Former President Donald Trump has already taped an interview with Tucker Carlson that is expected to be used as counterprogramming for the first GOP primary debate Wednesday, two sources familiar with the matter told CNN.
Trump confirmed Sunday he will not participate in the debate in Milwaukee. Stating that the public already “knows who I am,” Trump wrote on his social media platform: “I will therefore not be doing the debates!”
It is unclear what platform the interview with Carlson will be published on. The sources said that it would be released around the time of the debate Wednesday night.
Trump is expected to spend Wednesday evening at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
For weeks, the former president had privately and publicly floated skipping Wednesday’s debate, given his lead in the polls.
CNN previously reported that Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel and David Bossie, who heads the RNC debate committee, visited Trump at his Bedminster home in recent weeks to encourage him to participate, according to a Trump adviser. The former president was noncommittal on his plans during this meeting.
Fox News President Jay Wallace and the network’s chief executive, Suzanne Scott, had also encouraged Trump to participate in the debate. Trump has feuded with Fox News, as has former prime-time host Carlson, who was ousted from the network in April.
Trump’s absence leaves former Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on the debate stage.
To qualify for the debate, candidates must have at least 40,000 unique donors, with at least 200 unique donors per state, and must reach at least 1% in three national polls meeting the RNC’s requirements or at least 1% in two national polls and two polls from separate early voting states.
Candidates are also expected to sign a loyalty pledge expressing their commitment to unite and back the eventual Republican nominee, regardless of who that is.
The GOP field has used Trump’s expected absence to throw shots at the former president, with DeSantis on Monday saying Trump “owes it to people” to debate, arguing voters – even ones who appreciate the former president’s record – won’t “look kindly” at him sitting this one out.
In a recent interview, Haley said it would be “hard to earn” voters’ support “if you’re absent.”
And Christie told Newsmax earlier this month that “I think, quite frankly, if he didn’t show up, it would be much more trouble for him.” He added, “I doubt that I’ll miss an opportunity to bring his name up, especially if he decides to chicken out and not show up.”