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Joe Biden's guide to shutting down Trump in the first debate

America now knows the unvarnished truth: Donald Trump is a fraud. After explosive reporting by The New York Times, the first presidential debate is Joe BidenJoe BidenGiuliani goes off on Fox Business host after she compares him to Christopher Steele Trump looks to shore up support in Nebraska Jeff Daniels narrates new Biden campaign ad for Michigan MORE’s to lose.

While President TrumpDonald John TrumpGiuliani goes off on Fox Business host after she compares him to Christopher Steele Trump looks to shore up support in Nebraska NYT: Trump had 7 million in debt mostly tied to Chicago project forgiven MORE will resort to his usual deluge of lies, scapegoating and attacks to deflect from his disastrous business record and decades of intra-family tax fraud, Biden’s jabs during the first debate must be crisp and relentless. Long-winded, meandering responses won’t cut it.

By slinging razor-sharp questions directly at Trump, the Democratic presidential nominee can remain on offense and keep his opponent on his heels.

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And he can start with a whopper: “Donald, did you run for president to keep your failing businesses afloat?”

Thanks to the Times’s reporting, it seems that the answer to that question is a resounding “yes.”

After squandering hundreds of millions of dollars (inherited from his father) on disastrous business ventures, Trump learned an important lesson: Monetizing his celebrity status can be enormously lucrative. A reality television show is one of the few ways in which Trump made money.

But with $421 million in loans due in the next four years, his properties hemorrhaging hundreds of millions and no reality TV deals on the horizon, Trump’s financial future looked abysmal in 2015. So, in a desperate attempt to (again) cash in on his celebrity, he launched a presidential campaign.

Biden cannot show an ounce of mercy in exposing Trump as the con man that he is. After all, if the roles were reversed, everyone knows what Trump would do. He’d be ruthless.

Beyond Trump’s colossal failures in business, the Times’s reporting opens up plenty of other lines of attack for Biden: Trump paying taxes in authoritarian countries, but not a red cent in U.S. federal taxes for several years (so much for “America First”); praising dictators in whose fiefdoms he has business interests; writing off $70,000 in expenses on his hair; improperly – and possibly illegally  writing off the transfer of vast sums of money to his daughter, and so on.

Trump’s abysmal record as president from the coronavirus to the economy opens up even more opportunities for Biden.

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Coronavirus: With over 400,000 COVID-19 deaths projected by the end of the year, Biden must hammer Trump on his catastrophic pandemic response.

He can start by blasting Trump for admitting on tape that he publicly downplayed the virus’ danger while knowing full well how deadly it is. If Trump, the fear-monger-in-chief, claims that he didn’t want to alarm the country, Biden has any number of ways to bury such an absurd comeback.

As famed Watergate journalist Bob Woodward put it, Trump minimizing the coronavirus amounted to a “monumental, catastrophic failure of leadership.”

Indeed, Biden must tear into Trump for elevating his reelection bid over thousands of American lives.

The rest of the world is quite literally  in shock (and tears) over America’s horrific response to the coronavirus. If the U.S. took this pandemic as seriously as Canada, for example, 100,000 Americans might still be alive today.

Instead, American deaths are equivalent to a 9/11 attack every day for 68 days. Thanks to Donald Trump’s disastrous leadership, America which accounts for less than than 5 percent of the world’s population has seen more than 20 percent of global deaths.

Eight months in, when Americans should know better, Biden must ask his opponent why per capita death rates remain sky-high in deep red, Trump-loving states.

As Woodward aptly predicted, historians will look back on this period and wonder, “What the F happened to America?”

Economy: Biden’s best opportunity to flip the script on Trump and to tout the Obama-Biden record is on the economy.

Thanks to Trump’s relentless schoolyard boasting, Americans give the president high marks on this topic. But that’s absurd. The truth is that, by virtually all measures, the economy slowed significantly after Trump assumed office — even before COVID-19.

Despite Trump’s farcical promises of 6 percent growth, the “Trump economy” never matched the 3.1 percent high water mark under Obama. Biden has to blast Trump on that: “What happened to your ridiculous promises of 4, 5 and 6 percent growth, Donald?”

And he should follow up with: “Your disastrous tax cuts for the ultra-rich racked up trillions in debt. For what?” and “What did you mean when you told your wealthy Mar-a-Lago buddies, ‘You all just got a lot richer’?”

Biden also has the high ground on jobs: “Hey Donald – why did job growth in every one of Obama’s last three years beat your best year? Looks like we’ve got you on jobs, too.”

Moreover, Biden can have some fun by engaging the debate audience. He can ask millions of smartphone-equipped viewers to type “monthly unemployment rate” into Google. The first search result leads to a graph which despite Trump’s relentless pre-COVID boasting about low unemployment shows that absolutely nothing magically changed after he took office. As it turns out, Trump was just riding years-long economic trends that began in the Obama-Biden years.

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“You’re welcome for the low unemployment rate, Donald. Thanks for destroying it with your disastrous coronavirus response.”

Moreover, if Trump says a peep about the stock market (which was stronger under Obama) Biden must immediately respond with: “When the richest 10 percent own at least 84 percent of stocks, trumped-up Wall Street gains don’t mean much.”

Oh, and those manufacturing jobs Trump promised to bring back? They’re still not returning.

The Supreme Court: Biden must hammer Republicans’ staggering hypocrisy on filling Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgBarrett starts fraught first week as Supreme Court faces fights over election, abortion rights Bitter fight over Barrett fuels calls to nix filibuster, expand court Barrett to use Supreme Court chambers previously used by Ruth Bader Ginsburg MORE’s Supreme Court seat. Perhaps more importantly, Biden needs to blast Trump for nominating someone who, in all likelihood, will voted to repeal ObamaCare in the middle of the deadliest pandemic in generations.

Race and Violence in Our Cities: Beyond his usual talking points, Biden needs to repeat his previous comments: There is absolutely no excuse zero for looting, riots and violence.

Russia and Hunter Biden: When he is cornered, Trump will undoubtedly deflect by bringing up the Russia investigations and Hunter Biden’s foreign business ties.

On Russia, all Biden has to do is ask Trump how he would characterize his top campaign adviser handing the campaign’s most sensitive internal polling data and political strategy directly to a Russian spy:

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“Donald, would you call that ‘coordination’? ‘Cooperation?’ ‘Synchronization?’ Dare we call it ‘collusion’?” and “Why did Senate Republicans label your campaign’s connections to Russian intelligence officers a ‘grave counterintelligence threat’? Why did they find evidence linking your campaign chairman to the Russians' massive election interference campaign?”

When Trump brings up Hunter Biden’s overseas business interests, the elder Biden simply needs to reiterate that, if he becomes president, no one in his family (unlike Trump’s) will be involved with foreign businesses.

Biden must then make clear that his son is a choir boy compared to Trump’s shameful tax evasion and illegal financial schemes.

Marik von Rennenkampff served as an analyst with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, as well as an Obama administration appointee at the U.S. Department of Defense. Follow him on Twitter @MvonRen.