Five weeks from from polling day, two days from the first presidential candidates’ debate, and moments after the New York Times published bombshell revelations about Donald Trump’s taxes, the US president took aim at his Democratic opponent Joe Biden with a series of wild and unproven accusations.
In an unfocussed White House briefing, the president retailed baseless allegations, including that his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden had used “performance-enhancing drug” during appearances.
Trump compared Biden’s performance across primary debates, including, according to the president, that he was stronger in some debates than others: “People say he was on performance-enhancing drugs. A lot of people have said that,” Trump claimed, without evidence. When challenged Trump told reporters to “look on the internet” to see who was saying it. .
“I will be strongly demanding a drug test of Sleepy Joe Biden prior to, or after, the debate on Tuesday night,” Trump later wrote on Twitter.
The president also accused Biden’s son Hunter of corruption and speculated about non-existent Democrat policies of unattended, open borders. In a familiar refrain, he painted a dystopian vision of life under a Democratic administration.
“They will destroy the American dream. They will destroy America … your private right to own a firearm will be totally eliminated, your guns will be confiscated, your ability to live by your religious faith will be devastated, they’ll abolish America’s borders and give healthcare to illegal aliens which will destroy our healthcare system.”
Trump condemned criticism of his pick for the Supreme Court – the Catholic judge Amy Coney Barrett – as “fighting Catholicism”, and argued he was upholding his “presidential obligation” by nominating her to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He forecast Barrett’s nomination “is going to go quickly”.
Trump revisited, too, his favoured tropes: the “lamestream media”; the failures of Obamacare; and allegations of widespread voter fraud.
There were few facts to back up his assertions..
The latest revelationfrom The New York Times that Trump paid just $750 in tax the year he won the presidency, and no tax in 10 of the last 15 years, because he lost more money than he made, was dismissed:“It’s fake news. Totally fake news. Made up,” Trump said.
‘Fake news’: Trump denies tax claims from New York Times – video
Trump has reportedly done little in the way of formal preparation for this week’s debate against Biden, though he said on Sunday that the former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his former 2016 primary rival, Chris Christie, had been drafted in to help him.
“We had a little debate prep before we came here,” Trump said, while Christie and Giuliani watched from the press briefing room. “What I do is debate prep, every day.”
Biden, by contrast, has spent months honing his debate lines of attack, and preparing to aggressively rebut Trump’s attacks on him.
Biden’s campaign has been holding mock debate sessions featuring Bob Bauer, a senior Biden adviser and former White House general counsel, playing the role of Trump, a source with direct knowledge of the preparations told AP on condition of anonymity.
First debates, historically, are by far the most impactful and Tuesday night in the swing state of Ohio could be critical in determining Trump’s chances of clawing back Biden’s stubbornly consistent lead in the polls.
The 90-minute event, moderated by Fox News host Chris Wallace, is the first of three scheduled presidential debates.
Vice President Mike Pence and California Senator Kamala Harris, Biden’s running mate, will debate in October.