May 25th, 2024

Biden challenges Trump to 2 debates but won’t participate in nonpartisan commission’s debates


By Josh Boak, Zeke Miller And Jill Colvin, The Associated Press on May 15, 2024.

President Joe Biden speaks at the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies' 30th annual gala, Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden on Wednesday said he will not participate in fall presidential debates sponsored by the nonpartisan commission that has organized them for more than three decades and instead proposed two debates with former President Donald Trump to be held earlier in the year.

Biden’s campaign proposed that the first debate between the presumptive Democratic and Republican nominees be held in late June and the second in September before early voting begins. Trump responded to the letter in an interview with Fox News digital, calling the proposed dates “fully acceptable to me” and joked about providing his own transportation.

Biden, in a post on X, the site formerly known as Twitter, sought to needle his rival, saying, “Donald Trump lost two debates to me in 2020, since then, he hasn’t shown up for a debate. Now he’s acting like he wants to debate me again. Well, make my day, pal.”

The Democrat suggested that the two candidates could pick some dates, taking a dig at Trump’s ongoing New York hush money trial by noting that the Republican is “free on Wednesdays,” the usual day off in the trial.

Biden campaign chair Jen O’Malley Dillon on Wednesday sent a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates to say that Biden would not participate in its announced debates, choosing instead to participate in debates hosted by news organizations. The Biden campaign objected to the fall dates selected by the commission – which come after some Americans begin to vote – repeating a complaint also raised by the Trump campaign.

Biden’s campaign has long-held a grudge against the nonpartisan commission for failing to evenly apply its rules during the 2020 Biden-Trump matchups – most notably when it didn’t enforce its COVID-19 testing rules on Trump and his entourage – and Biden’s team has held talks with television networks and some Republicans about ways to circumvent the commission’s grip on presidential debates.

The president first indicated he would be willing to debate Trump during an interview with the radio host Howard Stern last month, telling him that “I am, somewhere. I don’t know when. But I’m happy to debate him.”

Biden indicated again last week that he was preparing to debate, telling reporters as he was leaving a White House event: “Set it up.”

Trump has repeatedly dared Biden to debate him, keeping a second podium open at rallies and claiming that his rival would not be up for the task.

Trump, too, has taken issue with the debate commission, but he and his team have maintained that they don’t care who hosts the debates as long as they happen.

The Trump campaign issued a statement on May 1 that objected to the scheduled debates by the Commission on Presidential Debates, saying that the schedule “begins AFTER early voting” and that “this is unacceptable” because voters deserve to hear from the candidates before ballots are cast.

Trump said at a Pennsylvania rally before his hush money trial began that the debates were needed.

“We have to debate because our country is going in the wrong direction so badly,” Trump said with the empty podium next to him. “We have to explain to the American people what the hell is going on.”

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