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.
For weeks, the former president had privately and publicly floated skipping Wednesday’s debate, given his lead in the polls. He is expected to spend Wednesday evening at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
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.
Fox News informed the Trump campaign on Monday that they will no longer provide credentials to some surrogates of the former president to attend the spin room at the debate given Trump is not planning on participating, three sources with direct knowledge of the matter told CNN.
Fox News is in charge of credentials for the spin room. However, the RNC manages credentials for the actual debate, and sources said those tickets are still expected be honored.
Several of Trump’s advisers and top surrogates had been planning to attend both the debate and represent the former president in the spin room despite his absence, CNN previously reported. Some of Trump’s surrogates are credentialed through outside media groups and will not be impacted. Former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, Reps. Byron Donalds and Matt Gaetz of Florida and other Republicans are slated to attend the debate.
Members of Trump’s campaign, including senior advisers Jason Miller, Steven Cheung and Chris LaCivita, were also planning on being in the spin room.
Members of Trump’s teams and his surrogates, however, are still planning on traveling to Milwaukee and are working on a resolution with the network as well as the RNC, two Trump advisers told CNN. The former president’s aides also believe they will be able to find new credentials, one of the advisers said, and are confident they will be in the spin room on Wednesday.
Fox News did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
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 if Trump “didn’t show up, it would be much more trouble for him, adding: “I doubt that I’ll miss an opportunity to bring his name up, especially if he decides to chicken out and not show up.”
Ramaswamy, a frequent defender of Trump, struck a different tone than his opponents Monday night. “I have no issue with him skipping the first couple of debates,” the entrepreneur told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on “The Source,” noting that he thought the former president should debate at some point this year.
“The truth is, many people in this country didn’t know who I was six months ago, so, this is a good opportunity for me to introduce myself to the country,” he said.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that some Trump surrogates can still attend the debate itself but not appear in the spin room, which would require credentials from Fox.