his answers line up with the reality facing Americans dealing with the pandemic.
  • Biden and Trump weigh in on Capitol Hill's stimulus fight: The US economy is in a Covid-fueled shambles. Americans are waiting in food lines. States are falling deeper into budgetary holes. But the response from Congress has been — well, there hasn't been one in a while. Both Trump, who's sent mixed signals on stimulus talks, and Biden, who's yet to definitively weigh in, will likely be asked for their takes on what should happen next.
  • The Supreme Court and health care: For anyone who's watched more than a few minutes of the Democratic senators questioning Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, the party's strategy should be pretty obvious: Convince the public that her confirmation vote amounts to a referendum on Obamacare. Barrett hasn't officially weighed in on the law or the case that could strike it down — which is scheduled to be heard a week after the election — but Democrats have been arguing that Trump's opposition is evidence enough that she, as his selection, would do just that. While Barrett has kept mum on her views, Trump's are well known. He'll probably get asked tonight if he expects Barrett, if confirmed, to vote to kill Obamacare. Unless he pleads ignorance, it could make for a sticky situation for the nominee, who has said she did not discuss the case with the President.

Read more here.

7:36 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Harris on Covid-19 cases in campaign: "I've had many tests now and they are all negative"

From CNN's Jasmine Wright

Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris arrives on Capitol Hill for the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Oct. 13, in Washington.
Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris arrives on Capitol Hill for the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Oct. 13, in Washington. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

For the first time on camera since her campaign broke the news, Sen. Kamala Harris acknowledged during a virtual voter mobilization event for North Carolina the positive Covid-19 cases of two people in the campaign's orbit.

The Biden-Harris campaign halted her travel this morning through the weekend after her communications director Liz Allen and a non-staff flight crew member tested positive last night.

Harris was meant to travel to the state today, making two stops in-person— this event included. The campaign rescheduled this event to be virtual and Harris joined today from her home.

“So as you all know, I was supposed to be there and late last night we got word that two of the folks involved with our campaign, one who is a flight crew staff—he doesn’t work on our staff but works on the flights—and my communications director, Liz, that they contracted Covid-19,” Harris said. “I’ve talked to both of them. They are well. They are doing well. The last time saw them was seven days ago. I’ve had many tests now and they are all negative and I am fine. I’m good. But we want to just be cautious because that’s where we’ve been as a campaign to take this seriously and to hopefully model the kind of behaviors we should all be engaged in to be safe.”

Harris, who did two virtual fundraisers earlier today, thanked the crowd for accommodating their last minute change.

“I’m on the road virtually as you can see. I just left Wisconsin to join you in North Carolina and I’ll be back physically on the road on Monday. But I want to thank you all for accommodating the change in schedule and for all that you do. And I remind everybody let's adhere to the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines and be safe and as an extension of loving thy neighbor.”

 

7:39 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Fauci sets the record straight on Trump campaign ad

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies at a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on September 23, in Washington.
Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies at a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on September 23, in Washington. Alex Edelman-Pool/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, said Thursday that his comments featured out of context in a campaign ad for President Trump were really about the White House coronavirus task force.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appears in the ad about Trump’s coronavirus response saying, “I can’t imagine that anybody could be doing more.”

“We were talking about the task force team that in the beginning, way back when things were really on fire – we were working 24 hours a day, day and night – and in that context, I said ‘I don't think we could have possibly done anything more,’” Fauci explained during a Yahoo News Interview. 

Fauci said he’s concerned about his words being taken out of context because he wants to remain entirely apolitical.

“The way that ad went where they quoted me at the end, it was certainly in the context that looked very much like a political endorsement, and I've assiduously avoided that for so many years – like, decades,” he said.

 

7:13 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Biden tested negative for Covid-19 today

From CNN's Arlette Saenz

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to media before boarding his campaign plane at New Castle Airport, in New Castle, Delaware, on October 13.
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to media before boarding his campaign plane at New Castle Airport, in New Castle, Delaware, on October 13. Carolyn Kaster/AP

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden tested negative for coronavirus today.

“Vice President Biden underwent PCR testing for COVID-19 today and COVID-19 was not detected," the campaign said.

Biden is set to participate in a town hall shortly with ABC at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

6:44 p.m. ET, October 15, 2020

Texas judge strikes down ballot dropbox limits, but legal fight continues

From CNN's Ashley Killough

A poll worker stamps a voters ballot before dropping it into a secure box at a ballot drop off location on October 13, in Austin, Texas.
A poll worker stamps a voters ballot before dropping it into a secure box at a ballot drop off location on October 13, in Austin, Texas. Sergio Flores/Getty Images

A Texas judge on Thursday struck down Gov. Greg Abbott's order limiting ballot dropboxes to one per county, injecting more uncertainty into the ongoing battle over mail-in voting in the state.

Judge Tim Sulak, a state judge based in Austin, said Abbott's order "would likely needlessly and unreasonably increase risks of exposure to COVID-19 infections" and "substantially burden potential voters’ constitutionally protected rights to vote, as a consequence of increased travel and delays, among other things."

The state lawsuit was brought by liberal-leaning groups in Texas.

Some context: The impact of the ruling is unclear. Earlier this week, a federal appeals court upheld Abbott's order. The state court ruling on Thursday is a separate case, focused on state law.

Elizabeth Lewis, a spokesperson for the Harris County Clerk's office, told CNN that because of the ongoing legal wrangling, the county is not currently planning to reopen the 11 dropbox locations that it closed after Abbott’s one-dropbox-per-county order went into effect earlier this month.

The office will continue to focus on the sole dropbox location at NRG Stadium in Houston, Lewis said. 

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton quickly filed a notice of appeal on Thursday, and said the appeal would temporarily pause the new ruling. 

Abbott and Paxton are both Republicans, and have defended Texas’ mail-in voting laws, which are among the most restrictive in the country.