President Donald Trump twice leveled slashing attacks on Joe Biden's son Hunter about his business dealings and drug problem at Tuesday night's debate – and both times it was a line by Biden that prompted him to go on offense.
Trump, aided by fresh research from a Republican-run committee, tore into Hunter Biden's overseas business arrangements including deals while Joe Biden was serving as vice president.
But after one angry attack, Biden sought to turn the tables, vaguely referencing Trump's kin and telling the camera: 'This is not about family. It's about your family.'
He's my son and I'm proud of him: Joe Biden said that Hunter, his only surviving son, had 'fixed' his drug problem 'like a lot of people'
After days of foreshadowing that he would try go after Biden by hitting his son for corruption, it took a long stretch before President Trump got to the issue that has become a feature of his press conferences and Fox News appearances.
Unexpectedly, it was Biden who was the first to bring up China – a place where Hunter Biden did business – as he blasted Trump for the trade deals he has negotiated and sought to undermine Trump's claims of bringing back manufacturing jobs.
Coming about halfway through the debate, it jolted Trump into bringing his attacks on Hunter Biden.
'China ate your lunch, Joe!' Trump scolded him.
'And no wonder your son goes in and he takes out billions of dollars to manage. He makes millions of dollars.' It was a reference to business Hunter Biden did with his firm Rosemont Seneca Partners, LLC and business it secured in China.
Trump brought up a Senate Republican report that claimed Hunter got $3.5 million from the wealthy wife of the former Mayor of Moscow. Hunter Biden's lawyer has denied the characterization and said funds were wired to the firm.
'What did he do to deserve it?' Trump asked.
'My son did nothing wrong in Burisma,' said Biden – after Trump expanded his attack to Hunter Biden's lucrative seat on the board of a Ukrainian energy firm.
It resulted in still more angry cross-talk at a debate that set new standards for interruptions and intensity.
'He doesn't want to let me answer because he knows I have the truth,' Biden said.
'It's hard to get any word in with this clown – excuse me, this person,' Biden said after delivering the insult.
'His family we could talk about all night,' Biden said, but stopping short of specifics, as White House advisor Ivanka Trump and Trump Organization execs Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. in the audience.
Then, Biden faced the camera and delivered a line meant to shut down the attack. 'This is not about my family or his family. It's about your family,' he told viewers.
'He doesn't want to talk about what you need … The American people. That's what we're talking about here,' Biden scolded.
Start of exchange: Joe Biden tried to attack Donald Trump over claims he called dead troops 'suckers' and 'losers' by highlighting his late son Beau's service in Iraq where he earned the Bronze Star
Trump family: The First Lady posed for a backstage selfie alongside her stepdaughters Ivanka and Tiffany, and her stepson Eric's wife Lara
More than an hour into the angry clash, Biden said Trump 'never keeps his word,' and brought up comments that sources told the Atlantic Trump made about fallen troops – referring to them as 'suckers' and 'losers.' Trump again denied it.
Biden made an impassioned pitch for his late son Beau's military service. He spent a year in Iraq serving in the National Guard.
'Speaking of my son, the way you talk about the military — the way you talk about them being losers and being, and just being suckers — my son was in Iraq and he spent a year there,' Biden said.
'He got the Bronze Star. He got the Conspicuous Service Medal. He was not a loser. He was a patriot. And the people left behind there were heroes,' said Biden.
'You talking about Hunter?' Trump asked, rhetorically after Biden mentioned his son.
Biden answered he was speaking of Beau.
'I don't know Beau. I know Hunter,' Trump interrupted, then amped up his attacks.
'He was thrown out, dishonorably discharged for cocaine use. And he didn't have a job until you became vice president,' Trump said.
'That's not true. None of that is true,' Biden responded.
'He made a fortune in Ukraine, in China, in Moscow, in various other places,' Trump said.
Hunter Biden received an administrative discharge from the Navy in after failing a drug test for cocaine in 2013. He was seeking to be commissioned as a reserve officer. He did not receive a dishonorable discharge, but an administrative one, according to press accounts at the time.
Biden responded: 'My son, like a lot of people we know at home, he had a drug problem.'
'He's fixed it. He's worked on it,' Biden said. 'And I'm proud of him.'WHAT Trump WAS TALKING ABOUT: Hunter Biden sent 'thousands of dollars to women with ties to Eastern European prostitution and sex trafficking rings' while father Joe was overseeing US policy in Ukraine, GOP report claimed
Hunter Biden allegedly sent 'thousands of dollars' to people who may have been involved in Eastern European prostitution and sex trafficking rings, according to report released last Wednesday by Senate Republicans.
The report cited unspecified records which indicate that Biden 'has sent funds to non-resident alien women in the United States who are citizens of Russia and Ukraine and who have subsequently wired funds they have received from Hunter Biden to individuals located in Russia and Ukraine.'
The 87-page report was released on Wednesday by the Republican-led Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Finance Committee, and focuses on Hunter Biden's business dealings in Ukraine.
A report released by a group of Senate Republicans headed by Senator Ron Johnson (left) alleges that Hunter Biden (right) sent thousands of dollars to individuals who may have been linked to Eastern European prostitution and sex trafficking rings
'The records also note that some of these transactions are linked to what "appears to be an Eastern European prostitution or human trafficking ring".'
The allegations were mentioned in a footnote to a part of the report that delves into 'criminal concerns and extortion threats' involving Hunter Biden and other members of the Biden family, according to the New York Post.
The report also mentions 'extensive public reporting concerning Hunter Biden’s alleged involvement with prostitution services.'
'Records on file with the Committees do not directly confirm or refute these individual reports,' the report says.
'However, they do confirm that Hunter Biden sent thousands of dollars to individuals who have either: 1) been involved in transactions consistent with possible human trafficking; 2) an association with the adult entertainment industry; or 3) potential association with prostitution.'
The report also revealed that Biden had a 'financial relationship' with the widow of a Moscow mayor who was ousted over corruption allegations.
The report did not implicate Joe Biden in wrongdoing, focusing instead on his son Hunter, who it said 'cashed in' on his father's position by joining the board of a