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Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Image

The Trump campaign is asking the Commission on Presidential Debates to move up the last presidential debate to the first week in September to get ahead of an expected surge in early voting.

Driving the news: President Trump's personal attorney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, made the request in a letter dated Wednesday and obtained by Axios.

  • Giuliani has been leading the campaign's discussions with the debate commission, which also includes asking the commission to add a fourth debate.
  • If the commission declines to add a fourth debate, the letter asks that the debate currently scheduled for Oct. 22 be moved up to the first week in September, before the first ballots are sent on Sept. 4 in North Carolina.

What they're saying: “By the time of the first presidential debate on September 29, 2020, at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, as many as eight million Americans in 16 states will have already started voting," Giuliani writes in the letter, calling the current timetable "an outdated dinosaur."

What to watch: The letter also includes a list of suggested moderators — including Bret Baier and Hugh Hewitt — and asks the commission to solidify backup plans for "a simple studio format with no audience" for presidential and vice presidential debates in case of further coronavirus complications.

  • Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign, told Axios that with the announcement that Biden will no longer travel to Milwaukee for the Democratic National Convention, "We are convinced he’ll try to weasel out of debates."
  • The Commission on Presidential Debates did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The other side: "We have said all along, including in a letter to the commission in June, that Joe Biden will appear on the dates that the commission selected and in the locations they chose," Biden campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement.

  • "Donald Trump has not, continually trying to insert his choice of friendly moderators, now including one who just published an op-ed offering 'the case' for Trump's reelection. Joe Biden will be there."

Full list of proposed moderators: Bret Baier, Gerry Baker, Maria Bartiromo, Shannon Bream, David Brody, Rachel Campos-Duffy, Kevin Cirilli, Larry Elder, Saagar Enjeti, Harris Faulkner, Major Garrett, Michael Goodwin, Ambrosio Hernandez, Joe Kernen, Hoda Kotb, Susan Li, Bill Hemmer, Hugh Hewitt, Tom Llamas, Dagen McDowell, David Muir, Norah O’Donnell, Charles Payne, Rick Santelli.

Read Giuliani's letter.

Go deeper

SurveyMonkey poll: Trump improves, but not enough

Trump and Biden during the final debate. Photo: Xinhua/Liu Jie via Getty Images

President Trump's final debate performance exceeded Americans' expectations, but it wasn't enough to shift the dynamics that left him trailing Joe Biden across most measures, according to a new Axios-SurveyMonkey poll.

What they're saying: "Liar" was the word used most by debate watchers to describe Trump's performance, followed by "lies," "strong," "presidential" and "childish." "Presidential" was the word used most to describe Biden's performance, followed by "liar," "weak," "expected" and "honest."

What Matters 2020

The missed opportunities for 2020 and beyond

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Jason Armond (Los Angeles Times), Noam Galai, Jabin Botsford (The Washington Post), Alex Wong/Getty Images

As the 2020 presidential campaign draws to a close, President Trump and Joe Biden have focused little on some of the most sweeping trends that will outlive the fights of the moment.

Why it matters: Both have engaged on some issues, like climate change and China, on their own terms, and Biden has addressed themes like economic inequality that work to his advantage. But others have gone largely unmentioned — a missed opportunity to address big shifts that are changing the country.

U.S. ambassador to Russia will return home briefly: State Department

John Sullivan, U.S. Ambassador to Russia, during a briefing in Moscow in 2015. Photo: Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS via Getty Images

The State Department said Monday that the U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, will now be returning to the United States this week before returning to Moscow "in the coming weeks."

Why this matters: The statement, from a State Department spokesperson, comes just hours after Axios reported that Sullivan had indicated he intended to stand his ground and stay in Russia after the Kremlin “advised” him to return home to talk with his team.