Pelosi says Biden shouldn’t debate Trump: ‘I wouldn’t legitimize a conversation with him’

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that she doesn’t think Joe Biden should debate President Donald Trump in the three scheduled this fall ahead of the election because she said Trump will “probably act in a way that is beneath the dignity of the presidency.”

Pelosi volunteered her opinion at a weekly news conference at the Capitol during which she also said that if Biden wins the White House and Democrats retain control of the House, they will have the ability to expose Trump’s tax returns that he has refused for years to release.

“Don’t tell anybody who told you this — especially don’t tell Joe Biden — I don’t think that there should be any debates,” she said. “I do not think that the president of the United States has comported himself in a way that anybody has any association with truth, evidence, data and facts. I wouldn’t legitimize a conversation with him, nor a debate in terms of the presidency of the United States.”

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Pelosi said she thinks the Biden campaign feels differently about their Democratic nominee’s participation in the debates, but she recalled Trump’s behavior toward Hillary Clinton during the debates ahead of the 2016 election.

“I thought what he did in the 2016 [election] was disgraceful, stalking Hillary Clinton like that,” she said about one of the debates in which Trump followed Clinton around the stage. “I was disappointed that the press didn’t say, ‘Go back to your station. You’re not here. You don’t own this stage.’”

The speaker added she believes Trump will also “belittle what the debates are supposed to be about,” and said they’re “not to be about skullduggery.”

“I don’t think that he should dignify that conversation with Donald Trump,” she said.

In an interview on MSNBC’s “Andrew Mitchell Reports,” Biden said he’s still moving forward with the debates despite Pelosi’s advice.

“I’m going to debate him,” Biden said. “Now I know for certain …I’m going to be a fact checker on the floor while I’m debating him.”

Biden said that the news media have been fact-checking what has been said during the Republican National Convention this week “and it’s just one lie after another, lie, lie, lie, lie, one after another, but the debates are going to take place.”

“I think everybody knows this man has a somewhat pathological tendency not to tell the truth,” Biden added about Trump.

During the news conference, Pelosi was asked to weigh in on an upcoming Democratic primary election for Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., who serves as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, and has played a key role in trying to obtain Trump’s tax returns.

“When we win this election, and we have a new president of the United States in January, and we have a new Secretary of the Treasury and Richie Neal asks for the President’s president’s returns, then the world will see what the president has been hiding all of this time,” Pelosi said.

Image: Rebecca ShabadRebecca Shabad

Rebecca Shabad is a congressional reporter for NBC News, based in Washington.

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