A Republican member of the Debate Commission slammed Donald Trump for his attacks on the non-partisan body that sets the rules for presidential debates, charging the president with undermining public confidence in the election and paving the way for violence in the streets.
John Danforth, a former GOP senator from Missouri, said the attacks were part of Trump’s strategy to ‘challenge the validity of the election should he lose.’
Trump has accused the commission of favoring his Democratic opponent Joe Biden through its choices of topics, moderators, and format. And he’s attacked the nine members of the debate commission, which includes Democrats, Republicans and Independents.
‘These people are not good people, this commission,’ the president told ‘Fox & Friends’ Tuesday morning.
Danforth, who has slammed Trump in the past as ‘the most divisive president in our history,’ said criticism can be healthy but accused the president of going too far.
‘There’s an enormous difference between criticizing good-faith efforts and accusing the commission of corrupt favoritism. The first is helpful for improving our work. The second destroys public confidence in the most basic treasure of democracy, the conduct of fair elections. The second paves the way to violence in the streets,’ he wrote in an op-ed published by The Washington Post.
‘The attack is just wrong,’ he noted.
John Danforth, a Republican member of the debate commission and former senator, defended the commission against President Trump’s attacks and said the attacks were the president’s way of challenging the validity of the election should he lose
President Trump has accused the commission of favoring his Democratic opponent Joe Biden through its choices of topics, moderators, and format; above the two candidates are seen at the first presidential debate in Cleveland
His op-ed comes two days before the final presidential debate in what has been a turbulent year for the commission.
The first presidential debate featured President Trump repeatedly interrupting and talking over Biden as moderator Chris Wallace tried to maintain control.
Afterward, Trump charged Wallace with trying to help Biden with the attempts for silencing him even though his interruptions were in violation of the debate’s rules.
The second debate – a town hall format – was cancelled after Trump refused to participate in it when the commission made it a virtual event due to the president’s coronavirus diagnosis. Additionally, Trump attacked moderator Steve Scully as being pro-Biden. Scully sent a tweet to former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci asking for advice but later claimed his account was hacked only to reveal he made that up. Scully is on administrative leave from C-SPAN.
FINAL PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE
The final presidential debate will be held on Thursday, October 22 at Belmont University in Nashville, TN.
It will start at 9:00 p.m. ET and run for 90 minutes without commercial interruption.
The format is the same as the first presidential debate.
NBC’s Kristen Welker is the moderator and chose the topics:
Race in America
Trump also has attacked the moderator of the final debate, NBC’s Kristen Welker, whose parents have donated to Democratic candidates. Welker is registered to vote in Washington D.C. but has no party affiliation. The president has praised her in the past.
Danforth defended the moderators against the president’s wrath.
‘First, all the debate moderators the commission chose are highly professional and experienced. When the selection of the moderators was announced Sept. 2, neither campaign objected. The commission could not have anticipated that more than five weeks later, one of the moderators, Steve Scully — having been attacked by President Trump and his supporters — would reach out to a Trump critic seeking advice or that Scully would not own up to having done so. The commission relied on what had been Scully’s sterling reputation for professionalism,’ he wrote.
For Thursday’s final meeting in Nashville, Trump’s campaign asked that it have a foreign policy focus – a request that comes as they push a story about Hunter Biden’s emails with Ukrainian officials.
‘It’s also nonsense to suggest that the commission has allowed the Biden campaign to steer the final debate away from foreign policy. As the Trump campaign knows, subject matter for the debates is outside the commission’s province and is chosen solely by the moderators,’ Danforth wrote.
There was no indication the final debate was supposed to be foreign-policy focused. When the commission announced the details of this year’s debates in September, it said the first and third debates would have the same format: ‘six segments of approximately 15 minutes each on major topics to be selected by the moderator and announced at least one week before the debate.’
Those same rules were in place for the first and third debates in the 2016 election.
Thursday’s debate will be the last chance for voters to see the presidential contenders go head-to-head before Election Day.
Danforth warned about the damage Trump was doing with his allegations.
‘It is not the honor of the commission that is at stake here. What is at stake is Americans’ belief in the fairness of our presidential debates and, in turn, the presidential election. When that faith is undermined, the damage to our country is incalculable,’ he wrote.
The president has vowed to be on stage in Nashville Thursday night despite a rule change that will mute the candidates’ microphones for part of the debate as organizers seek for a more orderly debate with less interruptions and cross talk.
The debate is divided into six 15-minute segments. Both Trump and Biden will have their microphones silenced while their opponent gives a two-minute opening statement at the start of each segment. During the rest of the discussion in each segment, the microphones will be open.
Trump has eschewed the standard debate prep in favor of campaign rallies, where he can draw energy from thousands of cheering supporters and not have to defend himself against questions about his policies and statements.
Biden remains huddle behind closed doors in Wilmington, preparing for Thursday’s event.