Democracy & Elections

National Security Highlights from the Final Presidential Debate

Vishnu Kannan
Friday, October 23, 2020, 5:02 PM

What did the candidates have to say about national security issues?

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

On Thursday, President Trump and Vice President Biden faced each other in the second and final presidential debate of the 2020 election cycle. The debate was moderated by NBC’s Kristen Welker.

We’ve combed through the transcript from the debate to present the national security-related exchanges. These excerpts are organized thematically and chronologically.

A complete transcript is available from USA Today here.

COVID-19 and Pandemic Response

WELKER: President Trump, the first question is for you. The country is heading into a dangerous new phase. More than 40,000 Americans are in the hospital tonight with COVID, including record numbers here in Tennessee. And since the two of you last shared a stage, 16,000 Americans have died from COVID. So please be specific: how would you leave the country during this next stage of the coronavirus crisis?

TRUMP: So, as you know, more 2.2 million people, modeled out, were expected to die. We closed up the greatest economy in the world in order to fight this horrible disease that came from China. It's a worldwide pandemic. It’s all over the world. You see the spikes in Europe and many other places right now. If you notice, the mortality rate is down, 85 percent. The excess mortality rate is way down, and much lower than almost any other country.

We have a vaccine that's coming, it's ready. It's going to be announced within weeks, and it's going to be delivered. We have Operation Warp Speed, which is the military, is going to distribute the vaccine.

This is a worldwide problem, but I've been congratulated by the heads of many countries on what we've been able to do with the — if you take a look at what we've done in terms of goggles and masks and gowns and everything else, and in particular, ventilators. We're now making ventilators. All over the world, thousands and thousands a month, distributing them all over the world, it will go away and as I say, we're rounding the turn, we're rounding the corner, it's going away.

WELKER: OK, former Vice President Biden, to you, how would you lead the country out of this crisis?

BIDEN: 220,000 Americans dead. If you hear nothing else I say tonight, hear this. Anyone who's responsible for not taking control — in fact, not saying, I take no responsibility, initially — anyone who is responsible for that many deaths should not remain as President of the United States of America. We're in a situation where there are thousands of deaths a day, a thousand deaths a day. And there are over 70,000 new cases per day. Compared to what's going on in Europe, as the New England Medical Journal said, they're starting from a very low rate. We're starting from a very high rate. The expectation is we'll have another 200,000 Americans dead by the time, between now and the end of the year. If we just wore these masks — the President's own advisors told them — we could save 100,000 lives. And we're in a circumstance where the President, thus far, still has no plan. No comprehensive plan. What I would do is make sure we have everyone encouraged to wear a mask, all the time. I would make sure we move in the direction of rapid testing, investing in rapid testing. I would make sure that we set up national standards as to how to open up schools and open up businesses so they can be safe, and give them the wherewithal and financial resources to be able to do that. We're in a situation now where the New England Medical Journal — one of the serious, most serious journals in the whole world — said for the first time ever that this, the way this President has responded to this crisis has been absolutely tragic. And so folks, I will take care of this, I will end this, I will make sure we have a plan.

WELKER: President Trump, I'd like to follow up with you and your comments. You talked about taking a therapeutic. I assume you're referencing Regeneron. You also said a vaccine will be coming within weeks. Is that a guarantee?

TRUMP: It is not a guarantee but it will be by the end of the year, but I think it has a good chance. One or two companies, I think, within a matter of weeks, and it will be distributed very quickly.

WELKER: Can you tell us what companies?

TRUMP: Johnson and Johnson is doing very well. Moderna is doing very well. Pfizer is doing very well, and we have numerous others. And then we also have others that we're working on very closely with other countries, in particular Europe.

WELKER: Let me follow up with you, and because this is new information — You have said a vaccine is coming soon, within weeks now. Your own officials say it could take well into 2021 at the earliest for enough Americans to get vaccinated, and even then they say the country will be wearing masks and distancing into 2022. Is your timeline realistic?

TRUMP: No, I think my timeline is going to be more accurate. I don't know that they're counting on the military the way I do, but we have our generals lined up, one in particular, that's the head of logistics. And this is a very easy distribution for him. He's ready to go as soon as we have the vaccine, and we expect to have 100 million vials as soon as we have the vaccine, he's ready to go.

WELKER: Vice President Biden, your reaction? Just 40 percent of Americans say they would definitely agree to take a coronavirus vaccine if it was approved by the government. What steps would you take to give Americans confidence in a vaccine if it were approved?

BIDEN: Make sure it's totally transparent. Have the scientific world see, know, look at it, go through all the processes. And by the way, this is the same fellow who told you this is going to end by Easter last time. This the same fellow who told you that, don't worry, we're going to end this by the summer. We're about to go into a dark winter, a dark winter, and he has no clear plan and there's no prospect that there's going to be a vaccine available for the majority of the American people before the middle of next year.

WELKER: President Trump, your reaction? He says you have no plan.

TRUMP: I don’t think it’s going to be a dark winter at all. We're opening up our country. We've learned and studied and understand the disease, which we didn't know at the beginning. When I closed and banned China from coming in heavily infected, and then ultimately Europe, but China was in January — months later he was saying I was xenophobic, I did it too soon. Now he's saying, ‘Oh, I should have, I should have, you know, moved quicker.’

Also — every single move that he said we should make — that's what we've done, we've done all of it, but he was way behind us.


BIDEN: My responses is, he is xenophobic but not because he shut down access from China. And he did it late, after 40 countries had already done that. In addition to that, what he did, he made sure that we had 44 people that were in there, in China, trying to get to Wuhan to determine what exactly the source was. What did the President say in January? He said no, … the president of China is being transparent. We owe him a debt of gratitude. We have to thank him. And then what happened was, we started talking about using the Defense Act, to make sure we go out and get whatever is needed out there to protect people. And again, I go back to this, he had nothing. He did virtually nothing. And then he gets out of the hospital, and he talks about ...‘Oh, don't worry. This is all going to be over soon.’ Come on, there's not another serious scientist in the world who thinks it’s going to be over soon.

TRUMP: I did not say over soon. I say we're learning to live with it. We have no choice. We can't lock ourselves up in a basement like Joe does. He has the ability to lock himself up. ... People can’t do that. By the way, I, as the president, couldn't do that.

And you know, I caught it. I learned a lot. I learned a lot, great doctors, great hospitals. And now, I recovered. 99.9 of young people recover. 99 percent of people recover. We have to recover. We can't close up our nation, we have to open our school, and we can't close up our nation, or you're not going to have a nation.

BIDEN: … Learning to live with it? Come on. We're dying with it, because he's never said — he said it's dangerous. When's the last time? Is it really dangerous, still? Are we dangerous? Tell the people, is it dangerous now? What should they do about the danger? And you say, I take no responsibility.

WELKER: OK, let's talk about your different strategies toward dealing with this. Mr. Vice President, you suggested you would support new shutdowns if scientists recommended it. What do you say to Americans who are fearful that the cost of shutdowns, the impact on the economy, the higher rates of hunger depression, domestic and substance abuse, outweighs the risk of exposure to the virus?

BIDEN: … I'm not shutting down the nation but there are, look, they need standards. The standard is, if you have a reproduction rate in a community that's above a certain level, everybody says, slow up. More social distancing. Do not open bars and do not open gymnasiums. Do not open until you get this under control, under more control. But when you do open, give the people the capacity to be able to open and have the capacity to do it safely. For example schools — schools, they need a lot of money to open. They need to deal with ventilation systems, they need to deal with smaller classes, more teacher, more pods, and he's refused to support that money, or at least up to now

TRUMP: His democrat governors — Cuomo in New York, you look at what's going on in California, you look at Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Democrats, Democrats all — they are shut down so tight, and they're dying. They're dying. And he supports all these people. All he talks about is shutdowns No, we're not going to shut down, and we have to open our schools. And it's like, as an example, I have a young son. He also tested positive. By the time I spoke to the doctor, the second time, he was fine, it just went away. Young people, I guess it’s their immune system.

WELKER: Let me follow up, President Trump. You've demanded schools open in person and insisted they can do it safely. But just yesterday, Boston became the latest city to move its public school system entirely online after a coronavirus spike. What is your message to parents who worry that sending their children to school will endanger not only their kids, but also their teachers and families?

TRUMP: I want to open the schools. The transmittal rate to the teachers is very small, but I want to open the schools. We have to open our country. We're not going to have a country. You can't do this, we can't keep this country closed. It is a massive country with a massive economy. People are losing their jobs, they're committing suicide. There's depression, alcohol, drugs at a level that nobody's ever seen before. There's abuse, tremendous abuse. We have to open our country. You know I've said it often — the cure cannot be worse than the problem itself, and that's what's happening, and he wants to close down. He'll close down the country if one person in our, in our massive bureaucracy says we should close it down.

BIDEN: Simply not true. We're gonna be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. We ought to be able to safely open, but we need resources to open. You need to be able to, for example, if you're gonna open a business, have social distancing within the business. You need to have, if you have a restaurant, you need to have plexiglass dividers so people cannot infect one another. You need to be in a position where you can take testing rapidly and know whether a person is, in fact, infected. You need to be able to trace. You need to be able to provide all the resources that are needed to do this and that is not inconsistent with saying that we're going to make sure that we open safely. And by the way, all you teachers out there — not that many of you are going to die, so don't worry about it. Don't worry about it. Come on.

TRUMP: … And when you talk about Plexiglas — these are restaurants that are dying. These are businesses with no money. Putting the Plexiglas is unbelievably expensive, and it's not the answer. I mean, you're going to sit there in a cubicle wrapped around with plastic? These are businesses that are dying, Joe, you can't do that to people

Foreign Election Influence and Financial Transparency

WELKER: And I do want to start with the security of our elections and some breaking news from overnight. Just last night, top intelligence officials confirmed again that both Russia and Iran are working to influence this election. Both countries have obtained U.S. voter registration information, these officials say, and Iran sent intimidating messages to Florida voters. This question goes to you, Mr. Vice President, what would you do to put an end to this threat?

BIDEN: I made it clear. And I asked everyone else to take the pledge. I made it clear that any country, no matter who it is, that interferes in American elections will pay a price. They will pay the price. It has been overwhelmingly clear in this election — I won't even get into the last one — this election, that Russia has been involved. China has been involved to some degree, and now we learned that, that Iran is involved. They will pay a price if I'm elected. Interfering with American sovereignty. That's what's going on right now. They're interfering with American sovereignty...

WELKER: President Trump, same question to you. ...For two elections in a row now there has been substantial interference from foreign adversaries. What would you do in your next term to put an end to this?

TRUMP: Well, let me respond to the first part, as Joe answered. Joe got three and a half million dollars from Russia. And it came through Putin, because he was very friendly with the former mayor of Moscow and it was the mayor of Moscow’s wife. He got three and a half million dollars. Your family got three and a half million dollars and you know someday, you're gonna have to explain — why did you get three and a half? I never got any money from Russia. I don't get money from Russia.

Now, about your thing last night, I knew all about that, and through John — who is John Radcliffe, who is a fantastic DNI — he said, the one thing that's common to both of them, they both want you to lose. Because there has been nobody tougher to Russia. Between the sanctions, nobody tougher than me on Russia. Between the sanctions between all of what I've done with NATO. You know, I've got the NATO countries to put up an extra 130 billion, going to $420 billion a year, that's to guard against Russia. I sold — while he was selling pillows and sheets — I sold tank busters to Ukraine. There has been nobody tougher on Russia than Donald Trump. …

BIDEN: I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life. We learn that this President paid 50 times the tax in China, as a secret bank account with China, does business in China, and in fact, is talking about me taking money? I have not taken a single penny from any country whatsoever, ever, number one. Number two, this is a president — I have released all of my tax returns. 22 years. Go look at them. 22 years of my tax return. You have not released a single solitary year of your tax return. What are you hiding? Why are you unwilling? The foreign countries are paying you a lot. Russia is paying you a lot. China is paying a lot. And your hotels and all your businesses all around the country, all around the world. And China's building a new road to a new gas… a golf course you have overseas. So what's going on here? Why don't you release your tax return or stop talking about corruption?

TRUMP: First of all, I called my accounts — under audit. I'm going to release them as soon as we can. … I prepaid my tax. Tens. Over the last number of years. Tens of millions of dollars, I prepaid, because at some point, they think, it's an estimate. They think I may have to pay tax. So, I already prepaid it. Nobody told me that.

WELKER: You just said you spoke to your accountant about potentially releasing your taxes. Did he tell you when you can release them? Do you have a deadline for when you're going to release them to the American people?

TRUMP: I get treated worse than the Tea Party got treated. A lot of people in there, deep down in the IRS, they treat me horribly. We made a deal, it was all settled, until I decided to run for president. I get treated very badly by the IRS, very unfairly, but we had a deal all done. As soon as we're completed with the deal, I want to release it. But I have paid millions and millions of dollars. And it's worse than paying. I paid in advance. It's called prepaying your taxes. I paid.

BIDEN: Why do he — He's been saying this for four years. Show us. Just show us. Stop playing around. You’ve been saying for four years you’re going to release your taxes. Nobody knows, Mr. President, they do know is you're not paying your taxes or you're paying taxes that are so low. When last time he said what he paid, he said, ‘I only pay that little because I'm smart. I know how to game the system.’ Come on, come on, folks.

TRUMP: I was put through a phony witch hunt for three years. It started before I even got elected. They spied on my campaign. No president should ever have to go through what I went through. Let me just say this. Mueller and 18 angry Democrats, and FBI agents all over the place spent, $48 million. They went through everything I had, including my tax returns, and they found absolutely no collusion and nothing wrong. $48 million….

WELKER: Vice President Biden, there have been questions about the work your son has done in China, and for Ukrainian energy company when you were Vice President. In retrospect, was anything about those relationships inappropriate or unethical?

BIDEN: Nothing was unethical. Here's what the deal. With regard to Ukraine, we had this whole question about whether or not, because he was on the board, I later learned, of Burisma, a company, that somehow I had done something wrong. Yet every single solitary person, when he was going through his impeachment, testifying under oath who worked for him, said I did my job impeccably. I carried out US policy. Not one, single, solitary thing was out of line. Not a single thing, number one. Number two, the guy who got in trouble in Ukraine was this guy, trying to bribe the Ukrainian government to say something negative about me, which they would not do, and did not do, because it never, ever, ever happened. My son has not made money in terms of this thing about — what are you talking about — China. I have not had it. The only guy that made money from China is this guy. He’s the only one. Nobody else has made money from China.

WELKER: Since you took office, you've never divested from your business. You've personally promoted your properties abroad. A report this week, which was referenced, does indicate that your company has a bank account in China. So how can voters know that you don't have any foreign conflicts of interest?

TRUMP: I have many bank accounts and they're all listed and they're all over the place. I mean, I was a businessman doing business. The bank account you're referring to — which is, everybody knows about it, it's listed — the bank account was in 2013. That's what it was. It was opened. It was closed in 2015, I believe, and then I decided, because I was going to do, I was thinking about doing a deal in China, like millions of other people, I was thinking about it. And I decided I'm not going to do it, didn't like it, I decided not to do it, had an account open and I closed it.

Unlike him, where he's Vice President, and he does business, I then decided to run for president after that. That was before. So I closed it before I even ran for president, let alone became president, big difference.


WELKER: Vice President Biden, let's talk about China more broadly. There have, of course, President Trump has said that they should pay for not being fully transparent in regards to the coronavirus. If you were president, would you make China pay and please be specific, what would that look like?

BIDEN: What I’d make China do is play by the international rules, not like he has done. He has caused the deficit in China to go up not down. We are making sure that in order to do business in China, you have to give all your intellectual property. You have to get/have a partner in China, it is 51 percent. We would not do that at all, number one. Number two, we're in a situation where China would have to play by the rules internationally as well. When I met with Xi, and when I was still vice president, he said ‘we're setting up air identification zones in the South China Sea, you can't fly through them.’ I said, ‘we're gonna fly through them. We just flew B52/B1 bombers through it. We're not going to pay attention.’ They have to play by the rules, and what's he do? He embraces guys like the thugs like in North Korea, and, and, and the Chinese president and Putin and others, and he pokes his finger in the eye of all our friends, all of our allies. We make up only — we’ re 25 percent. 25 percent of the world's economy. We need to be having the rest of our friends with us, saying to China, these are the rules. You play by them or you're going to pay the price for not paying by them, economically. That's the way I will run it. And that's what we did and upholding steel tariffs and a range of other things when we were president and vice president.

WELKER: President Trump, on China policy, though. What are you gonna do? What specifically are you going to do to make China pay?

TRUMP: First of all, China is paying. They’re paying billions and billions of dollars. I just gave $28 billion.

WELKER: Through sanctions?

TRUMP: I just gave $28 billion to our farmers.

BIDEN: Taxpayers money.

TRUMP: It’s what?

BIDEN: Taxpayers money.

TRUMP: No, the taxpayers. It's called China.

BIDEN: Not true.

TRUMP: China pays for $28 billion and you know what they did to pay it, Joe? They devalued their currency and they also paid up, and you know who got the money? Our farmers. Our great farmers, because they would target it. You never charge them anything. Also, I charged them 25 percent on dumped steel, because they were killing our steel industry. We were not going to have a steel, and now we have a steel industry

North Korea

WELKER: We're gonna talk about North Korea now. President Trump, you've met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's three times. You've talked about your beautiful letters with him, you've touted the fact that there hasn't been a war or a long range missile test, and yet North Korea recently rolled out its biggest ever intercontinental ballistic missile and continues to develop its nuclear arsenal. Do you see that as a betrayal of the relationship?

TRUMP: When I met with Barack Obama, we sat in the White House, right at the beginning had a great conversation, was supposed to be 15 minutes and it was well over an hour. He said the biggest problem we have is North Korea. He indicated we will be in a war with North Korea. Guess what, it would be a nuclear war, and he does have plenty of nuclear capability. In the meantime, I have a very good relationship with him, different kind of a guy but he probably thinks the same thing about me. We have a different kind of relationship. We have a very good relationship, and there's no war. And you know, about two months ago, he broke into a certain area. They said, ‘oh there's going to be trouble.’ I said, ‘No, they're not. Because he's not going to do that.’ And I was right. :ook, instead of being in a war where millions of people — Seoul, you know, is 25 miles away, millions and millions, 32 million people in Seoul — millions of people would be dead right now. We don’t have a war, and I have a good relationship.

WELKER: Vice President Biden, North Korea conducted four nuclear tests under the Obama administration. Why do you think you would be able to rein in this persistent threat?

BIDEN: Because I'd make it clear, which we were making clear to China, they had to be part of the deal, because here's the root. I made it clear, as a spokesperson for the administration when I went to China, they said, ‘Why are you moving your missile defense up so close? Why are you moving more forces? Why are you continuing to do military maneuvers with South Korea?’ I said, ‘Because North Korea is a problem. And we're going to continue to do it so we can control them. We're going to make sure we can control them and make sure they can not hurt us. And so if you want to do something about it, step up. And help if not, it's going to continue.’ What has he done? He's legitimized North Korea, he's talked about his good buddy who's a thug, a thug, and he talks about how we're better off, and they have much more capable missiles, able to reach U.S. territory, much more easily than ever did before.

WELKER: Let me follow up with you, Vice President Biden, you've said you wouldn't meet with Kim Jong Un without preconditions. Are there any conditions under which you would meet with him?

BIDEN: On the condition that he would agree that he would be drawing down his nuclear capacity to get there. The Korean Peninsula should be a nuclear free zone.



WELKER: Mr. President, your administration separated children from their parents at the border, at least 4000 kids, You've since reversed your zero tolerance policy, but the United States can't locate the parents of more than 500 children. So how will these families ever be reunited?

TRUMP: Children are brought here by coyotes and lots of bad people, cartels, and they're brought here and it’s easy to use them to get into our country. We now have a stronger border as we've ever had. We’re over 400 miles of brand new wall, you see the numbers, and we let people in, but they have to come in legally.

WELKER: But how will you reunite these kids with their families?

TRUMP: Let me just say. They built cages. You know, they used to say I built the cages. And then they had a picture in the newspaper. There was a picture of these horrible cages and they said, ‘Look at these cages, President Trump built them.’ And then it was determined they were built in 2014. That was him.

WELKER: Do you have a plan to reunite the kids?

TRUMP: Yes, we're working on a very -- we're trying very hard. But a lot of these kids come up without the parents, they come over through cartels and the coyotes and through gangs.


BIDEN: These 500 plus kids came with parents. They separated them at the border to make it a disincentive to come to begin with. Big real tough, really strong. And guess what? They cannot -- it’s not coyotes that bring them over, their parents were with them. They got separated from their parents. And it makes us a laughingstock and violates every judge of who we are as a nation.

TRUMP: Let me say this. They worked it out, we brought reporters and everything. They are so well taken care of. They're in facilities that were so clean --

WELKER: Let me ask about your immigration policy, Mr. Vice President. The Obama administration did fail to deliver immigration reform, which had been a key promise during the administration. It also presided over record deportations as well as family detentions at the border before changing course. So why should voters trust you with an immigration overhaul now?

BIDEN: Because we made a mistake. It took too long to get it right. Too long to get it right. I'll be President of the United States, not Vice President of the United States. And the fact is, and I’ve made it very clear, within 100 days, I'm going to send to the United States Congress a pathway to citizenship for over 11 million undocumented people. And all those so called Dreamers, those DACA kids, they're going to be legally certified again, to be able to stay in this country, and put on a path to citizenship. The idea that they are being sent home by this guy, and they want to do, that is they go to a country they've never seen before … They’ve been here. Many of them are model citizens. 20,000 are first responders out there taking care of people during this crisis. We owe them.

TRUMP: He had eight years to do what he said he was going to do. And I've changed without having a specific -- we get rid of catch and release, got rid of a lot of horrible things that they put in and that they live with. But he had eight years he was vice president. He did nothing except build cages to keep children in.

BIDEN: The catch and release, you know what he's talking about there? If in fact, you had family, came across, they're arrested. They, in fact, were given a date to show up for their hearing. They were released. And guess what, they showed up for the hearing. This is the first President in the history of the United States of America that anybody seeking asylum has to do it in another country. That's never happened before. That’s never happened before in our country. You come to the United States and you make your case. That’s how you seek asylum, based on the following premise, why I deserve it under American law. They're sitting in squalor on the other side of the river.

TRUMP: It’s so important. It shows that he has no understanding of immigration, of the laws. Catch and release is a disaster. A murderer would come in, a rapist would come in, a very bad person would come in -- we would take their name, we have to release them into our country. And then you say they come back. Less than 1 percent of the people come back.

We have to send ICE out and Border Patrol out to find them. We would say, ‘Come back in two years, three years -- we're going to give you a court case. You did Perry Mason, we're going to give you a court case. When you say they come back, they don't come back, Joe. They never come back. Only the really -- I hate to say this -- but those with the lowest IQ, they might come back.

Climate Change

WELKER: Gentlemen, we’re running out of time so we gotta get on to climate change, please. You both have very different visions on climate change. President Trump, you say that environmental regulations have hurt jobs in the energy sector. Vice President Biden, you have said you see addressing climate change as an opportunity to create new jobs. For each of you, how would you both combat climate change and support job growth at the same time?

TRUMP: So we have the trillion trees program, we have so many different programs. I do love the environment, but what I want the cleanest, crystal clear water, the cleanest air. We have the best, lowest number in carbon emissions, which is a big standard that I noticed Obama goes with all the time. ...And we have the best carbon emission numbers that we've had in 35 years. Under this administration, we are working so well with industry, but what we can’t do-- Look at China, how filthy it is. Look at Russia. Look at India. It's filthy. The air is filthy. The Paris Accord, I took us out because we were going to have to spend trillions of dollars and we were treated very unfairly. When they put us in there, they did us a great disservice. They were going to take away our businesses. I will not sacrifice tens of millions of jobs, thousands and thousands of companies because of the Paris Accord. It was so unfair. China doesn't kick in until 2030. Russia goes back to a low standard and we kicked in right away. It would-- It would have been-- It would have destroyed our businesses. So, you ready? We have done an incredible job environmentally. We have the cleanest air, the cleanest water and the best carbon emission standards that we've seen in many, many years.

BIDEN: Climate change, climate warming, global warming is an existential threat to humanity. We have a moral obligation to deal with it. And we're told by all the leading scientists in the world that we don't have much time. We're going to pass the point of no return within the next eight to 10 years. Four years of this man eliminating all the regulations that were put in by us to clean up the climate, to clean up-- to limit the-- limit of admissions will put us in a position where we're going to be in real trouble. Here's where we have a great opportunity, I was able to get both all the environmental organizations as well as labor, people worried about jobs, to support my climate plan. Because what it does, it will create millions of new, good-paying jobs. We're going to invest in, for example, 50,000 charging stations on our highways so that we can own the electric car market in the future. In the meantime, China's doing that. We're going to be in a position where we're going to see to it that we're going to take 4 million existing billion, buildings and 2 million existing homes and retrofit them so they don't leak as much energy, saving hundreds of millions of barrels of oil in the process and creating a significant number of jobs. And by the way, the whole idea of what this is all going to do, it's going to create millions of jobs and it's going to clean the environment. Our health and our jobs are at stake. That's what's happening. And we-- right now, by the way, Wall Street firm has indicated that my plan-- My plan will, in fact, create 18.6 million jobs, 7 million more than his. This from Wall Street and I’ll create $1 trillion more in economic growth than his proposal does, not on climate just on the economy.

TRUMP: They came out and said very strongly, ‘$6,500 will be taken away from families under his plan’, that his plan is an economic disaster...Look, their real plan costs $100 trillion. If we had the best year in the history of our country for 100 years, we would not even come close to a number like that...They want to spend $100 trillion. That's their real number. He's trying to say it was six. It’s $100 trillion. …

BIDEN: I don't know where he comes from. I don’t know where he comes up with these numbers. $100 trillion? Give me a break...This plan has been endorsed by every major-- every major environmental group and every labor group. Labor. Because they know the future lies, the future lies in us being able to breath. And they know they're good jobs in getting us there. And by the way, the fastest growing industry in America are--is, is, is the electric--excuse me, solar energy and wind. He thinks wind causes cancer, windmills. It’s the fastest growing jobs and they pay good prevailing wages, 45-50 bucks an hour. We can grow and we can be cleaner, if we go the route I’m proposing.

TRUMP: Excuse me. We are energy independent for the first time. We don't need all of these countries that we had a fight war over because we needed their energy. We are energy independent. I know more about wind than you do. It’s extremely expensive, kills all the birds, it’s very intermittent. It's got a lot of problems and they happen to make the windmills in both Germany and China. And the fumes coming up-- If you're a believer in carbon emission, the fumes coming up to make-- make these massive windmills is more than anything that we're talking about with natural gas, which is very clean. One other thing--

BIDEN: Find me a scientist that says that.

TRUMP: Solar. I love solar, but solar doesn't quite have it yet. It's not powerful enough yet to-- to really run our big beautiful factories that we need to compete with the world--

So, it's all a pipe dream, but you know what we'll do? We're gonna have the greatest economy in the world. But if you want to kill the economy, get rid of your oil industry. You want-- And what about fracking?

BIDEN: I have never said I oppose fracking.

TRUMP: You said it on tape.

WELKER: Would you rule out banning fracking?

BIDEN: I do rule out banning fracking because the answer we need-- We need other industries to transition to get to, ultimately, a complete zero emissions by 2025. What I will do with fracking over time is make sure that we can capture the emissions from the fracking. Capture the emissions from gas. We can do that and we can do that by investing money into-- It's a transition to that.

TRUMP: Excuse me. He was against fracking. He said it. I will show that to you tomorrow. ‘I am against fracking’, until he got the nomination, went to Pennsylvania than he said-- You know what, Pennsylvania? He'll be against it very soon because his party is totally against it.

BIDEN: Fracking on federal land, I said. No fracking or oil on federal land--

WELKER: Let me ask this final question in this section and then I want to move on to our final section. President Trump, people of color are much more likely to live near oil refineries and chemical plants. In Texas there are families who worry the plants near them are making them sick. Your administration has rolled back regulations on these kinds of facilities. Why should these families give you another four years in office?

TRUMP: The families that we're talking about are employed heavily and they are making a lot of money, more money than they've ever made. If you look at the kind of numbers that we produce for Hispanic, or Black, or Asian, it's nice times greater, the percentage gain than it was under-- in three years-- than it was under eight years of the two of them, to put it nicely. Nine times more. Now, somebody lives-- I have not heard the numbers or the statistics that you're saying-- But they're making a tremendous amount of money. Economically, we saved it. And I saved it again a number of months ago when oil was crashing because of the pandemic. We saved it. We got-- Say what you want of that relationship, we got Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Russia to cut back, way back. We saved our oil industry and now it's very vibrant and everybody has very inexpensive gasoline. Remember that.

BIDEN: My response is that those people live on what they call ‘Fence Lines’. He doesn't understand this. They live near chemical plants that, in fact, pollute. Chemical plants, and oil plants and refineries that pollute. I used to live near that when I was growing up in Claremont, Delaware...When my mom would get the car when they're first frost to drive me to school, turned on the windshield wipers there’d be oil slick in the window. That's why so many people in my state were dying and getting cancer. The fact is those frontline communities, it doesn't matter what you're paying them. It matters how you keep them safe. What do you do? And you impose restrictions on the pollution, that the pollutants coming out of those fenceline communities.

TRUMP: Would you close down the-- Would you close down the oil industry?

BIDEN: I would transition from the oil industry. Yes.


WELKER: Why would you do that?

BIDEN: Because the oil industry significantly —

TRUMP: That’s a big statement.

BIDEN: Well, if you let me finish the statement, because it has to be replaced by renewable energy over time. Over time. And I’d stop giving to the oil industry-- I’d stop giving them federal subsidies. You won't give federal subsidies to the gas and, excuse me, to solar and wind. Why are we giving it to the oil industry?

TRUMP: We actually do give it to solar and wind--That’s the biggest statement. In terms of business. that's the biggest statement.


TRUMP: Because basically what he’s saying is he’s going to destroy the oil industry. Will you remember that Texas? Will you remember that Pennsylvania? Oklahoma? Ohio?

BIDEN: He takes everything out of context, but the point is, look, we have to move toward a net zero emissions. The first place to do that by the year 2025 is in energy production. By 2050, totally.


TRUMP: Is he gonna get China to do it? Is he going to get China to do it?

BIDEN: No, I’m going to rejoin the Paris Accord and get China to abide by what they agreed to

TRUMP: But that’ll cost you $1 trillion.

Vishnu Kannan is special assistant to the president at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Previously he was a James C. Gaither Junior Fellow in Carnegie’s Technology and International Affairs Program, a researcher at Lawfare and the Foreign Policy Research Institute, and an intern at the Brookings Institution. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University where he studied International Relations, Political Theory and Economics.

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