Haberman predicts Trump will be ‘very mean’ to Biden in debate

New York Times senior political correspondent Maggie Haberman said she expects former President Trump to be “very mean” to President Biden during the first presidential debate Thursday but interrupt him less than he did four years ago.

In an interview Monday night on CNN’s “AC360,” host Anderson Cooper played a clip from a recent Trump rally, where the former president surveyed the crowd on how he should approach the debate.

“How should I handle him?” Trump asked the crowd, according to the clip. “Should I be tough and nasty and just say, ‘You’re the worst president in history’? Or should I be nice and calm and let him speak?”

Haberman — who wrote a bestselling biography of Trump and has covered him for decades — responded to Trump’s question, after the clip played, telling Cooper, “I think he will be both.”

“I think he will likely interrupt less because I think that’s the main lesson he took from … their first debate in 2020,” she said. “And I think he will be very mean toward Biden. I would be very surprised if he’s anything other than that.”

Thursday’s forum, hosted by CNN moderators Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, is taking place at the earliest point in the election cycle in the history of televised presidential debates. The first debate between Biden and Trump during the 2020 campaign — an infamously raucous and messy clash — was held on Sept. 29.

Haberman cautioned against making predictions ahead of the debate, however, saying Trump “does what he wants to do” and it’s not clear if the former president will listen to his advisers’ guidance about his message.

“He sometimes can stick to the script, then he goes off of it,” she told Cooper, adding “Which is why predictions of how he is going to actually be in this debate are probably not worth very much.”

“We know that he has been preparing for this debate in the way he does — with policy sessions as opposed to classic behind-the-podium matches — but whether he is going to absorb what he’s learning there and whether he is going to come in, interrupting President Biden less than he did in 2020 in their first debate,” Haberman continued. “It is an open question because he does what he wants to do.”

The debate, which will mark the first face-to-face interaction between the incumbent and former president since 2020, will take place in Atlanta on June 27 at 9 p.m. EDT.

Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.