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Biden, asked if he’s planning to debate Trump, says ‘I am’

MICHAEL A. MCCOY/THE NEW YORK TIMES
                                From left, President Joe Biden shares a laugh with Annie Tomasini, his deputy chief of staff, and Karine Jean-Pierre, his press secretary, as they return to the White House, today, after a trip to New York. Biden said, today, that he would participate in a general election debate with Donald Trump, a striking shift after months in which he and his campaign declined to commit to appearing onstage with his Republican rival.
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MICHAEL A. MCCOY/THE NEW YORK TIMES

From left, President Joe Biden shares a laugh with Annie Tomasini, his deputy chief of staff, and Karine Jean-Pierre, his press secretary, as they return to the White House, today, after a trip to New York. Biden said, today, that he would participate in a general election debate with Donald Trump, a striking shift after months in which he and his campaign declined to commit to appearing onstage with his Republican rival.

President Joe Biden said today that he would participate in a general election debate with former President Donald Trump, a striking shift after months in which he and his campaign declined to commit to appearing onstage with his Republican rival.

Biden’s announcement, made in response to a question from radio host Howard Stern, comes after pressure from television networks and Trump’s campaign for the president to agree to participate in debates.

When Stern asked Biden if he would debate Trump, the president replied, “I am, somewhere, I don’t know when, but I am happy to debate him.”

Biden’s remarks appeared to be off the cuff, rather than a planned announcement of a shift in his campaign’s strategy, according to a top Democratic official familiar with the thinking.

This month, the five major TV news networks and The Associated Press wrote an unusual letter to the Biden and Trump campaigns urging them to debate. Some of Biden’s top aides and closest advisers have been longtime critics of the presidential debate system, which is organized by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates.

In November, the debates commission announced that three presidential debates would take place in San Marcos, Texas; Petersburg, Virginia; and Salt Lake City. A vice presidential debate is to be held in Easton, Pennsylvania.

This month, the Trump campaign sent a letter asking the debates commission to move its three planned debates earlier in the fall and to add more to the schedule.

Over the last month, Trump has made goading Biden about debates a feature of his campaign rallies. Before the former president takes the stage, screens show an image of his Truth Social post claiming his willingness to debate Biden “anytime, anywhere, anyplace.”

A staff member then brings an empty lectern on the stage, with a sign bearing those three words. The lectern remains in place while Trump gives his campaign speech.

“See the podium?” Trump said at a rally this month in Schnecksville, Pennsylvania. “I’m calling on crooked Joe Biden to debate anytime, anywhere, anyplace.”

Trump did not participate in any of the Republican primary debates.

The Biden campaign has parried questions about whether he will agree to debate Trump this fall. The campaign today directed questions about whether its stance on debates had changed to Biden’s comments on the Stern program.

Chris LaCivita, a top campaign adviser to Trump, replied to the Biden debate news by writing on social media, “Ok let’s set it up!”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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