- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 1, 2020

President Trump signaled Thursday that he won’t agree to any changes in the rules of his next two debates with Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden, while his campaign advisers accused the leaders of the Commission on Presidential Debates of anti-Trump bias.

“Why would I allow the Debate Commission to change the rules for the second and third Debates when I easily won last time?” Mr. Trump tweeted.

The commission said it will announce new rules soon for the debates scheduled for Oct. 15 and Oct. 22. It is believed the commission will allow the moderators to mute the microphone of a candidate who speaks during time reserved for his opponent.

During the debate on Tuesday night in Cleveland, Mr. Trump interrupted Mr. Biden more than 75 times. The two talked over each other repeatedly as moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News tried in vain to restore order.

“I had baked this beautiful, delicious cake,” Mr. Wallace lamented on Thursday. “And then, frankly, the president put his foot in it.”

Trump campaign officials accused the debate commission Thursday of being “permanent swamp monsters” who are trying to help Mr. Biden after Mr. Trump dominated him in the debate.

“They care more about helping themselves out, and worry about having a good ol’ go-along, get-along club,” said Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller.

Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said several commission members have donated to Democratic candidates over the years or have made comments critical of Mr. Trump. He ridiculed the commission for describing itself as “nonpartisan.”

“Joe Biden is a creature of this city,” Mr. Stepien said of Washington. “That’s exactly who runs this commission.”

Mr. Miller said the Trump team does not want “any changes to what has already been laid out” for the debates.

“We have not asked for any changes; the Biden camp has,” he said. “It [the first debate] didn’t turn out the way that they wanted. We think President Trump did absolutely fantastic.”

Mr. Trump’s advisers say they expect him to attend the next two debates.

Mr. Stepien criticized commission co-chairman Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, for giving an interview in Nantucket Magazine last summer in which he said he learned in the 2016 debates that “the American people are not necessarily going to vote for who they think is the smartest person.”

He said commission co-chair Dorothy Ridings, CEO of the Council on Foundations, has donated at least $9,000 to Democratic candidates over the years, and the other co-chair, National Democratic Institute former president Kenneth Wollack has donated at least $5,000 to Democrats.

Among board members, they cited former Democratic Rep. Jane Harman of California as saying she was “appalled” by Mr. Trump, and former Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine having said Mr. Trump was “absolutely hurting our [GOP] brand.” They said board member Richard Parsons was on President Obama’s transition team in 2008.

Mr. Stepien said of the commission, “last time I checked, the definition of ‘nonpartisan’ is one of being not biased or partisan, especially toward any particular political group. Those characterizations could not be further from the truth.”

The commission had no immediate comment.

At a campaign rally Wednesday night in Minnesota, Mr. Trump said Mr. Biden will skip the next two debates. Mr. Biden said he plans to attend both.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she doesn’t think Mr. Biden should participate in the other two debates.

“I think one and done,” she said on Bloomberg TV.

The debate commission was created in 1987 as a private, independent, nonprofit organization. It receives no government funding or money from political parties.

The commission said it receives money from the communities that host the debates and, from corporate, foundation and private donors.

Its mission is to “organize, manage, produce, publicize and support debates for the candidates for President of the United States,” according to its website.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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