May 30, 2024

Former President Donald Trump may skip the first Republican debates this summer, two people aware of his thinking told NBC News.

The Trump campaign indicated to the Republican National Committee that he had no intention of participating in a potential August debate, but despite that communication, the sources said that the party’s debate committee went forward with its plans and announced a debate in Milwaukee. 

A source familiar with the RNC’s planning disputed that characterization, saying the Trump campaign’s objection came after the first debate was already announced.

The New York Times first reported on Trump’s lack of interest in the early debates.

The second debate is presently scheduled to be held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, but one source said that Trump has bristled at the idea of going there because, in part, the library has never invited him to speak — unlike a cast of other Republicans, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who spoke there Monday night.

In a post on his Truth Social media platform last week, Trump also publicly suggested he was weighing plans to skip the debates. He questioned the Reagan Library as a host because its chairman is Fred Ryan, the publisher and CEO of The Washington Post. 

“When you’re leading by seemingly insurmountable numbers, and you have hostile Networks with angry, TRUMP & MAGA hating anchors asking the ‘questions,’ why subject yourself to being libeled and abused,” Trump wrote. 

The RNC is also still weighing whether to require that its candidates sign a loyalty pledge to support the eventual nominee. 

While at the Conservative Political Action Conference in March, Trump avoided answering questions from reporters about whether he’d sign a loyalty pledge to qualify for the debate stage, suggesting there are Republicans he may not be willing to support.

“There are probably people that I wouldn’t be very happy about endorsing who are running, so we’ll see,” Trump said at the time. 

The RNC’s debate committee is helmed by David Bossie, a former key adviser to Trump. 

Trump continues to dominate in polling for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, outpacing the other candidates — and his potential rivals — by double digits.