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Presidential debate: Trump refuses to take part in a virtual TV event

Donald Trump and Joe Biden

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The first debate resulted in insults and interruptions

US President Donald Trump has refused to take part in a virtual TV debate with his Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Previously, the committee that decided on the format of the Miami debate on October 1

5 said it should have taken place remotely.

He made the decision after Trump was treated for Covid-19. It has no current symptoms, but the White House is facing a series of positive tests.

He said the move to virtual was to “protect” his rival. Mr. Biden said Mr. Trump “changed his mind every second”.

  • Pence and Harris clash over the coronavirus pandemic
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The first presidential debate resulted in insults and interruptions. The vice president debate, held Wednesday night between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris, was a much more measured affair.

The elections will be held on November 3. The latest opinion polls give Biden a high single-digit lead nationwide, but the outcome is often decided in battlefield states where the race is often much closer.

What did Trump say?

His comments during a telephone interview with Fox Business Channel on Thursday touched on a number of key issues, including his health and whether he could move towards a stimulus package for the economy.

But it was his comments on the format of the debate that attracted the most attention.

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Multimedia captionWho really decides the US elections?

Mr. Trump said, “I’m not going to waste my time on a personal debate. Sit behind a computer, ridiculous. You’ve been interrupted … I’m not having a virtual debate.”

He also described the Miami debate moderator – the political editor of the cable and satellite television network C-SPAN, Steve Scully – as a “never Trumper”.

A statement by Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, who also previously tested positive at Covid, said the commission’s decision to “run to Joe Biden’s defense” was “pathetic” and Trump would publish “more negative tests” before the debate.

He said Mr. Trump will hold a rally instead.

Regarding his health, Trump said: “I’m back because I’m a perfect physical specimen.”

He said he had stopped taking most of the “therapies” but was still taking steroids and would be tested again for Covid “soon”.

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Multimedia captionFour Covid rules broken by Trump and the White House

But although his doctor said he now has no symptoms, questions still remain about how long the president was infected and whether he could still be contagious.

And although the names of many people who interacted with the president and tested positive are now known, it is unclear how many have been exhibited in the White House. There are new Covid security measures in place.

Mr Trump said Thursday that “someone entered and people were infected” but did not provide further details.

What did Biden’s team say?

Mr. Biden was previously wary of an onstage event, saying he would attend until medical experts gave the green light.

After Trump’s comments on the virtual debate, he said: “We don’t know what the president will do. He changes his mind every second. For me to comment now would be irresponsible.

“I think I’ll follow the committee’s recommendation. If he goes away and is about to have a rally, I don’t know what I’ll do. You never know what’s going to come out of his mouth.”

Biden’s Director of Communications Kate Bedingfield said, “Vice President Biden looks forward to speaking directly to the American people and confronting his plan to reunite the country and rebuild better with Donald Trump’s failed coronavirus leadership. threw the strong economy it inherited. into the worst recession since the Great Depression. “

What was behind the debate committee’s move?

The 90-minute presidential debate was to be held at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, with local residents in the audience asking candidates questions.

But the Presidential Debates Commission said Thursday candidates should attend “from separate remote locations.” The attendees and the moderator would be in Miami.

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The White House is still trying to cope with a Covid-19 epidemic

The commission said the decision was made “to protect the health and safety of all involved.”

A further debate is currently scheduled for October 22 in Tennessee.

And the economy?

The president on Tuesday said he was halting talks with Democrats on a global Covid stimulus package but, after a backlash from the stock market, said he would instead try to negotiate individual deals.

He was more optimistic on Thursday, saying he saw “really good” odds of reaching agreement on a number of issues.

“We’re starting to have some very productive talks,” he said.

The main areas of progress were airline assistance and a $ 1,200 (£ 930) stimulus check for workers.

Republicans under Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Democrats under House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have regularly argued but differed on the amount they want to spend.

What happened in the debate between the vice presidents?

Wednesday night’s event in Utah was a civil debate between two regular communicators over last week’s bellicose showdown between Trump and Biden.

But there have been heated exchanges.

  • What have we learned from the debate?
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Ms Harris accused Mr. Pence and the president of deliberately misleading Americans about the lethality of the coronavirus.

Mr. Pence accused the Biden-Harris campaign of copying the White House pandemic strategy.

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Multimedia captionDodging Questions and Interruptions: While the debate between the vice presidents was more civil, there were still moments of tension

Mr. Pence expressed shock at the killing of African American George Floyd in Minnesota. But he added: “There is no excuse for the riots and looting that followed.”

Ms. Harris said the president had refused to condemn white supremacists.

BBC North American reporter Anthony Zurcher says it wasn’t memorable, with some strong moments and some stumbling blocks for both of us, but that such an achievement in itself would be good news for the Democrats.

  • Read Anthony’s full analysis

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