President Donald Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on Monday that while he objects to changes for Thursday’s debate against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, he is committed to debating his opponent regardless.
“I will participate, but it’s very unfair that they changed the topics and it is very unfair that again we have an anchor who is totally biased,” the president said.
Trump’s remarks came after his campaign called on the Commission on Presidential Debates to include foreign policy as one of the six topics that will be included in Thursday’s debate.
“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 Oct. 22 debate. We urge you to recalibrate the topics and return to subjects which had already been confirmed,” Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien wrote in a letter on Monday.
The commission said on Friday that moderator Kristen Welker of NBC had selected the following topics for the debate: Fighting COVID-19, American Families, Race in America, Climate Change, National Security, and Leadership.
Stepien said in the letter that the final debate was “always billed as the ‘Foreign Policy Debate’ in the series of events agreed to by both the Trump campaign and Biden campaign months ago,” although this was never announced by the debate commission or moderator.
Biden campaign spokesman TJ Ducklo told reporters in a statement that “the campaigns and the commission agreed months ago that the debate moderator would choose the topics.” He added that “the Trump campaign is lying about that now because Donald Trump is afraid to face more questions about his disastrous COVID response.”
Stepien accused the commission of trying to shield Biden from having to talk about foreign policy, coming after reports last week claimed that his son, Hunter Biden, who sat on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma, tried to introduce an official from the firm to his father when he served as vice president of the United States. Biden’s campaign said the meeting never took place and Biden accused the claim as being part of a “smear campaign,” although neither parties have disputed the authenticity of emails surrounding the alleged meeting.
“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,” Stepien’s letter said.
Regardless of the format, Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller said Trump would most likely bring up Biden’s family business ties during Thursday’s debate.
The debate commission on Monday announced that both candidates would have their microphones muted during portions of Thursday’s debate to ensure each can get speak in his allotted time uninterrupted.
The Trump campaign has repeatedly criticized the debate commission as holding bias against Trump.