Trump campaign asks for debate topic change

Presidential Debates

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President Donald Trump’s campaign is asking The Commission on Presidential Debates to add another topic to Thursday’s planned final debate between the incumbent president and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

“We write with great concern over the announced topics for what was always billed as the ‘Foreign Policy Debate’ in the series of events agreed to by both the Trump campaign and Biden campaign many months ago,” campaign manager Bill Stepien wrote in the letter.

On Friday, debate moderator Kristen Welker selected the following topics:

  • Fighting COVID-19
  • American Families
  • Race in America
  • Climate Change
  • National Security
  • Leadership

NewsNation has reached out to CPD and the Biden campaign and will update this story when we hear back.

Welker, who is the White House correspondent for NBC News, will moderate the debate on Thursday at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.

The debate will start at 9 p.m. ET and run for 90 minutes without commercial interruption.

NewsNation will carry the debate live on WGN America, as well as on NewsNationNow.com and the NewsNation Now app.

Full Letter from Trump 2020 Campaign

Dear Members of the Commission:

We write with great concern over the announced topics for what was always billed as the “Foreign Policy Debate” in the series of events agreed to by both the Trump campaign and Biden campaign many months ago. The topics announced by moderator Kristen Welker (Fighting COVID-19, American Families, Race in America, Climate Change, National Security, and Leadership) are serious and worthy of discussion, but only a few of them even touch on foreign policy. Indeed, almost all of them were discussed at length during the first debate won by President Trump over moderator Chris Wallace and candidate Joe Biden. As is the long-standing 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. We urge you to recalibrate the topics and return to subjects which had already been confirmed.

We understand that Joe Biden is desperate to avoid conversations about his own foreign policy record, especially since President Trump has secured historic peace agreements among Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain.  We recall that Biden’s former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, maintains that Biden has been “wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” Biden has supported endless wars and given aid and comfort to our adversaries, including Iran, which was delivered pallets loaded with mountains of cash just as four Americans were released from captivity in Tehran. Biden also has advanced the interests of China over his 47 years as a Washington politician, putting their concerns ahead of those of America workers. New information recently revealed indicates that Biden himself was mentioned as a financial beneficiary of a deal arranged by his son Hunter and a communist Chinese-related energy company. If a major party candidate for President of the United States is compromised by the Communist Party of China, this is something Americans deserve to hear about, but it is not surprising the Biden would want to avoid it. It is completely irresponsible for the Commission to alter the focus of this final debate just days before the event, solely to insulate Biden from his own history.

Sadly, this is not the first time the Commission has ceded to the wishes of the Biden campaign. Despite the obvious fact that millions of Americans began casting votes early this year, the Commission steadfastly refused to move the debate schedule earlier or add another event, simply because the Biden campaign objected. In this example, the Commission hid behind Biden’s unwillingness to be flexible with the schedule but has not hesitated to act unilaterally in other cases. As the most egregious example, the abrupt decision to switch the scheduled second debate on October 15 in Miami to a virtual setting was done without consultation with our campaign at all. Though the supposed reason for the change was public safety because of the coronavirus, the decision was made well before President Trump’s medical condition became apparent and well before the President was medically cleared as having tested negative for the virus.  Proof of the illogic of the Commission’s decision is the fact that this action resulted in both Biden and President Trump holding their own, separate in-person events on the same night. If the Commission’s action was intended to prevent one in-person event, creating two such events as a result revealed the pointlessness of the decision.   

The Commission’s pro-Biden antics have turned the entire debate season into a fiasco and it is little wonder why the public has lost faith in its objectivity. The moderator for the first debate styled himself as a third combatant on stage, with almost all of his venom directed at President Trump. The moderator of the second debate, which was cancelled, revealed his anti-Trump bias by accidentally tweeting what was intended to be a direct message to a well-known Trump critic, and then lying that his Twitter account had been “hacked.” Incredibly, the Commission has yet to retract its public statement of support for the moderator’s bogus hacking cover story, which resulted in the moderator’s indefinite suspension from his place of employment. Finally, the moderator of the third debate now has decided to pursue topics almost wholly unrelated to the purpose of the event, which was to be focused on foreign policy.

It is our understanding from media reports that you will soon be holding an internal meeting to discuss other possible rule changes, such as granting an unnamed person the ability to shut off a candidate’s microphone. 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 partiality to Biden. This is reminiscent of the first debate in 2016, when the President’s microphone was oscillated, and it is not acceptable.  

For the good of campaign integrity, and for the benefit of the American people, we urge you to rethink and reissue a set of topics for the October 22 debate, with an emphasis on foreign policy. This is what the campaigns had agreed to and it has been the tradition in past campaigns. We await your immediate reply to these concerns. We further advise you that there is no reason to consult with the Biden campaign before replying because we all know what they think. 

Bill Stepien, Donald J. Trump for President campaign manager

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