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Trump Warns Debate Commission: ‘The Debates Are Up To Me’
U.S. President Donald Trump listens during a meeting about the Governors Initiative on Regulatory Innovation in the Cabinet Room of the White House on December 16, 2019 in Washington, DC. President Trump encouraged further action to reduce unnecessary regulations that the administration says are holding back American businesses. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Amid reports that he might skip out on the presidential debates altogether next year, President Trump issued a series of social media posts Monday blasting the Commission on Presidential Debates and suggesting that some major changes might be coming in how the debates are handled in 2020.

The New York Times reported last week that Trump has been “discussing with his advisers the possibility of sitting out the general election debates in 2020” because “he does not trust the Commission on Presidential Debates, the nonprofit entity that sponsors the debates.”

“Less of a concern for Mr. Trump than who will emerge as the Democratic nominee is which media personality will be chosen as the debate moderator, according to people in contact with him,” the Times reported, citing “two people familiar with the discussions.”

Trump’s skepticism about the commission’s ability to provide fair debates traces back to his first debate against Hillary Clinton in September 2016. After the debate, Trump’s camp said that he was given a “defective mic,” a complaint that ended up having some legitimacy: the commission admitted that a “technical malfunction” resulted in Trump’s volume being lower than his opponent’s.

Trump’s camp also butted heads with the commission over its handling of his “surprise” invitation to a group of Bill Clinton’s accusers to the second debate. Trump wanted the women seated in the VIP box so Hillary would be forced to walk by them and would be able to easily see them from the stage. The commission threatened to call security if they women were not removed, Trump’s camp eventually complying.

On Monday, Trump announced that while he’s looking “very much forward” to debating his Democratic opponent, he’s also looking into his “many options” for next fall.

“I look very much forward to debating whoever the lucky person is who stumbles across the finish line in the little watched Do Nothing Democrat Debates,” Trump wrote in a series of tweets. “My record is so good on the Economy and all else, including debating, that perhaps I would consider more than 3 debates.”

“The problem is that the so-called Commission on Presidential Debates is stacked with Trump Haters & Never Trumpers,” he continued. “3 years ago they were forced to publicly apologize for modulating my microphone in the first debate against Crooked Hillary.”

“As President, the debates are up to me, and there are many options, including doing them directly & avoiding the nasty politics of this very biased Commission,” Trump concluded. “I will make a decision at an appropriate time but in the meantime, the Commission on Presidential Debates is NOT authorized to speak for me (or R’s)!”

In its report on behind-the-scenes discussions of the president forgoing the debates, the Times attempted to present Trump as potentially afraid of getting on the debate stage again. Post-debate polls, the Times reported, “showed Mr. Trump had good reason to be concerned” about debating. “Mr. Trump and Ms. Clinton were essentially tied in the polls going into the first debate, but she received a bump after each of the three face-to-face matchups,” the Times notes. “A Gallup poll conducted after the third debate, for instance, found that 60 percent of viewers thought Ms. Clinton did a better job, while 31 percent chose Mr. Trump.”

But, of course, while Trump was often maligned by the media in both the primary and presidential debates, he ended up ultimately tearing through the Republican competition and managing to hand the decidedly politically advantaged Clinton a decisive electoral defeat when the dust settled.

Related: ‘Major Warning Signs’ For Democrats: Focus Group Shows Impeachment Helping Turn Obama/Trump Swing Voters Into Full MAGA

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