Trump and Biden focus on coronavirus in opening stages of dual town halls #Breaking112


Of whether he had a coronavirus test on the day of the first debate with his opponent Joe Biden, he told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie: “Possibly I did, possibly I didn’t.”

And a time when many Americans are looking to him for empathy after more than 217,000 people have died, he boasted about the excess mortality rate in the United States.

Meanwhile, in an incredible split-screen moment a less than three weeks out from Election Day, Biden was taking questions from voters on ABC and excoriated the President’s response to the pandemic.

“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.”

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.

That means the tiny sliver of Americans who have still not made up their minds in this sharply polarized election are being forced to flip back and forth between the two network events, with Trump in Miami and Biden in Philadelphia. Though the election is still more than two weeks away, more than 17 million ballots have already been cast in 44 states and the District of Columbia, signs of what could be historic turnout this year.

Trump needs a game-changer but leans on usual lines

Trump, who resumed campaign events in recent days, has traveled the country falsely suggesting that he emerged “immune” from his serious bout with the virus, continuing the same reckless tactics that marked his campaign before his diagnosis. The President has regularly gathered huge groups of supporters at his rallies where few wear masks, and plans to do more as the election nears.

But the incumbent is in need of a major moment to change the race in his favor. As the town hall started Thursday, he didn’t seem to be in much of a mood to change tact.

When Guthrie pointed out that there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud, and that FBI Director Christopher Wray has underscored that finding under oath, Trump openly dismissed Wray and said he wasn’t doing a very good job. He continued to seize on instances where a small number of ballots were mishandled, even after Guthrie noted that some 150 million ballots could be cast across the country.

As Guthrie briskly moved the discussion along, Trump refused to disavow a wide array of conspiracy theories from voter fraud to the group known as QAnon. The President claimed not to know about what the group believes, excusing his refusal to condemn them by saying he knows they are against pedophilia—and adding that he agrees with that portion of their beliefs.

“I know nothing about QAnon,” the President answered. “I know nothing about it. I do know they are very much against pedophilia.”

Trump repeatedly insisted that he didn’t know about the movement, even though he frequently retweets QAnon theories and followers. “What I do hear about it is they are very strongly against pedophilia. And I agree with that. I mean I do agree with that,” he reiterated.

“But there’s not a satanic pedophile ring –” Gutherie asked.

“I have no idea. I know nothing about them,” Trump responded.

“You don’t know that?,” Gutherie said.

“No, I don’t know that, and neither do you know that,” Trump said.

Trump had earlier claimed on Thursday that the US is “doing fine” as new cases surge and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects up to 240,000 coronavirus deaths by the first week of November, shortly after Election Day.

As Trump has refused to change course — even though the poor marks for his handling of the pandemic are creating a huge drag on his reelection chances, particularly with women — there have been ominous signs that another wave of the coronavirus is hitting the US as deaths top 217,000 and cases near 8 million.

On Thursday, Trump also falsely told his North Carolina crowd that masks don’t work 85% of the time, and that 99% of people are recovering from coronavirus: “99%. 99 plus, plus,” he said, despite the fact that more than 217,000 people have died in the US.

Despite those efforts to undercut mask wearing, the President repeatedly said he was fine with Americans choosing to do so. “Savannah, we’re on the same side,” Trump said at one point. “I say wear the mask, I’m fine with it. I have no problem.”

Biden aims to stay the course

In the town hall setting, Biden hopes to show his empathy, a skill that has been a strength for him on the campaign trail, as he speaks with voters about how the medical and economic toll of Covid-19 has harmed their families. Trump has had difficulty in these settings, often falling into a defensive posture as he touts what he views as heroic efforts to stop the spread of the virus and fuel an economic recovery.

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.

Biden, who religiously wears a mask, took a much more conservative approach as he discussed precautionary measures related to the virus during his ABC town hall. He said the government should be “thinking about” making vaccines mandatory once a vaccine is approved.

“It depends on the state of — the nature of the vaccine when it comes out and how it is being distributed,” Biden said, stating that there are possible legal questions about making it mandatory.

“We should be talking about — thinking about making it mandatory,” the former vice president said.

Biden also said the President’s discouragement of mask wearing — with his comments ridiculing masks or questioning their efficacy — has consequences.

“You and I know, the words of a president matter. No matter whether they’re good, bad or indifferent,” Biden said.

This is a breaking story and will be updated.

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