CNN reported Tuesday that Trump invited President Barack Obama’s Kenyan-born half-brother, Malik, and the mother of Benghazi victim Sean Smith, while Clinton will bring Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman and billionaire investor Mark Cuban.
News of Trump’s surprise guest came hours after Obama publicly chastised the Republican nominee for his “irresponsible” efforts to “discredit” the U.S. elections process, suggesting the invitation to his half-brother was meant in part as a rebuke to the president. Whitman is a major Republican donor who crossed the aisle to endorse Clinton and has campaigned on her behalf.
Patricia Smith, who has accused Clinton of “murdering” her son, was a featured guest at Trump’s Republican National Convention, and the Democratic nominee gave Cuban, who has publicly sparred with Trump over his net worth and erratic behavior, a front-row seat at the first debate.
While the debate guests are left up to the discretion of each candidate, Clinton’s campaign has reportedly taken steps to avoid the kind of high-profile confrontation Trump tried to stage at the last event by inviting three women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct as his guests.
Clinton’s staff gained approval to avoid the traditional pre-debate handshake between each candidate’s spouses, The New York Times reported Wednesday. Their request came after Trump’s team tried to force Bill Clinton to shake the hands of his accusers at the last debate in St. Louis, before the Commission on Presidential Debates intervened.