President Trump isn’t holding back his efforts to work the refs ahead of his last presidential debate against Democratic rival Joe Biden this week.
In a scathing letter issued to the Commission on Presidential Debates on Monday, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien griped about the absence of foreign policy as one of the six topics selected for the final presidential debate, which were chosen by moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News. Welker announced earlier Monday that debate topics include: “Fighting COVID-19,” “American Families,” “Race in America,” “Climate Change,” “National Security,” and “Leadership.”
Stepien wrote that although those topics “are serious and worthy of discussion,” he argued that “only a few of them even touch on foreign policy” and that each were “discussed at length” during the first debate.
Stepien then called on the CPD to “recalibrate the topics and return to subjects which had already been confirmed,” before going on to accuse the nonpartisan commission of feeding into “pro-Biden antics” for turning “the debate season into a fiasco” by officially canceling what was supposed to be the second presidential debate on Oct. 15.
Trump pulled out of the debate scheduled for Oct. 15 after the CPD announced that it would be virtual, citing concerns over the President’s COVID-19 diagnosis and hospitalization earlier this month. Both Trump and Biden ended up participating in dueling town halls on Thursday night instead.
The cancelation of the originally scheduled second presidential debate for Oct. 15 came after the CPD wrote in a statement on Sept. 30 that the first debate — which was widely panned after Trump hijacked it by frequently interrupting both Biden and moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News — “made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues.”
In his letter issued Monday, Stepien stated his opposition to debate rule changes, citing reports that each candidate’s microphone could be muted if they continued to break the rules. According to CNN on Monday, the CPD planned to meet in the afternoon to discuss potential rule changes, but that there is a chance no changes are going to be made.
“It is completely unacceptable for anyone to wield such power, and a decision to proceed with that change amounts to turning further editorial control of the debate over to the Commission which has already demonstrated its partially to Biden,” Stepien wrote.
Our letter to the BDC (Biden Debate Commission) pic.twitter.com/ZsY5JfMbT7
— BillStepien (@BillStepien) October 19, 2020
Biden campaign national press secretary TJ Ducklo hit back at Stepien’s letter later Monday in a statement, saying that both presidential campaigns and the CPD agreed months ago that the moderator would select topics for the debates.
“The Trump campaign is lying about that now because Donald Trump is afraid to face more questions about his disastrous COVID response,” Ducklo wrote. “As usual, the President is more concerned with the rules of a debate than he is getting a nation in crisis the help it needs.”
The Trump campaign’s scathing letter to the CPD comes on the heels of Trump railing against Welker just days before she is set to moderate the final presidential debate this week. On Saturday, the President ripped Welker while quote-tweeting his son, Donald Trump Jr., who linked to a New York Post article claiming that the White House correspondent has “deep Democratic ties.”
Trump further tore into Welker while speaking to reporters ahead of his campaign rally in Prescott, Arizona on Monday afternoon by accusing her of being “a radical left Democrat or whatever she is.”
A spokesperson for Welker told TPM on Monday that Welker is not a registered Democrat and has been a “registered independent in D.C. since 2012, almost a decade.”
Trump praised Welker in January when he congratulated her for being named co-anchor of Weekend TODAY show during a news conference. Trump told Welker that NBC “made a very wise decision.”