BY: JOHN VERHOVEK, ABC NEWS
(WASHINGTON) — Joe Biden is committed to debating President Donald Trump later this month, so long as all safety protocols are followed and Trump is “COVID-free,” said Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana congressman and national co-chair of the Democratic nominee’s presidential campaign, on ABC’s “This Week.”
“I know that Joe Biden wants to debate Donald Trump again. And Americans saw the disaster that Donald Trump had in the first debate. But I will tell you that we will do what we did from the beginning of this campaign and the pandemic. We will listen to the American experts and scientists — so here it’s the Cleveland Clinic — and they have set up the protocols,” Richmond told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl on Sunday.
“So if Donald Trump is COVID-free, and the protocols are set up to protect the health, not only of Joe Biden, but the health of the families that attend, the health of the cameraman, the health of everyone, the janitors in the building … we would love to see it and we want to see it in a town-hall format,” he continued.
Following a raucous first debate in Cleveland and Trump’s positive test result for COVID-19 later that week, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced earlier this week that the second debate was going to be virtual. Shortly thereafter, Trump pulled out of that debate, saying he did not want to participate in a virtual event.
Biden is now participating in an ABC town hall on Thursday instead. Trump is also expected to participate in a town hall on a different network, sources familiar confirm to ABC News. According to the debate commission, both candidates have agreed to participate in a debate on Oct. 22 in Nashville, Tennessee, though Richmond said Sunday that the Biden campaign would like for that debate to be a town hall-format.
Richmond, as Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris have done in recent weeks, also dodged questions on whether more seats should be added to the U.S. Supreme Court if Republicans are able to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett, whose confirmation hearings start Monday, to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“That’s a better question for me. I’m in Congress. It would take legislation from the United States Congress and the United States Senate to do it,” Richmond said, continuing to deflect on a firm answer, characterizing the discussion as “a distraction.”
“I just want to spend my time now, one, making sure Donald Trump loses, but two, making sure that we don’t confirm this judge. Women’s reproductive rights are at stake. Civil rights are at stake, and I think that that’s what we should focus on. Not a hypothetical, ‘do we expand the Supreme Court,” Richmond told Karl. “I think it’s a legitimate question for you to ask. But it is a distraction with 22 days before the election.”
When pressed on Biden’s tax plan and an analysis from the Tax Policy Center that concluded some families making less than $400,000 would see a slight increase in their taxes, Richmond pledged that any legislation Democrats would introduce under a Biden administration would only affect higher earners.
“Our goal, is to not raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000. So when you see our legislation that will come up, day one or day two in the administration, it will not raise taxes on people making less than $400,000 a year,” Richmond said.
The congressman also encouraged voters to take advantage of the ability to vote early in-person, which he cast as a safer way to cast a ballot during the pandemic, and a method that will help decrease instances of long lines on Election Day.
Trump, meanwhile, has frequently sowed doubts about the integrity of voting by mail, falsely claiming that it leads to widespread fraud. However, as recently as this week one local error highlighted the logistical difficulties presented by running a large-scale mail-in voting system. Ohio’s Franklin County on Friday announced that 49,669 voters were sent the wrong ballot through the mail — of the 237,498 who received absentee ballots through the mail. That’s roughly 1-in-5 voters the county was tasked with sending ballots to, in the state’s largest county.
After a Trump tweet referencing the mistake, the Franklin County Board of Elections tweeted back: “Mr. President, it certainly was a serious mistake, but a serious mistake that we’re working hard to make right. Our board is bipartisan and our elections are fair. And every vote will be counted.”
“I’m encouraging people to take advantage of the voting process. Early vote in person is a great way to do it, it reduces lines on Election Day,” Richmond said Sunday. “We want to make sure that every vote counts. And that’s what makes America the great democracy that it is.”
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