1st presidential debate between Trump and Biden spirals into chaotic clash

Highlights from the first presidential debate held in Cleveland.

Last Updated: September 30, 2020, 12:56 AM EDT

President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee for president Joe Biden faced off from a social distance in the first presidential debate of 2020 in Cleveland, just five weeks out from Election Day.

The first presidential debate at Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic came on the heels of bombshell reporting from The New York Times on two decades of Trump's tax records, ahead of a contentious Supreme Court confirmation process in the Senate and as the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows Biden maintains a 10-point edge among both registered and likely voters.

The coronavirus pandemic's impact on the race was also on display as the two candidates didn't partake in a handshake, customary at the top of such events. The size of the audience was also limited and everyone attending the debate had to undergo COVID-19 testing and follow other public health protocols.

The debate’s moderator, Chris Wallace of "Fox News Sunday," selected six topics for Tuesday with each segment expected to get approximately 15 minutes: Trump's and Biden's records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, the economy, race and violence in U.S. cities, and the integrity of the election -- the final topic coming as Trump over the weekend wouldn’t commit to a peaceful transfer of power.

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Here's how the debate unfolded. All times Eastern.
Sep 30, 2020, 12:56 AM EDT

Trump and Biden show own vulnerabilities in a messy argument that was barely a debate: ANALYSIS

Former Vice President Joe Biden wanted a debate about President Donald Trump and his record.

Trump wanted a debate about Biden – and Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Biden’s son, Hunter, along the way.

Neither quite got their wish Tuesday night at the first presidential debate of the general election cycle. Ninety-plus minutes of television brought a series of chaotic and deeply personal attacks, in what was more of a rolling argument between two men than it was a debate.

Read more of ABC News Political Director Rick Klein's analysis

Sep 30, 2020, 12:55 AM EDT

5 key takeaways from Joe Biden and Donald Trump's 1st presidential debate

President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden struggled to break through their own noise on Tuesday night in the first presidential debate, which was filled with interruptions, arguing and incoherent pitches to American voters.

Pre-decided topics included the two candidates' records, the coronavirus response, the Supreme Court, the economy and voting issues -- though viewers only got a sense of each candidate's platform in brief moments, when they let each other answer.

"Fox News Sunday" anchor Chris Wallace, who had the trying task of keeping the squabbling under control, moderated the 90-minute debate from Case Western Reserve University in the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.

With just over 30 days until Nov. 3, it's the first of four presidential debates of the cycle. But because mail-in voting has become a popular, safe choice during the pandemic, on Tuesday night, voting was underway as Trump and Biden sparred on stage.

According to Michael McDonald, a professor of political science at the University of Florida, over 1.1 million Americans have already received an absentee ballot in the mail.

Here are five key takeaways from the first of three presidential debates

--ABC News' Meg Cunningham and Cheyenne Haslett

Sep 30, 2020, 1:01 AM EDT

FACT CHECK: Trump claims states are mailing out 'unsolicited ballots'

TRUMP'S CLAIM: "As far as the ballots are concerned, it's a disaster. A solicited ballot, OK? Solicited is OK. You're soliciting. You're asking, they send it back, you send it back. I did that. If you have an unsolicited -- they are sending millions of ballots all over the country. There is fraud."

FACT CHECK: Despite Trump claiming that states across the country are mailing out "unsolicited ballots," that is only true in nine states plus Washington, D.C.

In two states, Montana and Nebraska, most or some counties are mailing ballots to voters.

In fact, in 41 of 50 states, voters are required to request an absentee ballot before being mailed one by election officials. Of those 41, only nine are proactively mailing registered voters applications to request an absentee ballot.

Of those states mailing ballots to voters, five -- Colorado, Oregon, Utah, Hawaii and Washington -- were already holding all-mail elections before the coronavirus pandemic. Officials in those states have seen no evidence of widespread fraud, and those voters are likely used to receiving ballots without requesting one.

Also, in four of the nine states mailing ballots -- Oregon, Washington, Utah and Nevada -- Republicans currently run elections. Only Nevada is considered a battleground in the presidential race among the states mailing ballots.

-ABC News' Kendall Karson

Sep 30, 2020, 12:43 AM EDT

FACT CHECK: Trump falsely implies Biden supports defunding the police

TRUMP'S CLAIM: “He's talking about defunding the police.”

FACT CHECK: From the debate stage during an exchange on law enforcement, Trump implied that Biden wants to defund the police. Biden has said repeatedly that he doesn’t want to “defund the police.” 

"No, I don't support defunding the police," he said in a June interview with CBS News, adding he supports conditions on federal aid based on meeting "basic standards of decency."

Biden has in the past claimed that Trump has proposed cutting police funding by “half a billion dollars.” 

The former vice president is referencing a proposed $465.8 million cut to community police efforts through the Office of Justice Programs, which could lose funding under Trump’s proposed 2021 budget, like the COPS Hiring program, which offers grants to local law enforcement agencies to hire officers. 

Biden has been at odds with many activists for his role as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee co-writing and pushing the 1994 Crime Bill. Biden has defended his role in the bill’s passage and has supported putting more police officers on the streets in communities. After the killing of George Floyd, Biden has called for reforms like buying body cameras, de-escalation training for officers and adopting a national use-of-force standard.

-ABC News' Beatrice Peterson