- The Washington Times - Friday, May 27, 2016

After some fevered speculation, presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump closed the door Friday on a one-on-one debate with Sen. Bernard Sanders ahead of the June 7 California primary, saying it would be “inappropriate” to share the stage with the loser of the Democratic primary and help networks that have not been generous to charities.

“As much as I want to debate Bernie Sanders — and it would be an easy payday — I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be,” Mr. Trump said in a statement.

The prospect of a Trump-Sanders showdown picked up speed after Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, decided against debating Mr. Sanders before the California primary.

Mr. Sanders responded to the news by saying he hopes Mr. Trump changes his mind, given that there are several television networks prepared to carry the debate and donate funds to charity.

“There is a reason why in virtually every national and statewide poll I am defeating Donald Trump, sometimes by very large margins and almost always by far larger margins than Secretary Clinton,” Mr. Sanders said. “There is a reason for that reality and the American people should be able to see it up front in a good debate and a clash of ideas.”

Mr. Sanders‘ original proposal was originally communicated to Mr. Trump by late-night television host Jimmy Kimmel earlier this week.

Earlier Friday, the Sanders campaign had said there were two offers by broadcast television networks to host the debate, with both offers including a major contribution to charity.

“We are prepared to accept one of those offers and look forward to working with the Trump campaign to develop a time, place and format that is mutually agreeable,” Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said in a statement.

Mr. Trump told reporters Thursday in North Dakota that he might be willing to debate Mr. Sanders if it raised between $10 million and $15 million for women’s health issues, but walked back the idea Friday.

“Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher,” Mr. Trump said in the statement. “Likewise, the networks want to make a killing on these events and are not proving to be too generous to charitable causes, in this case, women’s health issues.”

Mrs. Clinton shrugged it off when asked about the possible debate on CNN Thursday, saying she didn’t think it was going to happen and that she looked forward to debating Mr. Trump in the general election.

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