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Trump Confirms He Will Skip Republican Primary Debate

Donald Trump has confirmed that he will not attend the first Republican primary debate on Wednesday, in a post on Truth Social, amid reports that he is weighing several options in an attempt to upstage the opening event in the party’s nominating contest.

The former president confirmed on his social media platform that he would be attending no primary debates. “New CBS poll, just out, has me leading the field by ‘legendary’ numbers… I WILL THEREFORE NOT BE DOING THE DEBATES.”

The Trump team has two overarching priorities for the debate, according to several sources briefed on the situation: to starve the other Republican presidential candidates of attention, and to publicly humiliate Fox News, which is hosting the event with the RNC, because he has been displeased with some of its recent coverage.

For weeks, Trump has asked his aides privately and rally crowds publicly whether he should attend the debate or engage in counter-programming efforts in a boastful display of his political strength even after being criminally charged four times.

The response has overwhelmingly been for him to skip the debate. Trump has told allies he intends to shun the event and that his sit-down interview with the former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, which he taped in recent days, could be released around the same time.

Trump had also considered swaggering into the debate at the last minute – without prior warning – betting that would almost certainly cause the news coverage to be about his surprise visit and not the other candidates’ answers. But he has since soured on that option, people briefed on the matter said.

The Trump team had explored whether Trump could do the ultimate counter-programming by scheduling his surrender to authorities, after the Fulton county district attorney charged him with conspiring to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia, to take place at the same time.

But even though the political team had pushed for him to be booked at the Fulton county jail on Wednesday, his legal team has been opposed. Trump’s lawyers thought Thursday was a more realistic option and intend to finalize logistics with the district attorney’s office on Monday, the people said.

At the meeting with the Fulton county district attorney, Fani Willis, Trump’s lawyers are expected to negotiate the scope of his surrender, including whether the former president will have his mugshot and weight released.

The Trump campaign have asked the lawyers for there to be no photograph, in part because aides have produced a flattering “mugshot” which they have used on promotional material, even though Trump once thought getting arrested and photographed would make him look defiant.

The political team has since recalibrated for a potential surrender on Thursday morning followed by a news conference.

A spokesperson for Trump could not immediately be reached for comment.

Trump’s decision to spurn the debate on Fox News in favor of an online interview with Carlson marks a new level of hostility with the network.

Fox News executives and hosts have reportedly been begging Trump to take part in the debate. Last month, the Fox News president, Jay Wallace, and CEO, Suzanne Scott, went to Bedminster to convince Trump to attend, and came away thinking he could still participate.

But Trump has been openly attacking Fox News since the launch of his presidential campaign, in part because of its positive coverage of his 2024 rival and Florida governor Ron DeSantis, and has privately lashed out at the Fox Corporation chairman, Rupert Murdoch.

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