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Trump plans to skip first 2024 Republican primary debate

New CBS News poll on GOP primary race
Trump now has biggest lead over GOP challengers, new CBS News poll shows 04:46

Former President Donald Trump now plans to skip the first 2024 Republican presidential primary debate, which will take place next week in Milwaukee, according to sources familiar with the planning.

The former president, who has been hinting that he would leave the debate stage to his opponents this time around, has instead sat for a pre-recorded interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson that could run during the debate, according to sources familiar with the planning. The timing for the airing of the Trump-Carlson interview has not been finalized yet, according to the sources. 

There are ongoing discussions between the Trump campaign and Tucker Carlson on when and where the pre-recorded interview with the GOP frontrunner would run, according to other sources familiar with the discussions. Carlson's social media account on X is one of the main options, but the social media platform has not confirmed. 

Asked to comment, Trump campaign spokesman Steve Cheung told CBS News "we cannot confirm or deny, stay tuned."  

Former U.S. President Donald Trump acknowledges supporters as the visits the Iowa State Fair on August 12, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel had personally prevailed on Trump, who has been leading in national and early-voting state polls, to participate in the debate. 

The Republican National Committee declined to comment. 

The news of Trump's absence was first reported by The New York Times and The Washington Post

In mid-July, Trump had suggested he was not inclined to debate, telling Fox News' "Sunday Morning Futures, "When you have a big lead, you don't do it."

"You're leading people by 50 and 60 points ... why would you be doing a debate," he said. "It's actually not fair. Why would you let somebody that's at 0 or 1 or 2 or 3 be popping you with questions?"

A CBS News poll released Sunday showed that Trump has his biggest lead yet over his Republican challengers. Trump led with 62% of respondents, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in distant second with 16% and everyone else in single digits. 

Carlson left Fox News days after the cable network reached a $787.5 million settlement with Dominion Voting Systems. The voting technology company filed a lawsuit against the cable news giant in March 2021, accusing it of knowingly airing false statements claiming Dominion helped to rig the 2020 presidential election against Trump. Dominion pointed to 20 broadcasts that it said were defamatory, including a Jan. 26, 2021, episode of Carlson's show featuring MyPillow founder Mike Lindell.

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