Biden-Trump presidential debate: How to watch live as candidates face off with no audience and muted mics

The 2024 debates have new rules that could make or break a candidate's future.

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are taking the stage in Atlanta tonight for the first 2024 presidential debate.

The first debate in U.S. history between a sitting president and former president is expected to be a defining moment for Biden, 81, and Trump, 78, both of whom have drawn criticism over their advanced age and opposing views on immigration, abortion, the war in Gaza and more.

The approach has changed significantly since their last face-off in 2020. Both candidates have accepted new rules and a fresh format for this debate, which will not include a studio audience and requires that one person’s microphone be muted when the other is speaking.

When, where and how to watch

The first debate was hosted by CNN at the cable network’s studios in Atlanta and ran with only two commercial breaks. will also feature coverage and analysis in real-time from our editorial team.

You can also watch the debate live on CNN, Fox News, NBC, NBC News NOW or ABC, all of which will include full coverage as well as pre- and post-debate analysis. If you don’t have a cable subscription, you can also livestream the debate on,, Max and Hulu.

🗣️ Who’s moderating the debate?

CNN anchors Jake Tapper and Dana Bash speak to the audience hosting a GOP presidential primary debate between then presidential candidates Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley in January 2024
CNN anchors Jake Tapper and Dana Bash speak to the audience hosting a GOP presidential primary debate between then presidential candidates Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley in January 2024. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, co-hosts of CNN’s Sunday morning show State of the Union, will serve as moderators.

Tapper hosts CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper and has prior debate experience. He previously moderated the first GOP presidential debate in 2015 as well as the last Democratic debate in 2020 between Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders. His latest series, The United States of Scandal, highlights the most prolific political scandals of the 20th century and was picked up for a second season in May.

A graduate of Dartmouth College and author of several books, Tapper previously worked as a senior White House correspondent for ABC News, according to his biography on CNN.

Bash, a graduate of George Washington University, anchors CNN’s Inside Politics with Dana Bash and has regularly served as moderator for numerous political town halls and debates — including six presidential primary debates in 2016 and two in 2020.

Author of the forthcoming book America’s Deadliest Election, which chronicles the 1872 presidential election, Bash launched her digital CNN series Badass Women of Washington in 2017 and premiered her latest interview series, Being…, in 2021.


📖 What are the debate rules?

Trump and Biden during the second and final presidential debate in 2020.
Trump and Biden during the second and final presidential debate in 2020. (Morry Gash-Pool/Getty Images)

This week’s debate will see major shifts from prior telecasts, which Biden and Trump have both agreed to. They include:

  • No live audience, which means there will be no applause or boos that could derail the conversation.

  • Muted microphones when it’s not their turn to speak.

  • No prewritten notes are allowed.

  • The only props they’re permitted to have at the lectern are a pen, a pad of paper and a bottle of water.

  • They will stand behind their lecterns the entire time, limiting their mobility — with Biden on the right and Trump on the left.

  • There will be no opening statements from either candidate.

  • Trump will get the final word during closing statements, as determined recently by a coin flip.


🛑 Will other presidential candidates appear as well?

No. In order to qualify for Thursday’s debate, a candidate had to appear on a certain number of state ballots that would make the candidate eligible to reach the 270 electoral vote threshold to win the presidency. The candidate also had to reach at least 15% of votes in four separate national polls of registered or likely voters, according to CNN.

Only Biden and Trump met those qualifications. Independent and third-party candidates Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Cornel West and Jill Stein failed to hit those benchmarks.


📺 How might Tapper and Bash approach the debate?

Moderators Tapper and Bash are expected to be strict enforcers of the rules and will use all available tools to “enforce timing and ensure civilized discussion,” according to CNN.

That comes four years after Tapper and Bash criticized Trump’s repeated interruptions at his first presidential debate with Biden in 2020, moderated by Chris Wallace for ABC. At the time, Bash used a profanity on the air to describe the debate, while Tapper called it a “hot mess” and “the worst debate I have ever seen.”

Both moderators experienced the brunt of Trump’s rhetoric at a rally in Philadelphia last week, when the former president called Tapper “fake Tapper” before mocking the pronunciation of Bash’s first name, according to The Hill.

For their part, Tapper and Bash are known to routinely fact-check Trump’s statements from their respective CNN anchor chairs while also remarking on his character. In 2020, Bash criticized Trump’s treatment of female reporters, while Tapper called Trump’s administration a “nightmare” following Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election.

They’ve also gone after President Biden’s judgment, including on foreign affairs. In 2021, Tapper criticized the president for dismissing a probe that outlined the U.S. failures in its withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, while Bash questioned Biden’s failure to hold Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accountable for his alleged role in the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

🗓 Are there other debates planned?

Yes. The second presidential debate is set for Sept. 10 and will be hosted by ABC News, with the network’s own David Muir and Linsey Davis serving as moderators.

It’s still unclear whether the second debate will have an audience, but ABC did confirm that it will be held during primetime.

Trump has stated he wants to have more than two debates, but no dates for a third have been set as of June 23.

Cover thumbnail photo: Morry Gash, Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images.