What happened tonight
That's it for our coverage of the final US presidential debate. Here's what you need to know this morning:
Donald Trump delivered a much less combative performance in the second and final presidential debate than the first as he repeatedly portrayed his rival Joe Biden as an establishment politician unable to bring about real change
Tim Stanley: It's clear that this was Trump's night – and he can still win the election
The best of our analysis and features
Too little too late for Trump?
Donald Trump found an effective way to hurt his opponent's campaign tonight. The problem, Ben Riley-Smith writes, is that there are only 11 day left.
"Attacking Mr Biden for being a career politician should have been adopted much, much earlier and much, much louder by the Trump campaign. Instead there has been a muddle of contradictory critiques. If Mr Biden is “all talk and no action” then how will he deliver the socialist overhaul Mr Trump has been warning about?"
'Who built the cages, Joe?'
After Mr Biden attacked Mr Trump over his administration separating migrant families at the border and detaining children, the president fought back and accused his rival of hypocrisy, saying: "Who built the cages, Joe?"
'We had a good relationship with Hitler... before he invaded Europe'
In one of the night's most memorable moments, Joe Biden accused Donald Trump of appeasing Kim Jong-un, attacking the president's claim of warm relations with North Korea by saying: "We had a good relationship with Hitler before he invaded Europe".
Watch the exchange below:
'Biden faded away - this was Trump's night'
Did taking Regeneron make Donald Trump smarter? Tim Stanley asks.
"He was a different candidate in this debate, by some way the winner, and it was actually the new format - created to silence him - that helped him. Threatened with a mute button if he got out of control, Trump stayed disciplined and (mostly) on message. In the first 30 minutes - coronavirus and the economy - he was calm, positive, well-informed and even a little invigorating. Joe Biden faded away, like the ghost of Adlai Stevenson."
Analysis: Trump can still win
Tim Stanley suggests that tonight showed Mr Trump can still win:
Biden came to life talking about the moral questions he really cares about (and he's right about child separation). But... Trump won. And Trump - maybe? possibly? - can win. #Debates2020
— Tim Stanley (@timothy_stanley) October 23, 2020
'0-0 bore draw': What you made of it
Telegraph readers are having their say in the comments:
“Whether you agree or disagree with Biden’s policies, he’s not exactly coming across as someone with advanced Alzheimer’s disease, is he?” — Paul Bradshaw
“0-0 bore draw” — Tony Part
“CONGRATULATIONS TO THE MODERATOR. Kristen Welker, a known Democrat, ran that very fairly. Well done her!” — Truth Matters
- “Personally I think trump edged it but I’m totally uninspired by either of them. Surely America has better than this? – its not Cricket
Who won the debate? Tell us your opinion below.
Analysis: That was not the first debate and we are all the better for it
Tonight looked much more like what we are used to seeing in US presidential debates, Ben Riley-Smith writes.
It was actually a debate, not a shouting match.
Donald Trump was much less aggressive and did less interrupting than the first debate. But the president had a deliberate strategy to portray Mr Biden as the ultimate Washington swamp creature. Hunter Biden, the Democratic nominee, and his China links did come up but it did not dominate the debate as it could have done. Mr Biden was not the gibbering wreck that Mr Trump at times portrays him. (The president has previously said Mr Biden cannot string two sentences together. He did tonight.)
Will it change the dial in the race? David Axelrod, the political strategist who helped Barack Obama achieve two victories, had this line on CNN after the debate: "Fundamentally if you are ahead and you get a draw, you win.”
Mr Biden is ahead in the polls.
Biden's closing pitch: choose 'hope over fear'
Mr Biden makes his closing pitch to voters: a message of unity and hope, says Rozina Sabur.
"I am an American president. I represent all of you whether you vote for me or against me. I will give you hope," Mr Biden said in his final two minutes.
"We will choose science over fiction, hope over fear. We will choose to move forward."
"Everyone has an even chance. You have not been getting that the last four years," he said.
Mr Trump says that, if he's re-elected, during his inaugural address he would tell voters who didn't back him in the election that "success is going to bring us together, we are on the road to success." He touted the country's economic growth "prior to the plague coming in from China" that sparked the coronavirus pandemic.
Now the candidates are asked what they would say in their inauguration speeches to Americans who did not get their vote.
Trump gets Biden to admit he would 'transition away' from oil industry
Nick Allen writes: This is a big moment. Mr Trump asked Mr Biden whether he would shut down the oil industry. Mr Biden responded: "I would transition from the oil industry, yes."
"Big statement," said Mr Trump.
"Will you remember that Texas, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Ohio?
"If he gets in you will have a depression the likes of which you have never seen."
Analysis: Trump painting Biden as establishment figure
Donald Trump has talked more about Joe Biden being the embodiment of the political establishment than the first debate by far. Perhaps 20 times more, Ben Riley-Smith writes.
It appears to be a deliberate tactic. When Mr Biden proposes a policy Mr Trump asks why he did not change that in the eight years when he was in the Barack Obama administration.
He also keeps hammering away on the ‘you’ve been in Washington for 47 years and changed nothing’ attack line.
"I’m looking at you, you’re a politician. I ran because of you,” Mr Trump told Mr Biden at one point in one of his more effective lines.
As pointed out, it is hard to do as president, but it is one big part of the Trump strategy tonight.
Biden: my climate plan has Wall Street's backing
Mr Biden quickly his environmental plan, claiming it has received approval from Wall Street, Rozina Sabur writes.
"Wall Street firms indicated that my plan will in fact create 18.6 million jobs, seven million more than his," he said pointing to Mr Trump.
"I'll create $1 trillion more in economic growth than his proposal," he added.
Trump claims Democrat environmental plan will cost $100 trillion
Mr Trump claims Mr Biden's environmental plan will cost $100 trillion and is a "pipe dream", Nick Allen writes.
Referring to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the left-wing Democratic congresswoman, Mr Trump claims the plan was put together by "AOC plus three".
The president accuses Democrats of wanting to knock down buildings and rebuild them "with smaller windows". He says wind energy is "extremely expensive" and "kills all the birds".
Watch: Trump defends his tax returns
Biden puts his character at the heart of his pitch
Mr Biden has put his character front and centre of his pitch to voters, Rozina Sabur writes.
“The character of the country is on the ballot. Our character is on the ballot,” he said, adding he is “anxious” to see the results of the election.
Mr Trump hit back: “Don’t give me this stuff about how you’re this innocent baby. Joe, they’re calling you a corrupt politician.”
Next topic: Climate change
Now Mr Trump is asked about climate change. The president pulled the US out of the Paris agreement and his administration has been characterised by a more aggressive diplomacy, driven by Mr Trump's tweets.
Biden says corruption allegations are 'a bunch of garbage'
The issue of Mr Biden's alleged foreign business interests has once more been raised by Donald Trump, Rozina Sabur writes.
Mr Biden hits back, saying that 50 "former national intelligence" staff have said Mr Trump's allegations about him are a "Russian plan".
"Five former heads of the CIA, of both parties, say what he's saying is a bunch of garbage," he said.
"Nobody believes it except him and his good friend Rudy Giuliani," he added.
Trump: 'I ran because of you'
Mr Trump attacks Mr Biden and defends his record on race, Nick Allen writes.
"I ran because of you Joe, I ran because of Barack Obama. "If I thought you did a good job I wouldn't have run. I'm looking at you, you're a politician, I ran because of you.
"Don't give me this stuff about you being an innocent baby."
Mr Trump added: "I am the least racist person in this room."
'There is institutional racism in America'
Mr Biden is asked about racial tensions in America and begins by talking about police brutality, Rozina Sabur reports.
"A black parent, no matter how wealthy or how poor they are, has to teach their child, when you are walking down the street, don't have a hood on, make sure that if you get pulled over... hands on top of the wheels."
"There is institutional racism in America," he said. "We have never lived up to" the mantra that "all men and women are created equal".
Mr Biden mocked Mr Trump's comparison of his track record with that of Abraham Lincoln, saying: "Abraham Lincoln here is one of the most racist presidents we've had in modern history."
"He pours fuel on every single racist fire," he said, citing Mr Trump's comments about Mexican immigrants and his proposed Muslim travel ban.
Pointing to the Republican, he said: "This guy has a dog whistle about as big as a foghorn."
'Who built the cages, Joe?'
The president responds to Mr Biden's attacks over his immigration policy, Nick Allen writes, claiming that the cages children were pictured in a few years ago were built by the Obama administration.
He said: "Just one question, 'Who built the cages, Joe? He did nothing but build cages to keep children in."
Mr Trump claimed under his administration "they [migrants] are so well taken care of, they're in facilities that are so clean."
Trump's family separation policy is 'criminal'
Mr Biden is at his most passionate tonight when the issue of children who were separated from their parents at the US-Mexican border comes up, Rozina Sabur writes.
It was recently revealed the US cannot find the parents of 545 children separated at the border under Mr Trump, who says "we’re trying very hard” to reunite them.
Mr Biden said the president’s family separation policy “violates every notion of who we are as a nation.” Mr Biden grew angry as he said: "Parents, their kids were ripped from their arms and separated and now they cannot find over 500 sets of those parents and those kids are alone. Nowhere to go. It's criminal. It's criminal."
Next topic: racism
Now the debate moves on to racism. Mr Welker asks the candidates about "the talk", the conversation black and ethnic minority American parents are forced to have with their children because of racism in the United States.
Here's why race has become such a powerful issue in this election:
Trump attacks Biden over minimum wage
Mr Biden wants to raise the minimum wage to $15. Mr Trump said: "By raising the minimum wage, that's not helping. I think it should be a state option, every state is different.
"How are you helping small businesses when you raise wages? What happens is they fire people." Mr Trump said he would consider raising the minimum wage "but not to the extent it puts people out of business". The president said it should be a state option.
Trump asked to defend separating families at the border
Now Ms Welker turns to immigration and asks Mr Trump about reports this week that the parents of 545 migrant children who were separated under US border policy cannot be located.
Immigration is one of the issues over which Mr Trump has been most popular with Republicans.
Analysis: Trump tries to be the outsider
Donald Trump is again trying to run as an outsider in this campaign and it shows in this debate, Ben Riley-Smith writes.
"Excuse me, he was there for 47 years", Mr Trump says of Mr Biden's in Washington DC. He also says of Mr Biden's time in the White House: "It was just a little while, right? It was less than four years."
The attacks would have made sense four years ago when Mr Trump was the businessman outsider. But Mr Trump is no longer just a businessman. He is the US president. He has been for almost four years. Hammering the establishment is much, much harder to do when you are in the Oval Office.
'Healthcare is not a privilege, it's a right'
Mr Biden is keen to contrast his healthcare policies with that of the president, Rozina Sabur writes.
"The difference between the president and I is I think health care is not a privilege but a right," he said. "I'm proud of my plan."
"This is something that will save people's lives."
"How many people at home are worried, rolling around in bed tonight worried about what is going to happen if you get sick?"
'I'm Joe Biden. I beat all the other guys'
Mr Trump attacks Mr Biden over his connections to the left of his party, accusing Kamala Harris, Mr Biden's VP pick, of being more left-wing than Bernie Sanders, Rozina Sabur writes. Mr Biden shrugs off Mr Trump's attempts to suggest the Democratic party would be controlled by radical socialists if he is elected.
"He thinks he is running against someone else," Mr Biden said. "I beat all those people because I disagreed with them." The Democrat stressed it is "Joe Biden he is running against".
Analysis: Trump has a plan, but Biden looks tired
Tim Stanley says Mr Trump looks assured and has a clear narrative, unlike his tired opponent:
Had written Trump off. Not so sure now. It's not just this performance, it's the narrative that comes from the performance. He has a record; he's the "get the economy rolling again" candidate. Biden looks as tired as I feel. #Debates2020
— Tim Stanley (@timothy_stanley) October 23, 2020
Next topic: Families
Now the candidates turn to the topic of families and, in particular, health care...
What Telegraph readers think so far
Telegraph readers have been getting stuck in in the comments. Here’s the best of their reaction to tonight’s debate:
“Biden may stutter but he has just pulled the rug out from under the Big Grifter.” — Ian Mackintosh
“The ‘we must open our country’ might resonate like ‘get Brexit done’. I wish more Tories were saying that here.” — Charlie BowmanMillar
“Bobulinski is not a 'stunt': he is going to help hammer the nails into Biden's coffin.” — katherine langton
Have your say below...
Analysis: Softly, softly from Trump
Donald Trump is continuing to hold himself back, at least compared to the first debate, Ben Riley-Smith writes.
“Thank you and I appreciate that”, the president said at one point, asking the moderator if he can come back at Mr Biden on a point.
At another he is about to talk about Mr Biden’s son Hunter Biden’s military service and how it ended. “I won’t get into that," Mr Trump said when he was about to talk about the issue.
That is different to the last debate, when the president claimed Hunter Biden was kicked out of the military because of a drug problem. Another sign he has started with a more restrained approach to the debate.
Trump defends China bank account
Mr Trump is now forced to defend the revelation that he had a bank account in China, Nick Allen writes. He said: "I have many bank accounts, they're all listed and they're all over the place.
"I was a businessman doing business. The bank account was opened in 2013, it was closed in 2015 I believe. I was thinking of doing a deal in China, I had an account opened and I closed it."
He accused the Biden family of being a "vacuum cleaner sucking money."
Biden unequivocal on his income
Mr Biden has hit back at the president's claims that he has profited from foreign business dealings, Rozina Sabur writes. "I have not taken a penny from any foreign source in my life," he said.
"We learned this president... has a secret account in China, and he's talking about me taking money?" "I have not taken any money from any foreign country in my life, ever."
Turning to Mr Trump, the Democrat said: "You have not released a single solitary year of your tax return. What are you hiding?"
"Release your tax return or stop talking about corruption," he added.
He defended himself and his son, Hunter, over claims he acted improperly in his business dealings in Ukraine and China. "I did my job impeccably," he said. "The guy who got in trouble in Ukraine was this guy [Trump], trying to bribe the Ukrainian government to say something negative about me, which they would not do."
'Would you make China pay?'
Now Ms Welker asks the candidates directly: if China is responsible for the coronavirus, would you make them pay?
Asked about how he would handle China, Mr Biden said: "I would make China play by the international rules."
Nodding towards Donald Trump, he says: "He embraces guys like the thugs in North Korea and the Chinese president and Putin and he pokes his finger in the eye ball of our allies."
Here's why Beijing might be rooting for a Trump victory:
Trump accuses Biden of 'raking' in foreign money
Mr Trump goes on the attack, accusing Mr Biden of "getting a lot of money from Russia", Nick Allen writes. He claimed that "you and your family were raking it in."
The president said: "I don't make money from China Joe, you do. I don't make money from Ukraine Joe, you do." Mr Trump added: "You do live very well, you have houses all over the place, you live very well."
Mr Biden responds by hitting out at Mr Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, saying his "buddy... is being used as a Russian pawn" who has been fed information that is "not true".
"Russia is wanting to make sure I do not get elected as the president of the United States, because they know that I know them and they know me. "
"Any country that interferes [in US elections] will pay a price, because they are affecting our sovereignty."
"I won’t get into that," Trump says, catching himself when about to discuss Hunter Biden ending his military service.
He talked about it last debate. Another sign of his different approach
— Ben Riley-Smith (@benrileysmith) October 23, 2020
Next topic: National security
Now we move on to national security and the first question is about the safety of the US election. It comes after the FBI announced that Iranian intelligence was behind recent emails threatening Democrats ahead of the American election and Russia has also obtained voters' information.
Trump has warm words for Dr Fauci
Mr Trump has defended Dr Anthony Fauci days after he launched a remarkable series of attacks on his top infectious diseases expert, calling him a “disaster”, criticising his TV appearances and even mocking his recent poor opening pitch for Washington DC’s baseball team, Nick Allen writes.
Mr Trump says: "I'm listening to all of them including Anthony, I get along with Anthony very well.
"I think he's a Democrat but that's OK.
"Look nobody knew what this was. Anthony said don't wear masks, now he says wear masks. He's allowed to make mistakes, he happens to be a good person."
'We've got to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time'
Mr Biden mocked Donald Trump for suggesting schools should reopen without a proper testing system in place, Rozina Sabur writes.
"We ought to be able to walk and to chew gum at the same time. We ought to be able to safely open, but you need resources to open," he said.
Imitating the Republican president, he said: "'By the way, all the teachers out there, not many of you will die, so don't worry about it.' Come on. Come on."
He then criticised the president for knowing about the severity of the coronavirus in January but not informing the American public.
"Think about what the president knew in January and did not tell the American people."
"In the meantime, we find out in the New York Times that his folks went to Wall Street and said this is dangerous. And a memo out of that meeting, not from his administration, but from brokers, said to sell short."
Open the schools, says president
Mr Trump says of Mr Biden: "All he does is talk about shutdowns.
"His Democrat governors, they're shut down so tight and they're dying, they're dying, he supports these people.
"We're not going to shut down. We're going to open our schools.
"I have a son, he tested positive. It went away, its their immune system. "I want to open the schools."
Biden: We're heading for a dark winter
Mr Biden keeps hammering one message on the coronavirus: Trump has "no clear plan", Rozina Sabur writes.
Mr Biden expressed scepticism about Donald Trump’s suggestion that a coronavirus vaccine could be made available within weeks.
“This is the same fellow who told you it was going to end by Easter,” Mr Biden said. “He has no clear plan.”
Mr Biden went on to predict the country was about to enter a “dark winter,” with Covid-19 cases on the rise.
Biden 'lives in a basement'
Mr Trump says: "I say we're learning to live with it, we cannot lock ourselves in a basement.
"He can afford to lock himself in a basement. He obviously made a lot of money some place.
"We're opening up our country."
Bleak from Biden
Joe Biden opens the debate with a sombre note, Rozina Sabur writes, highlighting the numbers of Americans who have lost their lives to the coronavirus so far: 220,000.
"Anyone who's responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America," Mr Biden says.
Mr Biden went on to compare America's current outbreak - with more than 1,000 new cases a day - to the situation in Europe.
The Democrat closes with this bottom line. "Folks: I will take care of this, I will end this, I will make sure we have a plan."
Donald Trump has begun this debate with a more buttoned-down approach than the first clash, Ben Riley-Smith writes.
"In the first 10 minutes there was not a single interruption from the US president. During the two opening statements on coronavirus neither candidate spoke over the other. That was in no small part because when one was speaking the other’s microphone was muted. The key question is how long the president continues his more orderly approach."
Trump on his best behaviour so far
It has only been a few minutes, but so far Mr Trump is restraining himself from interrupting Mr Biden.
How long will buttoned down Trump last? #Debates2020
— Ben Riley-Smith (@benrileysmith) October 23, 2020
Trump is a lot more measured and lot less manic than the last debate. Still defensive, but not attempting to interrupt. Chris Christie said the president had changed up his tactic. It's clear. #Debates2020
— Josie Ensor (@Josiensor) October 23, 2020
'We're rounding the corner'
Donald Trump gets the first question, on the coronavirus, Nick Allen writes.
He says 2.2 million were expected to die. He said there had been a big fall in the mortality rate. "We're fighting it and were fighting it hard." He said spikes in Florida, Texas and Arizona were "gone"
"A vaccine is coming, it's ready, it's going to be announced in weeks."
Mr Trump talked about his time in the hospital, and said he was now "immune". He said: "More and more people are getting better. It's going away."
The first topic: coronavirus
Ms Welker reminds the candidates about the new muting policy, asking them to be respectful, before asking: "How would you lead the country during this next stage of the coronavirus crisis?"
Here's why Covid-19 is such a big issue tonight:
And we're off!
After Kristen Welker's welcome, Mr Trump and Mr Biden take to the stage...
A few minutes away...
The audience are taking their (distanced-ish) seats in Nashville. We're about to start.
Donald Trump had a surprise up his sleeve and it has just been pulled out, Ben Riley-Smith writes.
Hunter Biden’s former business associate Tony Bobulinski has been invited to the debate by the US president and unexpectedly gave a seven-minute statement to the press beforehand.
Mr Bobulinski described how he and Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, had attempted to do business in China in 2017. He also said: "I've heard Joe Biden say he never discussed business with Hunter. That is false.” The statement included a slew of complex allegations that were impossible to immediately verify.
Mr Bobulinski said he would be handing some of his electronic devices over to the FBI.
The move has echoes of a debate in the 2016 election campaign when Mr Trump gathered some of former president Bill Clinton’s accusers together before debating Hillary Clinton, Mr Clinton's wife and then the Democratic presidential nominee.
Mr Biden has rejected in the strongest terms claims either he or his son acted inappropriately in business, calling such recent attacks smears. The stunt increases expectations that Mr Trump will bring up Hunter Biden during the debate.
Election fever is out of this world
(To paraphrase appallingly) Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in the 1830s about America's extraordinary democratic revolution and how it was powered by a democracy-hungry populace, keen to vote on anything and everything, from local associations to national elections.
This democratic fervour extends even to orbit, it seems, where a US astronaut cast her ballot from the International Space Station on Thursday, making her voice heard in the presidential election despite being 253 miles above the Earth.
"From the International Space Station: I voted today," crew member Kate Rubins, who began a six-month stint aboard the orbiting station last week, said on US space agency NASA's Twitter account.
— NASA (@NASA) October 22, 2020
A last-minute clean
The candidates' podiums are receiving a last-minute clean. Mr Trump and Mr Biden will sling political muck at each other from behind glass screens – one of several safety measures because of coronavirus. The pair will also not shake hands and the audience will be following social distancing rules.
On the guestlist
These debates tend to have more guest appearances than Dave Grohl – and presidential candidates usually brief the media on who they are inviting for maximum political pointscoring.
According to Fox News, Mr Trump could bring Tony Bobulinski, a former associate of Hunter Biden, as the president looks to hammer Mr Biden over his son’s business dealings. Mr Bobulinski last Thursday released emails and text messages that he claims show Joe Biden's involvement with his son's foreign business affairs. Mr Biden denies the accusations.
An adviser to Mr Biden told the Washington Post that his guests tonight will be Zweli and Leonardo Williams, who own a restaurant in North Carolina that has been hit by the pandemic.
How free is the US election?
After the shock news on Wednesday that Iran and Russia have gained US voters’ registration details, Ben Riley-Smith says the FBI’s announcement will have left Americans with a deep sense of unease:
“According to this new information, foreign adversaries are ready to exploit that complex picture about who can vote and when and how with their own disinformation. What happens if, the day before the election, one of these powers emails voters to say the polls are staying open a day longer? Will people turn up on November 4, actually missing their chance to vote? Or what if they contact voters and say incorrectly a Covid-19 outbreak has shut their local polling station? Or that they are in fact being advised not to vote at all because of the danger posed by the virus? The mind boggles at the nightmarish possibilities.”
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What to watch out for
One of the big potential flashpoints tonight might be over Hunter Biden, Rozina Sabur writes.
“Mr Trump is expected to steer the debate into highly personal territory for Mr Biden by bringing up the candidate's son, Hunter Biden, and his business dealings in Ukraine, China and other countries during his father's time in the White House. It comes after the New York Post published emails allegedly belonging to Hunter Biden which the newspaper said it was given by Rudy Giuliani, Mr Trump's personal lawyer. The New York Post article claimed that Mr Biden senior, while serving as the US vice-president, met an official at Burisma, the Ukrainian energy firm his son Hunter worked for. Mr Biden's campaign has denied the report, insisting that he did not meet the Ukrainian. The article also included personal photographs purported to come from a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden.”
Read more: Five things to watch in tonight’s debate
Who is moderating tonight?
This evening’s debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee is being moderated by NBC News correspondent Kristen Welker. Ms Welker has chosen the following topics for tonight:
After the debacle of the first debate, this time there will muted microphones which will, in theory, allow Mr Trump and Mr Biden time to speak uninterrupted on each of these issues. On each topic, which will last for about 15 minutes, the candidate will speak for two minutes before a back-and-forth between the pair.
Unmute… and away we go!
Good evening, everyone.
Well, last time it was a brutal assault on good taste and decorum. No, I’m not talking about our live blog — I mean the presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
The first debate in Cleveland earlier this month was a hot mess with both candidates squawking over each other in a frenetic and ferocious 90 minutes in which we learned very little.
Tonight’s debate — the second and final clash after the third was cancelled by Mr Trump — is the last chance American voters will get to see their candidates go head-to-head before polling day on November 3.
Mr Trump, trailing badly in the polls, is expected to come out fighting and, when it comes to the president, the gloves are rarely on.
Join us as we cover every question, every answer, and all the reaction.