Whether any of that helps President Donald Trump deliver a winning debate performance on Tuesday remains to be seen. Heading into this year's inaugural general election showdown, Trump has written off formal preparations as unnecessary given the daily demands of the job and instead hopes his brawling instincts and an unguarded embrace of personal attacks will carry him through.
Efforts to focus the preparation-averse Trump on the upcoming debate have occurred in sporadic bursts, including one 30-minute session last weekend. This past Sunday they resumed with a short question-and-answer period utilizing the flashcards campaign advisers prepared to try and hone what have so far been unwieldy attempts to define Democratic rival Joe Biden. Trump did less than two hours of prep total, a person familiar told CNN.
New revelations about Trump's taxes also forced aides to begin devising ways for the President to address the matter when it inevitably arises on Tuesday. So far, Trump's response has been a contradictory mixture of claiming the report, published in The New York Times, is false while also insisting the information used to prepare it was obtained illegally.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and the President's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani -- who was at the White House on Sunday to help manage the tax story -- were also brought into the debate sessions, though people familiar with them said the question-and-answer rounds often got sidetracked while Trump delved into other matters. On Monday, Christie was seen arriving to the White House again alongside Kellyanne Conway, the longtime Trump adviser who announced her departure from the White House in August citing a need to focus on her family.
Trailing in polls as Americans already begin voting early, Trump is hopeful Tuesday's debate at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland can provide an eleventh-hour lifeline to his struggling reelection effort. Though his campaign aides acknowledge there are few minds left to change in this year's contest, they are hopeful a strong performance can motivate Trump's supporters to vote and a lashing of Biden can depress enthusiasm among Democrats.
Trump faces a well-documented recent history of incumbent presidents underperforming during the first debate of their reelection cycle, even as they went on to win the election. Confronting rivals with fresher debating experience from hard-fought primary campaigns, presidents have sometimes strained to balance a presidential demeanor while also landing attacks.
Trump, who has cared little about appearing presidential during his first term in office, likely won't suffer similarly. He has expressed a desire to get under Biden's skin by waging brutal personal attacks against members of his family, including his son Hunter and brandishing questions about Biden's past -- from old plagiarism incidents to more recent allegations of sexual misconduct -- that he hopes will rattle the former vice president. He has already baselessly accused Biden of taking performance-enhancing dr