Biden says he’s game for a pair of debates with Trump: ‘Let’s pick the dates, Donald’

President Joe Biden on Wednesday threw down a proverbial gauntlet in front of his likely 2024 election opponent, former president Donald Trump, by challenging the twice-impeached ex-president to a pair of debates in June and October.

In a video released by his campaign, Mr Biden declared that Mr Trump had lost both of the debates they participated in during the 2020 election cycle and noted that the ex-president hadn’t shown up for a single debate during the 2024 Republican primary even as he has claimed — without evidence — that the 46th president is unwilling to debate him.

“Now he’s acting like he wants to debate me again? Make my day, pal — I’ll even do it twice,” he said. “So let’s pick the date!”

Mr Biden wryly added that he hears the former president “is free on Wednesdays,” a reference to the schedule in Mr Trump’s ongoing criminal trial in New York City.

The president’s proposal would bypass the nonpartisan commission that has organised and hosted a trio of general election presidential debates for decades in favour of a pair of sessions under terms negotiated directly between his campaign and that of Mr Trump, who has said he is willing to debate the man who defeated him four years ago “anytime” and “anywhere”.

In a letter to the debate commission which was obtained by The Independent, Biden campaign chair Jen O’Malley Dillon said the debates should take place in a television studio with both candidates and a moderator sans audience, just like the first groundbreaking 1960 debate between then-senator John F Kennedy and then-vice president Richard Nixon.

“The Commission’s model of building huge spectacles with large audiences at great expense simply isn’t necessary or conducive to good debates,” she wrote. “The debates should be conducted for the benefit of the American voters, watching on television and at home — not as entertainment for an in-person audience with raucous or disruptive partisans and donors, who consume valuable debate time with noisy spectacles of approval or jeering.”

She added that the decision was influenced by failures in past years by the nonpartisan group, including the commission’s inability to enforce the rules to keep candidates within their allotted speaking time.

The outcome from that failure, she said, “was far from — indeed entirely inconsistent with — the orderly and informative process the voters deserved in 2020 and should be able to expect in 2024”.

Ms O’Malley Dillon also said the Biden campaign is proposing the debates take place next month — after Mr Biden returns from the Group of Seven summit in Italy and Mr Trump’s criminal trial has concluded — and in September, just before the start of early voting.

The campaign has also suggested that the debates be split between two broadcast networks which also participated in both Republican and Democratic primary debates in 2016 and 2020, limiting the choices to CNN, ABC News, Telemundo and CBS News, with moderators chosen from the host networks’ “regular personnel”. That last point is expected to be contested by Mr Trump, who has regularly complained that debate moderators have not been selected from a group of partisan commentators who favour him.

But the timing of the two debates might be amenable to Mr Trump, who has often groused about the late-in-cycle timing of the 2020 debates, citing the increased prevalence of postal balloting and early voting in modern elections. Last month, his two senior campaign advisers, Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita, said the timing of this year’s debates as proposed was “unacceptable”.

“We are committed to making this happen with or without the Presidential Debate Commission,” they said. “We extend an invitation to every television network in America that wishes to host a debate, and we once again call on Joe Biden’s team to work with us to set one up as soon as possible.”

Ms O’Malley Dillon appeared to echo Mr Trump’s criticisms in her letter, writing that the CPD schedule “has debates that begin after the American people have a chance to cast their vote early, and doesn’t conclude until after tens of millions of Americans will have already voted”.

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