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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden

Photo by Andrea Widburg

Surrogates for Donald Trump's campaign have claimed repeatedly in recent days that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is planning to pull out of debates due to media pressure and Democratic fears that the former vice president is in cognitive decline.

But there is no truth to that argument.

Back in June, Biden agreed to debate Trump three times — the traditional number of debates that have taken place for decades.

However that has not stopped nearly a half dozen Trump aides and campaign surrogates from making the argument, including Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.; Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel; Trump campaign aide Jason Miller; Trump campaign spokesperson Erin Perrine; and Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R).

Both Trump Jr. and McDaniel accused Biden's supporters of not wanting Biden to debate out of fear of his cognitive decline — a baseless accusation about Biden's mental health. That argument has not helped Trump against Biden, as Biden still carries a large lead over Trump both in national polls and in critical swing states Trump needs to win to secure his reelection.

In an appearance Tuesday on Fox Business, McDaniel claimed Biden "doesn't want to debate," adding that Biden's supporters are "afraid to put him on a debate stage."

Trump Jr. falsely said in a Tuesday interview on an Iowa talk radio station that "there's an active push to get Joe Biden not to debate my father because, honestly, no one can look at Joe Biden and say this guy's all there."

Trump himself has accused Biden of supposedly refusing to debate him, claiming back in April, "We have a sleepy guy in a basement of a house that the press is giving a free pass to who doesn't want to do debates because of COVID."

Biden has mostly stayed away from in-person campaign events since the start of the pandemic, adhering to health experts' social distancing guidance to limit spread of the coronavirus and holding livestream events from his home instead.

The accusation that Biden won't debate Trump appears to have stemmed from social media posts by a handful of pundits.

"My opinion that no one asked for: Biden shouldn't feel obligated to throw Trump a lifeline by granting him any debates at all," Zac Petkanas, a Democratic strategist, tweeted on July 27. "This is not a normal presidential election and Trump is not a legitimate candidate."

However, neither Biden nor his aides have ever said the Democrat wouldn't take to the debate stage.

"Donald Trump and his allies at Fox News have decided an imaginary controversy about debates will be their latest attempt to distract Americans from the president's disastrous response to the coronavirus, which has cost 150,000 Americans their lives and left millions jobless," Biden spokesperson TJ Ducklo said in a statement to CNN Tuesday.

And it's not Biden who has left the door open to skipping debates, but Trump, whose aides accused the Commission on Presidential Debates back in January of being "biased."

"The problem is that the so-called Commission on Presidential Debates is stacked with Trump Haters & Never Trumpers. 3 years ago they were forced to publicly apologize for modulating my microphone in the first debate against Crooked Hillary," Trump tweeted last December. (The CPD never modulated Trump's microphone, as Trump suggested.)

Trump also has a history of skipping debates.

In the 2016 GOP presidential primary, Trump skipped multiple debates, including one in January 2016, over his disdain for the planned moderator, now-former Fox News host Megyn Kelly.

In March of 2016, he also skipped a primary debate simply because he was tired of doing them.

"I think we've had enough debates," Trump said at the time.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Actor as Donald Trump in Russia Today video ad

Screenshot from RT's 'Trump is here to make RT Great Again'

Russia Today, the network known in this country as RT, has produced a new "deep fake" video that portrays Donald Trump in post-presidential mode as an anchor for the Kremlin outlet. Using snippets of Trump's own voice and an actor in an outlandish blond wig, the ad suggests broadly that the US president is indeed a wholly owned puppet of Vladimir Putin– as he has so often given us reason to suspect.

"They're very nice. I make a lot of money with them," says the actor in Trump's own voice. "They pay me millions and hundreds of millions."

But when American journalists described the video as "disturbing," RT retorted that their aim wasn't to mock Trump, but his critics and every American who objects to the Russian manipulations that helped bring him to power.

As an ad for RT the video is amusing, but the network's description of it is just another lie. Putin's propagandists are again trolling Trump and America, as they've done many times over the past few years –- and this should be taken as a warning of what they're doing as Election Day approaches.

The Lincoln Project aptly observed that the Russians "said the quiet part out loud" this time, (Which is a bad habit they share with Trump.)