Robert F. Kennedy Jr. accuses CNN of breaking the law in last-ditch effort to make debate stage

Lincoln, Nebraska - Independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is ramping up efforts to make the first presidential debate stage ahead of a rapidly approaching deadline.

Independent White House hopeful Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has accused CNN of violating federal law in excluding him from the June 27 presidential debate in Atlanta, Georgia.
Independent White House hopeful Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has accused CNN of violating federal law in excluding him from the June 27 presidential debate in Atlanta, Georgia.  © BASTIEN INZAURRALDE / AFP

The Kennedy campaign on Tuesday issued a press release accusing CNN of violating federal law if the Independent is barred from the first presidential debate stage.

Last month, Kennedy filed a complaint before the Federal Election Commission (FEC) arguing that he faces higher standards to qualify for the debate than his Democratic and Republican rivals, and that his exclusion constitutes a campaign contribution to each of the major party frontrunners.

The Kennedy campaign said they requested the FEC, if it were to dismiss their complaint, to do so by June 14. The commission has not taken that step.

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"The FEC has now made clear the phrase 'presumptive nominee' is 'not in the FEC's debate regulation,' and therefore it cannot exempt CNN from the prohibition on excessive campaign contributions," the Kennedy campaign press release stated.

"This means that 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."

Kennedy cannot bring a lawsuit until the complaint is dismissed or 120 days have passed since its filing.

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Republican Donald Trump (l.) and Democrat Joe Biden are set to debate for the first time in the 2024 election on June 27 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Republican Donald Trump (l.) and Democrat Joe Biden are set to debate for the first time in the 2024 election on June 27 in Atlanta, Georgia.  © BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI, SERGIO FLORES / AFP

The debate, scheduled for June 27 in Atlanta, will see Democratic incumbent Joe Biden face off against his Republican predecessor Donald Trump.

Kennedy and Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein, who is also in the midst of a nationwide ballot access drive, are not currently set to feature, nor are any other third-party contenders.

To qualify for the debate, candidates must reach CNN's polling threshold of 15% in at least four approved national polls by June 20. Kennedy has three.

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By the June 20 deadline, candidates must also have gained ballot access in states with a combined total of at least 270 electoral college votes – the minimum required to win the presidency.

The Kennedy campaign said earlier this month the White House hopeful had hit the 270-vote mark in their ballot access push. But while he has submitted the required number of voter signatures in states with 270 votes, not all of those states have officially certified that he will be on the ballot.

With the debate rapidly approaching, time is running short to get a third candidate on the stage.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. shares Nebraska ballot access news

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has announced that his campaign has submitted the signatures required to gain ballot access in Nebraska.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has announced that his campaign has submitted the signatures required to gain ballot access in Nebraska.  © BASTIEN INZAURRALDE / AFP

The Kennedy campaign is proceeding full steam ahead with its ballot access efforts ahead of the debate.

On Tuesday, the campaign announced it had submitted 5,023 signatures in Nebraska – more than double the required number.

"Today is a historic day as we submit paperwork to get Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on the ballot in the Cornhusker State," the campaign's Midwest Regional Director Lane Koch said in a statement.

"It’s been a privilege to work with our dedicated volunteers to ensure voters have an independent option at the ballot box this November."

Kennedy and his running mate, Nicole Shanahan, are officially on the ballot in California, Delaware, Hawaii, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah, according to the campaign's latest release.

On top of Nebraska, the campaign has collected the required number of voter signatures in Alaska, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, and Washington.

Cover photo: BASTIEN INZAURRALDE / AFP

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