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Pence targets Biden over ISIS hostages, brings family of executed aid worker to debate

Pence targets Biden over ISIS hostages, brings family of executed aid worker to debate
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Vice President Pence invoked slain ISIS hostage Kayla Mueller on Wednesday as he sought to tout what he described as President TrumpDonald John TrumpAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week Conservative policy director calls Section 230 repeal an 'existential threat' for tech MORE’s foreign policy accomplishments in his debate against Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBiden officially clinches Electoral College votes with California certification Hillicon Valley: Senate Intelligence Committee leaders warn of Chinese threats to national security | Biden says China must play by 'international norms' | House Democrats use Markup app for leadership contest voting Trump campaigns as wild card in Georgia runoffs MORE (D-Calif.).

The parents of Mueller, a humanitarian aid worker taken hostage by ISIS and executed in 2015, were Pence’s guests in the debate hall. The Trump administration earlier in the day announced criminal charges against two alleged members of the cell that killed Mueller.

In hailing the territorial defeat of ISIS, Pence recalled a failed rescue operation the Obama administration undertook in 2014.

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“The reality is that when Joe BidenJoe BidenAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Federal student loan payment suspension extended another month Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week MORE was vice president, we had an opportunity to save Kayla Mueller,” Pence said. “But when Joe Biden was vice president, they hesitated, for a month. And when our armed forces finally went in, it was clear she'd been moved two days earlier. And her family says with a heart that broke the heart of every American that if President Donald Trump had been president, they believe Kayla would be alive today.”

Harris, Biden’s running mate, replied directly to the Muellers, saying she was “so sorry” about what happened to their daughter.

“What happened to her is awful,” Harris said. “And it should have never happened. And I know Joe feels the same way. And I know that President Obama feels the same way.”

She then quickly pivoted to tangling with Pence over allegations of Trump disrespecting the military.

Harris cited the contents of an article in The Atlantic in which Trump reportedly called fallen U.S. service members “suckers” and “losers.”

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Biden also hit Trump over the issue at last week’s chaotic presidential debate.

On Wednesday night, Harris brought up Trump’s dismissal of U.S. troops’ brain injuries after a missile strike in Iraq, as well as his comments that the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainSmearing presidential election will turn off young voters and undermine democracy Choking — not cheating — was Trump's undoing Gabby Giffords congratulates Mark Kelly with throwback photo of her own swearing-in MORE (R-Ariz.), who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, was not a war hero because he was captured.

She also raised Trump’s disregard for an alleged Russian bounty program targeting U.S. troops in Afghanistan, which he has said he never raised in calls with Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinHow Trump's election lawsuits became his worst nightmare Enforcing the Presidential Records Act is essential for preserving our democracy's transparency, history Putin says doctors and teachers will get first COVID-19 vaccines in new immunization campaign MORE.

“Joe Biden would never do that,” Harris said. “Joe Biden would hold Russia to account for any threats to our nation's security or to our troops who are sacrificing their lives for the sake of our democracy.”

Pence defended Trump against what he called “slanders.”

“The slanders against President Donald Trump regarding men and women of our armed forces are absurd,” he said at Wednesday's debate.

“My son is a captain in the United States Marine Corps. My son-in-law is deployed in the United States Navy. I can assure all of you, the sons and daughters serving in our military, President Donald Trump not only respects, but reveres all of those in our armed forces, and any suggestion otherwise is ridiculous,” Pence continued, attempting to continue saying more over the efforts of moderator Susan Page to enforce time limits for the candidates' remarks.