Republican National Committee threatens to pull nominees from official presidential debates

The stage is left empty after Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus left the stage during protests on the floor on the first day of the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 18: The stage is left empty after Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus left the stage during protests on the floor on the first day of the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicks off on July 18. Photo credit Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Republican National Committee said in a letter on Thursday that it is preparing to change its rules to prohibit presidential candidates from participating in debates held by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel sent the letter, obtained by The New York Times, to commission co-chairs Frank J. Fahrenkopf and Kenneth Wollack.

“So long as the CPD appears intent on stonewalling the meaningful reforms necessary to restore its credibility with the Republican Party as a fair and nonpartisan actor, the RNC will take every step to ensure that future Republican presidential nominees are given that opportunity elsewhere,” McDaniel wrote.

“Accordingly, the RNC will initiate the process of amending the Rules of the Republican Party at our upcoming Winter Meeting to prohibit future Republican nominees from participating in CPD-sponsored debates."

The RNC winter meeting is scheduled for February in Salt Lake City.

Former President Donald Trump often targeted the commission during the 2020 election after he withdrew from a debate they hosted in Oct. 2020 when they made it virtual because he tested positive for COVID-19.

The RNC is seeking term limits for the commission's board members and to ban partisan political activity by officials and staffers of the commission.

The RNC wants the commission to agree to hold a debate before the start of early voting, and agree to not host a debate after the state's deadline to mail absentee ballots to military and overseas voters.

Another request by the RNC is for the commission's moderator selection process transparent, disqualifying individuals with conflict of interests.

"These proposals are common sense solutions for an organization whose unique, nonpartisan role in American elections requires it to stand above the political fray," the RNC said.

The commission said in response to the RNC that it deals with the candidates directly who qualify for the debates.

“The CPD deals directly with candidates for President and Vice President who qualify for participation,” the commission said in a statement. “The CPD's plans for 2024 will be based on fairness, neutrality and a firm commitment to help the American public learn about the candidates and the issues.”