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Presidential Debate

The staff of The Intercept live-blogged the first presidential debate.

Last updated 3 years ago

On Fox, Brit Hume says Hillary Clinton’s face was “not necessarily attractive”

By way of complimenting Hillary Clinton’s demeanor during the debate, Brit Hume, the veteran Fox News anchor now employed by the network as a senior political analyst, told viewers that she was “not necessarily attractive.”

Within minutes of the debate’s end, before cutting to a live interview of Donald Trump by his ardent supporter Sean Hannity, Hume offered this judgment on how voters might make up their minds: “For most of the debate, what the television audience saw were the two faces of the two candidates and the question for a lot of people, I’m sure was, or for assessing their judgment is: what did they think of the two faces that they saw while the candidates were not talking, while they were listening?”

“The Trump expression was one we’re all familiar with from the earlier debates – he looked annoyed, put out, uncomfortable,” Hume continued. “And she looked, I think for the most part, she looked composed — smug sometimes — not necessarily attractive.”

“I think a lot will turn,” he concluded, “on how people reacted to the faces they saw side-by-side on that screen tonight.”

Trump, to the left of Obama, pledges not to use nuclear weapons first

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump looks on during the Presidential Debate at Hofstra University on September 26, 2016 in Hempstead, New York.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump looks on during the Presidential Debate at Hofstra University on Sept. 26, 2016, in Hempstead, New York.

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

After Hillary Clinton attacked Donald Trump’s rhetoric on nuclear issues as reckless and dangerous, Trump pledged not to be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into a conflict. “I would certainly not do first strike,” Trump said. “Once the nuclear alternative happens, it’s over.”

That may seem like common sense, but it’s actually a commitment that President Obama has been reluctant to make. The Pentagon argues that unless the U.S. is prepared to threaten a nuclear strike, it is less likely to deter Russian and Chinese aggression.

Arms control advocates have been pushing President Obama to vow “no first use,” ironically in part to try and reign in a future president.

The moderator didn’t ask a single question about immigration and climate change

Throughout Monday’s presidential debate, moderator Lester Holt did not ask a single question about key issues discussed in the course of the campaign, including immigration and climate change.

Immigration, of course, has been a major feature of the campaign, with Donald Trump scapegoating migrants for a variety of ailments. The very fate of the human population depends on addressing climate change.

Both candidates addressed the issues in passing as part of their answers to various questions, but neither discussed their plans at length. For some reason, Holt did not find either topic worth asking about.

Trump attacks Clinton for Libya position he shared

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gestures toward Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton listens during the Presidential Debate at Hofstra University on September 26, 2016 in Hempstead, New York.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gestures toward Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton listens during the Presidential Debate at Hofstra University on Sept. 26, 2016, in Hempstead, New York.

Photo: Getty Images

As part of Donald Trump’s critique of Hillary Clinton on debate night, Trump called the 2011 bombing campaign of Libya “one of her disasters.” Throughout his campaign, Trump has repeatedly pointed to Clinton’s leading role in advocating for intervention in Libya to characterize Clinton as an interventionist.

In a Republican debate in February, Trump said “we would be so much better off, if Gaddafi were in charge right now, if the politicians went to the beach, and didn’t do a thing.”

But back in 2011, Donald Trump explicitly called for U.S. intervention in Libya. “We should immediately go into Libya, knock this guy out, very quickly, very surgically, very effectively, and save the lives,” Trump said. Watch for yourself here.

In a later video, Trump faulted the Obama administration for not bargaining with Libyan rebels for a share of the country’s oil.

Trump infrastructure plan depends on corporate tax cut that would move jobs overseas

Republican nominee Donald Trump gestures during the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, on Sept. 26, 2016.

Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump has spoken repeatedly at the first presidential debate about the desperate need to rebuild U.S. infrastructure. To do this, he says, he wants to get ahold of the almost $2.5 trillion in U.S. corporate profits currently being held overseas. (Trump claimed with no evidence that the amount is actually more like $5 trillion.)

This build up in U.S. corporate profits held in foreign countries is caused by a weird loophole in tax law: The U.S. corporate tax rate is 35 percent, but multinational companies don’t have to pay taxes on profits earned in foreign countries until they bring it back to the U.S. They therefore have held those trillions hostage, hoping that eventually Americans will be so desperate for government funds that they’ll agree to a deal that slashes the tax rate.

That’s what Trump is promising to deliver. His tax plan, as he proudly said tonight, would cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent on U.S. profits — and to even less, 10 percent, on overseas profits.

Under the current tax rate, corporations would pay $875 billion in total taxes on $2.5 trillion in overseas profits. Under Trump’s, they’d pay $250 billion. So his plan would save multinational corporations $625 billion.

Even worse, having a significantly lower corporate tax rate for overseas profits would create an enormous incentive for U.S. multinational corporations to move as much of their operations as possible to foreign countries. It would also be a giant disadvantage for countries that only operate in the U.S.

During Hillary Clinton’s campaign she’s hinted at supporting some kind of similar corporate tax deal, but with no specifics.

Racial profiling is all “stop and frisk” was about

Donald Trump denied debate moderator Lester Holt’s suggestion that “stop and frisk” led to racial profiling.

He’s wrong. In 2011, at the peak of the practice, the NYPD stopped 685,724 people;  53 percent of them were black, 34 percent were Latino. Black and Latino males between the ages of 14 and 24 made up 4.7 percent of the city’s population — and 41 percent of the stops. In 99.9 percent of stops, no guns were found.

Stop and frisk also didn’t make the city safer. Since a federal judge ruled against the practice in 2012, stops dropped drastically. And so did crime.

Political consultant running Donald Trump’s Super PAC mocks fact-checking

Alex Castellanos, the political consultant who made advertisements for George W. Bush, and is now running the largest Super PAC supporting Donald Trump’s campaign, tweeted at a New York Times reporter, tweaking him for “fact checking in real time.” Castellanos mocked the idea, asking “seriously, do you think that’s what this debate is about?”

Hillary Clinton’s touted “no-fly list” gun proposal is discriminatory and flawed

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York on September 26, 2016.

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, on Sept. 26, 2016.

Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton touted a Democratic proposal to empower the federal government to block individuals on its terror watchlists from buying guns. But these lists are known to be secretive, unaccountable, and discriminatory — and have impacted countless innocent Americans who have been unable to fly due to being placed on them.

For example, Lyman Latin — a disabled U.S. Marine veteran who was wrongly placed on the list and later joined an ACLU lawsuit in response — was unable to get a Veterans Administration disability evaluation completed because he was blocked from flying from Egypt to the United States. As a result, his disability payments were reduced, and he had to move into lower-cost housing, exacerbating the impact of his disability. Both the ACLU and the Council on American-Islamic Relations have denounced the Democratic gun proposal.

How many times has Donald Trump interrupted Hillary Clinton?

The AJ+ Facebook page is scoring Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s debate, tracking what may become the most important statistic of the night.

Less than an hour in, Trump had interrupted 23 times to Clinton’s five. It appears to be a conservative count.

Lester Holt has one job, and he’s blowing it

Moderator Lester Holt waits for the first US Presidential Debate at Hofstra University on September 26, 2016 in Hempstead, New York.

Moderator Lester Holt waits for the first US Presidential Debate at Hofstra University on Sept. 26, 2016, in Hempstead, New York.

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Despite the elaborate ode to civil discourse, rules, and turn-taking that was announced before the candidates were announced on stage, Donald Trump is trampling all over Hillary Clinton and the debate’s purported moderator, Lester Holt.

Despite repeated, sniping interruptions from Trump when Clinton is talking (“Wrong.”) during her allotted time (“Wrong!”), Holt has completely failed to enforce his own rules and keep Trump quiet. Clinton is — whether out of adherence to the rules or fear of coming across as loud or rude or obnoxious or annoying or harping or something on tomorrow’s cable roundtables — staying comparatively silent. So long as Trump speaks whenever and however often he feels like it, unchallenged, Holt might as well be watching the debate from home along with the rest of us.

Trump on rooting for the 2008 housing crisis: “That’s called business”

One of the attacks Hillary Clinton deployed against Donald Trump in tonight’s first presidential debate was a callback to the time he wished, aloud on an audiobook, that the American housing market would collapse so that he could profit. Rather than deny it (because it is true), Trump boasted that it was just smart.

In the 2006 audio recording, part of a promotional tape for Trump University, candidate Donald made no attempt to hide his glee at the prospect of a national financial disaster: “I sort of hope that happens because then people like me would go in and buy.”

Confronted tonight with the fact that he hoped to personally gain by the possibility of millions of Americans losing their homes, Trump responded simply: “That’s called business, by the way.”

Hillary Clinton in the 1990s personally lobbied business to push harder for liberalized trade with China

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump began their debate tonight by sparring over trade, with the two exchanging ideas about how to prevent jobs from going overseas.

Something Trump did not mention was that after Congress failed to pass fast-track powers in 1997 for Bill Clinton’s push for Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with China, the first lady personally traveled to Davos, Switzerland, to complain to business elites at the World Economic Forum that they didn’t lobby hard enough.

“The American business community made a very limited effort on behalf of the fast track, left the field completely clear to the rather unusual alliance between the right of the Republican party which is isolationist, anti-American engagement, quite critical and not supportive of the United Nations, IMF or any multilateral group, and the left of the Democratic party that believes that trade authority, and trade agreements, are not in the interests of American workers,” she told them. “So that alliance carried the day. Now when the president comes back to the Congress with a request for fast-track authority, I hope that American business voices will be heard.”

In 2000, the business elite followed Clinton’s advice, passing Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that 3.2 million jobs were lost between 2001 and 2013 thanks to the growing trade deficit with China.

Trump lies about not calling climate change a hoax invented by China

Donald Trump denied calling climate change a hoax invented by the Chinese, interrupting Hillary Clinton making that point.

He has, in fact, made exactly that point, writing on Twitter on election day 2012:

Democratic Party used moments before debate to finally disclose convention sponsors

Politicians frequently attempt to obscure news coverage by releasing information right before the weekend or before a major holiday — a tactic commonly referred to as the “Friday news dump.”

The Democratic Party, just moments before the debate tonight, released the donor list for the party nominating convention in Philadelphia.

Some of the largest donors include Comcast at $5.6 million in cash and in-kind donations, AT&T at $1.5 million, and Independence Blue Cross with $1,525,000. Other major donors include  Google Inc., which gave $500,000; Microsoft at $650,000; and DuPont, the chemical company, which gave $100,000.

Debate Commission waits until last minute to reveal (and thank) its corporate donors

Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz introduces debate co-chairs, from left, Michael D. McCurry and Frank Fahrenkopf ahead of the Presidential Debate at Hofstra University on September 26, 2016 in Hempstead, New York.

Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz introduces debate co-chairs, from left, Michael D. McCurry and Frank Fahrenkopf ahead of the Presidential Debate at Hofstra University on Sept. 26, 2016, in Hempstead, New York.

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Commission on Presidential Debates, the private group that hosts the debates, waited until a few minutes before the start of the event to invite its co-chairmen, Mike McCurry and Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., to the stage to introduce the event.

McCurry and Fahrenkopf, both of whom work in the influence industry in their day jobs, revealed the commission’s 2016 donors for the first time and publicly thanked them.

“I’d like to list the names of our 2016 national sponsors. The Anheuser-Busch companies, the Howard G. Buffet Foundation, the Kovler Fund, Crowell and Moring, AARP, and the National Governors Association. Will you please join me in thanking them for the work they’ve done?” McCurry said.

In 2000, Gore’s live fact-check of Bush tax plan was laughed off, and we paid the price

As my colleague Jon Schwarz notes, the head of the debate commission suggested on Sunday that fact-checking should be left to the candidates, not the moderators.

As it happens, we have a very good example of just how poorly that works, from the not-too-distant past of the first presidential debate in 2000, between Al Gore and George W. Bush.

All that lingered in the minds of many Americans after that debate, cemented by the “Saturday Night Live” parody, was Gore’s repeated use of the word “lockbox” to describe his plan to secure social security funding and the fact that, as the New York Times reported the next day, “At several points Mr. Gore sighed loudly at Mr. Bush’s answers.”

In retrospect, though, it is striking to realize that Gore’s frustration with Bush was largely driven by the fact that the Texas governor refused to admit that it was true that his planned tax cut would dole out nearly half of the money to “the wealthiest 1 percent” of Americans.

Gore repeated the charge 10 times throughout the debate, and each time Bush dodged, accusing his rival of using “fuzzy math.”

Looking back at the transcript, it is also remarkable that the debate moderator, Jim Lehrer — who hosted every first debate from 1988 to 2012 — refused to provide help to Gore in establishing that his analysis was entirely supported by the facts.

At one point, Lehrer even interrupted Gore’s real-time fact-check to turn the stage over to Bush. “I want to see if he buys that,” Lehrer said.

Later, when Gore returned to the fact that Bush was concealing the true cost of his proposal, saying “the surest way to threaten our prosperity, having a $1.9 trillion tax cut, almost half of which goes to the wealthy,” Lehrer testily observed, “I thought we cleared this up a while ago.”

Gore was of course correct, and the Bush tax cuts, tilted heavily in favor of the 1 percent, ended up massively increasing income inequality and eventually cost the United States government at least $2.8 trillion in tax revenue.

That lost money could have largely covered the neglected infrastructure spending on roads, bridges, and schools the federal government has not provided in the meantime.

Trump once hated big donors getting debate tickets — now he’s handing them out to Sheldon Adelson

During a Republican primary debate last February, Donald Trump was booed during a back and forth with Jeb Bush about Trump’s attempt to use eminent domain to seize an elderly woman’s property in Atlantic City.

“That’s all of his donors and special interests out there,” Trump claimed. “We needed tickets. You can’t get them. You know who has the tickets …? Donors, special interests, the people that are putting up the money.”

Trump was clearly right that the richest donors get tickets to live debates that are completely unavailable to regular people: As Jake Tapper pointed out tonight, Trump has given four seats to the family of gambling mogul Sheldon Adelson, whose net worth of $31 billion makes him the 14th richest person in the U.S. Addison and his wife are spending at least $40 million trying to elect Republican candidates, including $5 million going to a Super PAC opposing Hillary Clinton.

Rudy Giuliani jokingly kissed Adelson’s ring before the debate:

Hordes of journalists are fact-checking tonight’s presidential debate

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump appears on television monitors in the media center during the first presidential debate at Hofstra University on September 26, 2016 in Hempstead, New York.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump appears on television monitors in the media center during the first presidential debate at Hofstra University on Sept. 26, 2016, in Hempstead, New York.

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images


Several news organizations have committed to fact-checking Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s statements during tonight’s debate.

The New York Times has built a team of 18 reporters who will act as fact-checkers. They’ll aim to post within five minutes of the candidate’s statement.

NPR’s 22-person team will conduct fact-checking online and in their post-debate analysis. They also will use an annotation widget.

Bloomberg TV will reportedly be the only television network to fact-check the debate on-screen.

PolitiFact has a team of 18 fact-checkers examining the candidates’ statements. So far in the election, they’ve fact-checked Clinton and Trump almost 400 times.

Wired has a five-person fact-checking team for its live blog.

The Washington Post has already published a pre-debate fact check. Its two fact checkers, Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, will be fact-checking for the live blog.

And we’ll be doing it too.

Conservatives aren’t just backing Clinton because Trump is scary

The list of Republicans endorsing Hillary Clinton continues to grow. Much of the focus on the so-called conservatives for Clinton centers around the idea that Trump is so extreme and dangerous that they are forced to break ranks and grudgingly endorse Clinton. While that may be sincere, it does not erase the fact that Clinton is the best candidate for the Empire and, at least on many foreign policy questions, her agenda closely tracks those of the conservatives supposedly grudgingly voting for her. Would these same people have endorsed Bernie Sanders had he won the nomination? Perhaps some would, but the list would be much, much smaller.

Clinton has an impressively hawkish track record as a senator and as Secretary of State. She has no qualms about regime change, she was a top official in the “kill chain” developed by the Obama administration for assassinating people in drone strikes, she streamlined the relationship between the State Department and the CIA and Special Operations forces to expand covert actions across the world. She supported the USA Patriot Act, voted for the Iraq invasion. Later, Clinton said that vote was a mistake and blamed the Bush administration for misleading her and other lawmakers. That explanation is bullshit—she had access to the same info that those who voted against the war did and she still endorsed that horrific, murderous war. She supported the coup in Honduras. She backed the surge in Afghanistan (which produced nothing but more deaths of Afghans and U.S. military personnel). She teamed up with then-CIA Director David Petraeus in 2012 in an effort to convince Obama to authorize a covert plan to arm so-called rebels in Syria.

Is she the ideal candidate for these Republican dissenters? No. But Hillary Clinton is American royalty. It is not shocking that George H.W. Bush—and possibly even Jeb and George W.—would vote for her. She is a known entity. She is predictable. And she is an Empire insider. With all the cards on the table, she’s viewed as the best bet by some really reprehensible people.

CNN host already advising Hillary Clinton to smile

That didn’t take long. CNN pundit Michael Smerconish, a syndicated radio host, used the network’s pre-debate coverage to advise Hillary Clinton that she should not be “afraid to smile.”

CNN, like most networks, has spent much of the day focusing on the entertainment value of the debate, stylistic differences between the candidates, and poll numbers. In previous debates, pundits have made obsessive, gendered comments about Clinton’s facial appearance and clothing choices.

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