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Tuesday 5 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C
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republican primary

Donald Trump confirms he will skip Republican presidential primary debates

His spokesman did not clarify whether he plans to boycott every primary debate or just those that have been scheduled.

FORMER US PRESIDENT Donald Trump has confirmed he will be skipping Wednesday’s first Republican presidential primary debate — and potentially later debates.

Writing on his Truth Social media platform, he said: “The public knows who I am & what a successful Presidency I had. I WILL THEREFORE NOT BE DOING THE DEBATES!”

His spokesman did not immediately clarify whether he plans to boycott every primary debate or just those that have been scheduled.

The former president and front runner for the party’s nomination had said for months he saw little upside in joining his GOP rivals on stage when they gather for the first time in Milwaukee on Wednesday, given his commanding lead in the race.

“Why would I allow people at one or 2% and 0% to be hitting me with questions all night?” he said in an interview in June with Fox News host Bret Baier, who will be serving as a moderator.

Trump has repeatedly criticised Fox, the host of the 23 August primetime event, insisting it is a “hostile network” he believes will not treat him fairly.

He has discussed a number of debate counterprogramming options, including sitting for an interview with ex-Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has been hosting a show on the website formerly known as Twitter.

The New York Times reported on Saturday the interview set to air on Wednesday has already been taped.

“We cannot confirm or deny — stay tuned,” Trump’s spokesman Steven Cheung said.

The idea had been one of several alternatives Trump had floated in conversations in recent weeks.

They included possibly showing up in Milwaukee at the last minute or attending but sitting in the audience and offering live commentary on his Truth Social site.

He also discussed potentially calling into different networks to draw viewers from the debate or holding a rally.

Even in his absence, Trump will be ripe for broadsides from opponents over the four criminal and three civil trials he faces involving allegations before, during and after his scandal-plagued presidency.

“Obviously, his legal issues are affecting this race,” Fox News host Bret Baier, who will be moderating the debate, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“All these candidates have been asked non-stop about what’s happening in courtrooms around the country. So he’ll be a part of this debate whether he’s there or not.”

Seven other candidates have qualified for the debate, including state governors DeSantis and Doug Burgum, former vice president Mike Pence, Trump’s UN ambassador Nikki Haley and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott.

While Trump dominates the field, polling well above his opponents, some allies worry that a no-show could give his rivals a chance to create a viral moment and gain momentum.

Additional reporting from © AFP 2023

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