Trump invites himself to the White House to debate Biden

President expressed openness to debating his rival during a wide-ranging interview on Friday with radio host Howard Stern

Andrew Feinberg
Washington, DC
,Eric Garcia,Josh Marcus
Saturday 27 April 2024 00:27 BST
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Donald Trump on Friday challenged President Joe Biden to a debate in an unlikely venue: The White House.

Speaking from the hallway outside of his ongoing criminal trial in Manhattan, the former president sought to strike a confident tone about his chances in a head-to-head against his likely 2024 opponent.

“We’re ready, just tell me where,” Trump said. “We’ll do it at the White House. That would be very comfortable actually. You tell me where.”

The comments came after President Biden said Friday that he will participate in televised debates, ending speculation about whether or not he would debate Trump, during an hour-long, wide-ranging interview with Sirius-XM radio host Howard Stern.

“I am, somewhere,” he said, in response to a question about whether he was going to debate Trump, adding a second later that he did not know when such debates would take place. The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates has scheduled three sessions for September 16, October 1 and October 9 this year.

“I’m happy to debate him,” he added.

Stern said that if he were Biden, he would mention Trump’s phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger after the 2020 election. During that phone call, Trump famously said he wanted Raffensperger to “find” him votes to overturn the democratic result in Georgia.

“I would repeat over and over again, ‘Excuse me, please find me 11,000 votes so that I can win the election,’” Stern said. “I would just repeat that over and over again. And then I'd say to the audience, ‘What are we debating?’”

Biden’s announcement of a willingness to debate his twice-impeached predecessor comes after he previously refused to commit to doing so. He did say that he would consider it, based on Trump’s behaviour.

During the 2020 election cycle, Trump spent the entirety of his first debate with Biden shouting, interrupting and berating the then-former vice president to the point that Biden replied: “Will you shut up, man?”

At the time, Trump had already tested positive for Covid-19, but did not inform debate organisers.

Following that first debate, Trump backed out of a second town-hall style session after the debate commission attempted to make it a virtual session with Trump and Biden in separate television studios.

The third debate the two men participated in had new rules in place that would have allowed the moderator to cut off a participant’s microphone in the event of repeated interruptions.

Since 2020, Trump and his Republican allies have complained that the debate commission, a nonpartisan entity which has run presidential debates for decades, is biased against him. This complaint seems mainly based on the commission selecting legitimate journalists, rather than Republican-aligned pundits, to moderate the quadrennial sessions.

In 2022, the Republican National Committee voted to withdraw from the debate commission, with then-chair Ronna McDaniel saying it was “biased and has refused to enact simple and commonsense reforms to help ensure fair debates including hosting debates before voting begins and selecting moderators who have never worked for candidates on the debate stage”.

Biden spoke to Stern today about his concerns about Trump, particularly in relation to Trump’s calls to pardon rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6.

“He calls them patriots and victims,” Biden said. “I mean, it says he's going to pardon them all if he's re-elected.”

Biden also mentioned how this weekend he will speak at the Gridiron Dinner, but he likely meant the White House Correspondents’ dinner.

“The free press is not speaking up as much as it used to,” he said. “ And I'm not blaming the press. I'm just saying and I think some of them are worried about attacking him, worried about taking him on.”

After the Biden-Stern interview aired, Trump responded on Truth Social, writing: “Crooked Joe Biden just announced that he’s willing to debate! Everyone knows he doesn’t really mean it, but in case he does, I say, ANYWHERE, ANYTIME, ANYPLACE, an old expression used by Fighters.”

The former president suggested that he would like to debate Biden in the next few days, ideally at Trump’s own rally in Michigan on Wednesday evening. Trump added: “In the alternative, [Biden’s] in New York City today, although probably doesn’t know it, and so am I, stuck in one of the many Court cases that he instigated as ELECTION INTERFERENCE AGAINST A POLITICAL OPPONENT - A CONTINUING WITCH HUNT!”

There is no evidence that any of the court cases involving Trump have a connection to the 2024 election.

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