Trump says he looks forward to debating Biden

 

Former President Donald Trump says he looks forward to debating President Biden and also didn’t rule out a primary debate with a hypothetical last Republican challenging him for the GOP nomination, even though he has declined to take part in any GOP debate so far.

In an interview Friday morning, conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt asked Trump if he would debate any Republican challenging him if, after the New Hampshire primary, only one Republican contender remained in the race.

“Yeah, I would, if it’s very close. I would debate that Republican,” Trump said, before implying he also might not. “Yeah, but it’s not close.”

Hewitt asked Trump if he would debate Mr. Biden if both men are their party’s nominees.

“Oh, will I look forward to that — how about 10 debates? How about 10,” Trump said.

But in 2022, the Republican National Committee (RNC) voted unanimously to ban GOP presidential nominees from participating in debates organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), the nonpartisan body that has been charged with setting up general election debates since 1988.

The RNC complained that the commission refused to consider reforms “including hosting debates before voting begins and selecting moderators who have never worked for candidates on the debate stage,” RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said in a statement at the time.

The Republican Party required primary candidates to agree in writing “to appear in only sanctioned Primary and General Election debates” and said any candidate who did not agree to do so would not be eligible to participate in RNC-approved debates. All the Republican candidates except Trump signed the document. But the RNC recently released candidates from its demand that candidates decline to participate in non-RNC-sanctioned debates. It has not updated its guidance on general election debates, however.

Trump also insisted he’s “not worried” about former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley gaining in recent polls, dismissing them as “fake.”

Trump’s Republican opponents have criticized him for failing to show up to debates and face questions on stage. He has cited his substantial lead in the polls for his decision not to participate in the primary debates, telling former Fox News host Tucker Carlson in August, “You see the polls have come out, I’m leading by 50 and 60 points,” Trump said. “And some of them are at one and zero and two. And I’m saying, ‘Do I sit there for an hour or two hours, whatever it’s going to be and get harassed by people that shouldn’t even be running for president? Should I be doing that?'”

In the interview with Hewitt, Trump also claimed that “of course” he would leave peacefully after a second term in the White House, and he insisted he left peacefully after his first term, despite his alleged efforts to alter outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

All but one of the lawsuits Trump and his allies filed in the states challenging election results or election integrity were eventually dismissed, dropped or otherwise failed in court. Only one ruling was initially found to be in Trump’s favor, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned it.

— Olivia Rinaldi and Aaron Navarro contributed to this report.

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