Trump, Biden to face off in first debate: US election news

The coronavirus, the Supreme Court, Trump’s taxes, and economy loom over the first of three presidential debates.

The stage awaits the first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden on the campus of the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]
  • Donald Trump and Joe Biden clash in Cleveland, Ohio in the first of three scheduled debates.
  • The Trump campaign hopes the first showdown, which starts at 21:00 ET, will give the president a boost amid lagging polls.
  • Mike Pence and top Senate Republicans have met with Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
  • Pence hosts a debate watch party on Tuesday, while Kamala Harris attends a virtual fundraiser.
  • Jill Biden continued her tour of northern battleground states, campaigning in Michigan with 35 days until November 3.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the US elections. This is Joseph Stepansky.

Here are the latest updates:

Tuesday, September 29:

17:10 ET – Biden arrives at debate site in Cleveland for walk-through

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden arrived at the Cleveland airport and gave a quick wave to the press before getting into a black Chevrolet Suburban to travel to the debate site.

Biden was accompanied by an entourage of political and policy advisers including Jake Sullivan, Ron Klain, Mike Donilon and his sister Valerie Biden, according to a pool report.

Biden did a quick walk-through of the debate stage inside the Samson Pavilion at Case Western Reserve University in preparation for his first encounter with Trump.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden arrives at Cleveland Airport for the first presidential debate against President Donald Trump. [Andrew Harnik/AP Photo]

16:30 ET – Poll shows Trump, Biden in dead heat in Georgia

A new Quinnipiac poll shows Biden with 50 percent of likely voter support in Georgia and Trump with 47 percent support.

Trump won Georgia, long considered a Republican bastion, by 5 percentage points in 2016. The new poll comes following several others that indicate a tight race in the state.

In Georgia’s Senate race, the poll also showed Republican incumbent Senator David Perdue nearly tied with Democrat Jon Ossoff, with 49 percent of likely voters supporting Ossoff and 48 percent supporting Perdue.

The race is one of a handful Democrats hope to win to take control of the chamber.

16:00 ET – Trump arrives in Cleveland for first debate with Biden

President Donald Trump arrived in Cleveland on Tuesday ahead of the first of three election debates with challenger Joe Biden.

“He’s ready to go,” a senior campaign official told reporters on Air Force One.

The official said Trump was bringing former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani — now a controversial lawyer for the president – and mixed martial arts fighter Colby Covington as guests.

Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk to board Air Force One to travel to the first presidential debate in Cleveland [J Scott Applewhite/The Associated Press]

15:30 ET – Late Justice Ginsburg buried in private ceremony

The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was buried Tuesday morning in a private ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, officials said.

The death of Ginsburg, a progressive icon affectionately known by her initials RBG, has triggered a partisan battle to fill her vacancy just weeks before the presidential election.

Ginsburg, who died on September 18 at the age of 87, “was laid to rest this morning in a private family ceremony,” the Arlington National Cemetery said. She was honored Friday at the US Capitol, where she made history becoming the first woman and first Jewish person to lie in state there.

15:00 ET – Woman Trump pardoned spotted heading to debate

Alice Johnson, a non-violent drug offender who Trump pardoned earlier this year, has been spotted boarding Air Force One as it heads to the debate.

Johnson, who served 21 years in prison for her first time drug offense, was featured at the Republican National Convention, where she praised a criminal justice reform bill signed by the president.

Alice Johnson looks on as Trump signs a full pardon for her non-violent drug offense [Evan Vucci/The Associated Press]

14:30 ET – Bork widow rails against Biden in op-ed

The widow of Robert Bork, Ronald Reagan Supreme Court nominee whose confirmed was blocked by the Senate, has written an op-ed slamming Biden, who was a member of the chamber during the proceedings.

Bork’s nomination was blocked by a 58 votes, including six Republicans, over concerns over his stance on voting rights and his role, as Solicitor General during the so-called “Friday Night Massacre”, when then President Richard Nixon ordered the firing of the Watergate scandal special prosecutor.

“Senator Biden presided over a rigged hearing full of an unprecedented level of lying and distortion of a man known for his integrity and judicial wisdom,” Bork’s widow, Mary Ellen Bork, wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “Thirty-three years later he is still a man without a compass, guided now by prevailing progressive winds.”

Judge RobertBork, President Reagan’s nominee to the Supreme Court, returns to his Washington home after the the Senate voted 58-42 in 1987 to reject his nomination to the high court. [J Scott Applewhite/The Associated Press]

14:00 ET – Trump spends morning in informal prep

Trump spent Tuesday morning in informal preparations for the first debate with Biden, while a longer, more formal preparation session was set for the afternoon once he arrives in Cleveland.

Trump’s prep team includes former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, campaign communications strategist Jason Miller, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Jared Kushner, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and communications director Alyssa Farah. Some other advisers like Dan Scavino and Hope Hicks have also been involved.

Some aides have encouraged Trump to focus more on selling his accomplishments than trying to viciously attack Biden. Some involved with the preparations, though, have encouraged Trump’s more aggressive ‘counterpunching’ side.

13:30 ET – Biden, Harris release tax returns

Biden and Harris have released their 2019 tax returns, with their campaign calling onTrump, who has been under fire for not releasing his returns since he first ran in 2016, to do the same.

Biden and his wife Jill paid $346,204 in federal taxes on $985,233 total income in 2019 and received a $46,858 refund.

The release comes after the New York Times reported that Trump paid just $750 in federal income tax in 2016 and 2017 amid what appeared to be years of tax avoidance.

“This is a historic level of transparency meant to give the American people faith once again that their leaders will look out for them and not their own bottom lines,” said Bedingfield.

13:00 ET – Biden announces debate guests

Biden has announced three guests for Tuesday’s Democratic debate.

The guests are Kristin Urquiza, who spoke about losing her father to the coronavirus at the Democratic National Convention (DNC), Gurnee Green, a small business owner from Cleveland Heights who was highlighted during the DNC, and James Evanoff Jr, a service technician in Cleveland and United Steel Workers (USW) member.

Biden’s campaign said the guests “each highlight how Donald Trump’s failures to control the virus and save the economy have hurt hard working Americans lives and livelihoods”.

An employee vacuums a rug near the stage ahead of the first presidential debate between Republican candidate President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden [Julio Cortez/The Associated Press]

12:30 ET – Ex-Sanders staffers promote Biden to Latinos in Iowa, Nevada

Former staffers from Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign want to harness strong support for the Vermont senator among Hispanics to bolster Joe Biden in two battleground states that could prove critical in November’s election.

Nuestro PAC is launching a 30-second spot that will begin airing Thursday for two weeks in heavily Hispanic Nevada and in Iowa, another state where the growing Latino population is largely overlooked. Backed by a six-figure ad buy, the spot features Hispanic staffers of Sanders’ campaign saying they worked hard for him during the Democratic primary, “But now, we’re all for Joe Biden, because Biden’s endorsed by Bernie.”

“We’re going to go into states where Bernie just dominated the Latino vote to help lift up Biden,” the group’s founder, Chuck Rocha, who headed the Sanders campaign’s Hispanic outreach, told the Associated Press. “In Iowa, going to Latinos will surprise people … but they’re there, and we won them by huge margins. And the opposite side of that equation is going into Nevada to shore him up with young Latinos.”

Latinos for Trump
A person holds a sign reading Latinos for Trump on the third day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in 2016.

12:00 ET – Amy Coney Barrett begins Capitol Hill tour

Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, has begun a round of meetings with senators before her official hearings are set to begin in the Chamber on October 12.

Barrett’s confirmation has set off a battle between Republicans, who say they have the support to hold a vote before the election, and Democrats, who say the next president should decide the nominee.

“We look forward to a vote in the Senate in the near future to fill the seat on the Supreme Court of the United States because the American people deserve a justice like judge Amy Cohen Barrett,” Vice President Mike Pence said from the Capitol on Tuesday, flanked by Barrett and top Republicans.

Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett walks up the steps of Capitol Hill in Washington with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, Vice President Mike Pence and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows [Susan Walsh/The Associated Press]

11:30 ET – Report: Trump campaign calls for ear inspection before debate

The Trump campaign has called for a third party to inspect the ears of both candidate before Tuesday’s debate to check for electronic devices, according to Fox News.

The report said that Trump had consented to the inspection, but Biden had not. It comes amid repeated unfounded accusations from the president that Biden will use various means, including drugs, to optimise his performance.

The Commission on Presidential debate did not immediately respond to Fox’s questions concerning the request.

Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speak during the second presidential debate of 2016. [File: John Locher/The Associated Press]

11:00 ET – US intelligence reports warn of extremist threat around election

Security officials are warning that violent domestic extremists pose a threat to the presidential election next month, amid what one official called a “witch’s brew” of rising political tensions, civil unrest and foreign disinformation campaigns.

FBI and US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memos say threats by domestic extremists to election-related targets will likely increase in the run-up to the November 3 election.

Those warnings so far have largely remained internal. But New Jersey’s homeland security office took the unusual step of publicly highlighting the threat in a little-noticed report on its website last week.

“You have this witch’s brew that really hasn’t happened in America’s history. And if it has, it’s been decades if not centuries,” said Jared Maples, director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, which published the threat assessment.

10:30 ET -Voter purge case going before Wisconsin Supreme Court

The Wisconsin Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday in a case that could result in the purging of about 130,000 people from voter rolls in the hotly contested battleground state.

However, it wasn’t clear if the court would rule in time to affect the November 3 election that was just five weeks away. Attorneys for both sides didn’t expect a decision until after the election.

The arguments come in one of several closely watched lawsuits in Wisconsin. On Sunday, a federal appeals court temporarily put on hold  a ruling that would expand the time that absentee ballots can be counted.

Trump won Wisconsin by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016, making the fight over any change to the process of voting and who is able to vote all the more significant.

10:00 ET – Giuliani says in Fox interview Biden ‘has dementia’, prompting uncomfortable response from hosts

Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani had an uncomfortable exchange with the hosts of the Fox programme Fox and Friends on Tuesday when he said Biden “has dementia – there’s no doubt about it”.

Giuliani went on to claim he had several doctors review tapes of Biden, prompting what appeared to be an increasingly uncomfortable response from the three hosts. Trump has repeatedly claimed Biden is mentally unfit to be president and baselessly suggested he has taken performance-enhancing drugs to aid his mental acuity.

“None of us are doctors, so this is just pure opinion,” host Steve Doocy eventually responds.

Rudy Giuliani
Giuliani’s conduct in Ukraine was central to an impeachment probe against the president [File: J Scott Applewhite/The Associated Press]

09:30 ET – Ranking House Republican calls for probe into Trump tax source

Representative Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, has called for an investigation into the source who provided Trump’s tax returns to the New York Times.

Brady called the disclosure, the subject of a bombshell report published on Sunday, a “felony crime”.

“While many critics question the article’s accuracy, equally troubling is the prospect that a felony crime was committed by releasing the private tax return information of an individual – in this case, the President’s,” he said in a statement on Tuesday. “To ensure every American is protected against the illegal release of their tax returns for political reasons, I am calling for an investigation of the source and to prosecute if the law was broken.”

09:00 ET – What to watch for during the first Trump-Biden debate

One candidate who plays by the rules, another who does not. One candidate who has spent weeks preparing, another who has not. One candidate with fresh debate experience, another whose most recent debate took place four years ago.

These are some of the contrasts viewers can watch out for when they tune in to the first of three presidential debates between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. With a potential audience of close to 100 million viewers on television and online, the candidates will make their pitch to the American people, each attempting to close the deal with voters.

Although the outcome of a live debate can never be predicted, Al Jazeera looks at what we can reasonably expect when the two contenders for the highest office in the land face off.

Read more here.

Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders speak during a Democratic presidential primary debate, December 19, 2019, in Los Angeles [File: Chris Carlson/The Associated Press]


Read all the updates from Monday, (September 28) here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies