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Trump ends Stahl interview, hits campaign trail; Biden preps for debate

By Tim Darnell, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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President Donald Trump abruptly ended an interview with a venerable TV news magazine before hitting the campaign trail again Tuesday, less than two weeks from an election many pundits believe will end his Oval Office tenure.

Meanwhile, Democrat Joe Biden, who is leading most national polls and in fundraising, has been preparing in private for Thursday’s second — and final — debate with Trump.

Trump stopped in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and was bound for North Carolina on Wednesday as he delivers what his campaign sees as his closing message.

“This is an election between a Trump super recovery and a Biden depression,” the president said in Erie, Pennsylvania. “You will have a depression the likes of which you have never seen.” He added: “If you want depression, doom and despair, vote for Sleepy Joe. And boredom.”

Before leaving the White House for Pennsylvania on Tuesday, Trump taped part of an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” that apparently ended acrimoniously. On Twitter, the president declared his interview with Lesley Stahl to be “FAKE and BIASED,” and he threatened to release a White House edit of it before its Sunday airtime.

On Wednesday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows criticized Stahl for coming across as an “opinion journalist” rather than an objective reporter.

Also trailing in fundraising for campaign ads, Trump is increasingly relying on his signature campaign rallies to maximize turnout among his GOP base. His trip to Pennsylvania on Tuesday was one of what is expected to be several visits to the state in the next two weeks.

Biden, who taped his own interview with “60 Minutes” on Monday at a theater near his home, had no public events Tuesday or Wednesday and wasn’t scheduled to travel — except to the debate — on Thursday. His running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, was out campaigning, and Biden was expected to receive a late boost from President Barack Obama, who was to host an event Wednesday in Philadelphia.

ExploreHow to watch the last debate between President Trump and Joe Biden

Biden is tested about every two days for the coronavirus and has never been positive. He suggested before last week’s planned second debate in Miami that the proceedings shouldn’t happen if Trump was still testing positive for COVID-19 after contracting the virus.

As Trump was on the road, Biden was meeting at his lakeside home in Wilmington, Delaware, with senior adviser Ron Klain, who is in charge of debate preparation. Also on hand: a group of aides that the campaign has purposely kept small to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

The candidates instead held dueling town halls on separate networks after the commission said the debate should occur virtually, citing safety concerns, and Trump rejected the idea.

According to the Commission on Presidential Debates, the six topics chosen for discussion Thursday night are fighting COVID-19; American families; race in America; climate change; national security; and leadership. Others may be added, the nonpartisan commission said.

Trump is drawing huge crowds reminiscent of 2016′s final days, and Biden is sticking to his cautious approach with small events focused more on adhering to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s social distancing recommendations.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.