Former GOP Sen. Rick Santorum, a frequent defender of President Trump, said on CNN that Trump declined to explicitly condemn white supremacists when asked to at Tuesday's debate because he doesn't like to "say something bad about people who support him."

Why it matters: Trump has been criticized repeatedly throughout his tenure for his reticence to condemn right-wing violence, instead opting — as he did at the debate — to divert attention to Antifa and left-wing violence. Trump said on Tuesday that the far-right Proud Boys should "stand back and stand by" — a comment that the group is now seizing on as a dog whistle on online message boards.

What they're saying: "The Democrats owe a lot to Chris Wallace, because Chris Wallace asked those two questions, not Joe Biden. And he asked them for a reason. Because he asked two questions, where he was asking the president to do something he knows the president doesn't like to do," Santorum said on a CNN panel.

  • "Which is say something bad about people who support him. Talking about the white supremacists."

Go deeper ... Pundits react to a chaotic debate: “What a dark event we just witnessed”

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Updated Oct 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Microphones will be muted during parts of Thursday's presidential debate

Photos: Jim Watson and Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Commission on Presidential Debates adopted new measures on Monday to mute the microphones of President Trump and Joe Biden to allow each candidate two minutes of uninterrupted time per segment during Thursday night's debate.

Why it matters: During September's chaotic debate, Trump interrupted Biden 71 times, while Biden interrupted Trump 22 times.

Republican senators defend Fauci as Trump escalates attacks

Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

Several Republican senators defended Anthony Fauci after a string of attacks in recent days from President Trump, who has called the government's top infectious-disease expert "a disaster" and claimed without evidence that he's a Democrat.

Why it matters: As polls indicate warning signs for both Trump and down-ballot Republicans, more GOP leaders are urging the president to stop downplaying the pandemic and listen to advice from public health experts. Fauci is one of the most trusted voices in the country on coronavirus issues.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: McConnell urges White House not to strike stimulus deal before election — Republican senators defend Fauci as Trump escalates attacks.
  2. Health: The next wave is gaining steam.
  3. Education: Schools haven't become hotspots — University of Michigan students ordered to shelter-in-place.