WASHINGTON – The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates has rejected a request from the Trump campaign to either add an additional general election debate or move up the calendar for the contests.
In a letter to Trump private attorney Rudy Giuliani, his liaison to the commission, the commission wrote that it is committed to its existing schedule of three debates between Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, saying it would consider adding a fourth debate only if both sides agree to it. Both major party nominees have agreed to participate in the three scheduled debates, the commission said.
“If the candidates were to agree that they wished to add to that schedule, the Commission would consider that request but remains committed to the schedule of debates it has planned as reflected in the attached release,” the commission wrote in a letter obtained by The Associated Press.
Giuliani wrote to the debate commission Wednesday requesting that the schedule be moved up on account of expanded early and mail voting because of the coronavirus pandemic. Trump's campaign has highlighted that 16 states will have started voted by the time of the first scheduled debate on Sept. 29.
“There is a difference between ballots having been issued by a state and those ballots having been cast by voters, who are under no compulsion to return their ballots before the debates,” the commission responded.
“While more people will likely vote by mail in 2020, the debate schedule has been and will be highly publicized,” the commission said. “Any voter who wishes to watch one or more debates before voting will be well aware of that opportunity.”
In a Thursday evening letter, Giuliani called on Biden to join the Trump campaign in calling for an earlier debate, and insisted that Biden appear in person at the three scheduled contests.
“We must insist on a commitment that the two candidates will definitely appear on stage, in person — whether in a television studio without an audience or elsewhere — and not through separate, online transmissions where Mr. Biden could rely on notes, teleprompter, or handlers,” he said.
Biden campaign spokesman TJ Ducklo said in a statement that Biden would appear at the scheduled debates. “As we have said for months, the commission will determine the dates and times of the debates, and Joe Biden will be there,” he said. "Now that Donald Trump’s transparent attempt to distract from his disastrous response to the virus is over, maybe now he can focus on saving American lives and getting our economy back on track.”
Giuliani, in his initial letter, supplied a list of suggested moderators for the debates. The commission wrote that it will “adhere to our longstanding procedure of selecting the debate moderators. It will do so with great care, as always, to ensure that the selected moderators are qualified and fair."