Just as a Trump-Bernie debate looked like it was coming together, The Donald pulls the rug out and says he doesn't want to face off against a 'second place' finisher in a 'rigged' system

  • In a abrupt reversal, Trump now says it would be 'inappropriate' for him to debate Sanders since he'll come in 'second place' in a 'rigged' system 
  • Sanders' camp announced Friday afternoon that two networks had expressed interest in the event and even agreed to Trump's idea of giving some funds to charity
  • The Drudge Report was hyping the the potential standoff as the 'debate of the century' as TV networks prepared to cover an epic showdown potentially before a live audience
  • Sanders said he'd debate The Donald after Trump floated the idea in an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel's show
  • Democratic lawmakers blasted the 'peculiar' idea
  • The Trump campaign at one point said the idea of a debate was a joke, but the candidate kept promoting it and said it would get huge ratings
  • Trump said he'd debate 'crazy' Bernie if the forum raised '$10 million or $15 million for charity,' suggesting women's health
  • The debate, if it ever happened, would leave Hillary Clinton entirely on the sidelines – she's refusing to debate Bernie 

Donald Trump hit the buzzer on the 'debate of the century' Friday after teasing about going one-on-one with Bernie Sanders for days, saying he didn't want to take on a 'second place finisher.'

The extraordinary turnaround after the idea of a Trump-Bernie face off captivated cable television and appeared to become a live possibility – with networks and TV personalities trying to get in on the act and some even offering charity contributions to try to pull it off.

Sanders released a statement Friday afternoon saying two TV networks had expressed interest – but Trump pulled the plug within minutes. 

'Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and [Democratic Party chair] Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher,' Trump said in a statement.

'Rigged system': Trump pulled the plug on the idea of a debate, saying it would be 'inappropriate' to go against the 'second place' finisher – Sanders – who is still battling Clinton for the Democratic nomination

'Rigged system': Trump pulled the plug on the idea of a debate, saying it would be 'inappropriate' to go against the 'second place' finisher – Sanders – who is still battling Clinton for the Democratic nomination

This ship has sailed: Despite two days of hype, claimed interest by TV networks, and charity offers of at least $1 million, the highly anticipated Trump-Sanders debate looks to be off

This ship has sailed: Despite two days of hype, claimed interest by TV networks, and charity offers of at least $1 million, the highly anticipated Trump-Sanders debate looks to be off

'Likewise, the networks want to make a killing on these events and are not proving to be too generous to charitable causes, in this case, women’s health issues. Therefore, as much as I want to debate Bernie Sanders - and it would be an easy payday - I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.'

Just a day earlier Trump had been defending Sanders and criticizing Hillary Clinton for not following through and debating Sanders before the June 7 California primary. 

Trump hinted at the coming reversal Friday afternoon at a rally in Fresno.

'I want to debate him so badly. I'd love to debate Bernie. But you know, people say – first of all, I said give $10 million give $15 million to women's health issues. We'll pick the charities,' he said, mentioning his push to use the debate to raise funds.

'And the networks want to keep the money themselves, that's one thing, so that's a problem. Then the second thing is, we got the nomination yesterday, so we have the nomination. So we're number one,' he concluded.

A Trump spokesperson did not respond to questions about how much money any television network had proposed to donate according to his demands.

Lets do this: Sanders' camp was 'prepared to accept' one of two offers from network TV. Sanders wanted to have the debate in a big stadium in California

Lets do this: Sanders' camp was 'prepared to accept' one of two offers from network TV. Sanders wanted to have the debate in a big stadium in California

Maybe not: Trump said 'as much as I want to debate Bernie Sanders' he'd rather debate the 'first place finisher'

Maybe not: Trump said 'as much as I want to debate Bernie Sanders' he'd rather debate the 'first place finisher'

Before Trump pulled the plug, the Sanders camp put out an optimistic release. 'Our campaign and the Trump campaign have received two offers by broadcast television networks to host the Sanders-Trump debate that we suggested. Both offers include a major contribution to charity,' said Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said in a statement.

“We are prepared to accept one of those offers and look forward to working with the Trump campaign to develop a time, place and format that is mutually agreeable. Given that the California primary is on June 7, it is imperative that this all comes together as soon as possible. We look forward to a substantive debate that will contrast the very different visions that Sen. Sanders and Mr. Trump have for the future of our country,” Weaver said.

After Trump killed the idea, Sanders released a statement on Trump's 'on-again, off-again position on a debate.'

'In recent days, Donald Trump has said he wants to debate, he doesn’t want to debate, he wants to debate and, now, he doesn’t want to debate,' said Sanders.

“Given that there are several television networks prepared to carry this debate and donate funds to charity, I hope that he changes his mind once again and comes on board,' the Sanders statement concluded.

The idea of a debate between Trump and Sanders wasn't going over well with Democrats who see it as just the latest effort by the Vermont senator to undercut the party and weaken Hillary Clinton.

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia called the idea 'Bulls***' when asked about it by Politico.

“That confirms what we’ve been saying. Why would you expect Bernie should be considerate or be nice or be working to bring everyone together? Why? He’s not a Democrat,' Manchin, a Clinton supporter, vented.

Another lawmaker, Representative Gary Peters of Michigan, complained to the publication, “I don’t know why he would do that. I think it’s time to start to winding down the primary. It’s time to move on.”

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, who has been mentioned as a possible Clinton running mate, called the idea 'peculiar.'

Sanders' decision to talk up a debate with Trump irritating some Democrats in Congress

Sanders' decision to talk up a debate with Trump irritating some Democrats in Congress

“It’s all about Bernie trying to get the advantage in California. It’s not going to work,” he said.

The complaining comes as Sanders shows no sign of slowing down. He hit Clinton Thursday again, when asked about her statement that she would be the nominee. 'Just a tinge of arrogance there, I think,” Sanders said.

Trump continued to promote the idea while campaigning in North Dakota Thursday.

"I'd love to debate Bernie," Trump said. "I think it would get very high ratings. It would be in a big arena."

"I'd love to debate Bernie, but they'll have to pay a lot of money for it," he said. 

There is another: Trump did allow that he would debate the first place finisher 'probably crooked HIllary or whoever it may be' 

There is another: Trump did allow that he would debate the first place finisher 'probably crooked HIllary or whoever it may be' 

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin called the idea of a Trump-Sanders debate 'bulls***'

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin called the idea of a Trump-Sanders debate 'bulls***'

Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said there had been "a few discussions" between the campaigns about how the debate would work. "We hope that he will not chicken out," Weaver told CNN. "We hope Donald Trump has the courage to get on stage now that he said he would."

After Trump first floated the idea, Sanders immediately jumped on the offer.

"Game on," he tweeted. "I look forward to debating Donald Trump in California before the June 7 primary."

He had been trying in vain to force Clinton into debating him in a play for exposure, as a new poll showed the the two running neck-in-neck.

Sanders called the debate with Trump a "very interesting debate."

'You made it possible for us to have a very interesting debate about two guys who look at the world very, very differently' he said in his own appearance on Kimmel Thursday. 

"This doesn't sound like a serious discussion. I'm looking forward to debating Donald Trump in the general election. I really can't wait to get on the stage with him," Clinton told CNN. 

Sanders called it 'insulting' that Clinton would cancel. 

 

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