The Washington Post reports – and ABC News has since confirmed – Donald Trump “will reject a joint letter to television network hosts regarding upcoming primary debates drafted Sunday at a private gathering of operatives from at least 11 presidential campaigns” and instead will negotiate directly as regards the “format and content” of the Republican Party’s primary debates.
The move by Trump, coming just hours after a group of Republican strategists huddled in the Washington suburbs to craft a list of possible demands, thwarts an effort by the campaigns and the letter’s drafter, longtime GOP attorney Ben Ginsberg, to find consensus and work collectively to negotiate terms.
For its part, the Trump campaign insists this is merely business as usual and in line with its approach to the previous debates.
The Donald Trump campaign says it is not doing anything differently by negotiating directly with the television networks that are hosting GOP debates.
Statement from Team Trump:
“As we have for the previous three debates, the Trump Campaign will continue to negotiate directly with the host network to establish debate criteria that will determine Mr. Trump’s participation. This is no different than the process that occurred prior to the Fox, CNN, and CNBC debates,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
ABC is also reporting via Twitter that candidate Dr. Ben Carson is throwing in with the joint effort, not Trump, nor is he going it alone.
Carson campaign tells @ABC it will send debate letter to TV networks without Trump: “We are a member of the Republican team.” -@KFaulders
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) November 2, 2015
While Trump is rejecting the joint effort, he had ample praise for RNC chair Reince Priebus this morning on Breitbart News Daily.
“Reince [Priebus] is a very good guy, but this takes a lot of pressure off him, frankly,” Trump said to interviewer and executive chairman Stephen K. Bannon. “And we know how to negotiate, and it’ll be a much fairer situation.”
More via The Post:
While two of Trump’s senior aides attended the Sunday meeting, they were far from ready to sign a letter, and they left the session unconvinced that a cooperative push on the debates would be helpful to protecting Trump’s front-runner status or providing him with the most possible air time on primetime stages, the Republicans added.
The New York Times adds:
And on Monday afternoon, Corey Lewandowski, the campaign manager for Donald J. Trump — who leads in many polls and whose sheer force of personality has helped the networks garner record ratings in the debates so far — said the Trump campaign planned to negotiate directly with the networks.
“I haven’t even looked at the letter,” Mr. Lewandowski said in a phone interview.
He added that while he’s not necessarily opposed to signing the letter, he believes that the Trump campaign — like all of the Republican campaigns — “can negotiate on behalf of our interests directly.”
“I think it’s incumbent on each of the campaigns to negotiate directly with the networks to ensure that what they want is being accomplished,” Mr. Lewandowski said.
For Mr. Trump, those goals include a debate that runs no more than two hours, including commercials, and opening and closing statements of at least 30-seconds.