The Commission on Presidential Debates announced late on Monday evening that it is making changes for the upcoming debate later this week, which will be the second and final debate.
“As in the first debate, each candidate will be allotted two minutes of speaking time to initially answer the moderator’s questions,” The New York Times reported. “But under a plan announced on Monday by the Commission on Presidential Debates, his opponent’s microphone will be turned off during that period, an attempt to ensure an uninterrupted response.”
The Times added that “after the candidates finish their two-minute replies, they will be allowed to freely engage with one another for the remainder of the segment.”
“We realize, after discussions with both campaigns, that neither campaign may be totally satisfied with the measures announced today,” the commission said in a statement. “One may think they go too far, and one may think they do not go far enough. We are comfortable that these actions strike the right balance and that they are in the interest of the American people, for whom these debates are held.”
Bill Stepien, Trump 2020 campaign manager, responded to the new debate changes by saying:
President Trump is committed to debating Joe Biden regardless of last minute rule changes from the biased commission in their latest attempt to provide advantage to their favored candidate. This was supposed to be the foreign policy debate, so the President 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.
The announcement comes after President Donald Trump and Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden repeatedly interrupted each other during the first presidential debate hosted by Chris Wallace—who was accused of bias over how he handled the debate.
The Trump campaign slammed the commission earlier in the day for appearing to not dedicate a portion of the debate to “foreign policy,” which comes as Biden faces renewed scrutiny over his actions as vice president in relation to his son’s foreign business dealings.
The letter, from Stepien, stated:
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.
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