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Trump demands debate schedule changes, Biden refuses

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CLEVELAND, OHIO – SEPTEMBER 29: U.S. President Donald Trump (R) and former Vice President Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate at the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University on September 29, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. This is the first of three planned debates between the two candidates in the lead up to the election on November 3. Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images/AFP

US President Donald Trump and wants two face-to-face debates with challenger Joe Biden, his campaign said Thursday, nixing a proposed virtual encounter but calling for a final showdown just five days before election day.

The two rivals clashed repeatedly over the issue, with Biden’s camp stressing Trump can not “rewrite the calendar” of already-agreed dates for his benefit.

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The second debate, scheduled as a town hall-styled event, was set for October 15 while the third and final encounter was due one week later.

That timeline was thrown into question after Trump, who is still being treating for Covid-19, rejected the change to the second debate’s virtual format.

An in-person town hall debate, with questions from voters, “should happen on October 22, and accordingly, the third debate should then be shifted back one week to October 29,” just days from the November 3 vote, Trump 2020 campaign manager Bill Stepien said in a statement.

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Stepien also attacked the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, saying it “wants to protect Joe Biden” by shifting to a virtual format so that voters would not be able to “directly question” the former vice president about his long record.

The commission said earlier it was making the change so as to “protect the health and safety of all involved.”

It said the debate would have a town hall structure, with the candidates in remote locations.

The Biden campaign said early Thursday that the Democratic nominee looked forward to “speaking directly to the American people.”

In a follow-up statement deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield reminded voters that Trump “doesn’t make the debate schedule,” and that both campaigns agreed to the three dates back in June.

“Trump’s erratic behavior does not allow him to rewrite the calendar, and pick new dates of his choosing,” Bedingfield said.

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