Trump’s Debate Performance: Relentless Attacks and Falsehoods

For most of Thursday night’s debate, former President Donald J. Trump verbally bombarded President Biden, portraying his political opponent as an ineffective leader with a barrage of attacks that were often false, lacking context or vague enough to be misleading are.

Trump immediately attacked Biden’s personal character, calling him “weak” and little respected by world leaders who “laughed” at him.

He sought to accuse Biden of corruption, calling the president a “Manchurian candidate” who was “paid by China,” a nod to the frequent accusations of undue influence for which there is no evidence.

He directly blamed Biden for a wave of immigrants who are “coming in and killing our citizens at levels we have never seen before,” a hyperbolic claim not supported by available statistics.

And in a wild misrepresentation, Mr. Trump wrongly said that Mr. Biden “encouraged” Russia to attack Ukraine, even though Mr. Biden has consistently tried to drum up support for Ukraine and his administration has taken active steps to warn President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia against invading the country.

Mr. Trump’s comments during the debate did not differ substantially from the way he typically rails against Mr. Biden at his rallies, where he portrays the president as a leader who is somehow both bumbling and corrupt while sends the country to ruin.

But the barrage of attacks during the debate was particularly striking given that Mr Biden stood just feet away and was unable to interrupt or effectively challenge Mr Trump because of debate rules that kept his microphone muted.

And since the debate moderators, CNN hosts Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, were focused on keeping the peace, they didn’t even attempt to fact-check Trump’s claims, leaving them unchallenged.

Biden took a few punches, including some of the most memorable moments of the debate. He said Trump had the “morals of an alley cat” and accused him of having sex with a porn star while his wife was pregnant.

But by and large, Mr. Biden has been on the defensive from the start, faced with a steady stream of insults, false characterizations and attacks from Mr. Trump.

Trump seized on Biden’s halting speech early in the debate, at one point interjecting when Biden stopped talking: “I really don’t know what he said at the end of that sentence. I don’t think he knows what he said either.”

But Trump’s most forceful attacks have been on immigration, an issue that animated his successful 2016 campaign and which he has tried to make central in his bid to return to the White House.

The former president invoked the idea of ​​“Biden migrant crime,” claiming that Biden’s lax border policies had allowed terrorists and criminals to cross the border illegally.

Trump accused his successor of “ridiculous, insane, very stupid policies” that fueled a crime wave, and pointed to high-profile killings involving immigrants. He vaguely accused Biden of killing “so many people at our border” by failing to stem the flow of migrants, a claim he failed to back up with statistics.

Experts have said these heavily publicized cases do not represent a broader trend. Studies have concluded that immigration does not drive up crime rates.

Mr Trump also went straight for Mr Biden’s profile on the world stage, arguing that Mr Putin was “laughing” at the president’s leadership and his failure to secure the release of Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter held in Russia on espionage charges that US officials strongly deny.

“Our whole country is exploding because they don’t respect you,” Mr Trump told Mr Biden.

He extended this criticism to the military, arguing that “our veterans and our soldiers can’t stand the president.” (Mr. Trump reportedly denigrated senior U.S. military officials during his time in office.)

In his repeated claims that Mr. Biden is corrupt, Mr. Trump revived his accusations that Mr. Biden illegally received payments from a Chinese energy company linked to his son Hunter and his brother James. There is no evidence that any portion of those payments — which began after Mr. Biden left the vice presidency — went to the president.

But Mr. Trump also directly attacked Hunter Biden, who was found guilty this month of three felonies related to buying a gun while struggling with drug addiction. He called Hunter “a convicted felon at a very high level.”

Mr. Trump was convicted last month of 34 charges in Manhattan related to hush money payments to a porn star.

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