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Friday September 24th, 2021 4:48PM

The Latest: Hundreds gather near site of presidential debate

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the presidential campaign (all times local):

6:25 p.m.

Hundreds of people are gathering on sidewalks outside the site of the final presidential debate to show their support for the candidates.

Cars honked and slowed down Thursday evening to check out the scene just outside Belmont University's campus in Nashville, Tennessee.

Most of the attendees appeared to be wearing masks, though some proudly declared they would not while holding flags supporting President Donald Trump.

Julie Ford, who lives in Greenbrier, Tennessee, says she hopes the candidates spend more time talking about what they would do over the next four years.

She says, “I know what Donald Trump plans to do and I know what Joe Biden’s website plans to do." But she says Biden “never gets questioned (on) what his future will look like.”

She says she traveled to Cleveland for the first debate to show her support for Trump.

___

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE:

After last month's chaotic debate, President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, will take the stage Thursday in Nashville, Tennessee, to give it another go.

Read more:

— Face to face: Trump and Biden to meet for final debate

— Viewers’ Guide: After chaotic 1st debate, Trump, Biden try again

— Trump posts unedited ’60 Minutes’ interview before it airs

___

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

5:30 p.m.

The Trump administration is dangling the prospects of executive action or legislation to help about 20,000 salaried, nonunion retirees of the Delphi Corporation get their full pension benefits after an unsuccessful court fight.

The retirees live mostly in critical swing states in the Midwest, most notably Ohio and Michigan.

Their fight goes back to 2009. That’s when their pensions were terminated as part of a taxpayer-funded bailout of General Motors. They lost up to 70% of their retirement benefits when trusteeship was transferred to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

President Donald Trump issued a memorandum directing three Cabinet secretaries to review the pension cuts and report back within 90 days on action that can be taken to address lost benefits.

___

3:20 p.m.

The White House chief of staff says President Donald Trump has tested negative for the coronavirus ahead of Thursday night’s second and final presidential debate.

Mark Meadows says Trump was tested onboard Air Force One while en route to Nashville, Tennessee, and tested negative.

Biden’s campaign said Thursday that he, too, was tested Thursday and tested negative.

The test comes after Trump’s bout with the virus, which put him in the hospital for three nights.

Both campaigns had been required to certify that their candidates and VIP guests have tested negative ahead of the debates. But Trump and the White House have repeatedly refused to say whether Trump actually was tested before participating in the first.

Trump was diagnosed with the virus two days later.

___

2:50 p.m.

Joe Biden is bringing the owners of a small North Carolina restaurant to Thursday night’s debate to underscore the impact President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has had on average Americans.

Zweli and Leonardo Williams are set to attend the debate in Nashville, Tennessee. Campaign adviser Symone Sanders said on a press call Thursday that they are “two of the many small-business owners who have felt the economic impact of this administration’s failed response” to the pandemic.

The choice highlights the significance of North Carolina, a heavily contested battleground state that could help deliver Biden a win.

Sanders also said that the “debate is a test of presidential temperament” and that regardless of whether Trump comes “for a serious discussion of this record and plans for the future, or more antics and distraction” like the first debate, Biden “will be prepared either way.”

___

2:45 p.m.

President Donald Trump plans to cast his ballot in person on Saturday, taking advantage of Florida’s early voting period.

The White House says the president will vote in West Palm Beach, a short drive from his Mar-a-Lago private club and, as of 2019, his official residence. The club is located in the town of Palm Beach, which doesn’t have any early voting locations.

Trump moved his residence to Florida a year ago from New York, citing his frustration with New York’s political leadership. He also hoped it would give him a boost in the critical battleground state. His path to another term in the White House is virtually nonexistent without a repeat victory in Florida.

___

1:25 p.m.

President Donald Trump says “it will be so good” if the Supreme Court puts an end to the Obama-era health law when the justices hear challenges to the Affordable Care Act next month.

Trump made the comment in an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” that’s set to air Sunday night. The president posted the full, unedited interview on Facebook on Thursday.

Democrats argue that Republicans are counting on the Senate confirmation of Trump nominee Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court to be the death knell of the law, which is also called “Obamacare.”

Republicans have bristled at the Democrats’ claim about what could happen if the appeals court judge joins the high court.

With Barrett on the path to confirmation in the coming days, Trump is signaling that he’s confident that court’s expected swing to the right portends the demise of the health law.

Trump says in the interview: “I think it’ll end” and “I hope that they’ll end it.”

The interview taped earlier this week. The White House posted it on social media after Trump complained he hadn’t been treated fairly by CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl.

___

11:50 a.m.

President Donald Trump has posted his full, unedited interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” on Facebook ahead of the show’s Sunday air date.

The footage shows Trump growing increasingly prickly as anchor Lesley Stahl presses him on the coronavirus pandemic, his slipping support with suburban women and other issues.

Trump tweeted with the Facebook link: “Look at the bias, hatred and rudeness on behalf of 60 Minutes and CBS.” And he again preemptively criticized the moderator of Thursday’s final presidential debate.

The “60 Minutes” interview starts on a tense footing as Stahl asks the Republican president, “Are you ready for some tough questions?” It only grows more testy.

Trump complains, “That’s no way to talk.” He later comments, “You’re so negative.”

Trump faces Democrat Joe Biden in the debate on Thursday night in Nashville, Tennessee.

___

11:20 a.m.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden says he has tested negative for COVID-19 ahead of his debate with President Donald Trump.

Biden made the comments to reporters in Wilmington, Delaware, on Thursday before flying to Nashville, Tennessee, where he’s scheduled to participate in the second debate with the Republican president, the final scheduled meeting of the two candidates before the Nov. 3 election. Biden says he underwent the coronavirus testing on Thursday.

Last week during a town hall-style interview on MSNBC, Trump did not specify when he was asked when he had been tested before the Sept. 29 debate. The White House announced two days later Trump had tested positive. Trump spent three nights at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center before returning to the White House.

The White House was asked Thursday morning whether Trump had been tested, as Biden was, in preparation for the debate. It has not released an update.

___

8:35 a.m.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden won’t rule out studying the addition of members to the U.S. Supreme Court as part of a commission he plans to name to look at court reforms if he’s elected.

During an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” recorded Monday but not yet aired, Biden was asked by anchor Norah O’Donnell if the commission would study whether to pack the court. Biden says the commission’s charge would “go well beyond packing.”

Biden said last week he was “not a fan” of the idea of adding justices to the court to balance it ideologically. He said he would answer the question of whether he planned to support it before the final presidential debate, scheduled for Thursday in Nashville, Tennessee.

Questions of whether Biden would support court-packing have emerged since Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death on Sept. 18 and the Republican-controlled Senate’s move forward with Judiciary Committee hearings on President Donald Trump’s nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, before the Nov. 3 election.

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