Biden campaign says president willing to debate Trump twice

Washington — President Biden intends to debate former President Donald Trump in the run-up to the November presidential election and is willing to face off against his Republican opponent in the race for the White House twice, his campaign said in a letter Wednesday that laid out its other terms for debates this election season.

The letter from Jen O’Malley Dillon, chair of the president’s reelection campaign, proposes a first debate between Mr. Biden and Trump in late June, after the likely conclusion of Trump’s criminal trial in New York, which is ongoing, and after Mr. Biden returns from the G7 Summit in Italy. Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records to allegedly cover up payments to an adult film star and has pleaded not guilty. The Biden campaign proposed a second debate in early September.

Trump appeared to swiftly accept the Biden campaign’s suggested debate schedule for June and September, writing on social media that he is “ready and willing” to debate his Democratic opponent at the two proposed times. But the presumptive GOP presidential nominee said he would “strongly recommend” more than two debates at a “very large venue.”

“Just tell me when, I’ll be there,” Trump wrote.

In his own video shared to social media, the president urged his Republican opponent to take him on.

“Donald Trump lost two debates to me in 2020, and since then, he hasn’t shown up for a debate. Now he’s acting like he wants to debate me again. Well, make my day, pal. I’ll even do it twice. So let’s pick the dates, Donald. I hear you’re free on Wednesdays,” Mr. Biden said. Trump’s criminal trial does not convene on Wednesdays.

In addition to specifying Mr. Biden’s plans for facing off against Trump, O’Malley Dillon said the president will not participate in debates sponsored by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, which has overseen presidential debates since 1988.

Instead, Mr. Biden plans to take part in debates hosted by news organizations, O’Malley Dillon said. She cited what she said was the commission’s unwillingness to enforce rules for candidates during the 2020 debates and the large audiences in attendance that disrupted the events. During the 2020 presidential campaign, the first debate between Trump and Mr. Biden descended into chaos as Trump repeatedly interrupted and spoke over Mr. Biden and moderators struggled to regain control of the event.

Mr. Biden clinched the Democratic presidential nomination and Trump the Republican nomination in mid-March, setting up a rematch of the 2020 contest for the White House.

Biden’s debate terms

Under the parameters laid out by the Biden campaign, the first debate should be hosted by any broadcast organization that oversaw a Republican primary debate in 2016 that Trump participated in and a Democratic primary debate in 2020 that Mr. Biden took part in. The outlets that fit those terms are CBS News, ABC News, CNN and Telemundo. Telemundo and CNN hosted a Republican primary debate that Trump attended in 2016.

Trump shunned the Republican primary debates for the 2024 election, but said he would take on Mr. Biden “anytime, anywhere, any place.”

The debates, the Biden campaign continued, should be one-on-one, a condition that would keep Robert Kennedy Jr., who is mounting a third-party bid for the White House, off the stage.

Keeping the debates to Mr. Biden and Trump allows “voters to compare the only two candidates with any statistical chance of prevailing in the Electoral College — and not squandering debate time on candidates with no prospect of becoming President,” O’Malley Dillon wrote.

The campaign said the broadcast hosts should select the moderators from their “regular personnel, so as to avoid a ‘ringer’ or partisan,” and time limits should be set for answers and responses to ensure time is evenly split between the two and avoid a “spectacle of mutual interruption.” O’Malley Dillon said microphones for the candidates should be active only when it is his turn to speak.

For the vice presidential debate, the Biden campaign suggested the first event be held in late July after the Republican National Convention and follow the same parameters for the presidential debates. 

“As Donald Trump has said he will debate ‘anytime, anywhere,’ we hope both campaigns can quickly accept broadcast media debate invitations on the parameters above,” she said. “Americans need a debate on the issues — not a tedious debate about debates.”

Aaron Navarro contributed to this report.

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