- The Washington Times - Monday, October 19, 2020

President Trump and Joseph R. Biden will be muted as the other candidate delivers an opening statement for each of the six 15-minute segments at Thursday’s debate in Nashville, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced Monday.

The commission said it was making the change to enforce debate rules already agreed upon by both campaigns.

“The only candidate whose microphone will be open during these two-minute periods is the candidate who has the floor under the rules,” the commission said in a statement.

During “open discussion,” both candidates’ microphones will be open, but “time taken up during any interruptions will be returned to the other candidate,” the statement said.

The commission had said it was looking at rules changes after the Sept. 29 debate, which was dominated by name-calling and interruptions on the part of both candidates.

Its statement on Monday indicated that the new rules are unlikely to satisfy everyone.

“One [campaign] may think they go too far, and one may think they do not go far enough,” the statement said. “We are comfortable that these actions strike the right balance and that they are in the interest of the American people, for whom these debates are held.”

Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in response that the president is committed to participating on Thursday, though Mr. Stepien knocked the rules change as the commission’s “latest attempt to provide advantage to their favored candidate.”

“This was supposed to be the foreign policy debate, so the president still looks forward to forcing Biden to answer the number one relevant question of whether he’s been compromised by the Communist Party of China,” Mr. Stepien said. “If the media won’t ask Joe Biden these questions, the president will, and there will be no escape for Biden.”

The Trump campaign had petitioned the commission earlier Monday to add foreign policy as one of the scheduled six topics, saying Mr. Biden should face questions on new reports tied to his son Hunter Biden’s overseas business dealings.

NBC’s Kristen Welker, the debate moderator, had previously announced the six topics for Thursday: Fighting COVID-19, American Families, Race in America, Climate Change, National Security, and Leadership.

The commission ended up canceling the debate that had been scheduled for Oct. 15.

Mr. Trump had balked at its proposal for a virtual format after he tested positive for COVID-19 several days after the Sept. 29 debate.

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