Storm around Trump-Biden debate schedule continues to churn

President Donald Trump and former Vice President and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speak during the first presidential debate at the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University on Sept. 29, 2020, in Cleveland. Credit: Morry Gash-Pool/Getty Images

Update: President Trump plans a campaign event at the White House on Saturday, according to published reports including this one from ABC News, when he will address a crowd on the South Lawn from a balcony. The event will mark 10 days since the president was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Additionally, Trump will address a “Make America Great Again Event” on Monday in Sanford, according to his updated campaign schedule.

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Democrat Joe Biden will appear on a stage next Thursday fielding questions from real, live voters. As for the COVID-19-infected President Trump, where he’d be wasn’t clear Friday after he pulled out of the second scheduled presidential debate rather than participate virtually.

As of Friday afternoon, the president has scheduled no events through next week, according to his campaign webpage. His doctors have cleared him for campaign events as early as Saturday, but others in the White House have discounted that possibility, according to published accounts.

Because aides won’t reveal the date of Trump’s last negative COVID test, there’s no way to know whether he can still pass the virus to others.

The Presidential Debate Commission on Thursday issued a written statement saying the Oct. 15 town hall debate would happen virtually, “in order to protect the health and safety of all involved.”

Moderator Steve Scully of C-SPAN was to have presided from Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts but “the candidates would participate from separate remote locations.”

Trump refused to go along with that. In a written statement issued Thursday by manager Bill Stepien, the campaign insisted health and safety weren’t the commission’s true motivations.

“President Trump won the first debate despite a terrible and biased moderator in Chris Wallace, and everybody knows it,” he said.

“For the swamp creatures at the Presidential Debate Commission to now rush to Joe Biden’s defense by unilaterally canceling an in-person debate is pathetic. That’s not what debates are about or how they’re done.

“Here are the facts: President Trump will have posted multiple negative tests prior to the debate, so there is no need for this unilateral declaration. The safety of all involved can easily be achieved without canceling a chance for voters to see both candidates go head to head. We’ll pass on this sad excuse to bail out Joe Biden and do a rally instead.”

Trump’s campaign later suggested bumping Thursday’s debate back a week, to Oct. 22, and rescheduling the third debate for Oct. 29. The Biden campaign was unpersuaded and scheduled a solo town hall in Philadelphia, to be broadcast by ABC News, while holding out the possibility that the third debate could still happen.

“Donald Trump doesn’t make the debate schedule; the debate commission does,” Biden spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield said in a written statement Thursday.

“We accepted the three dates — Sept. 29, Oct. 15, and Oct. 22 —in June. Trump chose today to pull out of the Oct. 15 debate. Trump’s erratic behavior does not allow him to rewrite the calendar and pick new dates of his choosing. We look forward to participating in the final debate, scheduled for Oct. 22, which already is tied for the latest debate date in 40 years. Donald Trump can show up, or he can decline again. That’s his choice.”

Meanwhile, Twitter blew up Friday over this tweet, reportedly now deleted, on Scully’s account: “@Scaramucci should I respond to trump.” It referred to Anthony Scaramucci, briefly a spokesman for the president  but now a critic.

Trump’s followers seized on tweet, with the president himself tweeting: “Steve Scully, the second Debate Moderator, is a Never Trumper, just like the son of the great Mike Wallace. Fix!!!”

Critics also noted that Scully served a college internship in Biden’s U.S. Senate office decades ago as evidence of pro-Biden bias now.

C-SPAN issued a public statement defending Scully. “Steve Scully did not originate the tweet and believes his account has been hacked,” it says.

“The Commission on Presidential Debates has stated publicly that the tweet was not sent by Scully himself and is investigating with the help of authorities. When additional information is available, we will release it.”