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Trump campaign calls for earlier and more presidential debates

By Alayna Treene, CNN

(CNN) — Former President Donald Trump’s campaign sent a letter Thursday to the Commission on Presidential Debates asking for this year’s general election debates to take place “much earlier” and calling for more of them to be added to the schedule.

“While the Commission on Presidential Debates has already announced three presidential debates and a vice-presidential debate to occur later this year, we are in favor of these debates beginning much earlier,” Trump campaign managers Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita said in the letter to commission members.

Wiles and LaCivita said that with voting beginning much earlier in recent elections, the commission “must move up the timetable of its proposed 2024 debates to ensure more Americans have a full chance to see the candidates before they start voting, and we would argue for adding more debates in addition to those on the currently proposed schedule.”

“We have already indicated President Trump is willing to debate anytime, anyplace, and anywhere – and the time to start these debates is now,” they said.

Trump opted not to participate in any of the Republican National Committee-sponsored primary debates this election cycle. He’s also the only modern, major-party nominee to back out of a general election debate, during the pandemic four years ago.

This year’s first general election presidential debate is slated to take place on September 16 in San Marcos, Texas, 50 days before Election Day on November 5.

That schedule would still be earlier than it has been in the recent past. In 2020, the first debate between Trump and Joe Biden took place 35 days before Election Day on September 29. In 2016, the first debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton took place on September 26 – 43 days before Election Day.

The Trump campaign letter comes after five of the major US television networks, including CNN, banded together to draft a letter urging the former president and Biden to commit to participating in televised debates ahead of the 2024 election.

According to the draft, the networks, which also include NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox News, urged the presumptive presidential nominees “to publicly commit to participating in general election debates before November’s election.”

RNC officials also weighed in on the debates Thursday in response to the Trump campaign’s letter.

“Election calendars have become longer than ever before — and scheduling debates after millions of Americans have already cast their ballots does a grave disservice to voters who want to hear solutions to the economic, border, and crime crises created by Joe Biden,” RNC Chairman Michael Whatley and co-chair Lara Trump, the former president’s daughter-in-law, said in a statement.

In 2022, the RNC voted unanimously to withdraw from its participation in the Commission on Presidential Debates, which then-Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel called “biased.” The commission was formed in 1987 as a nonprofit sponsored by both the Republican and Democratic parties and has sponsored debates in every presidential election since 1988.

Trump has since put his imprint on the RNC, streamlining the organization with his campaign and installing Whatley and Lara Trump in their top positions.

In response to Thursday’s letter, the Biden campaign pointed to the president’s remarks to reporters in February, when he said of Trump, “If I were him, I’d want to debate me too. He’s got nothing else to do.”

While Biden has not publicly committed to debating his rival, he has not ruled it out.

“It depends on his behavior,” the president said last month.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Zachary B. Wolf, Ethan Cohen, Kate Sullivan and Hadas Gold contributed to this report.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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