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Trump vs Biden final debate fact check: coronavirus, Russia...

We take a closer look at the claims made by President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden in Thursday's final pre-election debate.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden answers a question as President Donald Trump listens during the second and final presidential debate at the Curb Event Center at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., October 22

President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden went head to head in the second and final presidential debate on Thursday - and AS English's fact checkers were on hand to put the claims they made under the microscope:

Trump: "We have a vaccine that's coming. It's ready"

There are currently eight vaccines in the final stages of human trials. These trials are done on thousands of volunteers to understand the safety and efficacy of the vaccine candidate and usually take at least six months to complete. The vaccine candidate developed by US biotech company Moderna is undergoing Phase III trials, where 30,000 volunteers will be dosed.

The other vaccine candidate “very close to the end” as per the US president is the potential vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca. However, none of the vaccine candidates is slated to finish their last stage trials in the month of October, let alone be available for launch. AstraZeneca’s trials were halted recently by concerns over volunteers’ safety.

Leading US and European vaccine developers have pledged to uphold scientific safety and efficacy standards for their experimental vaccines and not bow to political pressures to rush the process.

Biden: America has 1,000 deaths from covid-19 a day

This is true. CNN reported on Thursday that the US has just topped 1,100 coronavirus deaths a day. One state is getting National Guard help, and others keep breaking records.

Trump: Dr Anthony Fauci said not to wear masks

Yes the US' top infectious disease expert did say that, but a long time ago, and not for long. Trump, on the other hand, took his mask off earlier this month, in public, likely still infectious with covid-19.

Biden: Trump unwilling to take on Putin

This is largely true. Trump's record on Russia is far from tough. He has failed to stand up to Russia, and questions still linger about the help he received from Moscow during his first campaign.

The president’s oldest advisor, his campaign manager, his deputy campaign manager, and his first national security advisor were all found guilty or pleaded guilty to offences having to do with interactions with Russians. Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman, even traded sensitive polling data with an associate recently identified as a Russian intelligence agent. Americans are still owed an explanation of what the US government has done to address intelligence reports that Russian operatives had offered bounties to the Taliban to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan.

Russia has kept its strong presence in eastern Ukraine, shows no sign of giving up its annexation of Crimea, and continues its assertive policies in Syria. Moscow’s violation of human rights is only rivalled by Beijing’s. Russia continues its military build-up, as well as its interference in US elections.

Trump: I will release my tax returns as soon as IRS audit has finished

It's true that Trump is under audit with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). His $72.9 million tax refund covering multiple years of paid taxes is currently under investigation by the IRS. The audit began in 2011 and has not been resolved as of 2020.

It was found last month by the New York Times that Trump paid $750 in federal income tax the year he won the presidency.

Trump: Chinese bank account is one of "many"

According to Associated Press, Trump spent a decade unsuccessfully pursuing projects in China, operating an office there during his first run for president and forging a partnership with a major government-controlled company, the New York Times reported.

China is one of only three foreign nations (the others are Britain and Ireland) where Trump maintains a bank account, according to a Times analysis of the president’s tax records. The foreign accounts do not show up on Trump’s public financial disclosures, where he must list personal assets, because they are held under corporate names.

The Chinese account is controlled by Trump International Hotels Management LLC, which the tax records show paid $188,561 in taxes in China while pursuing licensing deals there from 2013 to 2015.

Biden: I will make China play by the rules

Given his past record, this claim checks out. Over his nearly 50-year political career, Biden has indeed generally been supportive of free-trade agreements with China and other countries.

Biden says he would only re-enter the Trans-Pacific-Partnership after renegotiating it to make sure “environmentalists are there and labor is there.”

Either China’s going to write the rules of the road for the 21st century on trade or we are,” he said.

In the Senate, Biden voted to approve things like Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China in 2000. In other votes, he has opposed trade deals without what he saw as sufficient environmental and labor standards.

Biden: Trump is weak on North Korea

According to Defence One analysis, North Korea has not tested an atomic device or intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) since 2017, but neither has it shown any willingness to abandon its nuclear program. Some missile testing has continued, and the media fuss that surrounded US-North Korea summits has yielded little tangible success.

The Kim Jong-un regime is faced with extreme poverty, the leader’s continuing health issues, and a possible succession crisis. Despite these weaknesses, strong sanctions, and diplomatic back-flips, the Trump administration has not reduced the nuclear or conventional threat from North Korea.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and US President Donald Trump participate in their second 2020 presidential campaign debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.
Full screen
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and US President Donald Trump participate in their second 2020 presidential campaign debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.JIM BOURGREUTERS

Trump: Pre-existing conditions won't be affected by Obamacare repeal

This is not true. Anyone with pre-existing conditions could potentially lose their coverage. Repealing Obamacare would allow insurance companies to deny coverage for people with pre-existing conditions or charge higher premiums, making it difficult for many to afford coverage. A pre-existing condition will likely include covid-19 from now on.

Trump: The stock market will crash if Biden is elected

Nobody knows what will happen in the stock market, not even Trump. According to some commentators, the stock market will soar regardless of who wins the US election.

Trump: Pelosi has been stalling on the stimulus bill

It's true that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refuses to accept a fraction of the $2.2bn deal on economic covid-19 relief she has been demanding.

But Trump and the GOP have been the ones stalling the deal, openly admitting that they instead prioritised time in congress to rush through the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett before the election.

On Trump separating children from parents at the Mexico border

According to AP, the Trump administration mandated anyone caught crossing the border illegally to be criminally prosecuted. The policy meant adults were taken to court for criminal proceedings, and their children were separated and sent into the care of the Health and Human Services Department, which is tasked with caring for unaccompanied migrant children.

The zero-tolerance policy remains in effect, but Trump signed an executive order in June 2018 that stopped separations. The parents of 545 children have still not been found to date.

Trump brags about signing criminal justice reform that benefits black community

In 2018, Trump signed into law the First Step Act, a bipartisan measure reducing mandatory-minimum sentences, expanding drug treatment programs for prisoners and allowing some prisoners to finish their sentences early with good behaviour.

He has also supported some “tough-on-crime” policies that disproportionately affect minorities, including seeking to restart executions of federal death row inmates.

Trump signed an executive order to take steps toward police reform. It encourages police to use the latest standards for use of force, banning chokeholds unless an officer’s life is in danger, and calls for legislation to do more. However, Democrats faulted the order for allowing some exceptions to the chokehold ban and placing no restrictions on warrants that let police enter a suspect’s property without knocking.

Trump: Nobody has done better for African Americans than me

Prior to the coronavirus crisis, there had been a consistent downward trend in African-American unemployment under President Trump. But it's a trend which began under President Barack Obama, who saw the rate decline from 12.6% to 7.5% during his two terms in office from 2009 until 2017.

However, there remains a disparity in wages between different groups in the US. The average income of African-American households is almost 60% less than white households, with growth stalling under President Trump, according to the latest statistics.

Trump: Biden signed bill that put black men in jail

As a senator, Biden voted for a 1994 crime bill that critics see contributing to the mass incarceration of black Americans.

Biden has been clear on his policies on law and order in 2020. He wants to eliminate the death penalty, solitary confinement and jailing accused criminals until they pay a cash bail. He has pledged $20 billion in grants for states to reduce social ills like illiteracy and child abuse in exchange for scaling back mandatory-minimum sentences.

Trump: The US has the cleanest air

This is not true. The American Lung Association found that the air pollution increase in its 2019 report was worse than its previous two reports, which examined air quality dating back to 2013.

Trump: I love the environment

Actions speak louder than words. Trump's record on the environment so far: under his administration, the US has rolled back several environmental regulations and withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord, which is a global agreement aimed at avoiding dangerous levels of global warming.

Trump: "Windmills" kill "all the birds"

Funnily enough, this is a false claim commonly made by Russian president Vladimir Putin.

In reality, wind turbines kill far fewer birds in the US than cats, buildings or cars, according to a 2015 study published in the Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics that experts from the National Audubon Society agree is the most up-to-date research on direct bird mortalities in the US.

Trump: Biden wants to ban fracking

This is a parrot of something that vice-president Mike Pence tried to stick on Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, in the vice-presidential debate. It’s true that Harris called for a ban on fracking as a presidential candidate, but the Biden climate plan does not take the same stance.

Biden supports a partial ban on fracking, and only on federal lands. He has stated that he would put the weight of the federal government behind a push away from fossil fuels.


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