Trump slams debate commission, raising questions about his participation

President Trump on Monday hammered the Commission on Presidential Debates, raising questions about his participation in debates next year with the eventual Democratic presidential nominee.

The president, in a trio of tweets, said he looked forward to debating “whoever the lucky person is who stumbles across the finish line” in the Democratic primary.

But he chastised the nonprofit commission responsible for organizing the presidential debates and suggested he might avoid them. That group has scheduled three general election debates next year.

“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 tweeted. “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)!”

The president claimed that the commission, which describes itself as nonpartisan, is “stacked with Trump Haters & Never Trumpers.” Trump pointed to an incident in a 2016 presidential debate in which the commission acknowledged technical issues with his microphone.

Trump’s tweets came days after The New York Times reported that he was talking with advisers about the possibility of sitting out the general election debates next year due to distrust in the commission and concerns about who might serve as moderators.

The Commission on Presidential Debates has already announced the dates and locations for three general election debates in 2020, plus one vice presidential debate. The first presidential debate is slated for Sept. 29.

The commission defended its integrity and role in the electoral process in a statement following Trump’s tweets. 

The televised general election debates are an important part of our democratic process,” the commission said. “Since 1988, the Commission on Presidential Debates has conducted 30 general election presidential and vice presidential debates. Our record is one of fairness, balance and non-partisanship.”

While Trump skipped a GOP primary debate in the 2016 race, he participated in all three debates in the general election against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Polls after each general election debate found voters saying Clinton performed better.

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