Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks as he participates in the first 2020 presidential campaign debate with U.S. President Donald Trump held on the Cleveland Clinic campus of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio on September 29, 2020.
Brian Snyder | Reuters
WASHINGTON – Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden stands ready for President Donald Trump to unleash a torrent of attacks on Biden's family in the final presidential debate Thursday night, Biden election officials said.
"We expect Trump to attack Vice President Biden and his family," said deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield on a conference call prior to the debate. "Every time he does that, he's just reiterating what we've been saying all along: he admits that he has no reason for a second term."
12 days before the polls ended, Trump seized recently released email allegedly removed from a laptop owned by Biden's son Hunter. The emails were not independently verified.
Intelligence analysts say the timing of their release and their murky origins bear the hallmarks of Russian electoral influence.
Even so, Trump has repeatedly called this week for Biden to be prosecuted for unidentified crimes. Earlier this week, a reporter asked Trump what exactly he said Biden had done wrong. Trump simply replied, "He's a criminal. He's a criminal. … Let me tell you something: Joe Biden is a criminal, and he's been a criminal for a long time."
"These attacks hit back on Trump," Bedingfield said. "Voters are fed up with Trump's lies and we've heard the same debunked attacks for over a year."
Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani have spent more than a year trying to sow suspicions that Biden may have used his position as vice president to aid his son's business in Ukraine. But a Republican-led Senate investigation earlier this year found no wrongdoing on Biden's side.
Biden stayed out of the spotlight for most of the week, preparing for the high stakes debate in Nashville.
The narrative of secret emails released a few weeks before a presidential election aimed at harming Donald Trump's opponent is well known. In 2016, Russian intelligence agencies hacked the Democratic National Committee and published emails intended to harm the then Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Bedingfield said it is no secret that Russia and other countries are trying to meddle in the US elections. "What is most worrying is that Donald Trump and his campaign are very comfortable using what many believe to be foreign meddling for their own political gain," she said.
This is likely to be at the heart of Biden's rebuttal against Trump's attacks. First, that there is no "there". More importantly, Trump is again using the product of suspected Russian interference to try to smear his opponent days before an election.
"I think the contrast here is incredibly strong," said Bedingfield. "In Joe Biden you have someone who has made it very clear that foreign interference in our elections is not something he will tolerate, not something he would tolerate if he were President. And neither can you say that for Donald Trump . "
After Biden's appeal, the Trump campaign hosted its own pre-debate appeal.
This call focused solely on the recent allegations against the Bidens, and campaign participants refused to answer questions outside of this topic.
When NPR's Tamara Keith tried to ask about Trump's preparations for the debate, Ambassador Richard Grenell replied, "Did you report on the Biden emails?"
Keith replied that it covers the Trump campaign, not the Biden campaign. When Grenell started pushing the issue, Keith found that she had coworkers who had reported on the allegations.
"I speak, I speak. Don't be homophobic," said Grenell, who is gay. "Don't interrupt, don't interrupt, don't interrupt. I'm talking."
The 90-minute debate will air on TV and cable news channels from 9 p.m. onwards. ET.
– CNBC's Kevin Breuninger contributed to this article.