US election 2020: Donald Trump proposes pushing presidential debates back by a week

Donald Trump’s campaign has proposed pushing back the final two presidential debates with Joe Biden by one week.

Earlier, the US president said he would refuse to take part in a debate on 15 October that organisers were planning to do virtually in response to his coronavirus diagnosis.

In a statement, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien suggested that in-person debates should be held on 22 and 29 October instead.

He added: “As President Trump said, a virtual debate is a non-starter and would clearly be a gift to Biden because he would be relying on his teleprompter from his basement bunker.

“Voters should have the opportunity to directly question Biden’s 47-year failed record of leadership.”

But Mr Biden’s campaign said Mr Trump “doesn’t make the debate schedule” and he should stick to it.

“Trump’s erratic behavior does not allow him to rewrite the calendar, and pick new dates of his choosing,” communications director Kate Bedingfield said.

“We look forward to participating in the final debate, scheduled for October 22, which already is tied for the latest debate date in 40 years. Donald Trump can show up, or he can decline again. That’s his choice.”

The Commission on Presidential Debates, a non-partisan committee that has organised all presidential debates since 1988, had proposed altering the second TV clash between the Republican and Democrat candidates.

It was originally meant to be a “town hall” style event, with the two men facing questions drawn half from a group of undecided voters in the hall itself and the rest from social media.

But the organisers said the debate should be moved online instead to “protect the health and safety of all involved”, given Mr Trump got his positive coronavirus test seven days ago – last Thursday evening.

In that time the US president has been in and out of hospital.

Vice President Mike Pence and Mr Biden’s running mate Kamala Harris also faced off in a TV debate last night, but were separated by clear plastic screens.

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