WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates says it is not reconsidering shifting the second debate from virtual back to in-person, despite a request from President Donald Trump’s team.
The chair of the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates told The Associated Press that the final debate, scheduled for Oct. 22, was still slated to go on with both candidates present as planned. But next Thursday’s debate seemed to be gone, after the Trump team objected to the commission’s format change.
The day began with CPD announcing changes to the second Trump-Biden debate that included having the candidates face off virtually, but the president said he wouldn’t participate.
The decision came a week before the president and former vice president were scheduled to face off in Miami.
Candidates will “participate from separate remote locations,” while the participants and moderator remain in Miami, the commission said, given the president’s COVID-19 diagnosis.
Following the announcement, Trump told Fox Business, “I’m not going to do a virtual debate” with Biden.
In response, Biden’s advisers suggested the debate could be pushed back a week to Oct. 22. Trump’s team accepted that date but only if it was in-person. The Trump campaign also asked that a third contest be added on Oct. 29, just before the election.
Biden’s campaign promptly rejected debating on Oct. 29.
Meanwhile, ABC News announced a town hall with Biden on Oct. 15, the original date of the next debate. The town hall will be in Philadelphia, but the time hasn’t been announced.
Trump fell ill with the virus last Thursday, just 48 hours after debating Biden in person in Cleveland. While the two candidates remained a dozen feet apart during the debate, Trump’s infection sparked health concerns for Biden and sent him to undergo multiple COVID-19 tests before returning to the campaign trail.
President Trump was still contagious with the virus when he was discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 can be contagious for as many as — and should isolate for at least — 10 days.
On Thursday night, President Trump‘s physician said Saturday will be day 10 since last Thursday’s diagnosis.
“I fully anticipate the President’s safe return to public engagement at that time,” Dr. Sean P. Conley said.
Later, President Trump’s campaign said in response to Dr. Conley’s memo: “therefore no medical reason why the Commission on Presidential Debates should shift the debate to a virtual setting, postpone it, or otherwise alter it in any way.”
“CPD must reverse course and let the debate proceed,” campaign manager Bill Stepien said in a statement. Stepien also tested positive for coronavirus.
Biden has repeatedly tested negative for the virus since the debate, including another test that was administered on Thursday.
The Oct. 22 debate in Nashville, Tennessee, is scheduled to feature a format similar to the first. Biden’s campaign has suggested that it be modified to the “town meeting” format, though the Trump campaign has not weighed in.
Founded after the 1984 presidential election, the commission has organized every general election debate since 1988 — and typically selects the dates, moderators, formats and locations without input from the candidates.
Read the debates commission’s initial full statement
“In order to protect the health and safety of all involved with the second presidential debate, scheduled for October 15, 2020, The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) announced the following today:
The second presidential debate will take the form of a town meeting, in which the candidates would participate from separate remote locations. The town meeting participants and the moderator, Steve Scully, Senior Executive Producer & Political Editor, C-SPAN Networks, will be located at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County in Miami, Florida. The White House Pool will provide coverage of the second presidential debate.”THE COMMISSION ON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES
Read the Trump campaign’s latest full statement
“President Trump’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, says the President will be medically cleared for ‘safe return to public engagements’ by Saturday, five full days before the originally scheduled debate in Miami on October 15. There is therefore no medical reason why the Commission on Presidential Debates should shift the debate to a virtual setting, postpone it, or otherwise alter it in any way. CPD Chairman Frank Fahrenkopf admits that they consulted with no one before unilaterally changing the format of a debate, well in advance of any knowledge of what the President’s condition would be on debate night. The commission must stop protecting Joe Biden from this in-person debate and allow the event to proceed as it was agreed to months ago. The American people can see through this obvious attempt to shield Biden from another shellacking like he got two weeks ago in Cleveland and the CPD must reverse course and let the debate proceed.”BILL STEPIEN, tRUMP 2020 CAMPAIGN MANAGER
Read the Biden campaign’s latest full statement
“Donald Trump doesn’t make the debate schedule; the Debate Commission does.KATE BEDINGFIELD, BIDEN FOR PRESIDENT DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER AND COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR
We accepted the three dates — Sept. 29, Oct. 15, and Oct. 22 — in June. Trump chose today to pull out of the October 15th debate. Trump’s erratic behavior does not allow him to rewrite the calendar, and pick new dates of his choosing. We look forward to participating in the final debate, scheduled for October 22, which already is tied for the latest debate date in 40 years. Donald Trump can show up, or he can decline again. That’s his choice.”
This is a breaking story. Check back for updates.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.