The first and only 2020 vice presidential debate between Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence was held at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, moderated by Susan Page of USA Today.
Harris came out blasting Pence and the Trump administration for their handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country,” Harris said. “And here are the facts. 210,000 dead people in our country in just the last several months. Over 7 million people who have contracted this disease. One in five businesses closed. We’re looking at frontline workers who have been treated like sacrificial workers. We are looking at over 30 million people, who in the last several months, had to file for unemployment.”
“The president said it was a hoax. They minimized the seriousness of it. The president said, ‘You’re on one side of his ledger if you wear a mask. You’re on the other side of his ledger if you don’t.’ And in spite of all of that, today, they still don’t have a plan,” Harris said.
“Our nation has gone through a very challenging time this year. But I want the American people to know that from the very first day, President Donald Trump has put the health of America first,” Pence said. “Before there were more than five cases in the United States, all people who had returned from China, President Donald Trump did what no other American president had ever done. And that was, he suspended all travel from China, the second largest economy in the world. Now, Senator Joe Biden opposed that decision. He said it was xenophobic and hysterical. But I can tell you having led the white house coronavirus task force that that decision alone by President Trump bought us invaluable time to stand up the greatest national mobilization since World War Two. And I believe it saved hundreds of thousands of American lives. Because with that time, we were able to reinvent testing. More than 115 million tests had been done to date. We were able to see to the delivery of billions of supplies, so our doctors and nurses had the resources support they needed. And we began, really, before the month of February we started to develop a vaccine and to develop medicines and therapeutics.”
“The American people have demonstrated over the last eight months, that when given the facts, they’re willing to put the health of their families and their neighbors and people they don’t even know first,” Pence said. “President Trump and I have great confidence in the American people and their ability to take that information and put it into practice.”
“Speaking of those things that you may not want people to hear, but they need to hear so they can protect themselves,” Harris said. “But this administration stood on information that, if you had as a parent, if you had as a worker, knowing you didn’t have enough money saved up, and now you’re standing in a food line because of the ineptitude of a administration that was unwilling to speak the truth to the American people. So let’s talk about caring about the American people. The American people have had to sacrifice far too much because of the incompetence of this administration.”
Harris emphasized her experience.
“I was elected the first woman of color, and black woman to be elected Attorney General of the state of California, where I ran the second largest department of justice in the United States,” Harris said. “Second only to the United States Department of Justice. And there, I took on everything from transnational criminal organizations, to the big banks that were taking advantage of homeowners, to for-profit colleges that were taking advantage of veterans. And then of course, now I serve in the United States Senate as only the second black woman ever elected to the United States Senate. I serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee where I’ve been in regular receipt of classified information about threats to our nation in hotspots around the world. I’ve traveled the world, I’ve met with our soldiers in war zones.”
“Well, look, I respect the fact that Joe Biden spent 47 years in public life,” Pence said. “I respect your public service as well.”
“The American people have a president who was a businessman, he’s a job creator,” Pence said. “Who’s paid tens of millions of dollars in taxes, payroll taxes, property taxes. He’s created tens of thousands of American jobs. And the President said those public reports are not accurate. And the President’s also released literally stacks of financial disclosures the American people can review just as the law allows. But the distinction here is that Joe Biden, 47 years in public service compared to President Donald Trump, who brought all of that experience four years ago”… “and turned this economy around by cutting taxes, rolling back regulations”… “unleashing American energy, fighting for free and fair trade. And all of that’s on the line.”… “if Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are elected.”
“On the issue of the economy, I think there couldn’t be a more fundamental difference between Donald Trump and Joe Biden,” Harris said. “Joe Biden believes you measure the health and the strength of America’s economy based on the health and the strength of the American worker and the American family. On the other hand, you have Donald Trump who measures the strength of the economy based on how rich people are doing, which is why he passed a tax bill benefiting the top one percent and the biggest corporations of America, leading to a two trillion dollar deficit that the American people are going to have to pay for. On day one, Joe Biden will repeal that tax bill, he’ll get rid of it. And what he’ll do with the money is invest it in the American people.”
“When President Trump and I took office, America had gone through the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression,” Pence said. “It was when Joe Biden was vice president, they tried to tax and spend, and regulate, and bail our way back to a growing economy. President Trump cut taxes across the board. Despite what Senator Harris says, the average American family of four had $2,000 in savings in taxes. And with the rise in wages that occurred, most predominantly for blue collar, hardworking Americans, the average household income for a family of four increased by $4,000 following President Trump’s tax cuts. But America, you just heard Senator Harris tell you, on day one, Joe Biden’s going to raise your taxes.”
“Joe Biden will not raise taxes on anyone who makes less than $400,000 a year,” Harris claimed. “He has been very clear about that. Joe Biden will not end fracking, he has been very clear about that. Joe Biden is the one who, during the great recession was responsible for the Recovery Act that brought America back.”
“Look, Senator Harris, you’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts,” Pence said. “You yourself said on multiple occasions when you were running for president, that you would ban fracking. Joe Biden looked at a supporter in the eye and pointed and said, “I guarantee, I guarantee that we will abolish fossil fuels.” They have a $2 trillion version of the Green New Deal, Susan, that your newspaper, USA Today, said really wasn’t that very different from the original Green New Deal. More taxes, more regulation, banning fracking, abolishing fossil fuel, crushing American energy and economic surrender to China is a prescription for economic decline. President Trump and I will keep America growing, the V-shape recovery that’s underway right now will continue with four more years of President Donald Trump.”
“Now with regard to climate change, the climate is changing, but the issue is what’s the cause and what do we do about it?” Pence said. “President Trump has made it clear that we’re going to continue to listen to the science. Now Joe Biden and Kamala Harris would put us back in the Paris Climate Accord. They’d impose the Green New Deal, which would crush American energy, would increase the energy costs of American families in their homes, and literally would crush American jobs. And President Trump and I believe that the progress that we have made in a cleaner environment has been happening precisely because we have a strong, free market economy. What’s remarkable is the United States has reduced CO2 more than the countries that are still in the Paris Climate Accord, but we’ve done it through innovation. And we’ve done it through natural gas and fracking.”
“I will repeat and the American people know that Joe Biden will not ban fracking,” Harris stated. “That is a fact. That is a fact. I will repeat that Joe Biden has been very clear that he thinks about growing jobs, which is why he will not increase taxes for anyone who makes less than $400,000 a year. Joe Biden’s economic plan… Moody’s, which is a reputable Wall Street firm, has said will create seven million more jobs than Donald Trump’s. And part of those jobs that will be created by Joe Biden are going to be about clean energy and renewable energy. Because, you see, Joe understands that the West Coast of our country is burning, including my home state of California. Joe sees what is happening on the Gulf states, which are being battered by storms. Joe has seen and talked with the farmers in Iowa whose entire crops have been destroyed because of floods.”
“The president’s trade war with China. You lost that trade war,” Harris said. “You lost it. What ended up happening is because of a so-called trade war with China, America lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs. Farmers have experienced bankruptcy because of it. We are in a manufacturing recession because of it. And when we look at where this administration has been, there are estimates that by the end of the term of this administration, they will have lost more jobs than almost any other presidential administration.”
“Lost the trade war with China? Joe Biden never fought it,” Pence responded. “Joe Biden has been a cheerleader for communist China over the last several decades. And again, Senator Harris, you’re entitled to your opinion. You’re not entitled to your own facts. When Joe Biden was vice-president, we lost 200,000 manufacturing jobs. And president Obama said they were never coming back. He said, we needed a magic wand to bring them back. In our first three years after we cut taxes”….. “Roll back regulation, unleashed American energy. This administration saw 500,000 manufacturing”…”Jobs created, and that’s exactly the kind of growth we’re going to continue to see as we bring our nation through this pandemic.”
“Everybody knows that NAFTA costs literally thousands of American factories to close,” Pence said. “We saw automotive jobs go South of the border. President Trump fought to renegotiate NAFTA. In the United States, Mexico and Canada the agreement is now the law of the land. American people deserve to know Senator Kamala Harris was one of only 10 members of the Senate to vote against the USMCA. It was a huge win for American auto workers. It was a huge win for American farmers, especially dairy in the upper Midwest. But Senator you said it didn’t go far enough on climate change, you put your radical environmental agenda ahead of American auto workers and a head of American jobs.”
‘The Trump administration’s perspective and approach to China has resulted in the loss of American lives, American jobs, and America’s standing,” Harris said. “There is a weird obsession that President Trump has had with getting rid of whatever accomplishment was achieved by President Obama and Vice President Biden. For example, they created within the White House and office that basically was responsible for monitoring pandemics. They got rid of it.”
“I serve on the intelligence committee of the United States Senate. America’s Intelligence Community told us Russia interfered in the election of the president of the United States in 2016 and his plan in 2020.” Harris said. “Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI said the same, but Donald Trump, the commander in chief of the United States of America prefers to take the word of Vladimir Putin over the word of the American Intelligence Community. You look at our friends at NATO, he has walked away from agreements. You can look at the Iran nuclear deal, which now has put us in a position where we are less safe because they are building up what might end up being a significant nuclear arsenal. We were in that deal guys. We were in the Iran nuclear deal with friends, with allies around the country. And because of Donald Trump’s unilateral approach to foreign policy, coupled with his isolationism, he pulled us out and has made America less safe.”
“President Trump kept his word when we moved the American embassy to Jerusalem, the capital of the state of Israel,” Pence said. “When Joe Biden was vice president, they promised to do that and they never did. We stood strong with our allies, but we’ve been demanding. NATO is now contributing more to our common defense than ever before thanks to President Trump’s leadership. We’ve strengthened our alliances across the Asia Pacific, and we’ve stood strong against those who would do us harm. When President Trump came into office, ISIS had captured an area of the middle East, the size of Pennsylvania, but President Trump unleashed the American military and our armed forces destroy the ISIS caliphate and took down their leader, al-Baghdadi without one American casualty. Al-Baghdadi was responsible for the death of thousands, but notably America’s hearts today are with the family of Kayla Mueller. Her parents, which are here with us tonight in Salt Lake City. Today, two of the ISIS killers responsible for Kayla Mueller’s murder were brought to justice in the United States. Jihadi John was killed on the battlefield along with the other beetle. The reality is that when Joe Biden was vice president, we had an opportunity to save Kayla Mueller. Breaks my heart to reflect on it, but the military came into the oval office, presented a plan, they said they knew where Kayla was. Baghdadi had held her for 18 months, abused or mercilessly before they killed her, but when Joe Biden was Vice President they hesitated for a month, and when armed forces finally went in, it was clear she’d been moved two days earlier. And her family says with a heart that broke the heart of every American, that if president Donald Trump had been president, they believe Kayla would be alive today.”
“My son is a captain in the United States Marine Corps. My son-in-law’s deployed in the United States Navy. I can assure all of you with sons and daughters serving in our military, President Donald Trump, not only respects, but reveres all of those who serve in our armed forces and any suggestion, otherwise is ridiculous,” Pence said.
“The American people deserve to know Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian general was responsible for the death of hundreds of American service members,” Pence said. “When the opportunity came, we saw him headed to Baghdad to kill more Americans. President Trump didn’t hesitate and Qassem Soleimani is gone, but you deserve to know the Joe Biden and Kamala Harris actually criticized the decision to take out Qassem Soleimani. it’s really inexplicably, but with regard to Joe Biden, it’s explainable because history records a Joe Biden actually opposed the raid against a Osama bin Ladin. It’s absolutely essential that we have a commander in chief who will not hesitate to act to protect American lives and to protect American service members, and that’s what you have in President Donald Trump.”
“Justice Amy Coney Barrett, and she’s a brilliant woman and she will bring a lifetime of experience and a sizeable American family to the Supreme court of the United States, and our hope is in the hearing next week, unlike Justice Cavenaugh received with treatment from you and others, that we hope she gets a fair hearing,” Pence said. “And we particularly hope that we don’t see the kind of attacks on her Christian faith that we saw before. I mean, the Democrat chairman of the Judiciary Committee before, when Judge Barrett was being confirmed for the court of appeals, expressed concern that the dogma of her faith lived loudly and her, and Dick Durbin of Illinois said that it was a concern. Senator, I know one of our judicial nominees you actually attacked, because they were a member of the Catholic Knights of Columbus. Just because the Knights of Columbus holds pro-life views. So, my hope is that when the hearing takes place that Judge Amy Coney Barrett will be respectfully voted and confirmed into the Supreme court of the United States.”
“First of all, Joe Biden and I are both people of faith, and it’s insulting to suggest that we would knock anyone for their faith, and in fact, Joe, if elected, will be only the second practicing Catholic as President of the United States,” Harris said. “On the issue of this nomination, Joe and I are very clear, as are the majority of the American people, we are 27 days before the decision about who will be the next President of the United States, and before, when this conversation has come up, it’s been about election year or election time. We’re literally in an election. Over 4 million people have voted. People are in the process of voting right now. And so, Joe has been very clear, as the American people are, let the American people fill that seat in the White House. And then we’ll fill that seat on the United States Supreme court, and to your point, Susan, the issues before us, couldn’t be more serious. There’s the issue of choice and I will always fight for a woman’s right to make a decision about her own body.”
“You’ve refused to answer the question. Joe Biden has refused to answer the question. So I think the American people would really like to know if Judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed at the Supreme Court of the United States. Are you and Joe Biden, if somehow you win this election, going to pack the Supreme Court to get your way?”
“Yeah. Let’s talk about packing the court then,” Harris said. “Let’s talk about the fact. Yeah, I’m about to. So the Trump Pence administration has been, because I sit on the Senate judiciary committee, Susan as you mentioned, and I’ve witnessed the appointments for lifetime appointments to the federal courts, district courts, courts of appeal, people who are purely ideological, people who have been reviewed by legal professional organizations and found who have been not competent are substandard. And do you know that of the 50 people who President Trump appointed to the court of appeals for lifetime appointments, not one is black? This is what they’ve been doing. You want to talk about packing a court? Let’s have that discussion.”
“I don’t believe so. And I’ve talked with Breonna’s mother, Tamika Palmer and her family and her family deserves justice,” Harris said. “She was a beautiful young woman. She had as her life goal to become a nurse and she wanted to become an EMT to first learn what’s going on out on the street so she could then become a nurse and save lives. And her life was taken justifiably and tragically and violently. And it brings me to the eight minutes and 46 seconds that America witnessed during which an American man was tortured and killed under the knee of an armed uniformed police officer. And people around our country of every race, of every age, of every gender, perfect strangers to each other, marched shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm, fighting for us to finally achieve that ideal of equal justice under law. And I was a part of those peaceful protests. And I believe strongly that first of all, we are never going to condone violence, but we always must fight for the values that we hold dear, including the fight to achieve our ideals.”
“Well, our heart breaks for the loss of any innocent American life and the family of Breonna Taylor has our sympathies,” Pence said. “But I trust our justice system, a grand jury that refuse the evidence. And it really is remarkable that as a former prosecutor, you would assume that an impaneled grand jury looking at all the evidence, got it wrong. But you’re entitled to your opinion, Senator. I think, and with regard to George Floyd, there’s no excuse for what happened to George Floyd. Justice will be served, but there’s also no excuse for the rioting and looting that followed. I mean, it really is astonishing. Flora Westbrook is with us here tonight in Salt Lake city. Just a few weeks ago, I stood at what used to be her salon, it was burned to the ground by rioters and looters. And Flora is still trying to put her life back together. And I must tell you, this presumption that you hear consistently from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, that America is systemically racist, and that as Joe Biden said that he believes that law enforcement has an implicit bias against minorities is a great insult to the men and women who serve in law enforcement. And I want everyone to know who puts on the uniform of law enforcement every day, President Trump and I stand with you.”
This is the only vice presidential debate. Two more presidential debates are scheduled, but their fate has been called into question by President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis. To read a full transcript of the debate, click here.