The 90-minute debate is divided into six 15-minute segments, with each candidate granted two minutes to deliver uninterrupted remarks before proceeding to an open debate.
The non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) on Monday announced that “in order to enforce this agreed upon rule, the only candidate whose microphone will be open during these two-minute periods is the candidate who has the floor under the rules”. Both mics will be unmuted for open discussion.
The commission added in a statement: “We realize, after discussions with both campaigns, that neither campaign may be totally satisfied with the measures announced today. One may think they go too far, and one may think they do not go far enough. We are comfortable that these actions strike the right balance and that they are in the interest of the American people, for whom these debates are held.”
The rule change comes after a chaotic first debate on 30 September during which the presidential candidates constantly spoke over each other, with Trump relentlessly interrupting and attacking his Democratic rival.
Trump interjected so frequently that Biden at one point lost his patience and snapped: “Will you shut up, man? This is so unpresidential.”
The debate rule change is likely to anger the Trump campaign. Republicans and Trump have been critical of the CPD for canceling the second debate due to safety concerns after Trump was diagnosed with Covid-19.
And earlier on Monday, the Trump campaign contested the topics of some of the questions the debate moderator, NBC News correspondent Kristen Welker, had chosen for the debate. At a recent rally, Trump griped that Welker is “extremely unfair”. He has also tweeted, “She’s always been terrible & unfair, just like most of the Fake News reporters, but I’ll still play the game.”
The president’s campaign manager Bill Stepien issued a statement Monday night, writing: “President Trump is committed to debating Joe Biden regardless of last-minute rule changes from the biased commission in their latest attempt to provide advantage to their favored candidate.”
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