Trump Participates in His Form of Debate Prep, Readying to Face Biden


Former President Donald J. Trump’s aides often downplay his preparations for events like debates.

But Mr. Trump used part of his Thursday afternoon in Washington to participate in what passes for debate prep in his world — a policy session with Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Eric Schmitt of Missouri, according to five people familiar with the meeting.

The session, which also included members of Mr. Trump’s staff, was held at the Republican National Committee headquarters near Capitol Hill, the area where Mr. Trump had held other meetings with lawmakers earlier in the day.

One of the people familiar with the meeting said Mr. Rubio, a top contender to be Mr. Trump’s vice-presidential nominee, flew back on Mr. Trump’s plane with him to Florida afterward.

Mr. Trump has not engaged in conventional debate preparations ahead of his June 27 debate with President Biden, and his aides have said they have no plans for anyone to play Mr. Biden in role-playing exercises. Instead, they’re using different people in meetings for policy refreshers.

Campaign officials didn’t address specific questions about what Mr. Trump and the senators discussed on Thursday. Mr. Trump’s adviser Jason Miller said in a statement that “President Trump takes on numerous tough interviews every single week and delivers lengthy rally speeches while standing, demonstrating elite stamina.”

The Thursday session was led by Mr. Miller, who is heading up the efforts, according to one of the people familiar with the meeting. Other aides included Mr. Trump’s top advisers, Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita, as well as his communications director Steven Cheung, and his policy advisers Ross Worthington and Vince Haley.

The Trump team is acutely aware that Mr. Trump is vulnerable with swing voters over his efforts to stay in power after he lost the 2020 election and after the violence of the pro-Trump mob that attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Mr. Biden has made those events and concerns that Mr. Trump would undermine democratic institutions a centerpiece of his campaign message.

The Trump team used its time Thursday talking about how to push back on those attacks and to respond to questions about Jan. 6, including if Mr. Trump were asked about pardoning the rioters who entered the building, one of the people briefed on the meeting said.

One idea discussed was suggesting that Mr. Biden presents his own threat, which Mr. Trump has said publicly since last year. But specifics of that discussion included focusing on the crisis at the border, the prosecutions against Mr. Trump — who was criminally convicted in Manhattan last month — and government censorship of free speech.

Mr. Schmitt, back when he was serving as the attorney general in Missouri, sued the Biden administration and accused it of stifling free speech by trying to suppress information on social media.



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