With Joe Biden ‘happy to debate’, Donald Trump calls for verbal duel at courthouse

Joe Biden said on Friday he is ready to face off against his White House challenger Donald Trump in a presidential debate, with the Republican, ensnarled in multiple criminal cases, proposing to hold the verbal duel at a New York courthouse without delay.

Candidate debates have been important milestones in US presidential elections for decades, helping make or break voters’ opinions of the contestants’ personal style and demeanour as much as their policy chops.

But Biden’s team has for months been non-committal about his willingness to participate in the tradition, which is usually held in front of an audience and moderated by a well-known journalist.

“I am happy to debate him,” Biden told radio host Howard Stern on Friday. “I am, somewhere. I don’t know when,” he said.

Trump supporters stand outside the federal courthouse in New York on Friday. Photo: AFP

Trump responded swiftly, saying he was willing to debate “crooked Joe Biden … ANYWHERE, ANYTIME, ANYPLACE”.

Trump, who accuses Biden of using the justice system to undermine his White House bid, proposed holding the debate either at his campaign rallies in the midwestern state of Michigan next week – or as early as Friday evening.

In a post on his Truth Social platform, Trump complained that he was “stuck in one of the many Court cases that [Biden] instigated as ELECTION INTERFERENCE AGAINST A POLITICAL OPPONENT – A CONTINUING WITCH HUNT!”

He added: “In fact, let’s do the Debate at the Courthouse tonight – on National Television, I’ll wait around!”

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Biden, who has branded Trump as a threat to democracy, told reporters last month that any agreement to debate the real estate mogul “depends on his behaviour”.

The non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) has already arranged three dates and locations for Trump and Biden to go head-to-head at US universities throughout the country in September and October.

But Trump bashed the CPD as being biased toward Democrat Biden when, ahead of the last election in 2020, it planned to move a third and final debate to a virtual format amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Former US president Donald Trump gestures as he leaves the courtroom during a break in his trial Manhattan criminal court in New York on Friday. Photo: AP

Then-US president Trump had shown up to the second 2020 debate against Biden only three days before testing positive for Covid.

Biden at the time had said he would not participate in another in-person debate with Trump while the Republican was still ill.

A verbal sparring match could be a useful opportunity for both the 77-year-old former president and 81-year-old current president to display stamina, as Biden is still dogged by Trump’s old “Sleepy Joe” nickname – and Trump faced online teasing when he appeared to nod off during his criminal trial in New York last week.



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