Former President Donald Trump said this week that he has made a decision on whether or not to participate in the upcoming first Republican primary debate, but won't publicly announce that decision until at least next week, the Washington Examiner reported.
Trump's attendance at the Fox News-sponsored debate has been in question primarily because of an eligibility requirement imposed by the Republican National Committee that all participants sign a loyalty pledge vowing to support whoever the eventual GOP nominee is in the 2024 general election.
Former President Trump sat down for an extended interview this week with Newsmax host Eric Bolling at his Bedminster golf resort in New Jersey, and among the topics discussed were whether he would attend the August 23 GOP debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and whether he would sign the GOP loyalty pledge.
"I'll be announcing -- yeah, I've already decided and I'll be announcing something next week," Trump said with regard to the debate as he proceeded to list some of the pros and cons of participating, including questioning the "upside" of his participation in terms of his current dominance in the polls while most other candidates are mired in single-digit support, in that he had very little to gain while others could enjoy substantial boosts in support.
Trump further indicated that he would likely face "nasty questions" from some of those single-digit candidates like former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, but also surmised the other candidates like South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy would be "very nice" toward him.
"But why would you do that when you're leading by so much," Trump said of debating his competitors. "But I'm going to look at it very seriously. I'd like to do it. I've actually gotten very good marks on debating talents, but they want a smart president. They want somebody who is going to be smart, so we have to do the smart thing."
Bolling pointed out that some of Trump's competitors and critics would accuse him of cowardice if he didn't participate in the debate, but the former president replied, "I did CNN town hall. That was about as hostile as you can do. I hear I did very well because, you know, I did so well that they fired the head of CNN over that."
"But, no, it's not a question of guts -- it's a question of intelligence, and I'm gonna make a decision," Trump added. "I haven't, you know, totally ruled it out. I would love to do it in many ways because I sort of enjoy that. But we'll let people know next week."
Former President Trump also addressed the RNC's loyalty pledge during the interview with Bolling, which according to The Hill is actually called the "Beat Biden" pledge and is just one of the several requirements that the RNC has put into place for candidates to participate.
The pledge states: "I affirm that if I do not win the 2024 Republican nomination for President of the United States, I will honor the will of the primary voters and support the nominee in order to save our country and beat Joe Biden."
In addition to signing that pledge, GOP candidates also must meet certain polling and fundraising thresholds, agree to not participate in any unsanctioned debates, and vow not to run as an independent or third-party candidate in order to be eligible to participate in the debate.
"I wouldn’t sign the pledge. Why would I sign a pledge if there are people on there that I wouldn’t have? I wouldn’t have certain people as somebody that I would endorse," Trump told Bolling.
He went on to say that he could name "three or four people that I wouldn't support for president," though he declined to specifically name them when pressed as he felt that "there's no reason to insult them."
Trump further indicated that he wasn't too concerned about those other candidates, however, as "they're not gonna go anywhere" in terms of actually winning the Republican nomination.