Organisers will be able to silence Donald Trump if he tries to disrupt Thursday’s final Presidential debate.
Chaos at the first televised debate of the 2020 election prompted the Commission on Presidential Debates to make some changes – including adding a ‘mute button’.
The Commission confirmed the organisers will mute the microphones of each candidate, to allow the other two minutes of uninterrupted time for each segment.
In a statement, the Commission did not characterise this as a change to the rules – but as an enforcement of the rules both camps had agreed.
They said: “Both campaigns this week reaffirmed their agreement to the two-minute, uninterrupted rule.
“The Commission is announcing today that in order to enforce this agreed upon rule, the only candidate whose microphone will be open during these two-minute periods is the candidate who has the floor under the rules.”
They said the balance of each 15-minute segment would see both candidates’ microphones open.
They went on: “During the times dedicated for open discussion, it is the hope of the Commission that candidates will be respectful of each other’s time, which will advance civil discourse for the benefit of the viewing public.”
They added: “We realise after discussions with both campaigns, that neither campaign may be totally satisfied with the measures announced today. 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 are in the interest of the American people, for whom these debates are held.”
Trump’s campaign objected to the change but said he would
still take part.
Campaign manager Bill Stepien said: “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.”
Earlier tonight, the Trump campaign wrote to the commission, complaining bitterly that Thursday’s debate would not solely focus on foreign policy issues.
Mr Stepien claimed the third debate was “always billed as the ‘Foreign Policy Debate’ in the series of events agreed to by both the Trump campaign and Biden campaign many months ago.”
But debate topics are, under the rules, at the discretion of the moderator, in this case NBC Washington Correspondent Kristen Welker.
She chose ‘Fighting Covid-19’, ‘American Families’, ‘Race in America’, ‘Climate Change’, ‘National Security’ and ‘Leadership’.