Trump vs Biden: Live Updates as President Seeks Changes to Debate

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Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

President Trump’s withdrawal from the second presidential debate led to the event’s cancellation. Now, three days ahead of the final debate, Mr. Trump’s campaign is demanding changes to the format and accusing the organizers of bias toward Joseph R. Biden Jr.

In a letter on Monday marked by exaggeration and partisan invective, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, asked the Commission on Presidential Debates to refocus Thursday’s debate on the subject of foreign policy, rather than the six subjects announced last week by the moderator, Kristen Welker of NBC. They are “fighting Covid-19,” “American families,” “race in America,” climate change, national security and leadership.

Mr. Stepien — who mockingly referred to the nonpartisan commission as the “Biden Debate Commission” in a tweet — said it had “promised” that the debate would be about foreign policy and accused the group of “pro-Biden antics” that “have turned the entire debate season into a fiasco.”

It is true that in some campaign years, the third presidential debate has focused on foreign policy. But the debate organizers did not announce such a plan in 2020, saying that the third debate would mirror the format of the first, with six subjects selected by the moderator.

The president’s campaign is keen to attack Mr. Biden on Thursday over foreign business deals arranged by one of his sons, Hunter Biden, and Mr. Stepien’s letter suggested that the lack of a foreign policy focus would “insulate Biden from his own history.” The debate format was announced weeks before a recent spate of stories in The New York Post that have made unverified claims about Hunter Biden.

Members of the debate commission were deliberating on Monday about potential rule changes to Thursday’s event, in light of the chaos that ensued last month at the first debate, in Cleveland, when Mr. Trump frequently interrupted Mr. Biden and the moderator.

The debate commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A Biden spokesman, T. J. Ducklo, said that Mr. Stepien had sent the letter “because Donald Trump is afraid to face more questions about his disastrous Covid response.”

“The campaigns and the commission agreed months ago that the debate moderator would choose the topics,” Mr. Ducklo said in a statement.

In his letter, Mr. Stepien also repeated several of Mr. Trump’s longstanding criticisms of the debate commission, including its decision not to add, at the last minute, an additional debate to the 2020 schedule, and the baseless claim that “the president’s microphone was oscillated” during his first debate in 2016.

Notably, Mr. Stepien’s letter did not repeat Mr. Trump’s recent baseless accusations that Ms. Welker, the moderator and a respected White House…

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