The second and final debate before the U.S. presidential election appears set to go forward with new rules in place meant to prevent the candidates from talking over each other.
President Donald Trump expressed his displeasure with the overall setup, telling reporters Monday that while he thinks “it is very unfair,” he will be a part of Thursday’s event in Nashville, Tennessee.
“I will participate but it’s very unfair that they changed the topics and it’s very unfair that again we have an anchor who is totally biased,” Trump said.
Kristen Welker, a respected NBC White House reporter, is moderating the debate and has chosen to ask Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden about fighting COVID-19, American families, race in America, climate change, national security and leadership.
Trump’s campaign said earlier Monday the debate should focus more on international issues.
Biden’s campaign said Trump was seeking to avoid discussing how his administration has handled the coronavirus pandemic, and that both sides had agreed to let moderators choose the topics for the debates.
"As usual, the president is more concerned with the rules of a debate than he is getting a nation in crisis the help it needs," Biden spokesman TJ Ducklo said.
The format of Thursday’s debate will be 15-minute segments for different topics, during which each candidate will have two minutes to speak, followed by open discussion.
In the first presidential debate in late September, Trump repeatedly interrupted Biden, who at one point responded: “Will you shut up, man?”
The commission pledged to institute reforms to better facilitate a meaningful debate, and on Monday announced that during the two-minute exclusive period, only one candidate will have his microphone turned on.
"Both campaigns this week reaffirmed their agreement to the two-minute, uninterrupted rule,” it said in a statement. “The Commission is announcing today that in order to enforce this agreed upon rule, 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 neither campaign may be totally satisfied with the rules, but that it believes the actions “strike the right balance and that they are in the interest of the American people.”
The presidential candidates first debated in late September and were due to have another earlier this month. But Trump tested positive for COVID-19 and when the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates decided to have the candidates participate remotely, the president withdrew.