A Trump campaign official on Thursday declined to comment on whether President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 committee chair says panel will issue a 'good number' of additional subpoenas Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Pentagon officials prepare for grilling Biden nominates head of Africa CDC to lead global AIDS response MORE has held debate preparation sessions ahead of Thursday night's debate against Democratic rival Joe BidenJoe BidenFord to bolster electric vehicle production in multi-billion dollar push Protesters demonstrate outside Manchin's houseboat over opposition to reconciliation package Alabama eyes using pandemic relief funds on prison system MORE.
During a heated interview with MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson, Trump campaign national press secretary Hogan Gidley refused to confirm reports that the president held preparatory debate sessions on Wednesday and Thursday ahead of Trump’s trip to Belmont University in Nashville.
“I'm not going to get into whether or not the president has had those debate prep sessions,” Gidley said. “He said many times that obviously his tit-for-tat with the press is a lot of the debate prep he likes to have and with the questions you throw at him every single day he's well prepared. But of course, he prepares for these debates as well.”
Jackson noted that multiple people who assisted Trump in preparation for the first debate in Cleveland later tested positive for COVID-19 following Trump’s diagnosis, including former New Jersey Gov. Chris ChristieChris ChristieChristie, Pompeo named co-chairs of GOP redistricting group Christie: Biden's new vaccine mandate will 'harden opposition' Allies see rising prospect of Trump 2024 White House bid MORE (R), former White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne ConwayCook Political Report shifts Virginia governor's race to 'toss-up' Overnight Defense & National Security — Iron Dome funding clears House Sean Spicer, Russ Vought sue Biden over Naval Board removal MORE, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and top aide Hope HicksHope HicksThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US prepares vaccine booster plan House panel probing Jan. 6 attack seeks Trump records UPDATED: McEnany, Fox News talks on pause MORE.
The MSNBC anchor pressed Gidley on the topic, asking, “Who is involved in that prep, given that, for the first debate, a number of those individuals came down with the coronavirus, many still in the recovery process?”
“Again, I'm not going to get into specificity,” Gidley replied. “I'm not going to tell you who is in the room, if the president wants to do so, he obviously can. He mentioned last time people like off to the side in the press briefing room they were there, Chris Christie was there and other people, Kayleigh in the room and the rest of his team.”
“The president has been working on behalf of the American people for the entire time he's been in the White House and in the Oval Office and he's got a record to run on, 47 months in fact of record-setting success while Joe Biden has 47 years of abject failure,” Gidley added. “So, that's something he'll bring up in the debate tonight.”
Jackson later cut the interview short following questions to Gidley on whether Trump would respect the uninterrupted speaking time given to each candidate during Thursday’s debate, as well as the new rule allowing both candidates’ microphones to be muted at the start of each segment after Trump repeatedly interjected as Biden spoke in the first debate.
After Gidley did not directly answer the question, Jackson attempted to bring the conversation back to the topic of muting microphones, saying that she “asked four times.”
Gidley eventually said, “No red-blooded American is going to stand by anyone and allow them to lie about them. The president's not going to let Joe Biden do that.”
“So, that sounds like you're saying the president is not going to let Joe Biden have his two minutes then. It sounds to me like that's what you're saying,” Jackson responded.
“No, I didn't say that. I didn't say that, I'm just saying the president–”
“You implied it,” Jackson interjected.
“—is a counter puncher,” Gidley continued. “And if you're going to lie about him, he'll call you out for it. We'll wait and see what happens in the debate.”
In the week leading up to the debate, Trump and his allies have attempted to lower expectations for the president by preemptively attacking the moderator, NBC’s Kristen Welker, and accusing the debate commission of shielding Biden from scrutiny.
Biden on Tuesday praised the Commission on Presidential Debates's decision to mute the candidates' microphones, telling Milwaukee's ABC affiliate WISN that he believes “there should be more limitations on us not interrupting one another."