Biden, Trump meet in first presidential debate of year

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) – President Donald Trump and former Vice President Sen. Joe Biden will face off in the first presidential debate of 2020 in Cleveland tonight.

Case Western University has been preparing its campus for the historic event for weeks.

FOLLOW OUR LIVE BLOG BELOW FOR UPDATES; FOX 8 and FOX8.com will carry the debate live. It starts at 9 p.m.

10:28 p.m. Update: The candidates finally get to the topic of election integrity.

10:16 p.m. Update: The candidates now discuss the science of climate change.

10:10 p.m. Update: The candidates talk about their electability.

9:40 p.m. Update: The candidates discuss the economy.

9:22 p.m. Update: The candidates discuss the COVID-19 pandemic.

9:06 p.m. Update: The candidates discuss the Supreme Court nomination.

9 p.m. Update: The two candidates take the debate stage in Cleveland, Ohio. As previously reported, the candidates will not shake hands.

8:20 p.m. Update: (AP) — President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, were already set to fight when they share a stage Tuesday in Cleveland, but the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg means things may get tenser even faster.

Moderated by Fox News’ Chris Wallace, the 90-minute debate will feature segments on the Supreme Court, the coronavirus, the economy, race and policing, election integrity and the candidates’ records. Trump’s taxes will also likely be a focus after The New York Times reported that he paid just $750 in federal income taxes the year he ran for office and paid no income taxes at all in many other years.

Still, the court is expected to be the dominant topic in the debate, with other top issues being seen along the same ideological spectrum.

“In national campaigns, we always say the court is important,” said Robert Barnett, who has advised Democratic candidates on debate prep since Jimmy Carter’s running mate, Walter Mondale, in 1976. “This time it may actually turn out to be.”

Both candidates are likely to repeat their talking points about the Supreme Court. But during the debate, their comments are likely to reach vast swaths of the electorate that haven’t been following the campaign closely. Biden has said Ginsburg’s seat should remain vacant until after the election, while Trump has nominated Amy Coney Barrett and the Republican-controlled Senate is rushing to confirm her.

Biden promises to name a Black woman to the court if he gets the chance, but has resisted Trump’s call for him to release a list of possible Supreme Court nominees, as Trump did this year and in 2016. Biden also won’t commit to expanding the court, as some leading progressives are advocating, arguing that to do either would be playing politics by Trump’s rules.

He’s instead using the vacancy to focus on how the court fight could threaten the Obama administration’s signature health care law amid a pandemic — a case he’ll make again during the debate.

7:50 p.m. Update: Joe Biden tweets that he is prepping for the upcoming debate with a pint of Ohio-made Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream:

7:11 p.m. Update: (AP) — Crowds and pageantry are out. COVID-19 tests and masks are in.

Presidential debates are typically some of the most exciting nights of the campaign season, drawing a crowd of thousands of staffers, media and guests.

But this year, as with almost everything else, things are very, very different, with a long list of precautions in place.

Instead of the usual auditorium setting, the debate is being hosted by the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University in the 27,000-square-foot (2,500-square-meter) atrium of the Sheila and Eric Samson Pavilion on the clinic’s Health Education Campus. Notre Dame, the original debate host, withdrew because of the pandemic.

The atrium, with its skylighted roof, has been turned into a makeshift debate hall with a stage and red carpeting. While chairs are mostly placed right next to one another, the rows have been spaced out and signs have been posted on some chairs that read, “Thank you for not sitting here in observance of social distancing.” That leaves room for about 100 people, all of whom will have been tested for the virus and will be required to wear masks. Seats were set with programs and anti-bacterial wipes.

President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden won’t have to wear masks themselves, though.

Each candidate’s campaign was given 20 tickets to hand out to guests, said White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. Trump’s guests were to include his wife, Melania, and his four adult children.

Beyond those watching the televised debates from afar, the faceoffs typically draw several thousand people, including guests, sponsors, donors and the national and international media, taking on the feel of a festival. There’s usually a huge media filing center and food tents — even a beer garden. And after the debate, supporters of each candidate typically file into the press center, creating a “spin room” where they post-game the main event.

While there is a media filing center in Cleveland in a ballroom near the venue, the atmosphere felt far from buzzy Tuesday afternoon, with few reporters in place. And only those wearing gray wristbands indicating they had tested negative for the virus were allowed inside.

Outside, there were no large demonstrations, just security officials blocking off streets around the building before the candidates’ arrivals and helicopters buzzing overhead.

One man was spotted driving around the venue in a pickup truck that had a papier-mache model of Trump’s head in a box, along with pro-Biden flags and signs that read, “203,000 DEAD” of COVID-19 and “Trump failed us.”

Also spotted: A woman dressed as a doctor and pulling a wagon filled with plastic skeletons.

6:15 p.m. Update: (AP) — Kamala Harris says her running mate, Joe Biden, will share his vision for tackling the coronavirus and rebuilding the nation’s economy during his presidential debate against President Donald Trump.

The Democratic California senator said Tuesday during a digital fundraiser with artists that “Joe’s goal in the debate is to communicate directly with the American people.”

Harris says the country is at a crossroads in more ways than one, from the pandemic and economic recession to a reckoning on racial injustice and climate change. She’s calling Republican efforts to fill a Supreme Court seat before the election a “crisis.”

Harris says, “And in the midst of all this, a president whose instinct is to always stoke chaos, division, and mistrust.”

Harris is set to debate Vice President Mike Pence next week.

5:40 p.m. Update: (AP) — Here are some of the biggest questions heading into the night:

HOW DOES TRUMP HANDLE BEING ON THE DEFENSIVE?

In his first formal debate since taking office, Trump has a lot to answer for.

More than 200,000 Americans have been killed by COVID-19 under his watch — the highest death toll of any country in the world. Tens of millions of people are still out of work. The country’s cultural and political divisions are widening. And don’t forget the weekend revelations that Trump has paid less federal income taxes than most working-class Americans for several years.

Moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News and Biden will no doubt press Trump on those facts.

Trump seems to revel in hand-to-hand combat, and history suggests that neither facts nor any code of conduct will prevent him from saying whatever he needs to change the subject. He can pivot to more friendly issues such as the Supreme Court confirmation fight or “law and order” — or he can jump into the mud by going after Biden’s mental and physical strength or his family.

Such personal tactics worked for Trump four years ago. But now that he’s the man in charge of the country, it’s unclear if voters will be as willing to accept the brash outsider act.

HOW DOES BIDEN RESPOND?

It’s difficult to keep up with Trump’s campaign messages, but one line of attack has risen above the rest over the past year: that the 77-year-old Biden, or “Sleepy Joe,” is not mentally or physically fit to be president. Therefore, perhaps nothing matters more for Biden on Tuesday night than his ability to convince America that he has the strength to hold the world’s most important job.

Given Trump’s persistent attacks, Biden faces a low bar in proving his stamina.

But it’s worth asking whether that’s the measure for success that voters should use. After nearly a half century in politics, Biden is a far more experienced debater than Trump, and he has a much better grasp of foreign and domestic policy. On paper, at least, Biden has the advantage.

Yet the former vice president’s uneven performances in the primary debates offer plenty of reasons for Democrats to be worried.

WHO WILL VOTERS SEE ON STAGE?

Trump and his Republican allies have been trying to brand Biden as a socialist since he emerged as the Democratic nominee from a pack of primary candidates that featured a self-described democratic socialist (not Biden). And Biden and his allies have been calling Trump a racist since Biden launched his campaign.

On Tuesday, each candidate will have a prime-time opportunity to debate the policies and rhetoric underlying each argument.

Biden, who has long positioned himself to the center of his party’s most liberal positions, has embraced plans to enlarge the government’s role in health care, education and the environment. Such policies are hardly socialist, but they would represent a significant shift to the left and require tax increases.

Trump has a well-established pattern of using racist rhetoric and favoring policies that disproportionately favor white people. For example, Trump has used the power of his office to crack down on Black Lives Matter protesters fighting for civil rights, calling them “terrorists” and warning that violent mobs of such protesters are invading largely white suburbs.

While the candidates’ personalities may draw more attention than their policies, it’s their policies that will touch the lives of virtually every American voter.

HOW WILL BIDEN HANDLE TRUMP’S FALSE STATEMENTS?

Heading into the debate, Biden’s team was advising him to avoid messy confrontations and fact checking Trump in real time to avoid getting pulled into the mud with a president who loves getting dirty.

Biden could easily spend all 90 minutes consumed by trying to refute Trump’s claims, and no doubt, liberals will want to see Biden take the fight to the president whenever the opportunity presents itself. But Biden also wants to rise above the chaos and present voters with a clear alternative who’s willing to compromise and move past the divisive fights that have dominated the Trump era.

It’s a delicate balance, and Biden has struggled at times to stick to his advisers’ plans. You may remember him snapping at voters on the campaign trail back in the spring or the campaign’s futile attempt to get him to shorten and focus his stump speeches.

Even under the best of circumstances, as we’ve seen in Trump’s previous debates, it’s difficult to take on Trump directly. The former TV reality star is clearly comfortable on camera, and he’s willing to say whatever he needs to — whether it’s true or not.

HOW WILL DEMOCRACY FARE?

Trump has repeatedly sought to undermine the integrity of the election by raising unfounded concerns about voter fraud. Trailing in the polls, he’s been escalating such warnings as Election Day nears.

Trump’s message is not supported by facts, but many of his supporters believe it. We’ll see how convincing Trump’s message is, with Biden — and perhaps Wallace — pushing back.

There are legitimate concerns about the Postal Service’s capacity to handle the surge of mail ballots as people try to participate in the election as safely as possible during the pandemic. And several states are scrambling to avoid the same ballot-counting delays that plagued primary elections. But experts are quite clear that there is no evidence of significant voter fraud and very little chance it will happen in 2020.

The experts’ voices are not as loud, however, as whatever will be said Tuesday night.

4:40 p.m. Update: Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, just landed at Burke Lakefront Airport.

3:30 p.m. Update: President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump just landed on Air Force One here in Cleveland ahead of tonight’s presidential debate.

2:30 p.m. Update: Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, have released more of their personal tax returns ahead of the first presidential debate.

The Bidens’ returns show the couple paid almost $300,000 in federal taxes in 2019, including almost $288,000 in personal income tax. The Bidens reported taxable income of $944,737.

The release on Tuesday comes just days after The New York Times reported that Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016, the year he was elected president, and again in 2017, his first year in office. The Times said Trump paid no federal income taxes for 10 of the 15 years before that.

Biden and Trump are set to meet Tuesday night in Cleveland for their first presidential debate, and Trump’s taxes are sure to come up.

Trump has called the reports “fake news” yet still refuses to release his returns himself. Biden already had released two decades’ worth of his tax returns, in addition to the federal financial disclosures required of him when he was a senator and vice president.

Biden’s running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, and her husband, Doug Emhoff, also released their 2019 returns Tuesday. Harris and Emhoff reported paying $1.05 million in personal income taxes and $1.19 million in total federal taxes on $3.02 million in taxable income.

1 pm update: (AP) — President Donald Trump spent Tuesday morning in informal preparations for the first debate with Joe Biden. A longer, more formal preparation session was set for the afternoon once he arrives in Cleveland.

1 pm update: Joe Biden’s debate guests were just announced. They include Gurneé Green, a small business owner from Cleveland Heights who was highlighted during the Democratic National Convention; and, James Evanoff Jr., a service technician in Cleveland. He has eight years of seniority with United Steel Workers (USW) and works at ArcelorMittal, which was recently acquired by Cleveland Cliffs. 

10 am update: Security fencing up at the Justice Center ahead of the debate.

The debate will be 90 minutes and will not have any commercial breaks.

FOX News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace will moderate.

HOW CANDIDATES ARE PREPARING

President Trump has decided to skip formal preparation, though he said Sunday that former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his former 2016 primary rival, Chris Christie, are helping him.

Biden’s campaign has been holding mock debate sessions featuring Bob Bauer, a senior Biden adviser and former White House general counsel, playing the role of Trump, according to a person with direct knowledge of the preparations who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss internal strategy.

DEBATE TOPICS

The debate format is six 15-minute segments on the following issues: Trump and Biden records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, the economy, race and violence in our cities, and the integrity of the election. The list, which was released last week, is subject to change depending on news developments.

A New York Times story about President Trump’s tax records would likely be included.

COVID-19 CHANGES

The candidates will not shake hands.

Once on stage, neither the candidates nor the moderator will wear masks.

However, the limited audience is required to wear masks and go through COVID-19 screening.

PARKING BANS

A parking ban is in effect from through 6 a.m. Wednesday for the following areas

  • E. 89th Street from Carnegie Avenue to Cedar Avenue
  • E. 89th Street from 2176 E. 89th St. to Cedar Avenue
  • E.90th Street from 2205 E. 90th St. to Cedar Avenue
  • E. 93rd Street from 2223
  • E. 93rd St. to Cedar Avenue
  • E. 95th Street from 2225 E. 95th St. to Cedar Avenue
  • E. 97th Street from 2221 E. 97th St. to Cedar Avenue
  • E. 100th Street from 2197
  • E. 100th St. to Cedar Avenue E. 101st Street from Wain Ct. to Cedar Avenue
  • E. 103rd Street from Wain Ct. to Cedar Avenue
  • Euclid Avenue from East Blvd. to E. 118th Street
  • Juniper from East Blvd. to E. 115th Street
  • Wade Oval East Blvd to East 108th Street
  • Sterns Euclid Avenue to Cedar Avenue
  • Cedar Avenue from E. 89th Street to E. 105th Street
  • East Blvd from Jeptha to Euclid Avenue
  • Martin L. King Boulevard from Chester Avenue to Jeptha
  • Bellflower from East Blvd. to E. 115th Street
  • Circle from Adelbert Road to Cornell Wade Park from Ansel to E. 118th Street
  • Dearing from Stokes to Sterns
  • East 101 Street from Chester Avenue to Ansel Avenue
  • Ansel Avenue from E. 101st Street to Hough Avenue
  • Lakeside Avenue south to Carnegie Avenue From E. 18th Street west to the Cuyahoga River

ROAD CLOSURES/DETOURS

Road closures are in effect through Wednesday. Here’s what to avoid:

  • E. 93rd Street between Chester Avenue and Euclid Avenue.
  • Lane obstructions on Euclid Avenue from E. 100th St. to E. 93rd St. (north curb) and E.100th Street in the southbound lanes.
  • Chester Avenue between E. 89th St. to E. 101st St.
  • Carrie Ct. between E. 90th St. to E. 93rd St.
  • E. 97th St. north to Logan Ct.
  • Euclid Ave. between E. 89th St. to E. 105th  St.
  • E. 90th St. between Chester Ave. and Euclid Ave.
  • E. 102nd St., E. 100th St., E. 96th St. and E. 90th St. all north of Carnegie Ave.
  • Signage will be posted for eastbound travelers on Chester Ave. and Euclid Ave. that only local access will be permitted on those streets between E. 55th St. and E. 89th St. The posted detour will route traffic to Carnegie Ave.
  • Chester Ave. and Euclid Ave. eastbound will be closed at E. 89th St. where traffic must travel either north or south on E. 89th St.
  • Traffic southbound on E. 90th St. from Hough Ave. will be local access only and the road will be closed approximately 100 feet north of Chester Ave.
  • Traffic southbound on E.93 Street from Hough Ave. will be local access only and the road will be closed approximately 100 feet north of Chester Ave.
  • Traffic southbound on E. 97 Street from Lamont will be local access only and the road will be closed after the intersection of Logan Ct. prior to reaching Chester Ave.
  • Traffic westbound on Chester Ave. will encounter local access only closure at E.105 and Chester Ave.
  • Local access traffic westbound on Chester Ave. from E. 105 Street must travel either north or south on E.101 Street.  Southbound traffic on E.101 Street is local access only to businesses and establishments in the area prior to reaching Euclid Ave., where the road will be closed to all traffic.
  • E. 90 Street traveling northbound from Carnegie will be Clinic patient access only and will be closed approximately 100 feet south of Euclid Ave.
  • Traveling northbound on E. 96th St. or E. 100th St. from Carnegie Ave. will be Clinic patient access only. Travel is permitted past E. Mall Drive and W. Mall Drive and the roads will both be closed approximately 50 feet north of W. Mall Drive.
  • Northbound traffic on E. 102nd St. from Carnegie Ave. will be closed.
  • Traveling westbound on Euclid Ave., the road will be closed at E. 105th Street.
  • The driveway onto the Cleveland Clinic Campus from E. 105th Street located between Euclid and Carnegie will be closed.
  • The detour for westbound traffic from E. 105th Street on both Euclid Ave. and Chester Ave. will be westbound on Carnegie Ave.

RTA CHANGES

Through Thursday, October 1, the following lines will be rerouted.

HealthLine
Westbound: Regular route to Euclid and East 105, left on East 105th, right on Carnegie, right on East 83,  left on Euclid returning to regular route.
Eastbound: Regular route to Euclid and East 83, right on East 83, left on Carnegie, left on East 105, right on Chester, right on Stokes, left on Euclid returning to regular route.

#7: Monticello – Euclid Hts.
#32: Cedar

Westbound: Regular route to Euclid and East 105, left on East 105, right on Carnegie, right on East 89 to layover.
Eastbound: Regular route to East 89 and Chester, left on Chester, left on East 79, left on Euclid, right on East 83, left on Carnegie, left on East 105, right on Chester, right on Stokes, left on Euclid returning to regular route.

#9: Mayfield
Westbound: Regular route to Euclid and East 105, left on East 105, right on Carnegie, right on East 89, and continue across Euclid to layover.
Eastbound: Via East 89 to Chester, left on Chester, left on East 79, left on Euclid, right on East 83, left on Carnegie, left on East 105, right on Chester, right on Stokes, left on Euclid returning to regular route.

#48-48A: University Circle – East 131
Northbound: Regular route to Euclid and East 105, left on East 105, right on Carnegie, right on East 89, and continue across Euclid to layover.
Southbound: Via East 89 to Chester, left on Chester, left on East 79, left on Euclid, right on East 83, left on Carnegie, left on East 105, right on Chester, right on Stokes, left on Euclid returning to regular route.

OTHER CLOSURES

University Center Post Office and Cleveland Public Library’s Martin Luther King, Jr. branch will be closed Tuesday for security purposes.

The Cleveland Museum of Art will be closed Tuesday.

They will reopen Wednesday at noon.

BANNED ITEMS

The event zone has been expanded to include parts of University Circle.

The regulations will end at 6 a.m. Wednesday.

The following items are banned in public spaces, such as streets and sidewalks:

  • Lumber larger than 2” in width and ¼” thick, including supports for signs;
  • Metal, plastic, or other hard material larger than ¾” thick and 1/8” in wall thickness including pipe and tubing;
  • Any air rifle, air pistol, paintball gun, blasting caps, switchblade or automatic knife, knife having a blade two and one-half (2-1/2) inches in length or longer, cestus, billy, blackjack, sword, saber, hatchet, axe, slingshot, BB gun, pellet gun, wrist shot, blackjack, metal knuckles, nun chucks, mace, iron buckle, axe handle, shovel, or other instrumentality used to cause property or personal damage;
  • Any dangerous ordinance, weapon, or firearm that is prohibited by the laws of the State of Ohio;
  • Any explosives, explosive device, or incendiary device;
  • Fireworks and rockets;
  • Sound Amplification Equipment;
  • Drones and other unmanned aircraft systems;
  • Containers of bodily fluids;
  • Aerosol cans;
  • Mace, Pepper Spray or other chemical irritant;
  • Umbrellas with metal tips;
  • Any projectile launchers, such as water guns and water cannons;
  • Rope, chain, cable, strapping, wire, string, line, tape, or any similar material, in greater than 6’ lengths;
  • Glass bottles, ornaments, light bulbs, ceramic vessels, and anything else frangible, regardless of whether the container holds any substance;
  • Locks including, without limitation, padlocks, bicycle locking devices, chain locks, or similar devices, but not including:  (i) an integral component of a conveyance or structure; (ii) locks when utilized by the owner of private real property to secure permanent or temporary fencing; or (iii) locks attached to a bicycle;
  • Tents and other shelters, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, mattresses, cots, hammocks, bivy sacks, or stoves;
  • Coolers or ice chests;
  • Backpacks and bags exceeding the size of 18” x 13” x 7”;
  • Lasers;
  • Non-plastic containers, bottles, cans, or thermoses;
  • Ladders;
  • Grappling hooks, sledgehammers, hammers, and crowbars;
  • Canned goods;

NEXT DEBATES

Vice Presidential Debate
October 7

2nd Presidential Debate
October 15

Final Presidential Debate
October 22

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