The Latest: Commission won’t rethink shift to virtual debate

NBC news chief White House correspondent Hallie Jackson, right, is lit for the cameras outside the West Wing of the White House, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, in Washington.

NBC news chief White House correspondent Hallie Jackson, right, is lit for the cameras outside the West Wing of the White House, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, in Washington.


The Latest on the 2020 presidential campaign (all times local):

8:35 p.m.

The chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates says it is not reconsidering shifting the second debate from virtual back to in-person, despite a request from President Donald Trump’s team.

Frank Fahrenkopf told The Associated Press late Thursday that the nonpartisan group’s decision was not going to be reversed. That means the second debate is probably not going to happen at all.

The commission decided to make the Oct. 15 debate virtual after Trump tested positive for the coronavirus. Fahrenkopf says the group wanted to “protect the health and safety of all involved” and that the decision was guided by the advice of the Cleveland Clinic, its heath partner for the 2020 debates.

Trump’s doctor, Navy Cdr. Sean Conley, said in a letter Thursday evening that Trump would be cleared to resume public activities Saturday, 10 days after his diagnosis.

Earlier Thursday, Trump balked at the virtual event and said he wouldn’t participate. Biden’s campaign then said Biden would participate in a town hall hosted by ABC News on Oct. 15 instead.



The second scheduled debate between President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden appears to be canceled. Trump balked at the Oct. 15 debate after the Commission on Presidential Debates announced Thursday that it would be held virtually because he has the coronavirus. After Trump pulled out, Biden scheduled his own ABC town hall in Philadelphia for the same date.

Read more:

— Next Trump-Biden debate now uncertain as rival camps argue

— Trump’s path to 270 narrows, Wisconsin mirrors swing state plight

— Trump hails virus treatment, says he’s ready to do rallies

— Biden, Harris aim to tip battleground Arizona for Democrats



7:35 p.m.

President Donald Trump’s doctor says he fully anticipates Trump can make a “safe return to public engagements” on Saturday.

The assessment from Dr. Sean Conley comes in a letter Thursday updating on the president’s condition as he recovers from COVID-19. Conley says Trump has completed his course of therapy as prescribed by his team of physicians.

Trump is eager to return to the campaign trail with the election less than four weeks away.

Conley’s letter also says the president’s vital signs on Thursday included a heart rate of 69 beats per minute and a blood pressure reading of 127/81.

Conley says that, “overall, he’s responded extremely well to treatment, without evidence on examination of adverse therapeutic effects.”


7:25 p.m.

The chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates says the final debate is slated to go on as scheduled in-person, but President Donald Trump’s campaign hasn’t yet said whether he’ll participate.

Frank Fahrenkopf said Thursday on CNN that the commission intends for the debate scheduled for Oct. 22 to be held in person. The commission announced earlier Thursday that the second debate, a town hall in Miami on Oct. 15, would be held virtually because Trump has the coronavirus virus.

The decision to move next week’s debate online prompted Trump to pull out of the event.

The Trump campaign had asked for the upcoming debates to each be postponed by a week. Joe Biden’s campaign rejected that proposal and announced the Democrat would instead participate in an ABC News town hall on Oct. 15, the date originally slated for the town hall debate.


6:25 p.m.

Joe Biden is pitching an economic message as he campaigns in Arizona with his running mate Kamala Harris, telling a union crowd that President Donald Trump “looks down on” working Americans.

The Democratic presidential nominee told a masked, socially distanced crowd at a Phoenix area union training facility on Thursday that the country “deserves a president who understands what the American people are going through. Who sees who you are, what you want to be.”

A key part of Biden’s closing argument ahead of the Nov. 3 election is to pitch Trump as only pretending to care about the working-class voters that propelled his 2016 victory.

He blasted the Republican president for walking away from congressional negotiations for a new pandemic relief package and for asking courts to strike down the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Biden said those moves will hurt millions of workers and small businesses.


6:20 p.m.

Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris is urging Arizona residents to vote “like your life depends on it,” because, she says, “it really does.”

Joe Biden and Harris are campaigning together Thursday for the first time since their nominating convention in August, and they chose Arizona to highlight the critical new battleground.

Harris introduced Biden by continuing to blast President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, just as she did in her debate Wednesday night against Vice President Mike Pence.

Harris says Trump’s “refusal to contain this virus is what has wreaked havoc on our economy.”

Early voting began this week in Arizona, and Democrats believe population growth and Trump’s sliding support among suburban voters make the GOP-leaning state a pickup opportunity.

Harris also urged Arizonans to vote for Democratic Senate candidate Mark Kelly. His bid to unseat GOP Sen. Martha McSally will be key to determining whether Democrats regain control of the Senate.


4:55 p.m.

Democrat Joe Biden says President Donald Trump’s tweet earlier this year to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” may have encouraged a now-foiled kidnapping plot against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, though the criminal complaint itself doesn’t say that.

A federal complaint says Thursday that six men plotted to kidnap the Democratic governor at her vacation home in reaction to what they viewed as her “uncontrolled power.”

There’s no indication in the complaint that the men were inspired by Trump. Authorities also have not publicly said whether the men were angry about Whitmer’s coronavirus orders.

Biden said ahead of an Arizona campaign swing that Trump “has to realize that the words he utters matter.” He was asked specifically whether he thought the Trump tweet directed at Whitmer’s COVID-19 restrictions might have encouraged her would-be kidnappers. He said, “Yes, I do.”

Biden says he and his running mate, Kamala Harris, have both spoken with Whitmer on Thursday. Whitmer was among the finalists that Biden considered for the vice presidential slot.

Whitmer herself publicly pinned some blame on Trump earlier Thursday, noting that he did not condemn white supremacists in last week’s debate with Biden and instead told a far-right group to “stand back and stand by.”


4:30 p.m.

Joe Biden says he won’t reveal under after the Nov. 3 election whether he’d consider adding seats to the Supreme Court.

The Democratic presidential nominee told reporters in Arizona on Thursday that voters will “know my opinion on court packing when the election’s over.” He said answering the hypothetical and politically fraught question would play into President Donald Trump’s hands.

Biden has joined his party’s senators in calling for Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to delay a confirmation vote on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, until after the election. Barrett would give the court a 6-3 conservative majority.

Some progressives want Biden and Democrats to commit to expanding the court with a slate of liberal justices if they take power in January. Trump and Republicans are using that scenario in the hopes of animating the GOP base and perhaps coaxing votes from some moderate Republicans who dislike Trump but care about the court makeup.


4:15 p.m.

Democrat Joe Biden is calling on President Donald Trump to stop insulting his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, after the president called her a “monster” during a TV appearance.

Speaking to reporters Thursday on the tarmac in Phoenix, Biden called the Republican president’s comments “despicable” and “so beneath the office of the presidency.” He added of the president: “It’s obvious he has great difficulty dealing with strong women.”

Trump made the comments Thursday on Fox Business in reference to Harris’ performance during Wednesday night’s vice presidential debate with Mike Pence. Harris, who is campaigning in Arizona with Biden, declined to comment on the president’s remarks.

The presidential election is 26 days away.


3:20 p.m.

Joe Biden will participate in an ABC News town hall on Oct. 15, the date originally slated for a second town hall presidential debate between the Democrat and President Donald Trump.

The move on Thursday comes after Trump pulled out of their planned duel town hall following an announcement by the Commission on Presidential Debates that it would be held virtually because of the president’s COVID-19 diagnosis.

Biden has called for pushing back the town hall format to Oct. 22, effectively replacing the third planned debate. Trump countered with pushing back both debates, holding a town hall on Oct. 22 and then a third debate Oct. 29, just days before the Nov. 3 election.

George Stephanopoulos will host the Biden town hall in Philadelphia.


1:45 p.m.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have tested negative for COVID-19.

It’s at least the fifth time Biden has tested negative since President Donald Trump confirmed that he had contracted the coronavirus. Harris’ negative test follows her debate with Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday night. Two plexiglass shields were up between them as an extra precaution.

Biden, Harris and Pence campaigned in Arizona on Thursday. Trump remained sidelined at the White House.

The president’s illness helped cast the remaining presidential debates into doubt. The Commission on Presidential Debates said the Oct. 15 town hall debate would be virtual. Trump refused to participate and proposed pushing back that debate and the third debate originally scheduled for Oct. 22.

Biden’s campaign rejected that idea. The commission will make the final determination.

Biden said earlier this week there should be no in-person debates as long as Trump still has the virus.


1:15 p.m.

Joe Biden is rejecting President Donald Trump’s proposal to push back their remaining two debates in the wake of Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis, and the Democrat says it’s not up to Trump to set the schedule.

Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield says the campaign had long ago agreed to debate dates of Sept. 29, Oct. 15 and Oct. 22.

Debate organizers on Thursday said next week’s event would be a virtual one due to Trump’s having COVID-19. The president immediately objected to that format, said he wouldn’t take part and pressed for the candidates to meet in person. His campaign then proposed the town hall postponed by one week, to Oct. 22, and the third debate held on Oct. 29.

The Biden camp says Trump’s “erratic behavior does not allow him to rewrite the calendar and pick new dates of his choosing.”

Bedingfield says Biden looks forward to the Oct. 22 debate, which she says is “tied for the latest debate date in 40 years.”

The election is Nov. 3.


12:40 p.m.

President Donald Trump’s campaign is proposing delaying the two remaining presidential debates by one week to ensure the debates can take place in-person, rather than virtually, after Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis.

The Commission on Presidential Debate announced Thursday that next week’s town hall debate in Miami would be held virtually because of Trump had the virus. The president immediately objected to that format, and he said he wouldn’t take part.

Trump’s campaign manager Bill Stepien says in a statement that the “American people should not be deprived of the chance to see the two candidates for president debate face to face two more times” before the election.

Stepien says the campaign would like to see the town hall postponed by one week, to Oct. 22, and the third debate held on Oct. 29.

Democrat Joe Biden’s campaign had also asked that town hall be moved back a week “so the president is not able to evade accountability.”


12 p.m.

Joe Biden’s presidential campaign says because of President Donald Trump’s rejection of a virtual presidential debate on Oct. 15, the Democratic challenger will hold his own town hall event the same night.

Biden spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield said in a statement late Thursday morning that the Commission on Presidential Debates should reschedule the town hall debate for Oct. 22. That’s the night a third debate was to take place.

The commission earlier Thursday had announced that any Oct. 15 debate would be virtual because of Trump’s recent COVID-19 diagnosis. Biden said he was willing to abide by the format change, but Trump blasted the decision and argued without evidence that the commission was trying to help Biden.

Bedingfield said in her statement that Trump is trying to “evade accountability” by avoiding facing voters directly.

“The voters should have a chance to ask questions of both candidates, directly,” she said. “Every presidential candidate since 1992 has participated in such an event, and it would be a shame if Donald Trump was the first to refuse.”


8:10 a.m.

President Donald Trump, who has the coronavirus, says he will not participate in next week’s presidential debate if it’s held virtually.

Trump says in a Fox Business interview that that arrangement is “not acceptable to us.”

And he’s accusing moderators of trying to protect his Democratic rival Joe Biden.

The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates had announced moments earlier that the second debate between Trump and Biden will take place virtually because of the president’s diagnosis of COVID-19.

The commission cited a need “to protect the health and safety of all involved with the second presidential debate” and said the candidates would “participate from separate remote locations” while the participants and moderator remain in Miami.

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