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Trump will abide by debate rules, says campaign communications director

President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will face off for the final time Thursday night in a Nashville debate. After a rancorous first meeting in September, the second scheduled debate was canceled due to Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis. Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss what the president’s objective will be for this last meeting.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    We are just a couple of hours away from President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden taking the stage in tonight's final presidential debate of this election season.

    We speak with both campaigns about their strategy in these final days of the race.

    First up, Tim Murtaugh. He is the communications director for President Trump's campaign. And he joins now from Nashville.

    Tim Murtaugh, welcome to the "NewsHour."

    So, first of all, what is the president's main goal tonight?

  • Tim Murtaugh:

    Tonight's a good opportunity, Judy, for the president to lay out the clear differences between his own accomplishments and Joe Biden's failure over nearly five decades in Washington.

    The president has accomplished more in 47 months than Joe Biden has managed to do in 47 years. The president built the world's best economy once. He's already doing it a second time. And Joe Biden has been a disaster economically for nearly five decades.

    And now he wants to raise taxes by $4 trillion and impose the Green New Deal on every person, business, building, and farm in this country. So, if voters go into the election booth, and they are caring about who's going to restore the economy, it's President Trump, and it's not even close.

    And I think you will probably hear the president bring up the new revelation today about Hunter Biden's former business partner, who today confirmed and publicly stated and put his name on the statement that not only did Joe Biden know about the fact that Hunter was selling access to his father, the vice president, around the world, but that he also consulted, advised Hunter on it, and, in some cases, had to sign off on those deals.

    And I think you will hear the president bring that up, if the moderator does not.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And I'll ask you about that in just a moment.

    But are you suggesting the president's going to spend more time going after Joe Biden or talking about his own record and speaking about what he wants to do in the future in a second term?

  • Tim Murtaugh:

    Well, I think part of any campaign is a contrast.

    The president's going to talk about what he himself has accomplished on behalf of the American people over the course of the last four years. Chief among those is building the world's best economy, doing it once. He's now doing it a second time.

    We have already seen more than half of the jobs return that were lost to the coronavirus. When Joe Biden was in charge of the economy, it took almost 30 months for half the jobs to return during the slowest economic recovery that he oversaw. So, it absolutely is a case of laying out the differences in accomplishment vs. failure on Joe Biden's side.

    But when you're talking about running against a guy…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Does the president…

  • Tim Murtaugh:

    … who's been in Washington for 50 years almost, you absolutely are going to talk about his record.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let me ask you, does the president plan to abide by this new rule the commission is imposing, wherein the microphone is cut off for the first part of each of the other candidates' remarks during the beginning of each of these six segments of the debate?

  • Tim Murtaugh:

    Sure.

    The president has abided by the rules previously. And, look, what's going on here is that one side wants to turn…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well…

  • Tim Murtaugh:

    … the microphone of the other side off. And I think that's an indication of how they think it's going.

    But, of course, the president doesn't mind that. And this is putting a lot of power into the hands of somebody in the production truck at the Debate Commission, of course. And that's fine. The president will press on, and he's going to have a good debate.

    And nothing is going to stop the president, because there's going to be free-flowing conversation in between. Nothing is going to stop the president from putting questions to Joe Biden that need to be asked, if the moderator does not ask them.

    For one question, one in particular…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, the reason…

  • Tim Murtaugh:

    … will be, we know that he has been mentioned as being a financial beneficiary of a deal struck with a Chinese energy company.

    So, the question is, is Joe Biden compromised by the communist Chinese?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And so you're saying that's going to be a large part of what the president's talking about.

    The reason I'm asking you this, Tim Murtaugh, is because we know, in the first debate, the president interrupted something like 150, 160 times. People want to know, is that going to happen again?

    I do want to ask you about the coronavirus. Yesterday, there were 64,000 new cases of the virus in the United States. The rate of increase is going up something like 30 some percent over what it was just a few weeks ago.

    Is the president going to talk about how he plans to get this under control?

  • Tim Murtaugh:

    Sure.

    And the president will talk about what he's done already. The president has mounted an unprecedented effort, both the government and the private sector, creating a testing regime where there was not one before.

    Remember, all of this was done from scratch, because this is a novel coronavirus. More tests, far and away more tests than anyone in the world, ramping up production of PPE, building more ventilators.

    Remember, we heard about the ventilator shortage that was going to happen. That never occurred. And now we're actually sharing ventilators with other parts of the world, because we made so many.

    And the president's record of cutting off travel from China at the very beginning of this. And we know that Joe Biden would not have made that move, because he called it xenophobic and fearmongering at the time.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But…

  • Tim Murtaugh:

    So, we know that…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, Tim…

  • Tim Murtaugh:

    … if Joe Biden had been president in January, we'd be worse off today than we are, because Joe Biden would not have cut off travel from China.

    We know that because he said so.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, the reason I'm asking this is because we do have the number of cases we have now, eight million cases in the United States.

    The problem is just getting worse right now, under — under the current policies.

  • Tim Murtaugh:

    Well, Judy, I would point out that the case mortality rate — the case mortality rate in the United States is among the lowest in the world.

    The fact of the matter is, if you catch the coronavirus, the United States is absolutely where you want to be to be receiving treatment, the development of the therapeutics, the fact that we're far along the way and almost ready to have the vaccine released to the American people, hundreds of millions of doses of this lifesaving vaccine.

    And on the vaccine, what does Joe Biden do and Kamala Harris? What do they do? They try to convince people not to take it. They try to turn the vaccine itself, and, indeed, really the whole coronavirus issue, into one big political weapon, actually trying to frighten people away from taking a lifesaving vaccine.

    That is reckless, and it's endangering people's lives, simply to score political points.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We are going to leave it there.

    Tim Murtaugh with the Trump campaign, thank you for joining us.

  • Tim Murtaugh:

    Thank you, Judy.

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