Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that he will not moderate a Newsmax-sponsored GOP debate in Iowa later this month.
Trump had been having trouble securing participants for the Dec. 27 debate; just two--Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum--had said they would attend. (Ron Paul said the event was "beneath the office of the Presidency.")
The real estate mogul and reality show star reiterated that he could decide to run as an independent, which also might have created a conflict of interest for him in the role of debate moderator.
It's unclear whether the debate will go on without Trump. A representative for Newsmax did not immediately return a request for comment; Eason Jordan, the former CNN news chief who had been hired to produce the debate, told Yahoo News to "stay tuned."
Below, Trump's full statement (via Politico):
The Republican Party candidates are very concerned that sometime after the final episode of The Apprentice, on May 20th, when the equal time provisions are no longer applicable to me, I will announce my candidacy for President of the United States as an Independent and that, unless I conclusively agree not to run as an Independent, they will not agree to attend or be a part of the Newsmax debate scheduled for December 27, 2011. It is very important to me that the right Republican candidate be chosen to defeat the failed and very destructive Obama Administration, but if that Republican, in my opinion, is not the right candidate, I am not willing to give up my right to run as an Independent candidate. Therefore, so that there is no conflict of interest within the Republican Party, I have decided not to be the moderator of the Newsmax debate. The American people are embarrassed by the gridlock currently taking place in Washington. I must leave all of my options open because, above all else, we must make America great again!
I would like to thank Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum for having the courage, conviction, and confidence to immediately accept being a part of the Newsmax debate. I believe this would not only have been the most watched debate, but also the most substantive and interesting debate!
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