Trump campaign adviser Steve Cortes defended President Trump's family after they broke Cleveland Clinic rules by declining to wear masks at last week's presidential debate, saying on "Fox News Sunday" that "we believe in masks, but we also believe in some element of individual choice."

The backdrop: First lady Melania Trump, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and several guests entered the debate hall with masks on but took them off after being seated — a violation of the rules that both campaigns had agreed to. An official from the Cleveland Clinic offered the family masks but was waved away.

The big picture: Since the debate on Tuesday night, President Trump, Melania Trump and dozens of their possible contacts have tested positive for the coronavirus. While Cortes argued that everyone who attended the debate was required to have a negative test, the rapid antigen tests often used by the White House are not always accurate.

What he's saying: After insisting that the Trump family were adequately distanced and had been tested, Cortes pivoted to attacking Fox News' Chris Wallace — who moderated the debate — over allegations that he was unfair to the president.

  • "The way you are starting to harangue me now actually reminds me of what you did to the president during that debate on Tuesday night," Cortez said.
  • "He had to debate not just Joe Biden, but you as well. You were not a neutral moderator then."

Wallace shot back: "Steve, let me simply say the president interrupted me and the vice president 145 times, so I object to saying I harangued the president. I know it's the talking point."

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Moderator Kristen Welker will not control mics during final presidential debate

President Trump and Joe Biden at the first presidential debate in September. Photo: Scott Olson via Getty Images

A producer from the Commission on Presidential Debates will manage the operation of the candidates' microphones during Thursday's final presidential debate — not the event's moderator, NBC's Kristen Welker — a source with knowledge of the event told Axios.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Alexi McCammond: Given President Trump's accusations of partisanship against the other debates' moderators, it makes sense that Welker would want to steer clear of any such optics during her stint in the chair.

Updated Oct 21, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump campaign reports shrinking cash haul to FEC

President Trump during a campaign rally at the Erie International Airport on Wednesday in Erie, Pa. Photo: Noah Riffe/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

President Trump's re-election campaign had $63.1 million in the bank by the end of September after spending some $139 million that month, filings to the Federal Election Commission Tuesday night show.

Why it matters: The Trump campaign reported having $121 million in cash and $900,000 in debts the previous month. Trump's campaign and the shared Republican committees had just over $251 million at the start of October.

Amy Harder, author of Generate
5 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Climate change goes mainstream in presidential debate

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty

The most notable part of Thursday’s presidential debate on climate change was the fact it was included as a topic and assumed as a fact.

The big picture: This is the first time in U.S. presidential history that climate change was a featured issue at a debate. It signals how the problem has become part of the fabric of our society. More extreme weather, like the wildfires ravaging Colorado, is pushing the topic to the front-burner.