President Donald Trump and Joe Biden will have their microphones cut off during Thursday’s final presidential debate while their opponent delivers initial two-minute answers to each debate topic, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced Monday.
“We realize, after discussions with both campaigns, that neither campaign may be totally satisfied with the measures announced today,” the commission said in a statement. “One may think they go too far, and one may think they do not go far enough. We are comfortable that these actions strike the right balance and that they are in the interest of the American people, for whom these debates are held.”
Trump and Biden’s only previous debate last month was marred by frequent interruptions from Trump, leading to calls for the debate moderator to have the ability to cut off each candidate’s microphone while their opponent spoke.
The commission said in its statement that both camps had already agreed to each candidate having two minutes of uninterrupted time to make remarks at the beginning of each 15-minute segment of the debate, it was enforcing the rules and making a rule change.
The commission said both microphones will be on, however, during open-discussion segments of the debate.
After the first presidential debate in Cleveland on September 29th, the commission, however, did signal that “additional structure” should be added so that there is more order following Trump’s disruptive performance.
The president and his campaign have excoriated the commission since the first debate, claiming that it is biased. Bill Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager, continued that argument in responding to the rule change.
“President Trump is committed to debating Joe Biden regardless of last minute rule changes from the biased commission in their latest attempt to provide advantage to their favored candidate,” Stepien said in a statement. “This was supposed to be the foreign policy debate, so the President still looks forward to forcing Biden to answer the number one relevant question of whether he’s been compromised by the Communist Party of China.”
Earlier Monday, Trump’s campaign sent a scathing letter objecting to the selected topics for Thursday’s debate and that both campaigns had agreed that the subject would be foreign policy. It claimed that other topics benefit Biden and that there is little focus on foreign policy.
“It is completely irresponsible for the Commission to alter the focus of this final debate just days before the event, solely Biden from his own history,” Stepien wrote in a letter to the debate commission.
Biden’s campaign did not immediately comment on the change but disputed that the campaigns had agreed on a foreign policy focus.
“The campaigns and the Commission agreed months ago that the debate moderator would choose the topics,” said TJ Ducklo, the Biden campaign’s national spokesman. “The Trump campaign is lying about that now because Donald Trump is afraid to face more questions about his disastrous Covid response.”
NBC News’ Kristen Welker is the moderator of Thursday’s 90-minute debate, which will be at Belmont University in Nashville. It starts at 9 p.m. ET.