Trump Campaign Requests Debate Topics Change to Focus on Foreign Policy, Alleges Debate Commission is Helping Biden

President Donald Trump's campaign accused the Commission on Presidential Debates of shifting the focus of Thursday's debate away from foreign policy in an effort to "insulate" former Vice President Joe Biden "from his own history."

When the campaign agreed to the debate, Bill Stepien, Trump's campaign manager, said they were told it would be focused on foreign policy, yet only a few of the recently announced topics "even touch on" the subject. Stepien criticized the topics for being yet another action from the debate commission to showcase its penchant for helping Biden, who he said was "desperate to avoid conversations about his own foreign policy record."

Contrasting the peace agreements between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain that occurred under Trump, Stepien said Biden supported "endless wars" gave aid to America's adversaries and "advanced the interests of China."

"It is completely irresponsible for the Commission to alter the focus of this final debate just days before the event, solely to insulate Biden from his own history," Stepien wrote.

Trump and Biden met on the debate stage for the first time on September 29 in what was widely panned as being a chaotic shouting match that left voters no better informed than they were before the debate. The president's constant interruptions during Biden's allotted time had Fox News' Chris Wallace, the moderator, issuing reminders that both campaigns agreed to the rules ahead of time.

Ahead of the last debate between Biden and Trump, the commission may be mulling over changing the rules. Stepien cited a CNN report that the commission was meeting on Monday to discuss rule changes, including one that would grant "an unnamed person the ability to shut off a candidate's microphone." He called it "completely unacceptable" for a person to have that power and said the change would show editorial control was further being turned over to the commission, "which has already demonstrated its partiality to Biden."

The topics failing to focus on foreign policy is just the latest example of the commission making decisions to help Biden, Stepien said. Points of contention between the campaign and the commission, Stepien said, were moving the second debate to a virtual setting—a move that was made after Trump's positive coronavirus diagnosis—refusing to add another event and the commission's selection of moderators.

"The Commission's pro-Biden antics have turned the entire debate season into a fiasco and it is little wonder why the public has lost faith in its objectivity," Stepien wrote in a letter to the co-commissioners.

donald trump joe biden commission debate
This combination of pictures created on September 29 shows Democratic Presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump speaking during the first presidential debate at the Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, on September 29. On Monday, the Trump campaign alleged the debate commission was helping Biden and urged them to focus topics for Thursday's debate on foreign policy. JIM WATSON,SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty

Wallace "styled himself as a third combatant on stage" by directing his "venom" at Trump during the first debate, Stepien wrote, while C-SPAN's Steve Scully, who was scheduled to host the canceled second debate, "revealed his anti-Trump bias." Additionally, NBC News' Kristen Welker, who will host the third planned debate, but the second to occur, selected topics "wholly unrelated to the purpose of the event," he said.

The responsibility of choosing topics for the debate falls on the moderator. Last week, Welker announced the debate would focus on fighting COVID-19, American families, race in America, climate change, national security and leadership.

Stepien urged the commission to "rethink and reissue" a new set of topics for Thursday's debate, "with an emphasis on foreign policy."

Newsweek reached out to the Biden campaign and the Commission on Presidential Debates for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

This story has been updated with additional information and background.