Trump to appear live on longtime adversary CNN
Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, is to make a rare live appearance on Wednesday on CNN, a day after being found liable of sexually abusing and defaming an American magazine columnist.
Trump spent years battling CNN while in the White House and the event will be his first since the 2016 presidential campaign on a cable television network he regularly denounced as "fake news."
The format will be a "town hall," with Trump responding to questions from an audience that CNN said will be made up of New Hampshire Republicans and undeclared voters who plan to vote in the state's 2024 Republican presidential primary, the first in the nation.
It is scheduled to begin at 8:00 pm (0000 GMT) and will be moderated by CNN anchor Kaitlan Collins, a former White House correspondent for the Atlanta-based network.
CNN, which recently underwent a leadership change, has come in for some criticism for giving the twice-impeached former president a prime-time slot.
"Allowing Trump an open forum on a major television news network is the moral equivalent of putting an AR-15 in the hands of someone mentally unstable," said Michael Fanone, a former Washington police officer who was injured during the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by Trump supporters.
In a commentary in Rolling Stone magazine, Fanone, an on-air contributor to CNN, said it "normalizes" the behavior of a man who tried to "end the democracy he's attempting to once again run."
CNN has defended the move by saying it plans to provide the same town hall format to other presidential candidates.
Trump's bid to return to the White House is complicated by several legal challenges but he remains the clear leader in the race to be the Republican standard-bearer in the 2024 election.
On Tuesday, Trump was ordered by a New York jury to pay $5 million in damages to E. Jean Carroll, a former columnist for Elle magazine who accused him of raping her in a Manhattan department store changing room in 1996.
Trump dismissed the accusations as a "hoax" but the jury determined that Carroll had been sexually abused by the real estate tycoon and his denials amounted to defamation.
- 'Could turn into a disaster' -
Last month, Trump pleaded not guilty to criminal charges related to a hush-money payment made to a porn star just before the 2016 vote -- allegedly to cover up an affair.
Trump is also being investigated over his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in the southern state of Georgia, his alleged mishandling of classified documents taken from the White House and his involvement in the January 6 storming of the Capitol.
The 76-year-old Trump has been actively promoting his CNN appearance while taking digs at the network at the same time.
"They are rightfully desperate to get those fantastic (TRUMP!) ratings once again," he said on his Truth Social platform.
"Could be the beginning of a New & Vibrant CNN, with no more Fake News, or it could turn into a disaster for all, including me," he added.
Trump's live appearance on CNN comes amid a rift between him and the Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox network that has long championed him.
Fox News recently reached a $787.5 million settlement with Dominion, a voting technology company that alleged the network knowingly aired false claims about its machines.
Dominion sued Fox News for $1.6 billion in March 2021, alleging it promoted Trump's baseless claim that its machines were used to rig the 2020 presidential election he lost to Democrat Joe Biden.
In another twist, Trump's appearance comes as a defamation lawsuit filed by the former president against CNN winds its way through the courts.
Trump sued CNN in October, accusing the network of waging a campaign of "libel and slander" against him and seeking $475 million in punitive damages.