Trump and Biden Agree to 2 Debates. Here’s What to Know.

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President Biden and former President Donald J. Trump have agreed to debate at least twice before the election, though their plans upend the traditional structure of presidential debates.

The first debate will take place much earlier than has been typical, and so far, neither will involve the commission that has been hosting presidential debates since 1988.

Here’s what to know:

The two candidates agreed to a June 27 date for the first debate, which CNN will host in its Atlanta studios.

By then, Mr. Biden will have returned from the Group of 7 summit meetings with other heads of state in Italy, and Mr. Trump’s hush-money trial in New York should be over.

Both rivals also committed to a Sept. 10 debate hosted by ABC News.

Mr. Biden’s team is seeking to wrap up the debates around the beginning of September when early voting begins, a departure from the longstanding debate calendar that had major-party candidates facing each other in late September and October.

His campaign suggested that holding debates earlier would give voters the chance to size up the candidates before early ballots are cast, and allow the nominees to focus on campaigning in the final weeks of the race.

The Commission on Presidential Debates has organized debates for nearly 40 years, but both Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden have both voiced grievances over the process and the organization. Neither of the debates they agreed to involve the commission, which had set its debates for Sept. 16, Oct. 1 and Oct. 9.

And the first debate they agreed to, set for June, will happen much earlier than normal — both men will still be only the presumptive nominees when they face each other then.

While both Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump clinched their party’s nominations in March, Mr. Trump is not scheduled to accept the Republican nomination formally until the party holds its convention in July in Milwaukee. Mr. Biden will formally accept the Democratic nomination during the party’s convention in August in Chicago.

The expedited debate timetable is a sharp deviation from the modern cycle in U.S. politics, when presidential debates have typically been held after Labor Day, following both major-party conventions.

For the most part, how the debates will be structured is still being worked out.

CNN said its debate, in June, would take place without an audience. That meets one of the demands from Mr. Biden’s team, which wants to avoid an in-person audience that could cheer, boo and derail the conversation.

Mr. Trump, who feeds off the reaction of his supporters, indicated that he wanted an audience, and he accused Mr. Biden of being “afraid of crowds.”

The president’s team has insisted that the debate stage be limited to Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump: It wants to exclude Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the independent candidate who has been polling in the teens and appears to be siphoning support from both major-party candidates.

Its terms also called for the network hosting the debate to cut off the candidates’ microphones when they use up their allotted time.

During a presidential debate in 2020, Mr. Biden uttered one of the more memorable lines when Mr. Trump repeatedly interrupted him. “Will you shut up, man?” he said.

Neither CNN nor ABC has announced whom their moderators will be.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden appeared to throw down the gauntlet when they committed to the two debates.

But a cancellation of a presidential debate would not be a novelty.

In 2020, the second of three debates had to be scrapped after Mr. Trump rejected having him and Mr. Biden participate virtually, which was proposed by the debate commission because of the coronavirus pandemic.

And in this election cycle, Mr. Trump bypassed the Republican primary debates, at times organizing counterprogramming of his own through televised town halls.



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