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Donald Trump said Thursday morning he will not participate in a virtual debate with Democratic nominee Joe Biden – as the president claimed he has been 'cured' of coronavirus.
'That's not accessible to us. I beat him easily in the first debate,' Trump lamented in an interview with Fox Business Network minutes after the bipartisan commission that hosts the debates announced it would be shifting the format to virtual.
'No, I'm not gonna waste my time in a virtual debate,' the president told anchor Maria Bartiromo in a 54-minute .
'That's not what debating is all about,' he said. 'You sit behind a computer and do a debate – it's ridiculous and then they cut you off whenever they want.'
Trump's almost hour-long rapid-fire interview with Bartiromo - a long-time friend from his New York businessman says - was seized on by Nancy Pelosi. The Speaker said that she would be discussing 'the 25th Amendment' Friday, referring to the constitutional measure to remove the president from office because of incapacitation.
Biden says he is prepared to host an independent town hall event on Thursday, October 15 in the palace of the town hall style debate scheduled for that day between him and the president.
Joe Biden was prepared to accept the CPD's proposal for a virtual Town Hall, but the President has refused, as Donald Trump clearly does not want to face questions from the voters about his failures on COVID and the economy,' Biden's campaign said in a statement Thursday. 'As a result, Joe Biden will find an appropriate place to take questions from voters directly on October 15th, as he has done on several occasions in recent weeks.'
The former vice president's campaign is also demanding the commission change the October 22 debate to be town hall style so the president and Biden are able to answer questions side-by-side directly from American voters.
Donald Trump said he would not participate in the second debate against Joe Biden after the Commission on Presidential Debates announced Thursday in the midst of the president's coronavirus diagnosis that they were changing the format of the second debate to 'virtual'
'Given the President's refusal to participate on October 15th, we hope the Debate Commission will move the Biden-Trump Town Hall to October 22nd, so that the President is not able to evade accountability,' Biden's deputy campaign manager and communications director Kate Bedingfield said in the statement.
'The voters should have a chance to ask questions of both candidates, directly,' she continued. 'Every Presidential candidate since 1992 has participated in such an event, and it would be a shame if Donald Trump was the first to refuse.'
Trump said in his first interview since being diagnosed with COVID that he is 'ready to go' and sad he would have liked to have held a rally 'tonight.'
'I don't think I'm contagious at all,' he said in the telephone interview. 'Remember this: when you catch it you get better. And then you're immune.'
'I'm a perfect physical specimen and I'm extremely young. And so I'm lucky that way,' said the president, who at 74 and obese is in the high risk category for COVID.
The Commission on Presidential Debates made the announcement that it was shifting formats on Thursday morning, a week before Trump and Biden were scheduled to face-off in-person in Miami, Florida for the second of three debates.
'No Presidential Candidate is required to debate,' Chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates Frank Fahrenkopf told NBC News. 'Jimmy Carter refused to debate during the first debate in 1980. It is up to the individual candidate.'
Only once before in presidential history has a major party candidate refused to take part in a debate, when Jimmy Carter declined to attend the first debate in 1980. But it went ahead with two taking part because as well as Ronald Reagan, independent candidate John Anderson was in the race.
There has never been a head-to-head debate which was boycotted by one candidate.
Earlier in the day Thursday, Bedingfield said Biden still prepared to show up for the debate despite Trump's refusal to participate in the virtual event.
'Vice President Biden looks forward to speaking directly to the American people and comparing his plan for bringing the country together and building back better with Donald Trump's failed leadership on the coronavirus that has thrown the strong economy he inherited into the worst downturn since the Great Depression,' she said.
If Trump decided to hold an alternate event next Thursday instead of participating in the debate, Biden told reporters Thursday morning he doesn't know what he will do – although it has now become clear he will hold a town hall on his own.
'We don't know what the president's gonna do; he changes his mind every second...I'm going to follow the commission's recommendations. If he goes off and he's going to have a rally, I don't – I don't know what I'll do.'
There is speculation the president could opt to hold his own event, potentially a rally, next Thursday.
Biden and vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris plan to campaign in Arizona the day after the vice presidential debate.
The commission said that ideally Biden and Trump will 'participate from separate remote locations,' but claim both candidates and the moderator, C-SPAN's Steve Scully, will remain in Miami.
I DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT THE DEBATE GOING VIRTUAL
Trump said the commission did not inform him about the change before making the announcement.
'They didn't even tell us about that,' he told Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo. 'We learned it the same way you learned it.'
Trump was diagnosed with coronavirus a week ago and said he looked forward to debating Biden on stage in Miami, saying, 'It will be great!'
The change-in-plans were revealed the morning after the first and only vice presidential debate took place in-person in Utah Wednesday night.
Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris faced-off on stage at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City – but the two were seated 12 feet apart and each had a full sheet of plexiglass standing to their side.
Pence tested negative for COVID-19 ahead of the debate as it appears he was not one of the few dozen in Trump's inner circle who have contracted the virus following two apparent 'super spreader' events last week.
Trump and Biden went head-to-head in the first presidential debate in Cleveland last Tuesday – just two days before the president tested positive for coronavirus
IS HE ON STEROIDS STILL? TWO ANSWERS IN ONE INTERVIEW
He indicated he was no longer taking medication to combat the virus but then said he was going a little bit long on the powerful steroid he was prescribed, which he called a 'not heavy' drug.
Some doctors have raised concerns about dexamethasone, which can cause insomnia, mania, mood swings, and rage. It has shown promise for treating patients with a severe case of covid-19 who are getting supplemental oxygen, which Trump's doctors have said he has not received additional oxygen since he went into the hospital on Friday night.
'I think I'm taking almost nothing. I think I'm finished with just about everything,' Trump said of his medical regime.
Then he said he had 'a little bit longer' on the dexamethasone.
He added: 'I think you go a little bit longer on - they have a steroid. It's not even, it's not a heavy steroid, yet they have that go a little bit longer, but I'm not taking - I'm almost not taking anything, I feel great.'
'I'm almost not taking anything,' he said of the cocktail of medications his medical team had him on. His treatment regime included the dexamethasone, an experimental anti-viral drug that Regeneron Pharmaceuticals is testing to supply antibodies that help a patient fight the disease, and the antiviral drug remdesivir.
He said he would be tested for the virus again 'soon.'
'I'll be tested very soon but I'm essentially very clean. They say it's over a period of six seven days,' he said.
HOW I MIGHT HAVE GOT IT - FROM GOLD STAR FAMILIES
During Trump's near hour-long interview Thursday, he presented two possibilities for how he contracted the disease – mentioning last Saturday's Rose Garden event where he announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court nomination and a White House celebration for Gold Star families on September 27.
Several people from both events have now tested positive for COVID.
'Now, as far as the White House is concerned, somebody got in,' he told Bartiromo when she asked him how he caught the virus. 'It was a day of celebration with Notre Dame, etc., etc., and somebody got in and people got affected, whether it was there or something else.'
Barrett attended Notre Dame and taught at the Law School and and the university's president, Rev. John Jenkins, attended the announcement – he later tested positive for coronavirus.
'I meet a lot of people and I have to - I'm the president of the country. I can't hang around in a basement. So I figured there would be a chance that I would catch it,' Trump said, using his attack line against Democratic rival Joe Biden, who he complains stays in a basement even as Biden campaigns.
'Sometimes I'd be with in groups of - for instance Gold Star families I met with,' he said referring to a September 27 at the White House. The chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and several high-ranking military officials are quarantining after attending it.
'I didn't want to cancel that,' Trump said.
He said the families - who have lost a member in service to the country - wanted to hug and kiss him and he let them.
'They come within an inch of my face sometimes. They want to hug me and they want to kiss me. And they do. And frankly, I'm not telling them, 'Back up,' he said, conceding 'it's a dangerous thing, I guess, if you go by the COVID thing.'
He also appeared to cast doubt on wearing a face masks, which doctors said helps contain the disease and slow the spread. He referred to Ralph Northam, the Democratic governor of Virginia, who is a doctor who wore a face mask in public and caught COVID.
'Look, you have the governor of Virginia - he wore a mask all the time - you've never seen a guy without a mask - he catches it,' Trump said.
He often uses the attack line about campaigning for the basement against Biden, who he complains stays in a basement.
'Sometimes I'd be with in groups of - for instance Gold Star families I met with,' he said referring to the White House event. 'I didn't want to cancel that.'
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and several other high-ranking military officials are quarantining after attending last weekend.
1. President Donald Trump, 74; 2. First Lady Melania Trump, 50; 3. Fr. John Jenkins, 66. President of the University of Notre Dame; 4. Mike Lee, 49. Republican Utah Senator; 5. Thom Tillis, 60. Republican North Carolina Senator; 6. Kellyanne Conway, 53, Former White House Counselor to the President; 7. Chris Christie, 58. Former New Jersey Governor; 8. Kayleigh McEnany, 32. White House Press Secretary; 9. Chad Gilmartin. Assistant Press Secretary, 22. 10. Karoline Leavitt, 23. Assistant Press Secretary. 11. Pastor Greg Laurie, 67. Harvest Crusades televangelist.
* Bill Barr, 70: self-isolating out of caution.
AT EVENT AND STOOD AT BACK OF ROSE GARDEN
12. Hope Hicks, 31. Counselor to the President; 13. Bill Stepien, 42. Trump Campaign Manager; 14. Nicholas Luna, 29. Chief of Oval Office Operations and 'body man'; 15. Unnamed White House reporterKAMALA IS A MONSTER AND A COMMUNIST'
The wide-ranging interview covered a range of other topics - and saw him call Kamala Harris a 'monster.'
The president made the personal and ideological attack on Harris, the third woman to earn the second slot on a major party ticket, hours after she used the debate to blast Trump for his handling of the coronavirus and other issues.
'And this monster that was on stage with Mike Pence – who destroyed her last night by the way,' Trump said, when asked a general question about his review of the debate.
'But this monster, she says no, no there won't be fracking. There won't be this. There won't – everything she said is a lie,' he said of the California senator.
He went after Harris after predicting without evidence that 'Biden won't be president for two months.'
'He's not mentally capable of being president ... He can't be president,' said Trump.
Trump made the attacks on Harris as he struggles to make up ground against Biden among female voters. Biden led Trump by a stunning 23 points in a Washington Post / ABC News poll released Sept. 29.
His attack and ideological smear came despite Pence making a point of acknowledging on stage her historic spot on the ticket.
'And senator, I want to thank you and Joe Biden for your expressions of genuine concern. And I also want to congratulate you as I did on that phone call on the historic nation of your nomination,' he said, thanking her for earlier comments about Trump's health.
After leveling the communist charge – which in the 1950s and 60s carried both stigma and danger of prosecution – Trump accused the Biden-Harris ticket of walking away from commitments to left-wing lawmakers.
Democratic vice presidential nominee Senator Kamala Harris accused the Trump administration of packing the courts with white judges, noting none out of more than 50 confirmed were black. But she dodged a question on increasing the size of the Supreme court
WHY MY SON DON JR. CAN'T BE MAYOR OF NYC - HE'D LOSE
Trump said he wouldn't want to see his son, Donald Trump Jr., run for mayor of New York because he wouldn't win.
'No, because he - no, I hope not because he couldn't win as a Republican,' Trump told Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo. 'He couldn't - wouldn't have a chance.'
The president made the assessment in a wide-ranging interview, his first since coming down with the coronavirus.
On the heels of Wednesday night's vice presidential debate, Bartiromo brought up how Democratic vice presidential nominee wants to eliminate cash bail nationally.
Trump then bemoaned how that ruined New York, his hometown.
'It's destroyed - it's helped - it's one of the many things that's destroyed New York, yes. It's destroyed New York,' Trump said.
Bartiromo asked the president if he thought New York would come back.
'What's happened in New York is one of the saddest things I've ever seen happen to a city. Now it's happening in Chicago too. It's all Democrat-run cities,' he said. 'The only way it's going to come back is you're going to have to find a young version of Rudy Giuliani, otherwise it's not, because they have all these lefties in New York running for office.'
The president said his son wouldn't cut it because 'it's an all Democrat city.'
'I'm making actually a play for the whole state,' Trump added. 'You know, I did well there.'
Hillary Clinton - who represented New York in the Senate - beat Trump in the state by 22.5 points in 2016.
'But, you know, in theory, see, the Republicans have a disadvantage,' Trump said. 'They lose New York, Illinois and California before it even starts. So, you know, I had to run the table last time. It's not easy. And, frankly, winning the Electoral College is tougher, in my opinion, than getting the popular vote because I don't campaign in New York, Illinois, in California, you know, because they're sort of meant like they're automatic for years.'
'This is for years, no big secret,' he added.
FIRST INTERVIEW SINCE HEALTH CRISIS
The president announced overnight Thursday that he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for coronavirus.
On Friday, Trump was transferred to Walter Reed Medical Center where he remained for three nights.
There, doctors put him on supplemental oxygen at least twice and his treatment included the steroid dexamethasone, an experimental antiviral drug that Regeneron Pharmaceuticals is testing to supply antibodies to help a patient fight the disease and the antiviral drug remdesivir.
Trump's doctors said he has not received additional oxygen since he was admitted to the hospital Friday night.
The morning after Trump returned to the Oval Office, he said he was cured from COVID, but indicated he's still taking the powerful steroid.
Some doctors have raised concerns about dexamethasone, which can cause insomnia, mania, mood swings, and rage.
The treatment has proven promising for patients receiving supplemental oxygen and have severe cases of COVID-19.
'I think I'm taking almost nothing. I think I'm finished with just about everything,' Trump said of his medical regime.
The then suggested that he has 'a little bit longer' on the dexamethasone.
'It's not a heavy steroid, yet they have that go a little bit longer, but I'm not taking - I'm almost not taking anything, I feel great,' the president added.
'I'm almost not taking anything,' he said of the cocktail of medications his medical team prescribed.
Trump also said he is ready to hold a campaign rally.
'I'd love to do a rally tonight. I wanted to do one last night,' he said, explaining he is far enough away from the crowd that it would be safe even if he was still infectious.
The president's voice sounded shaky at times in the interview, where he could be heard but not seen.