Will Trump participate in the next two debates? The White House won’t commit.

There are two more presidential debates left before Election Day, but now, after the debacle of the first debate — 90 minutes dominated by insults, attacks and interruptions by President Trump — everything seems up in the air.

The Commission on Presidential Debates, whose members were frustrated that its marquee event was widely viewed as a failure, announced that it would propose a new format before Mr. Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. meet for their second debate on Oct. 15.

That idea was immediately rejected by Mr. Trump’s campaign. “Joe Biden is trying to work the refs,” said Tim Murtaugh, the communications director for the Trump campaign. “They shouldn’t be moving the goal posts and changing the rules in the middle of the game.”

In 2016, Mr. Trump often used the threat of withdrawing from debates to inject an element of uncertainty into the process, especially when he was in a vulnerable position; He even floated the idea of a boycott in the run-up to this year’s election, citing his concerns about the commission’s fairness.

On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany did not respond directly when asked if Mr. Trump would commit to participating in the two remaining debates with Mr. Biden, regardless of the rule changes the commission might announce.

“He thinks the only way there’s a fair debate is a change in the moderator and a change in the Democrat nominee,” she said. “He wants to debate, he plans on being at the debate, but he wants the rules to be fair and wants a fair exchange and doesn’t want rules that cover for certain candidates’ inability to perform well.”

Things have been so unsettled that Mr. Biden’s aides felt compelled to respond to a wave of speculation that there would be no more debates, announcing that he was not backing out. Why should he? By every measure, Mr. Biden had a good enough night, and there’s little reason, Democrats said, for him to do anything that would make him look wavering and take the spotlight off a struggling Mr. Trump. What’s more, the next debate is a town hall event with voters, the kind of format that should play to Mr. Biden’s strengths.

But might Mr. Trump, who left the stage to withering debate reviews, decide this is just not worth it? Some Democrats suggested that was exactly the way to interpret the fast slapdown by the Trump campaign of the debate commission’s announcement that it was changing the rules.

“If you think that the president gained nothing but trouble from that so-called debate, it’s very easy to imagine him using the proposed rules change as an excuse to skip the last two debates,” said James P. Manley, who was a senior aide to Harry Reid, the former Democratic leader of the Senate.

Still, there are less than five weeks left until Election Day, Mr. Trump is trailing in many polls, and he is running out of opportunities — ideal or not — to

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Former White House physician echoes Trump’s accusation of Biden drug use for debates

A former White House physician underscored President TrumpDonald John TrumpCensus Bureau intends to wrap up count on Oct. 5 despite judge’s order Top House Republican calls for probe of source of NYT Trump tax documents New Yorkers report receiving ballots with wrong name, voter addresses MORE‘s claim that Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenTop House Republican calls for probe of source of NYT Trump tax documents Judge’s ruling creates fresh hurdle for Trump’s TikTok ban Harris says she hasn’t ‘made a plan one way or another’ on meeting Supreme Court nominee MORE might take performance enhancing drugs before debating him on Tuesday night. 

“Obviously something is going on with this man at this point,” Dr. Ronny Jackson said on Fox News’ “Hannity.” “I think it’s completely reasonable to ask if he’s being medicated because there have been a couple of times where he has come out and looked a little more energetic than he has in the last few months.”

Jackson, a Trump loyalist and candidate for a congressional race in Texas, said it is possible Biden is having “good days and bad days” as part of what he called the former vice president’s “cognitive decline.” 

“But I think it’s completely reasonable to ask if he’s taking medications to help him with his alertness and his memory,” Jackson said. 

 

 

Over the weekend, Trump tweeted he would demand Biden take a drug test before taking the debate stage this week in Cleveland. 

 

“I will be strongly demanding a Drug Test of Sleepy Joe Biden prior to, or after, the Debate on Tuesday night,” Trump said. “Naturally, I will agree to take one also. His Debate performances have been record setting UNEVEN, to put it mildly. Only drugs could have caused this discrepancy???”

 

The Biden campaign dismissed the notion that he would ever submit to a drug test. 

 

“Vice President Biden intends to deliver his debate answers in words. If the president thinks his best case is made in urine he can have at it,” Biden’s deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said according to Fox News. “We’d expect nothing less from Donald Trump, who pissed away the chance to protect the lives of 200K Americans when he didn’t make a plan to stop COVID-19.”

 

 

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