Biden and Trump argue over COVID-19, race and Russian interference in final debate

Joe Biden has renewed his attack on President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic during the final debate ahead of the presidential election on 3 November.

The Democratic candidate told the debate in Nashville, Tennessee: “Anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain president of the United States of America.

“He says we’re, you know, learning to live with it. People are learning to die with it.”

Mr Trump responded by saying: “We’re rounding the corner. It’s going away,” adding that “we can’t close up our nation or we won’t have one”.

The pair also clashed in the second section of the debate, on national security. They were both asked about the news that Iran and Russia had obtained US voter registration information in an attempt to interfere in the election.

Image:Donald Trump repeatedly said Joe Biden had failed to achieve much while in office

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Biden clashes with Trump over COVID-19 shutdowns

Mr Biden said such countries “will pay a price if I’m elected” and claimed that Moscow did not want him elected because “I know them and they know me”.

Mr Trump alleged that Mr Biden received $3.5m (£2.7m) from Russia and insisted that “there’s been nobody tougher than me on Russia”.

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He added: “You were getting a lot of money from Russia… you probably still are.”

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Candidates on Russian interference in US election

Mr Biden responded: “I have not taken a penny from any foreign source in my life.” He called on Mr Trump to release his tax returns or “stop talking about corruption”, with the Republican candidate claiming he was told he had “prepaid tens of millions of dollars” and that $750 (£574) in taxes he was claimed to have paid in 2017 was a “filing fee”.

Mr Trump raised the issue of Mr Biden’s son Hunter and claims he drew a large salary from a Ukrainian firm.

Mr Biden responded that the accusation had been investigated repeatedly and did not link him to any wrongdoing. He also pointed out that impeachment proceedings were started over the president’s attempt to pressure the president of Ukraine to find potentially damaging information on the Biden family.

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Race relations in America was also one of the topics, with both men clashing over immigrants held in control facilities after crossing the border, including children who were separated from parents.

Mr Biden called the current president “one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history”, with Mr Trump claiming he was the “least racist person in this room”.

The discussion on race stretched for several minutes with Mr Biden accusing his rival of race baiting, adding the president “has a dog whistle about as big as a foghorn”.

Image:Mr Biden attacked Mr Trump’s record and played up his working class roots

Mr Trump said the Democrat had four years as vice president to combat racism but failed to do so, adding: “You’re all talk and no action, Joe.”

The two also sparred on climate change and US reliance on oil. Mr Biden said the US needed to embrace clean energy and gradually transition away from oil, with Mr Trump seizing on the remark and asked if voters in oil-producing states like Texas, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania were listening.

Opinion polls show most Americans disapprove of Mr Trump’s response to the virus.

The final debate is one of the final opportunities for both candidates to make gains in a campaign dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 221,000 people in the US and devastated the economy.

Mr Biden leads Mr Trump by eight percentage points in the latest Reuters/Ipsos national poll, conducted between 20 October and 22 October. That lead has narrowed slightly over the last few weeks.

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Trump: ‘I am the least racist person in the room’

This final debate was far more civil and substantive than when the candidates clashed in September, where Mr Trump made constant interruptions and exchanges of personal insults between the two men largely dominated the event.

But both men differed in their approach to the subjects, with Mr Biden staring down the camera and appearing confident on the key questions and Mr Trump attacking his opponent or appealing to his core support as he came under scrutiny.

It contained six sections including the COVID-19 response, national security, American families, race in America, climate change and leadership

The candidates’ microphones were switched off this time while their rival made a two-minute introductory statement on the six topics.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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