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June 14, 2024
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Biden and Trump agree to presidential debates on June 27 and Sept. 10

Biden and Trump agree to presidential debates on June 27 and Sept. 10

Washington — President Biden and former President Donald Trump will go head-to-head in presidential debates on June 27 and Sept. 10, with the two White House hopefuls accepting invitations from CNN and ABC News to participate in the events after a flurry of activity on Wednesday.

Plans for the debates came together quickly after the president’s campaign said in a letter that he was willing to debate his Republican opponent twice before the November election. That kicked off a series of competing proposals and social media posts from the presumptive Democratic and Republican nominees, culminating in the two debates being scheduled for June and September within a matter of hours.

Mr. Biden then took to social media to announce that he had accepted an invitation to participate in a debate hosted by CNN on June 27, and urged Trump to join him.

“I’ve received and accepted an invitation from CNN for a debate on June 27th. Over to you, Donald. As you said: anywhere, any time, any place,” Mr. Biden said in his post.

CNN then announced it will host the debate between Mr. Biden and Trump at its Atlanta studios on June 27 at 9 p.m. ET. There will not be an audience “to ensure candidates may maximize the time allotted in the debate,” CNN said. Anchors Jake Tapper and Dana Bash will moderate, according to the network.

CNN and ABC News laid out five criteria for qualifying for their debates. The candidates must:

  • Be constitutionally eligible to serve as president
  • File a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission
  • Have their name appear on enough state ballots to reach the threshold of 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency
  • Agree to the debate’s rules and format
  • Receive at least 15% in four separate national polls of registered or likely voters that meet CNN or ABC News standards. 

Mr. Biden and Trump are the only two candidates seeking the presidency who qualify under those terms so far. It’s unlikely that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who is running as an independent, will be on the stage because of the polling requirement and number of states where he has secured access to the ballot.

The CNN debate is set to take place before the Republican and Democratic nominating conventions, when party delegates choose their respective presidential nominees. 

Mr. Biden then announced that he had received and accepted an invitation to a second debate hosted by ABC News on Tuesday, Sept. 10. Trump quickly said he will also attend. His campaign is also pushing for two more debates in July and August.

Kennedy reacted to the debates by accusing the two candidates of “colluding to lock America” into a rematch of the 2020 election and criticized them as being unpopular. 

“They are trying to exclude me from their debate because they are afraid I would win. Keeping viable candidates off the debate stage undermines democracy,” he said in a social media post.

How the debates came together

In the letter from the Biden campaign sent earlier Wednesday, Jen O’Malley Dillon, chair of the president’s reelection campaign, proposed one debate in late June, after the likely conclusion of Trump’s ongoing criminal trial in New York and Mr. Biden’s travel to the G7 Summit in Italy. Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records to allegedly cover up payments to an adult film star and has pleaded not guilty. The Biden campaign proposed a second debate in early September.

Trump seemed to swiftly accept the Biden campaign’s suggested debate schedule for June and September, writing on social media that he is “ready and willing” to debate his Democratic opponent at the two proposed times. But the presumptive GOP presidential nominee said he would “strongly recommend” more than two debates at a “very large venue.”

“Just tell me when, I’ll be there,” Trump wrote.

In his own video shared to social media, the president urged his Republican opponent to take him on.

“Donald Trump lost two debates to me in 2020, and since then, he hasn’t shown up for a debate. Now he’s acting like he wants to debate me again. Well, make my day, pal. I’ll even do it twice. So let’s pick the dates, Donald. I hear you’re free on Wednesdays,” Mr. Biden said. Trump’s criminal trial does not convene on Wednesdays.

Donald Trump lost two debates to me in 2020. Since then, he hasn’t shown up for a debate.

Now he’s acting like he wants to debate me again.

Well, make my day, pal. pic.twitter.com/AkPmvs2q4u

— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) May 15, 2024

In addition to specifying Mr. Biden’s plans for facing off against Trump, O’Malley Dillon said the president will not participate in debates sponsored by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, which has overseen presidential debates since 1988.

Instead, Mr. Biden would take part in debates hosted by news organizations, O’Malley Dillon said. She cited what she said was the commission’s unwillingness to enforce rules for candidates during the 2020 debates and the large audiences in attendance that disrupted the events. During the 2020 presidential campaign, the first debate between Trump and Mr. Biden descended into chaos as Trump repeatedly interrupted and spoke over Mr. Biden and moderators struggled to regain control of the event.

Mr. Biden clinched the Democratic presidential nomination and Trump secured the Republican nomination in mid-March, setting up a rematch of the 2020 contest for the White House.

The Commission on Presidential Debates said the sites it announced in November to host three presidential debates this year are prepared for the events. The commission said it is also ready to execute its plan for the debates.

“The American public deserves substantive debates from the leading candidates for president and vice president,” it said in a statement. “The nonpartisan [CPD] was established in 1987 specifically to ensure that such debates reliably take place and reach the widest television, radio and streaming audience.”

The commission’s three presidential debates were scheduled to take place in September and October at universities in Texas, Virginia and Utah.

Biden’s debate terms

Under the parameters laid out by the Biden campaign, the debates should be hosted by any broadcast organization that oversaw a Republican primary debate in 2016 that Trump participated in and a Democratic primary debate in 2020 that Mr. Biden took part in. The outlets that fit those terms are CBS News, ABC News, CNN and Telemundo. Telemundo and CNN hosted a Republican primary debate that Trump attended in 2016.

Trump shunned the Republican primary debates for the 2024 election, but said he would take on Mr. Biden “anytime, anywhere, any place.”

The debates, the Biden campaign continued, should be one-on-one, a condition that would keep Kennedy off the stage.

Keeping the debates to Mr. Biden and Trump allows “voters to compare the only two candidates with any statistical chance of prevailing in the Electoral College — and not squandering debate time on candidates with no prospect of becoming President,” O’Malley Dillon wrote.

The campaign said the broadcast hosts should select the moderators from their “regular personnel, so as to avoid a ‘ringer’ or partisan,” and time limits should be set for answers and responses to ensure time is evenly split between the two and avoid a “spectacle of mutual interruption.” O’Malley Dillon said microphones for the candidates should be active only when it is his turn to speak.

For the vice presidential debate, the Biden campaign suggested the first event be held in late July after the Republican National Convention and follow the same parameters for the presidential debates. 

“As Donald Trump has said he will debate ‘anytime, anywhere,’ we hope both campaigns can quickly accept broadcast media debate invitations on the parameters above,” she said. “Americans need a debate on the issues — not a tedious debate about debates.”

Ron Klain, the former White House chief of staff who has served Mr. Biden in various roles for nearly 40 years, said he will once again help his old boss prepare for televised debates with Trump.

Klain stepped down as White House chief of staff last year and serves as chief legal officer for Airbnb. He confirmed in a text message to CBS News that he will use vacation time to help Mr. Biden prepare.

“Everyone has different ways of spending vacation – this will be mine,” Klain said.

He previously helped Al Gore, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton prepare for their respective primary or general election debates with opponents.

News of Klain’s vacation plans were first reported by The New York Times.

Trump’s debate terms

In their own proposal, Trump campaign senior advisers Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles said the former president also accepted the Biden campaign’s suggestion for a debate in September, but pushed for more than two events.

They suggested one debate per month in June, July, August and September, in addition to the vice presidential debate. Trump has not said who his running mate will be, though he is expected to announce his vice presidential pick closer to the Republican National Convention, which begins July 15 in Milwaukee.

“Additional dates will allow voters to have maximum exposure to the records and future visions of each candidate,” LaCivita and Wiles wrote in a memo to O’Malley Dillon and the Biden campaign. “We believe the American people deserve more than what the Biden administration has to offer.”

Aaron Navarro and Jake Rosen contributed to this report.

Melissa Quinn

Melissa Quinn is a politics reporter for CBSNews.com. She has written for outlets including the Washington Examiner, Daily Signal and Alexandria Times. Melissa covers U.S. politics, with a focus on the Supreme Court and federal courts.

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