Donald Trump will continue to negotiate directly with the television networks hosting the Republican presidential debates, his campaign confirmed Monday, despite efforts by the rest of the GOP primary field to team up to broker more favorable debate conditions.
Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told NBC News that they wouldn’t rule out working with the other candidates, but that they would continue to negotiate independently “in the best interest of their campaign.”
“This is no different than what we have already been doing. We did that with CNBC,” Lewandowski said, noting that the campaign previously reached out to Fox and CNN, and were now doing the same with Fox Business, which is hosting the next Republican debate on Nov. 10.
Trump’s decision to continue negotiating on his own comes as the remaining Republican candidates make a serious effort to wrest control of the debate process from the Republican National Committee. On Monday, high-ranking officials from nearly all the campaigns worked to hammer out final details of a letter they plan to send to the television networks scheduled to host the remaining GOP primary debates. Their demands touch on everything from how the moderators discuss bathroom breaks to the camera angles and graphics. Compliance with the campaigns’ terms will be “part of a process that each campaign will use to determine whether its candidate will participate in your debate,” an early draft of the letter states.
Asked on Monday about the letter, Lewandowski emphasized that Trump isn’t willing to “give up our ability to talk directly with networks” about debate criteria and formats, but that the campaign hadn’t seen the letter or made a decision about whether to sign it.
“I don’t care about the other campaigns,” Lewandowski told NBC’s Katy Tur later Monday. “I care about the Trump campaign.”
The campaign teams for three other Republican candidates, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, announced Monday night that they would not be signing the debate letter.
“As the Governor of Ohio, John Kasich is used to answering tough questions all the time,” Kasich spokesman Chris Schrimpf told NBC News. Christie spokeswoman Sam Smith was more blunt, quoting the governor’s comments Monday morning on Fox News: “Stop complaining. Do me a favor, set up a stage, put podiums up there and let’s just go. OK?”
Additional reporting by Ali Vitali and Katy Tur.