Trump: 2020 debates are 'up to me'

Dylan Stableford
·Senior Writer

Following a report that he may skip the 2020 general election debates over a dispute with the nonprofit commission that sanctions them, President Trump on Monday suggested he would ultimately debate the Democratic nominee — but that the format and venue are up to him.

“I look very much forward to debating whoever the lucky person is who stumbles across the finish line in the little watched Do Nothing Democrat Debates,” Trump tweeted. “My record is so good on the Economy and all else, including debating, that perhaps I would consider more than 3 debates.

“The problem is that the so-called Commission on Presidential Debates is stacked with Trump Haters & Never Trumpers,” the president continued. “3 years ago they were forced to publicly apologize for modulating my microphone in the first debate against Crooked Hillary. As President, the debates are up to me, and there are many options, including doing them directly & avoiding the nasty politics of this very biased Commission.”

Donald Trump speaks during a 2016 presidential debate in Las Vegas. (David Goldman/AP)
Donald Trump at a 2016 presidential debate in Las Vegas. (Photo: David Goldman/AP)

In 2016, Trump blamed a “defective mic” for one of his underwhelming debate performances and clashed with the commission over his scheme to seat in his VIP box a group of women who had accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct — an unprecedented maneuver intended to intimidate Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent.

The commission later issued a statement acknowledging that “there were issues regarding Donald Trump’s audio that affected the sound level in the debate hall,” but did not apologize.

Trump tweeted Monday that he would “make a decision at an appropriate time but in the meantime, the Commission on Presidential Debates is NOT authorized to speak for me (or R’s)!”

In response, the commission released a statement defending its record as a debate host.

“The televised general election debates are an important part of our democratic process,” the statement read. “Since 1988, the Commission on Presidential Debates has conducted 30 general election presidential and vice presidential debates. Our record is one of fairness, balance and non-partisanship.”

It had already announced the sites and dates for three presidential debates next year, the first scheduled for Sept. 29 at the University of Notre Dame. The moderators have yet to be named.

If Trump were to skip the debates, it would not be unprecedented. Previous incumbents have also passed: President Lyndon B. Johnson did not debate Barry Goldwater in 1964, and eight years later President Richard Nixon declined to debate George McGovern. Both presidents won reelection.

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