President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will meet for the final presidential debate on Thursday, just over a week after reports surfaced about emails purportedly belonging to Biden's son.
More than 42 million people have already cast their ballots ahead of the debate, which is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET and will be held at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. It will be moderated by NBC's Kristen Welker and last for 90 minutes without interruption.
The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) announced on Monday that they will mute each candidate's microphone for 2 minutes during the initial response to six of the debate topics. After each candidate speaks uninterrupted, 15 minutes of open discussion will follow without any muting.
Trump told reporters that while he objects to the muting, he is committed to debating his opponent.
The Trump campaign on Oct. 19 said that the CPD is "biased," and that they made "last minute rule changes ... in their latest attempt to provide advantage to their favored candidate."
"I think the mute is very unfair, and I think it's very bad that they're not talking about foreign affairs," Trump told reporters on Wednesday. "They’re supposed to be talking about foreign affairs."
"And I think that the anchor is a very biased person. Her parents are very biased," Trump added.
Moderator Welker, 44, joined NBC News in 2010 and has been a White House correspondent since late 2011. In the past she worked with NBC affiliate WCAU in Philadelphia for about 5 years.
According to the New York Post, she was a registered Democrat in Washington in 2012 and in Rhode Island in 2004. She is now registered to vote in Washington with no party affiliation, noted PolitiFact.
Welker's parents have given money to Democrat candidates, including Biden, the Federal Election Commission's records show. Her mother, Julie Welker, told PolitiFact that she does not have a role with the Biden campaign and is "in no way an activist for Joe Biden."
Welker on Oct. 16 announced the following topics for the debate: Fighting COVID-19, American Families, Race in America, Climate Change, National Security, and Leadership.
The Trump campaign expressed concern that few of the topics "even touch on foreign policy," saying that historically, the third or final presidential debates have focused on foreign policy.
Trump 2020 campaign manager Bill Stepien said in an Oct. 19 letter to the CPD that it is a "long-standing custom, and as had been promised by [the CPD]" that foreign policy would be the expected central focus of the debate. "We urge you to recalibrate the topics and return to subjects which had already been confirmed," Stepien wrote.
In a separate statement, Stepien signaled that since it "was supposed to be the foreign policy debate," Trump "still looks forward to forcing Biden to answer the number one relevant question of whether he’s been compromised by the Communist Party of China."
"Why did Biden allow his son Hunter to sell access to him while he was vice president, and why were there Chinese payment arrangements for Joe himself worked out by Hunter and his sketchy partners? If the media won’t ask Joe Biden these questions, the president will, and there will be no escape for Biden," he added.
Jason Miller, Trump’s senior campaign adviser, announced on Oct. 19 on Twitter, "Good morning to everyone except Presidential Debate Commission members who changed focus of final debate away from foreign policy so Joe Biden wouldn’t have to answer to being compromised by the Chinese Communist Party, supporting endless wars, and sending pallets of cash to Iran."
Biden’s campaign accused the Trump campaign of lying so that Trump could avoid questions over his administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The campaigns and the Commission agreed months ago that the debate moderator would choose the topics,” TJ Ducklo, national press secretary for the Biden campaign, said in a statement. “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 getting a nation in crisis the help it needs."
Emails obtained by the New York Post published on Oct. 15 suggest that Hunter Biden sought to secure deals worth millions involving a Chinese energy giant with ties to the Chinese military.
Hunter Biden Email Stories
Miller also said on Oct. 19 that Trump will be raising the issue of the New York Post article published on Oct. 14 if debate moderator Welker doesn't.
The NY Post reported an alleged email suggesting Hunter Biden introduced his father, who was vice president at the time, to a top executive at Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company. Hunter Biden sat on the board of this company. The email was found on a laptop that purportedly belonged to Hunter Biden.
"If Kristen Welker, the moderator, doesn't bring it up, I think you're pretty safe to assume that the president will. Again, these are real simple questions," Miller told Fox Business.
Miller told Fox News's Chris Wallace on Oct. 18: "We do know that Joe Biden lied to the American public when he said he never discussed his son Hunter's business dealings... Joe Biden has not come out and himself denied any of these allegations ... think we're going to hear a lot more about this on Thursday at the debate."
The Biden campaign has rejected the report, saying that it had reviewed Biden’s official schedules and “no meeting, as alleged by the New York Post, ever took place.”
Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told The Associated Press: "Trump is still the political outsider, while Biden is the ultimate insider. We now know that Biden allowed his son to sell access to him while he was vice president.”
Other documents and photographs of the Bidens were also found on the MacBook Pro hard drive purportedly belonging to Hunter Biden, the NY Post reported. The laptop was handed to the FBI and a copy of the files given to Trump's private attorney Rudy Giuliani by an electronics repair shop owner. The outlet said it obtained the documents from Giuliani on Oct. 11.
The shop owner said that the unidentified customer who dropped off the laptop “never paid for the service or retrieved it." The shop owner then handed the laptop over to the FBI in December 2019 after the client failed to claim the item after repeated attempts at contact. The Epoch Times has not been able to independently verify the New York Post’s claims.
Giuliani said that he went to a local police department in Delaware on Oct. 19 to report his concerns about content on the laptop. “They told me it would be investigated,” he told Just The News.
Joe Biden spent the week off the campaign trail to prepare for the debate, but issued statements on his campaign website over Trump's recent visits to various states for campaign rallies, including North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Florida. In the statements, Biden took aim at COVID-19 cases and said that the president had mishandled the pandemic.
Epoch Times staff and Reuters contributed to this report.