Presidential debate live updates: There will be no plexiglass to separate Trump, Biden tonight

Courtney Subramanian

Bart Jansen

John Fritze

Maureen Groppe

Ledyard King

Joey Garrison

David Jackson
 
| USA TODAY

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Election 2020: Mics will be muted for portions of presidential debate

President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden will have their microphones cut off during portions of the final presidential debate.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden meet for the final time on the debate stage Thursday, an event that could shape the course of the presidential election. Refresh for the latest updates from the last presidential debate.

President Donald Trump is again taking a page from his 2016 playbook by inviting a guest to attack his opponent.

The Trump campaign has enlisted Tony Bobulinski, a former business associate of Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, who has accused the former vice president of accepting influence payments from foreign entities. Bobulinski claims that Hunter Biden spoke to the former vice president often about his business dealings and “frequently referenced asking him for his sign-off or advice on various potential deals.”

Joe Biden has insisted that his son Hunter’s business interests have never influenced his policies.

Bobulinski’s appearance comes after The New York Post reported on the alleged contents of a computer hard drive purporting to document the Ukrainian and Chinese business activities of Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. Federal authorities are investigating whether the material supplied to the Post by Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, is part of a Russian disinformation campaign.

Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates responded to the allegations by pointing out the former vice president released his tax returns, which show “there is no indication he ever got any money from anybody in these business deals.”

“Joe Biden has never even considered being involved in business with his family, nor in any overseas business whatsoever. He has never held stock in any such business arrangements nor has any family member or any other person ever held stock for him,” Bates said.

Earlier on Thursday campaign officials told reporters they expect Trump to attack Biden and his family. Biden Deputy Campaign Manager Kate Bedingfield warned that such accusations would be “amplifying Russian misinformation.”

Bobulinski has agreed to cooperate with a Senate investigation into the Bidens and agreed to be interviewed by members of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Finance committees on Friday.

For Trump, the move was a reprise of a similar stunt in 2016, when the president entered a debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton with three women who had accused President Bill Clinton of inappropriate sexual behavior. At the time, Trump was still reeling from the release of the 2005 Access Hollywood recording in which he was heard bragging about groping women.

In what was billed as a campaign call “ahead of tonight’s presidential debate,” officials outlined allegations against Hunter Biden and his business activities in Ukraine and China. Aides refused to answer any question that did not pertain to Hunter Biden hours before the final match-up between Trump and Biden.

Courtney Subramanian and John Fritze

The plexiglass that separated the vice-presidential candidates during their debate this month will not be present on the presidential debate stage in Nashville.

The barrier was added to the stage following Trump’s diagnosis with COVID-19 and an outbreak at the White House. It was on prominent display when Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris debated in Utah on Oct. 7.

Health officials in Nashville originally recommended the plexiglass but after consulting with Dr. Tony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and taking Trump’s negative test result into account, the glass was removed around 4:30 p.m. CT, according to Frank Fahrenkopf, co-chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Trump recovered from his bout with the virus and has held an active campaign scheduled. Both candidates have tested negative for the virus ahead of the debate.

On Thursday morning, Plexiglass barriers were seen between the podiums. But by Thursday afternoon, after the two candidates conducted their walkthroughs of the debate hall, they were gone.

John Fritze, Joey Garrison and The Tennessean 

The president and several members of the first family, including Ivanka and Tiffany Trump, were still at a downtown fundraiser late Thursday afternoon.

Kid Rock and Lee Greenwood were on hand at the JW Marriott hotel where the fundraiser is taking place.

Biden is staying at a local home while he awaits the debate.

Natalie Neysa Alund and Adam Tamburin, The Tennessean

The debate will air from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. ET, and will be moderated by NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker. Viewers can stream the match-up at USATODAY.com. The debate also will air on major networks and cable channels, including Fox News, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, PBS and C-SPAN.

Joe Biden invites North Carolina restaurant couple as guests for debate

A North Carolina couple struggling to keep their restaurant afloat during the coronavirus pandemic will join Democratic nominee Joe Biden in Nashville for Thursday night’s presidential debate.

Zweli and Leonardo Williams, owners of Zweli’s Kitchen, a Zimbabwean restaurant in Durham, N.C., will be in the debate crowd as the former vice president’s invited guests, according to the Biden campaign.

“They have really had to adapt in order to keep their business afloat,” Biden campaign senior advisor Symone Sanders said during a press call. “They are two of the many small business owners who have felt an economic impact of this administration’s failed response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

— Joey Garrison

Biden camp rebuts Hunter attacks

A Biden aide predicted Trump would attack the former vice president’s son during Thursday night’s debate in Tennessee and said doing so would be “amplifying Russian misinformation.”

Their pre-debate warning from Biden comes after The New York Post reported on the alleged contents of a computer hard drive purporting to document the Ukrainian and Chinese business activities of Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. Federal authorities are investigating whether the material supplied to the Post by Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, has part of a Russian disinformation campaign.

More: A tabloid got a trove of data on Hunter Biden from Rudy Giuliani. Now, the FBI is probing a possible disinformation campaign.

“We expect that Trump will attack Biden and his family,” Biden Deputy Campaign Manager Kate Bedingfield said Thursday. “And every time he does that, all he’s doing is reinforcing what we’ve said all along: He is acknowledging that he has no case for a second term.”

– Joey Garrison

Trump tests negative for COVID

Soon after Trump’s COVID diagnosis this month a question emerged that the White House never fully answered: Was the president tested for the virus before he stood on stage with Biden for their first debate?

This time around, White House officials are being more clear.

“We tested him on the way here and he tested negative,” White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters traveling with the president to the debate in Nashville, Tennessee.

The White House announced Trump’s positive test result on the morning of Oct. 2. He took part in the debate with Biden days earlier, on Sept. 29. Trump has not directly answered whether he was tested on the day of the debate, a requirement from the Commission on Presidential Debates, and White House aides have been unwilling to answer questions about the timeline of his previous negative tests.

“I don’t know, I don’t even remember,” Trump said during a televised town hall on NBC last week. “I test all the time.”

– John Fritze

Trump has much on the line in final debate with Biden 

Trump faces a make-or-break moment in his campaign for a second term as he squares off Thursday against Biden in the final presidential debate of the 2020 election – and perhaps the final opportunity to reset the narrative of the race.   

After a widely panned and frequently vitriolic debate Sept. 29, the two candidates will square off with less than two weeks to go before the Nov. 3 election. What to watch: Will Trump moderate his tone after facing blowback for coming in “too hot” during his first exchange with Biden? How will the decision by the Commission on Presidential Debates to mute microphones during portions of the debate affect the back-and-forth? 

The final debate comes as Biden enjoyed double-digit leads in national polls and single-digit leads in most battlegrounds, findings the Trump campaign argues does not adequately capture the enthusiasm among the president’s supporters for a second term.

More: How to watch the last presidential debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump

The debate will air from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. ET, and will be moderated by NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker. Viewers can stream the match-up at USATODAY.com. The debate also will air on major networks and cable channels, including Fox News, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, PBS and C-SPAN.

– John Fritze

Trump will vote for himself Saturday in Florida

President Donald Trump has a special reason for spending Friday night at his home in southern Florida.

Voting.

“President Trump plans to early vote on Saturday in West Palm Beach, Florida,” the White House said in a statement.

Trump is also campaigning in the Sunshine State on Friday and Saturday.

Four years ago, Trump voted for himself in New York City. Since then, the president has switched his place of residence to Florida, which just happens to be a key battleground state in his reelection race with Democrat Joe Biden.

David Jackson

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