UPDATED with Biden campaign statement: Donald Trump and Joe Biden are scheduled to meet again on Thursday for the second and presumably final presidential debate, and Trump’s campaign has again weighed in with complaints about the format.
Bill Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager, wrote in a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates that the focus of the next event should be on foreign policy, not on the list of topics selected by moderator Kristen Welker. They are fighting COVID-19, American families, race in America, climate change, national security and leadership.
“As is the longstanding custom, and as had been promised by the Commission on Presidential Debates, we had expected that foreign policy would be the central focus of the October 22 debate,” Stepien wrote, accusing the commission of trying to “insulate Biden from his own history.”
While it is true that foreign policy has been a focus of a presidential debate in past cycles, the commission announced in June that the topics would be selected by the moderator. It’s the same format that was used in 2012 and 2016, the commission said.
Stepien also pushed back against potential rules changes. The commission reportedly is considering proposals to try to rein in candidates, after Trump repeatedly interrupted Biden during the first presidential debate last month. Stepien said it would be “completely unacceptable” for a moderator to have the ability to shut off a person’s microphone.
Trump already has been criticizing moderator Welker as “terrible and unfair,” even though he congratulated and praised her back in January when she was named a weekend co-host of Today. He continued attacks on Welker at a campaign event on Monday, calling her a “radical Democrat” even though she is registered as an independent. He also falsely claimed that she deleted her Twitter account.
The debate is scheduled to take place in Nashville. The commission canceled what was to be the second presidential debate last week, a town hall event. Instead, Trump and Biden each participated in separate town halls.
Our letter to the BDC (Biden Debate Commission) pic.twitter.com/ZsY5JfMbT7
— BillStepien (@BillStepien) October 19, 2020
T.J. Ducklo, national press secretary for Biden’s campaign, said in a statement, “The campaigns and the Commission agreed months ago that the debate moderator would choose the topics. The Trump campaign is lying about that now because Donald Trump is afraid to face more questions about his disastrous COVID response. As usual, the president is more concerned with the rules of a debate than he is in getting a nation in crisis the help it needs.”