FILE – This combination of Sept. 29, 2020, file photos show President Donald Trump, left, and former Vice President Joe Biden during the first presidential debate at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio.
WASHINGTON – A key campaign advisor to Republican U.S. President Donald Trump is signaling that the president may be less disruptive at Thursday’s final debate with his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, than he was at their first confrontation last month.
“When you talk about style and you talk about approach, I do think that President Trump is going to give Joe Biden a little bit more room to explain himself on some of these issues,” Trump aide Jason Miller told “Fox News Sunday.”
Trump and Biden repeatedly interrupted each other at their Sept. 29 debate, Trump more so than Biden, in what U.S. political analysts declared was the worst presidential debate ever. Chris Wallace, the Fox talk show host who moderated the debate last month, said Trump interrupted him or Biden 145 times during the 90-plus-minute session.
Miller said Sunday that Trump wants Biden to explain unverified reports in the New York Post that Biden’s son, Hunter, profited from lucrative deals in Ukraine through his father’s connections handling U.S. foreign policy decisions in Ukraine when the older Biden was vice president under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017.
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Trump, on the campaign trail in recent days, has described the Bidens as “an organized crime family,” assailing Hunter Biden for his business dealings in Ukraine, including a lucrative position on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company, and in China while his father was second-in-command to Obama.
Asked about his son’s financial dealings, Joe Biden has said, “It’s another smear campaign,” but has not directly addressed Hunter Biden’s financial deals.
Miller also said Trump would look to pin down Biden on whether he plans to support progressive Democrats’ bid to add more liberal jurists to the nine-member U.S. Supreme Court if, as is presumed, Republican senators confirm Trump’s nomination of staunch conservative Amy Coney Barrett to the court before the end of October, days ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
Biden has in the past voiced opposition to “court packing,” adding more members to the court, the size of which has not been changed since 1869. But during the campaign, Biden has refused to spell out his current stance, although last week he said he would make his position known before Election Day.
Miller said, “I do think the president’s going to want to hear Joe Biden’s answer on some of these (issues), and we’ll definitely give him all the time that Joe Biden wants to talk about packing the court. And I think he’s going to get it on Thursday.”
During Trump’s frequent interruptions in the first debate, Biden at one point turned to him and said, “Shut up, man!”
A day later, the independent Commission on Presidential Debates said it would impose changes at future Trump-Biden encounters to “maintain order” and ensure “additional structure,” but has not announced any changes.
The commission unilaterally decreed that a planned second debate last week would be held virtually after Trump contracted the coronavirus. The president refused to participate remotely, and the encounter was then called off.
Instead, the two candidates participated last Thursday in dueling town hall question-and-answer sessions with voters at the same time on different television networks.
Thursday’s debate is likely the last before Election Day, but early voting is occurring across much of the United States, with more than 25 million people already having cast their ballots.