President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden speak at first 2020 Presidential Debate


by Evan Burley, Staff Reporter

Republican nominee President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden spoke Tuesday night at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland in the first of three 2020 Presidential Debates.

The debate was moderated by “Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace. 

Wallace introduced topics such as the U.S. Supreme Court, COVID-19, Trump and Biden’s records, the economy, “race and violence in cities,” and the upcoming election’s integrity. Additionally, Wallace asked both nominees about healthcare and climate change.

Wallace began by asking candidates about the U.S. Supreme Court and in the wake of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. President Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the position and has defended this decision by calling it his obligation as president; however, Biden said filling the position before the election is an abuse of power.

Trump justified Barrett’s nomination saying he won the election, has the senate and has the white house.

“Elections have consequences,” Trump said. “I think she [Judge Amy Coney Barrett] will be outstanding. She is going to be as good as anybody who has served on the court. I really feel that. And we just won the election; therefore, we have the right to choose her, and very few people would say otherwise.”

Biden believes the public has a right to selecting a president first and subsequently, through the president of their choice, the U.S. Supreme Court nominee. He argued that Trump wants to eliminate the Affordable Care Act (ADA), noting that Barrett has written before that the ADA is unconstitutional. Biden raised concerns insurance companies will prey on people with pre-existing conditions, as well as the president’s views toward Roe v. Wade and whether Barrett’s decisions would reflect that.

“American people have a right to have a say,” Biden said. “And a supreme court nominee—that occurs when they vote for a senator and when they vote for the president of the United States. They’re [voters] not going to get that chance because we’re in the middle of an election already.”

Wallace then turned the debate to the COVID-19 response, beginning with the 7 million cases and over 200K deaths in the U.S. and experts saying it could be months or years before returning to normalcy. This means the president-elect will inherit the COVID-19 crisis and be responsible for the U.S.’s response to the pandemic. 

Biden opened with statistics: the U.S. makes up four percent  of the world population, yet 20 percent of the deaths due to COVID-19 have been American. He noted Trump—when told about the deaths—said, “It is what it is.” He referenced former Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward’s recent book “Rage,” accusing Trump of knowing about the virus as early as February and deliberately downplaying COVID-19 to avoid panicking the public, as well as having no plan to combat the virus.

“We should be providing all the protective gear possible; we should be providing the money the House [of Representatives] has passed in order to go out and get people the help they need to keep their businesses open,” Biden said.

Wallace moved on to the economy, noting the U.S.’s economic recovery as faster than expected and the unemployment rate falling.

Trump went over the praise he claimed to receive in response to the pandemic before arguing Biden’s plan in response to the pandemic would be destructive. He also questioned the reopening date of Nov. 9, alluding to politicization.

When pressed about the recent New York Times article about his taxes, he disputed paying $750 in federal income taxes between 2016 and 2017, instead claiming he paid millions of dollars in taxes during that period.

Biden said the U.S. currently has a higher trade deficit in goods and services with China and Mexico. According to The Poynter Institute’s Politifact, the U.S. deficit with China improved under the Trump administration between 2018 and 2019, making the deficit smaller than the Obama administration’s final three years. The deficit is still considered large overall, and even if only goods were considered, this aspect of the trade deficit decreased to that of the trade deficit during the Obama administration’s final year.

Wallace asked Biden and Trump about their plans to address the issue of race in the U.S., should either win the 2020 presidential election. Wallace pressed Biden on his plans to “reimagine policing” while Trump was pressed on ending racial sensitivity training.

Biden said there are bad apples in law enforcement who need to be held accountable and that he wanted to hold a meeting between law enforcement officials and civil rights activists; however, he is against defunding the police. He also said violence in response—referring to protests in Portland—is never appropriate and that his calls for criminal accountability extend to protesters and prosecuting violence.

Trump thinks the violence is a party issue, despite evidence that the rise in homicides is not an issue of Republican or Democratic leadership. He criticized Biden, claiming he refused to call out Antifa and left-wing groups; however, when asked to take that moment to call out white supremacy groups, Trump refused.

“Almost everything I see is from the left-wing, not from the right-wing,” he said. “I want to see peace. Proud Boys? Stand back and stand by. Somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem. This is a left-wing problem.”

Finally, Wallace asked both nominees how they intended to prepare in the next five weeks. He also asked both nominees if they would assure their respective supporters not to engage in civil unrest and that they would not declare victory until after the election had been independently verified.

Trump claimed millions of ballots are going out, some unsolicited. This claim is untrue. According to The Washington Post, some states will mail ballots out to all registered voters while others are mailing ballot applications. Six states will do neither.

Trump also encouraged supporters to watch carefully when going into the polls, citing poll watchers in Philadelphia who were allegedly kicked out. This is untrue. According to The Washington Post, there are no certified poll watchers in Philadelphia who are affiliated with the Republican Party. According to The Poynter Institute’s Politifact, a woman connected to the Trump campaign did go to the Philadelphia polls to monitor them. Still, she did not provide evidence of being a certified poll watcher.

“If I see tens of thousands of ballots thrown out,” he said, “I will not go along with that.”

The next debate will be the vice presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris. It will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 7, at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Central Standard Time (CST). It will be moderated by USA Today Washington’s bureau chief Susan Page.


Below are students tweets during the debate: