WASHINGTON - Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will suspend weekend preparations for Monday’s presidential debate when they meet separately Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East.
Netanyahu’s office declined to say where the meetings with the two presidential candidates will take place. The meeting with Trump, the Republican nominee, was arranged after Trump’s campaign staff telephoned Netanyahu’s office after finding out the Israeli leader was scheduled to meet with Clinton, his Democratic opponent.
Netanyahu has been in New York City for the past week for the annual United Nations General Assembly.
Netanyahu met with U.S. President Barack Obama at the U.N. on Wednesday for what was likely their last time as leaders of their respective countries. Netanyahu and Obama ended their meeting on an amicable note after a tense seven year relationship marred by disagreements over issues such as Iran’s nuclear deal and the Middle East peace process, matters that the winner of the November presidential election will likely grapple with.
Before Clinton’s Sunday meeting with Netanyahu was scheduled, she had intended to visit the southeastern city of Charlotte, North Carolina, which has seen successive nights of protests following the controversial fatal police shooting Tuesday of an African American man. Clinton postponed the trip, however, at the request of Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, who expressed a desire to devote all of the city’s resources to restoring normalcy.
Trump reportedly considered a visit to Charlotte on Tuesday but has also decided to delay it.
Trump and Clinton are temporarily winding down their activities on the campaign trail in order to prepare for Monday's debate. Trump is scheduled to make one campaign appearance Saturday in Virginia, while Clinton is not scheduled to appear at a campaign event until Oct. 5.
Monday's presidential debate, the first of three, will show both Clinton and Trump on the same stage together for the first time.
The televised debate will be watched by tens of millions of viewers who will scrutinize both candidates for strengths and weaknesses.
Clinton and Trump are taking much different approaches to their preparations for the debate, which is expected to be the most widely watched since Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan squared off in 1980.
Clinton campaign staffers say she is cramming on a thick portfolio of information that has been compiled after months of research on Trump.
Trump is taking the non-traditional approach, shunning briefing materials in favor of viewing Clinton videos and honing ideas into short responses.
With his theme of making America great again, Trump hopes to seize an opportunity to further narrow the polling gap with Clinton, who has retained her advantage in most national polls, despite signs of slipping support.
Former rival endorses Trump
Trump will go into Monday’s presidential debate bolstered by the surprise endorsement of former Republican rival Ted Cruz.
“After many months of careful consideration, of prayer and searching my own conscience, I have decided that on Election Day, I will vote for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump,” the Senator from the southern state of Texas said in a statement on Friday.
Cruz and Trump exchanged harsh words during the presidential primary race. Cruz once called Trump a “pathological liar” and “utterly amoral.” Trump would repeatedly deride his former opponent as “Lyin’ Ted.”
Cruz’s endorsement of Trump is widely perceived as an attempt to unite a divided Republican Party less than seven weeks before Election Day.