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Trump attacks debate format and moderator but says he's not nervous about final show down with Biden


President Donald Trump attacked the debate commission, moderator Kristen Welker, and the format for Thursday’s final showdown with Joe Biden in a television interview that doubled as a prep session Tuesday morning. 

‘The whole thing is crazy,’ he said on ‘Fox & Friends’ about the upcoming presidential debate.

Thursday’s debate will be the last chance for voters to see the presidential contenders go head-to-head before Election Day. 

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: 

Fighting COVID-19

American Families

Race in America

Climate Change

National Security

Leadership 

And it comes as almost every state has begun the early voting process with more than 31 million Americans having already cast a ballot, according to the Election Project. 

The high level of interest in the 2020 election – record early voting numbers, more than 83 million mail-in ballots requested, and fundraising records being shattered – puts the pressure on.

Polls – both nationally and in many of the critical battleground states – show Biden in the lead.  

Biden will not been seen much before the big night as he hunkers down in Wilmington for prep sessions.

In contrast, Trump has back-to-back campaign rallies scheduled, including one in Pennsylvania Tuesday night with first lady Melania Trump, and is conducting a series of interviews with friendly news outlets.   

Trump spent most of his hour-long interview on ‘Fox & Friends’ complaining – about the debate format, the bipartisan debate commission, host Kristen Welker of NBC News, the media, the Democrats, and the lack of questions for Biden about his son Hunter.

‘This was supposed to be a foreign policy debate, and new all of a sudden we’re talking about things that are not foreign policy. And, frankly, it was a change that they made that was far bigger than the mute button, I mean, frankly. But they made a change, and it shouldn’t have happened. It shouldn’t have happened,’ he said.

Trump’s campaign sent a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates on Monday requesting the debate be foreign policy focused – a move that comes as they use emails between Hunter Biden and Ukrainian officials to attack Joe Biden.

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.’

But that hasn’t stopped the president and his campaign from criticizing everything about the debates from the moderators to the format. 

‘These people are not good people, this commission. A lot of funny things go on with them,’ Trump said during his Fox News interview. 

President Donald Trump spent most of his hour-long interview on 'Fox & Friends' complaining - about the debate format, the media, the Democrats, and the lack of questions for Biden about his son Hunter

President Donald Trump spent most of his hour-long interview on ‘Fox & Friends’ complaining – about the debate format, the media, the Democrats, and the lack of questions for Biden about his son Hunter

President Trump has attacked NBC's Kristen Welker, the debate moderator, despite praising her earlier this year

President Trump has attacked NBC’s Kristen Welker, the debate moderator, despite praising her earlier this year

The president also attacked moderator, 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.

‘It can never be fair with Kristen Welker. It’s not going to be fair,’ he said.

‘Kristen Welker is terrible. She is totally partisan. Her father and mother are big supporters of Joe Biden for a long time, they’re supporters of the Democratic Party,’ he complained.

Welker has been praised by colleagues and by political partisans on both sides of the aisle for being fair – and that includes praise from Trump’s campaign staff and the president himself. 

Trump congratulated her during a White House press conference in January after she was named co-anchor of Weekend Today. And Jason Miller, a senior adviser to the president’s campaign, earlier this month confessed he had ‘a very high opinion’ of Welker and told Fox News ‘she’s going to do an excellent job as the moderator for the third debate.’

But on Tuesday Trump grumbled about Welker being in the host’s chair.

‘I mean, it would be nice to have a host that could be not necessarily a contributor to the campaign, the Democrats. There are people out there that could be neutral,’ he said.

Trump, however, has complained about all the choices to moderate the debates including Fox News’ Chris Wallace, who hosted the first one, and C-SPAN’s Steve Scully, who was supposed to host the second debate before it was cancelled after the president refused to participate when it became a virtual event. 

President Donald Trump has eschewed formal debate prep but his interview on 'Fox & Friends' on Tuesday seemed to double as that as hosts asked him about his strategy

President Donald Trump has eschewed formal debate prep but his interview on ‘Fox & Friends’ on Tuesday seemed to double as that as hosts asked him about his strategy

Democratic nominee Joe Biden is hunkered down in Wilmington preparing for Thursday night

Democratic nominee Joe Biden is hunkered down in Wilmington preparing for Thursday night

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.

But Tuesday morning’s interview seemed to double as a debate prep session as the hosts asked the president about his strategy for Thursday night and led him through ways he could combat Biden. 

‘Fox & Friends’ co-host Brian Kilmeade pressed President Trump on his strategy for Thursday night and asked him what he’s learned from his first debate. 

‘What’s going the change for your strategy?,’ he said. ‘Regardless of moderator, format, mic, what’s your strategy? Are you using anybody different to get you ready, and after studying and dueling with Joe Biden once already, what have you learned? What’s going to change?’

Trump brushed aside the question. 

‘Well, Joe lies. And he lies a lot. And he’ll say things that are crazy,’ he said.

Kilmeade pressed on, bringing up the strategy Vice President Mike Pence used in his debate: ‘Will you answer the previous question like Mike Pence did and then answer their question?’

‘Look, I do my own debating. I do fine,’ Trump responded.

Co-host Will Cain followed up on Kilmeade’s question, asking the president if he would change his strategy from the first debate, where he repeatedly interrupted Biden and talked over him.

‘Well, I may do that,’ Trump said. ‘They said if you let him talk, he’ll lose his chain of thought.’

He went on to add: ‘There were a lot of people that say let him talk because he loses his train, he loses his mind, frankly.’

President Donald Trump said he will be at Thursday's debate despite a rule change from the first debate in Cleveland (above) where both Trump and Joe Biden's microphones will be silenced for portions of Thursday's matchup

President Donald Trump said he will be at Thursday’s debate despite a rule change from the first debate in Cleveland (above) where both Trump and Joe Biden’s microphones will be silenced for portions of Thursday’s matchup

But the president said he was not nervous going into Thursday night, where he trails Biden in the polls and is behind in fundraising.

‘No, I’m not nervous. Look, I’ve been doing it. We’ve been doing very well.’

He then let loose one final litany of complaints: ‘It’s a stacked deck. I’m fighting the Democrat party, the fake news media, the lame stream media.’

‘And nobody even knows why. And it’s been like that for decades. It’s not, you know, me. I may have exacerbated it because we’ve had victory,’ he noted.

He also expressed confidence of a victory come November 3.

‘We’re having rallies the likes of which nobody’s ever seen before,’ he said.

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