US Presidential final debate: LIVE UPDATES

Nick Whigham
·Assistant News Editor

US president Donald Trump and Joe Biden have gone head-to-head for the last time before a majority of voters go to the polls in less than two weeks to determine the next US leader.

Here were the key moments from the final debate:

  • Mr Trump slammed over coronavirus deaths and downplaying pandemic’s seriousness

  • He changed tack with a more subdued approach, freaking out social media

  • Mr Biden said foreign election meddlers 'will pay a price'

  • The US president took aim at the Black Lives Matter chant


Live coverage is over
  • Nick Whigham

    Presidential debate – key moments:

    – Polls show a slight tightening at a national level with Joe Biden holding roughly an 8 to 9 percentage point lead.

    – The president slammed over coronavirus deaths and downplaying the pandemic seriousness.

    – Trump changes tack with more subdued approach, freaking out social media.

    – Biden says foreign election meddlers 'will pay a price'.

    – Trump slams Black Lives Matter chant.

    – Biden calls global warming an existential threat, vows to lead world.

  • Louise Cheer
  • Nick Whigham

    Biden reaches for unity while Trump touts economy

    In their closing remarks, both candidates were asked what they would say on Inauguration Day to the voters who did not vote for them.

    The difference between the two responses was noticeable. President Trump went first and tried to scare voters about the consequences of a potential Biden presidency.

    Trump warns of recession 'hell'

    "We have to make our country totally successful, as it was prior to the plague coming in from China. Now we are rebuilding it, and we are doing record numbers. 11.4 million jobs in a short period of time.

    "Before the plague came in ... we had the best black unemployment numbers in the history of our country. Hispanic and Asian, people with diplomas, with no diplomas, MIT graduates, No. 1 in the class. Everybody had the best numbers.

    "Success is going to bring us together. We are on the road to success. But I'm cutting taxes, and he wants to raise everybody's taxes, and he wants to put new regulations on everything. He will kill it. If he gets in, you will have a depression the likes of which you have never seen. Your 401(k)s will go to hell, and it will be a very sad day for this country."

    Biden frames election around character and dignity

    In contrast, Biden attempted to reach across the aisle, invoking a theme from President Barack Obama's campaign.

    "I will say, I am an American president. I represent all of you, whether you voted for me or against me. And I am going to make sure that you are represented. I am going to give you hope.

    "We're going to choose to move forward because we have enormous opportunities. Choose hope over fear. We can grow this economy, we can deal with the systemic racism. At the same time, we can make sure that our economy is being run and moved and motivated by clean energy, creating millions of new jobs," Biden said.

    "As I said at the beginning, what is on the ballot here is the character of this country. Decency, honor, respect, treating people with dignity. Making sure that everyone has an even chance. And I'm going to make sure you get that. You haven't been getting that the last four years."

    Trump went for scare tactics while Biden went for hope.

  • Nick Whigham

    Climate change a 'moral obligation': Biden

    President Trump sought to defend his largely dismissive approach to climate change while in office, while his opponent laid out his plans to address the issue should he take office.

    "Global warming is an existential threat to humanity," former Vice President Joe Biden said. "We have a moral obligation to deal with it, and we are told by all of the leading scientists in the world we don't have much time. We're going to pass the point of no return within the next eight to 10 years.

    "We're going to invest in 50,000 charging stations on our highways so we can own the electric car market of the future.

    "We're going to be in a position where we're going ... to take 4 million existing buildings and 2 million existing homes and retrofit them so they don't leak as much energy, saving hundreds of millions of barrels of oil in the process and creating significant numbers of jobs.

    "And right now, by the way, Wall Street has indicated that my plan, my plan will in fact create 18.6 million jobs, seven million more than his."

    In response, Trump touted his expertise with renewable energy, saying, "I know more about winds than you do. It is extremely expensive. It kills all of the birds. I love solar, but solar doesn't quite have it yet. It is not powerful enough yet to really run our big, beautiful factories that we need to compete with the world."

    Trump claimed the United States is now "energy independent for the first time."

    On an issue crucial for the battleground state of Pennsylvania, Biden said that he would not ban fracking if he is elected president, but said he would stop giving subsidies to oil companies.

    "I'm going to rejoin the Paris Accord, and make China abide by what they agreed to," Biden added.

    Trump tried to seize on his opponent's stance on the oil industry.

  • Nick Whigham

    Trump slams Black Lives Matter movement

    "The first time I heard Black Lives Matter, they were chanting 'Pigs in a blanket,' talking about our police," President Trump said.

    Trump appeared to be talking about a long since debunked claim that BLM members would chant "Pigs in a blanket, fry ’em up like bacon."

    "That was my first glimpse of Black Lives Matter, and I thought it was a terrible thing. As far as my relationships with all people, I think I have great relationships with all people. I am the least racist person in this room," Trump said.

    The moderator pointed out that the president has shared content from white nationalists on Twitter. When asked what he says to people concerned about racially incendiary rhetoric, Trump said, "I don't know what to say."

    "It makes me sad, because I am the least racist person," Trump said, adding: "I can't even see the audience because it is so dark, but I don't care who was in the audience. I am the least racist person in this room."

    The two candidates sparred on their record on criminal justice reform, with former Vice President Joe Biden saying Democratic reforms saw 38,000 prisoners released from jail.

    "We are the ones who put in the legislation saying we can look at pattern and practice of police departments and what they were doing and how they were conducting themselves. I could go on, but we began the process, we began the process," he said.

    Trump subsequently accused Mr Biden of being all talk and no action.

  • Nick Whigham

    Biden attacks policy of separating children at the border

    Joe Biden slammed the Trump administration for separating children from their parents when they were detained for illegally crossing the southern border into the United States.

    It was revealed this week that officials could not locate the parents of as many as 500 children who were taken into detention.

    "Kids were ripped from their parents' arms and separated ... and now they cannot find over 500 sets of those parents, and those kids are alone. Nowhere to go. Nowhere to go. It's criminal. It's criminal," Biden said.

    Trump said his opponent did little to address the problem during his time as vice president and accused him of being soft on border crossings.

    "It just shows that he has no understanding of immigration, of the laws. Catch and release is a disaster. A murderer would come in, a rapist would come in, a very bad person would come in, we would take their name, we have to release them into our country," Trump said.

    Mr Biden took aim at the border policy.

  • Nick Whigham

    Trump subdued behind muted microphone

    President Trump has conducted himself in the second presidential debate in a far more subdued manner than in the first and in the subsequent town hall event where he constantly interjected and unloaded endless attacks.

    With both candidates getting two minutes at the beginning of each topic while the other is muted, the debate has played out in a much more civil fashion.

    Interruptions have been far and few between, with both candidates able to make their points in full – something that has been appreciated on social media.

    The noticeably different tactic from Mr Trump was widely noted on social media and the president even complimented the moderator.

    Despite his softer demeanor, the president didn't change his approach to the truth.

    "From a lying perspective, Trump is even worse tonight than in the first debate," CNN fact checker Daniel Dale tweeted.

    People weren't quite sure what to make of it.

    Definitely more controlled.

  • Nick Whigham

    Biden says election meddlers 'will pay a price'

    Following the FBI bombshell yesterday that Iran and Russia were actively meddling in the U.S. election, former Vice President Joe Biden said if he is elected he will make countries pay for trying to influence American voters.

    "I made it clear, and I asked everyone else to take the pledge. Any country, no matter who it is, that intervenes with American elections will pay a price. They will pay a price. It has been overwhelmingly clear this election ... that Russia has been involved, China has been involved to some degree, and now we learn that Iran has been involved. They will pay a price if I am elected."

    Mr Biden called out Trump supporter Rudi Giuliani, accusing him of pushing Russian disinformation.

    Mr Trump, meanwhile, accused his opponent of taking money from foreign countries.

    "I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life," Mr Biden responded, pointing to a secret Chinese bank account allegedly held by Mr Trump, which was recently reported by the New York Times.

    "Release your tax returns, and stop talking about corruption," he said.

  • Nick Whigham

    'We're learning to die': Trump grilled on his response to coronavirus

    President Trump was asked how he would lead the country during this next stage of the coronavirus crisis and promised that a vaccine would be available within weeks.

    "So, as you know, 2.2 million people modeled out, were expected to die," he said. "We closed up the greatest economy in the world in order to fight this horrible disease that came from China.

    "We have a vaccine that is coming. It is ready, it is going to be announced within weeks, and it is going to be delivered," he added.

    Mr Trump was at pains to say the pandemic is a global problem but continued to falsely claim case numbers were coming down despite the uncontrolled spread of the virus in more than 40 states.

    When pressed on his claim about the virus, Mr Trump equivocated.

    "No, it is not a guarantee, but I think it will be by the end of the year," he said. "I think it has a good chance. There are two companies within a matter of weeks, and I think it will be distributed very quickly."

    Former Vice President Joe Biden, in response, said, "Anyone who is responsible for [220,000] deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America. He says we are learning to live with it: People are learning to die with it."

    The debate kicked off with the coronavirus.

  • Nick Whigham

    Celebrities among crowd members

    Professional golfer John Daly and musician Kid Rock were among those in attendance at the debate.

    Judging by a photo shared by Yahoo News journalist Colin Campbell, they didn't appear too impressed by having to wear a mask.

    Not too sure about the masks.

  • Nick Whigham

    Biden holds lead in crucial battleground states

    According to NBC, the host of today's debate, Joe Biden continues to hold a strong lead in states that will decide the final outcome of the election.

    The most recent CNBC/Change Research polls, released earlier this week, show Mr Biden leads in six key states, although some races are getting tighter:

    - Arizona: Biden 51%, Trump 45% (+6)

    - Florida: Biden 50%, Trump 45% (+5)

    - Michigan: Biden 51%, Trump 44% (+7)

    - North Carolina: Biden 50%, Trump 47% (+3)

    - Pennsylvania: Biden 49%, Trump 47% (+2)

    - Wisconsin: Biden 52%, Trump 44% (+8)