Trump Erupts Over Debate Moderator, Campaign Assails Topics for Final Debate
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is holding nothing back as he prepares to face former Vice President Joe Biden in the next — and final — presidential candidate debate of the 2020 election cycle.
While Biden plans to take most of the week off from the campaign trail to prepare for the Thursday night event, Trump has scheduled a string of rallies in critical battleground states while stepping up his criticism of the debate and its moderator, Kristen Welker, of NBC News.
Over the weekend, the New York Post reported that Welker was once a registered Democrat and that her parents had donated money to the party.
After the story ran, several conservative commentators panned Welker on Twitter for having her picture taken with President Barack Obama at the White House Christmas party.
On Monday, President Trump weighed in, deriding Welker as a “dyed-in-the-wool, radical left Democrat.”
In a second tweet, he claimed Welker has “always been terrible & unfair, just like most of the Fake News reporters, but I’ll still play the game. The people know!”
He then closed with a swipe at the planned host for the second, cancelled presidential debate, CSPAN’s Steve Scully, who was suspended indefinitely by the cable service after he admitted to lying about his Twitter feed being hacked when he was confronted about a questionable exchange with former Trump aide Anthony Scaramucci.
“How’s Steve Scully doing?” the president wanted to know.
With that, an avalanche of consternation came down on Welker via Twitter.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich opined that “Savannah Guthrie’s bias against President Trump will probably be exceeded by Kristen Welker’s bias at the next debate. Her family gave thousands of dollars to Obama, Clinton and Biden. She registered as a Democrat. Her family spent Christmas with the Obamas at the White House.”
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was also among those weighing in, saying the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates “should apologize for incompetence and bias and then resign and disband.”
“Kristen Welker, upcoming presidential debate moderator, has deep Democrat ties,” he said, citing a Fox News report.
Despite these complaints, Welker is still set to moderate the final presidential debate on Thursday from Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.
And Trump vowed to participate in the debate regardless.
“It’s not going to affect me,” he tweeted. “I’m going to be there. But y’know, I told you about the last one and I was right, and I told you about Savannah Guthrie and I was right. And I’m telling you about Kristen Welker.”
But by then the Trump re-election campaign was crying foul over another aspect of the debate – the topics chosen over for each of its six segments. They are: Fighting COVID-19, American Families, Race in America, Climate Change, National Security and Leadership.
Both Trump and his campaign complained the topics were picked to help Joe Biden and to try to prevent the president from being able to get into issues related to Hunter Biden.
Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller said Monday that the president will bring up allegations that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden met with a Ukrainian business associate of his son, Hunter.
That alleged meeting was reported by the New York Post last week based on emails allegedly coming from the hard drive of a laptop that once purportedly belonged to Hunter Biden.
The Biden campaign immediately sought to shoot down the report, saying it reviewed Biden’s “official schedules from the time and no meeting ever took place.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., went a step further in an interview with CNN Monday, dismissing the purported emails as being part of a smear campaign coming “from the Kremlin.”
The latest debate-related controversy of the week arose late Monday, when the commission on Presidential Debates announced it will mute microphones to allow each candidate the opportunity for uninterrupted remarks during Thursday night’s event.
The mute button will be featured at the start of each 15-minute segment during opening comments, according to the commission. After that time, both mics will be turned on without a mute option to enable debate.
The rule change follows the first debate between two candidates, which often descended into a shouting match.
By some estimates President Trump interrupted either Biden or Fox News moderator Chris Wallace 145 times, while Biden interrupted both men 67 times.
But despite the latest change of course, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said the president will still debate Biden.
“President Trump is committed to debating Joe Biden regardless of last-minute rule changes from the biased commission in their latest attempt to provide advantage to their favored candidate,” Stepien said in a statement.