For all the anticipation about how President Donald Trump would deploy Hunter Biden's business deals in the debate, it was Joe Biden who became the first to raise Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who has been leading the effort to dig up dirt on the Bidens.
"He's being used as a Russian pawn," Biden said, after name-checking Rudy and describing him as Trump's "buddy." "He's being fed information that's not true."
Biden was referring to Giuliani's meeting in December in 2019 with Andriy Derkach, a Ukrainian lawmaker assessed by the U.S. government to be a Russian agent.
The exchange allowed Trump to raise a series of allegations about Hunter that have aired in conservative media outlets in recent days -- leading to a full-throated denial from Biden.
"I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life," Biden replied. "Release your tax returns or stop talking about corruption."
Trump peppered other attacks on Hunter Biden throughout the debate. As the former VP discussed punishing Russia, Iran and China for interfering in the 2020 election, Trump raised the "horrible emails" — culled from a hard drive that Giuliani obtained, purportedly from a computer repairman in Delaware who had done work on Hunter Biden's water-damaged laptop.
Joe Biden responded by citing a recent letter from 50 former intelligence community officials warning that the entire laptop episode, which has played out in Trump-friendly news outlets since last week, had the hallmarks of a Russian disinformation campaign.
Trump reacted incredulously, linking it to previous investigations of his and his campaign's ties to Russians, and decrying what he described as a "Russia, Russia, Russia" fixation by Democrats.