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Who won the presidential debate is in the eye of the beholder as Trump and Biden argue, giving little of substance to voters and both claiming victory.

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Social distancing measures at the first debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden kept their lecterns far apart,  and there was no customary handshake between them at the beginning of the evening. 

The lack of a handshake wasn’t the only way the Cleveland debate broke the conventions of civility. During Tuesday’s encounter, the two men questioned one another’s intelligence,Trump repeatedly interrupted Biden and Biden frequently scoffed at the president’s comments and called him a “clown.” The Democratic candidate asked Trump, “Will you shut up, man?”

​Proud Boys, stand by?

Moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump if he was willing to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and urge them not to add to the violence and social upheaval that has swept the streets of Portland, Oregon, and Kenosha, Wisconsin. 

“I’m willing to do that, but I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not from the right wing,” Trump said.

TV anchors react: CNN’s Jake Tapper calls first presidential debate a ‘hot mess inside a dumpster fire’

Clash: President Trump and Joe Biden square off in first presidential debate

Trump asked the moderator to name a specific group, and Biden interrupted to cite the Proud Boys, a group that says men – especially white men – are under siege. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a liberal advocacy organization, designates the Proud Boys as a hate group. 

“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” Trump said. “But I’ll tell you what, somebody has to do something about antifa and the left.”

Hear more moments from the debate on our daily podcast

Trump has blamed antifa, an umbrella term for far-left, anti-fascist groups, for violence at protests. FBI Director Christopher Wray said the movement is one of several ideologies driving clashes; another is white supremacists.

Anti-Defamation League President Jonathan Greenblatt said it was “astonishing” that Trump wouldn’t condemn white supremacists during a nationally televised debate. 

“Trying to determine if this was an answer or an admission,” Greenblatt said. “(Trump) owes America an apology or an explanation. Now.”

According to Proud Boys organizer Joe Biggs’ online interpretation of Trump’s words, the president, “basically said to go f–k them up!”

This month, a former top Department of Homeland Security official who voted for Trump in 2016 and resigned in April told NPR that the White House refused to take far-right extremism seriously and avoided using the term “domestic terrorism” when it came to white supremacists.

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President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden argue about white supremacy and ANTIFA at the first 2020 presidential debate.

USA TODAY

‘Will you shut up, man?’

Trump repeatedly interrupted Biden, pushed claims about the business deals of the former vice president’s son Hunter and accused the Democratic candidate of favoring “radical left” policies.

Biden accused Trump of catastrophic mismanagement of the pandemic and criticized his behavior at the debate, calling the president a “clown.” The performances from each of the candidates is likely a preview of how the next two debates will go.

“Will you shut up, man?” Biden said, shaking his head after the president spoke over him when Biden was asked about the vacant seat on the Supreme Court. 

“This is so unpresidential,” Biden scoffed.

Biden ruffled Trump by questioning his intelligence.

Discussing Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, Biden said, “A lot of people die, and a lot more are going to die unless he gets a lot smarter, a lot quicker.”

“Did he use the word smart?” Trump said. 

“Don’t ever use the word smart with me, don’t ever use that word,” the president said.

“Oh, give me a break,” Biden interjected. 

“Because you know what, there is nothing smart about you,” Trump continued.

Family wasn’t off limits

Throughout the evening, Trump tried to hit Biden on his son Hunter.

About 45 minutes into the debate, Biden criticized Trump’s trade deals with China, saying the president has really “done very little.”

Trump turned the discussion to Hunter.

The president claimed the mayor of Moscow gave Hunter Biden $3.5 million.

“What did he do to deserve it?” Trump asked.

Biden called Trump’s accusation “totally discredited.” PolitiFact has said the claim was unproven.

“My son did nothing wrong,” Biden said, adding that if Trump wanted to talk about families and ethics, they could talk about Trump’s family “all night.” The president said his family “lost a fortune by coming down and helping” with his administration.

‘Such a nasty woman’: Some of the most memorable debate putdowns and quips over the years

Biden tried to pivot away from the personal, saying the campaign is not about either candidate’s family but about the voters’ families.

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President Trump seemed to try to rattle Joe Biden by bringing up Biden’s son, Hunter.

USA TODAY

When Biden highlighted his late son, Beau, and his service in the military in Iraq, Trump once again turned the discussion to Hunter. Trump accused Hunter of being “thrown out of the military” and “dishonorably discharged.” Hunter Biden was discharged from the Navy Reserve after failing a drug test. 

Hunter Biden has opened up about his alcohol and drug addictions.

“My son, like a lot of people … had a drug problem. He’s overtaken it,” Biden said. “He’s fixed it. He’s worked on it, and I’m proud of him. I’m proud of my son.”

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President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden argue what to do about COVID-19 and the pandemic at the first 2020 presidential debate.

USA TODAY

Who do you trust on COVID-19?

One of the rare exchanges in which Biden and Trump did not talk over each other came when Wallace asked each of them why voters should trust him to handle the COVID-19 pandemic.

The USA has seen more than 7 million infections and more than 206,000 deaths.

Biden cast Trump as an uncaring president without a plan. He told the audience up to 40,000 Americans a day catch the contagion, and 750 to 1,000 die from the virus.

“When he was presented with that number, he said, ‘It is what it is,’ ” Biden said. “Well, it is what it is because you are who you are.”

The former vice president pivoted to how Trump acknowledged  in an interview with journalist Bob Woodward that COVID-19 was more deadly and contagious than the flu. Trump told Woodward he had downplayed the dangers of the virus publicly.

Biden noted that House Democrats passed a $2.2 trillion relief bill and criticized the president for not working with them to hammer out a deal.

“You should get out of your bunker and get out of the sand trap in your golf course and go into the Oval Office and bring together the Democrats and Republicans and fund what needs to be done now to save lives,” Biden said. 

Trump defended his administration’s response, saying he took action early by banning travel from China, where the virus originated.

“If we would have listened to you, the country would have been left wide open,” Trump said.

“We’ve done a great job,” Trump said. “The only thing that I haven’t done a good job at is because of the fake news. No matter what you say to them, they give you bad press on it.”

Trump said Biden could not handle the crisis.

Biden asked viewers about missing their loved ones who’ve either died or been forced into isolation because of the disease.

“You would have lost far more people,” Trump interrupted.

Trump is grilled about his taxes

Wallace pressed Trump on a report in The New York Times that he paid $750 in personal federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017 and no income taxes in ten of the prior 15 years.

“I paid millions of dollars in taxes, millions of dollars of income taxes,” Trump responded. He said there is nothing wrong with using provisions in tax laws to write off business expenses to try to reduce his tax bill.

“Like every other private person, unless they’re stupid, they go through the laws and that’s what it is,” he said.

Wallace pressed Trump again on how much money he paid in taxes in 2016 and 2017. Trump said he paid “millions of dollars.”

The New York Times, which said it obtained tax return data over more than two decades for Trump and his businesses, detailed a string of losses that helped the president avoid taxes. The newspaper said the president had hundreds of millions of debt that will be due in the next few years.

Contributing: Courtney Subramanian and David Jackson

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