RFK Jr. campaign warns CNN debate moderators could see jailtime like Micheal Cohen, will be violating the law

Anchors Jake Tapper, Dana Bash, and other CNN staff were put “on clear notice” by the presidential campaign of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. after he didn’t meet the requirements to make it to the network’s June 27 debate.

As the “debate qualification window” closed at midnight, the Independent presidential candidate only met CNN’s polling requirements in three out of four approved national polls, leaving President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump as the only contenders on the debate stage in Atlanta next week with moderators Tapper and Bash.

Kennedy also failed CNN’s ballot criteria of making enough state ballots to win 270 electoral votes, instead being “officially on the ballot in only six states — California, Delaware, Hawaii, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Utah — totaling 89 Electoral College votes,” according to the New York Times. The Kennedy campaign floated the threat of “serious jail time” for network staff over the rules.

(Video Credit: KVUE)

CNN’s “decision is a clear violation of federal law,” according to a complaint Kennedy filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) over the network’s debate rules.  He accused CNN of having “colluded” with Biden and Trump to keep him off the debate stage, as they “collectively” engaged in “flagrant” violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act.

Addressed to Lisa J. Stevenson, the FEC’s acting general counsel, the complaint claimed the debate was scheduled “with criteria that were designed to result in the selection of certain pre-chosen participants, namely Biden and Trump, in a clear breach of federal campaign finance law.”

“CNN is making prohibited corporate contributions to both campaigns and the Biden committee and the Trump committee have accepted these prohibited corporate contributions,” Lorenzo Holloway, Kennedy’s attorney, said in the complaint.

The candidate called his exclusion from the debate “undemocratic, un-American, and cowardly” in a press release by the Kennedy campaign.

The campaign further noted that the phrase “presumptive nominee” is “not in the FEC’s debate regulation,” and cited the Commission on Presidential Debates which stated: “Until the conventions take place, we don’t know who the official nominees will be.”

“This means CNN, and every member of CNN who is participating in planning, executing, and holding this debate, is at risk of prosecution, as happened to Michael Cohen, for violating campaign finance laws,” the campaign warned. “This risk is now acute given that any further violation would be knowing and willful, and thus could carry with it serious jail time.”

“CNN and its staff are on clear notice, especially given the damning evidence that the Biden campaign has openly demanded Kennedy be excluded from the debates and Trump received assurances from CNN that Kennedy would be excluded,” the press release continued.

“If the debate goes forward without Mr. Kennedy, the Kennedy campaign intends to pursue this issue for as long as it takes to obtain justice against these illegal acts, if for no other reason than to ensure this type of undemocratic and un-American conduct does not occur again in the future,” it concluded.

Trump, for his part, released a video message saying he would “love to have” RFK Jr. on the debate stage but that he likely would not make the cut.

“I hope to see him up there someday but it looks to me like he’s not going to qualify on many fronts,” Trump said.

(Video Credit: Forbes Breaking News)

CNN defended its decision in a statement following Kennedy’s assertions.

“The law in virtually every state provides that the nominee of a state-recognized political party will be allowed ballot access without petitioning, ” a CNN spokesperson said.

“As the presumptive nominees of their parties both Biden and Trump will satisfy this requirement,” the spokesperson added. “As an Independent candidate, under applicable laws, RFK, Jr. does not.”

“The mere application for ballot access does not guarantee that he will appear on the ballot in any state. In addition, RFK, Jr. does not currently meet our polling criteria, which, like the other objective criteria, were set before issuing invitations to the debate,” read the statement.

Frieda Powers

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