Election 2020 live updates: Trump, Biden to meet in final debate; Trump picks Amy Coney Barrett's replacement

Sean Rossman, USA TODAY
·13 min read

The final presidential debate Thursday night offers voters a final chance to see President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden in the same room – just 12 days before Election Day.

Despite the introduction of a mute button, expect another contentious debate at Belmont University in Nashville, which will be moderated by NBC's Kristen Welker. Both candidates have lingering questions to answer – and for Trump, it's his last chance to shake up a race he's trailing in.

Meanwhile in Washington, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted through Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the Supreme Court on Thursday morning. Democrats boycotted the vote, an unsuccessful attempt to slow down what they have called a "sham" confirmation process. The full Senate will vote on Barrett's confirmation Monday.

🖥️ How to watch: Viewers can stream the debate live at USATODAY.com with real-time facts and context from USA TODAY's team of experts. Here's how to watch.

The latest:

  • How quickly could Amy Coney Barrett be sworn in as the ninth Supreme Court justice? Here's what happens next.

  • Americans are voting across the U.S. Here's what to do if you encounter voter intimidation at the polls on Election Day.

  • A global election monitoring group will be deployed across the U.S. to assess how well the democratic vote goes. Here's what the group told us.

  • Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said late Wednesday that voter registration information had been obtained by Iran and Russia in an attempt to undermine confidence in the 2020 election.

📊 What the polls are saying: Democrat Joe Biden and President Donald Trump are tied in Texas, according to a Quinnipiac University poll of likely Texas voters.

📆 12 days until Election Day, 90 days until Inauguration Day, 71 days left in 2020.

🗳️ Voting: See USA TODAY's Voter Guide for information on registering to vote, when your state begins voting and what the candidates think about the issues.

We will update this article throughout the day. You can follow all of USA TODAY's politics reporters on Twitter or subscribe to our daily On Politics newsletter.

Biden campaign warns Trump would be ‘amplifying Russian misinformation’ with Hunter Biden attacks in debate

The Joe Biden campaign predicted President Donald Trump would attack Biden’s family during Thursday night’s debate in Nashville and said doing so would be “amplifying Russian misinformation.”

Their warning comes after reporting from The New York Post – pushed repeatedly by Trump and his campaign – of alleged contents of a computer hard drive purporting to document the Ukrainian and Chinese business activities of Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.

"If we see tonight from Donald Trump these attacks on Vice President Biden's family, I think we need to be very, very clear that what he's doing here is amplifying Russian misinformation," said Biden Deputy Campaign Manager Kate Bedingfield during a press phone call Thursday afternoon.

The FBI is investigating whether the material supplied to the Post by Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, is part of a smoke bomb of disinformation pushed by Russia.

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said Monday the recently published emails from the computer hard drive are not connected to a Russian disinformation effort, even as federal authorities continued to review the material.

– Joey Garrison

Trump, Biden test negative for COVID

Soon after President Donald Trump’s COVID diagnosis this month, a question emerged that the White House never fully answered: Was the president tested for the virus before he stood on stage with Democrat Joe Biden for their first debate?

This time around, White House officials are being more clear.

“We tested him on the way here and he tested negative,” White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters traveling with the president to the debate in Nashville, Tennessee.

The White House announced Trump’s positive test result on the morning of Oct. 2. He took part in the debate with Biden days earlier, on Sept. 29. Trump has not directly answered whether he was tested on the day of the debate, a requirement from the Commission on Presidential Debates, and White House aides have been unwilling to answer questions about the timeline of his previous negative tests.

“I don't know, I don't even remember,” Trump said during a televised town hall on NBC last week. “I test all the time."

Biden also tested negative Thursday, according to his campaign.

– John Fritze

Trump will vote for himself Saturday in Florida

President Donald Trump has a special reason for spending Friday night at his home in southern Florida.

Voting.

"President Trump plans to early vote on Saturday in West Palm Beach, Florida," the White House said in a statement.

Trump is also campaigning in the Sunshine State on Friday and Saturday.

Four years ago, Trump voted for himself in New York City. Since then, the president has switched his place of residence to Florida, which just happens to be a key battleground state in his reelection race with Democrat Joe Biden.

– David Jackson

Trump picks Amy Coney Barrett's replacement for 7th Circuit

The full Senate hasn’t yet voted on Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, but the Trump administration has moved to fill her expected vacancy on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The White House announced Wednesday evening that President Donald Trump has chosen Thomas L. Kirsch II, a U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Indiana, for the seat. Kirsch was nominated to that position by Trump in 2017 and confirmed by the Senate by voice vote.

Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, said it’s unusual to move ahead on Kirsch’s nomination before Barrett is confirmed.

But it shows Republicans’ confidence that the Senate will approve Barrett and demonstrates how much Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will “leave no vacancy behind” on the appellate bench, Tobias wrote in an email to USA TODAY.

“I doubt that the Senate has time to confirm him before Jan. 3, but it is possible if the GOP breaks the rules, as it has been doing since 2015,” he wrote.

– Maureen Groppe

Trump posts '60 Minutes' interview after CBS released clip

President Donald Trump released video Thursday from a contentious interview with "60 Minutes," including outtakes in which the president argues with interviewer Lesley Stahl.

In the video, which Trump released on Facebook, the president complains about Stahl's questions on the condition of the economy, the resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic, his relations with epidemic expert Anthony Fauci, the value of masks, his health care policy, and his outspoken attacks on political opponents.

"With you, nothing I said would be any good, Lesley," Trump told Stahl at one point.

"That's not true, Mr. President," Stahl responded.

In releasing the tape via social media, Trump tweeted: "Look at the bias, hatred and rudeness on behalf of 60 Minutes and CBS."

Stahl did not appear to exhibit such traits during the interview, only interrupting Trump in order to challenge him on efforts to downplay things like the severity of COVID-19 and his past criticisms of Fauci.

Just say: Trump released the tape hours after "60 Minutes" released an excerpt from the interview. The White House had its own camera running during the interview, ostensibly for archival purposes.

– David Jackson

'60 Minutes': Donald Trump leaves contentious '60 Minutes' interview with Lesley Stahl, goes on Twitter attack

What time is the presidential debate tonight?

The final debate between former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump is at 9 p.m. EDT.

The event will take place at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. NBC's Kristen Welker is the moderator.

– Sean Rossman

COVID stimulus update: Pelosi says 'we're just about there'

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday a COVID-19 stimulus deal with the White House was in sight after months of negotiations.

“I think we’re just about there,” she told reporters, though differences remained on aid for state and local governments, the child tax credit, and other provisions.

She and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, one of the lead White House negotiators, are set to speak again today as the two sides continue to negotiate.

Asked about her optimism on a deal, Pelosi said “I do believe that both sides want to reach an agreement. I can’t answer for the disarray from the Senate on the other side.”

Whatever deal the White House and Democrats strike could face opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate, where members have balked at a higher price tag and on compromises in the package. Republicans in the Senate failed to advance a $500 billion stimulus package Wednesday, a much lower price tag than the packages the White House and Democrats are discussing.

– Nicholas Wu

Barack Obama to campaign in Miami on Saturday

Former President Barack Obama will campaign in Miami on Saturday for his former vice president, Joe Biden, in the closing days of the 2020 race against President Donald Trump.

Obama made his first in-person campaign appearance of the season Wednesday in Philadelphia, where he slammed Trump repeatedly for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the economy and international relations.

Florida is a key battleground because it would be difficult for either candidate to win the White House without it, and because it is closely divided. Trump won the Sunshine State in 2016, but Biden has led by a handful of percentage points in recent polls.

Both campaigns have visited repeatedly and poured millions into advertising in the state.

– Bart Jansen

Obama in Philadelphia: Obama says Trump couldn't 'protect himself' from COVID, has failed to protect the nation

Campaign ad blitz: Trump, Biden shower ad money on Phoenix, Philadelphia, Florida’s I-4 corridor in final stretch

Senate panel OKs subpoenas of Zuckerberg and Dorsey

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to authorize subpoenas to compel the testimony of the CEOs of Twitter and Facebook amid controversy over the social media companies' handling of a New York Post story about Hunter Biden.

The Post published alleged contents of a computer hard drive purporting to document the Ukrainian and Chinese business activities of Hunter Biden, son of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. The two CEOs have taken heat from conservatives over their companies' flagging of the story as spreading disinformation and their attempts to clamp down on the distribution of the story.

All 12 Republican senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to authorize the subpoenas for Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter's Jack Dorsey.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the committee chairman, said he hoped it would give the panel some "leverage to secure (the CEOs') testimony" if they did not come and testify voluntarily. The committee has not scheduled a hearing date yet.

– Nicholas Wu

Tech CEO subpoenas: Senate Judiciary Committee authorizes subpoenas for Twitter's Jack Dorsey and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg over Hunter Biden stories

Amy Coney Barrett's nomination moves forward with committee vote

All 12 Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination Thursday, clearing the way for the full Senate to vote on her nomination Monday. Democrats had opted to boycott the hearing, leaving no one to oppose the nomination.

Instead, Democrats held a press conference, during which they again lambasted Republicans for moving forward on the vote.

President Donald Trump applauded the committee's approval of his nominee in a tweet, calling it a "Big day for America!"

– Nicholas Wu

Amy Coney Barrett: Senate Judiciary Committee approves Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the Supreme Court, full Senate vote on Monday

Biden: I'll appoint a commission to study expanding Supreme Court

Joe Biden, who has avoided comment on Democratic calls to increase the number of Supreme Court justices, now says he would appoint a special commission to study that and other "reform" issues regarding the judicial system.

"I will ask them to over 180 days come back to me with recommendations as to how to reform the court system because it's getting out of whack," the Democratic president nominee told "60 Minutes" in an interview to be broadcast Sunday.

Some Democrats have called for increasing the size of the nine-member Supreme Court in retaliation for plans by Senate Republicans to confirm nominee Amy Coney Barrett next week.

If confirmed, Barrett would replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and give conservatives a 6-3 advantage on the nation's highest court.

President Donald Trump and allies have accused Democrats of seeking to "pack" the court, and chided Biden for not taking a position on the matter.

In a clip of the interview released Thursday by "60 Minutes," Biden said the issues surrounding the judicial system "go well beyond packing," and should be studied by a "bipartisan commission of scholars" that includes "constitutional scholars, Democrats, Republicans, liberal, (and) conservative" members.

– David Jackson

'60 Minutes' releases clip of Trump interview

The CBS news program "60 Minutes" released a clip Thursday of its interview with President Donald Trump, though it did not reflect the tensions that ended the discussion prematurely.

In the clip, Trump described China as the United States' top "adversary" on foreign affairs and talked about his desire to reopen the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The priority now is to get back to normal," Trump told "60 Minutes" correspondent Lesley Stahl.

Trump has criticized the interview since it was taped Tuesday at the White House. He cut the interview short, accused Stahl of political bias, and threatened to release his own tape of the sit-down session. Those tensions did not surface in the tape.

'60 Minutes' interview: Donald Trump leaves contentious '60 Minutes' interview with Lesley Stahl, goes on Twitter attack

Stahl did dispute Trump's claim that he had built "the greatest economy in the history of our country" before COVID-19 hit, but Trump calmly insisted it was true and said his top domestic priority is to "get back to where we were."

The goal is "to have the economy rage and be great with jobs and everybody be happy," Trump told Stahl.

After the CBS release, Trump again threatened to release his own "unedited preview" of the chat with Stahl. Calling it a "vicious attempted 'takeout' interview of me," Trump tweeted: "Watch her constant interruptions & anger. Compare my full, flowing and 'magnificently brilliant' answers to their 'Q’s.'"'

– David Jackson

Obama attacks Trump in stump speech for Biden

Former President Barack Obama gave a fiery speech Wednesday in Philadelphia that attacked President Donald Trump as incompetent and surrounded by "hacks," while promoting his former vice president, Joe Biden, as someone who would better deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and heal the economy.

Obama, in his first in-person campaign event two weeks before the end of 2020 voting, noted 220,000 Americans died from COVID-19, millions of jobs were lost and said the country’s reputation is in tatters around the world under Trump.

“He hasn’t shown any interest in doing the work or helping anybody but himself and his friends, or treating the presidency like a reality show that he can use to get attention,” Obama said. “This is not a reality show – this is reality. The rest of us have had to live with the consequences of him proving himself incapable of taking the job seriously.”

– Bart Jansen

More on Obama: Former president says Trump couldn't 'protect himself' from COVID, has failed to protect the nation

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Election 2020 updates: Trump-Biden presidential debate in Nashville