Discuss as:

Trump withdraws as moderator of Iowa debate

Donald Trump withdrew Tuesday as the moderator of a debate planned for later this month in Iowa, citing his interest in possibly still running for president as an independent.

Trump pulled out of a debate he had planned to host along with the conservative magazine Newsmax, scheduled for Dec. 27, just days before the Iowa caucuses. All the GOP presidential candidates save for Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum said they would not participate.

"The Republican Party candidates are very concerned that sometime after the final episode of The Apprentice, on May 20th, when the equal time provisions are no longer applicable to me, I will announce my candidacy for President of the United States as an Independent and that, unless I conclusively agree not to run as an Independent, they will not agree to attend or be a part of the Newsmax debate scheduled for December 27, 2011," Trump said in a statement. "It is very important to me that the right Republican candidate be chosen to defeat the failed and very destructive Obama Administration, but if that Republican, in my opinion, is not the right candidate, I am not willing to give up my right to run as an Independent candidate. Therefore, so that there is no conflict of interest within the Republican Party, I have decided not to be the moderator of the Newsmax debate. The American people are embarrassed by the gridlock currently taking place in Washington. I must leave all of my options open because, above all else, we must make America great again!"

It's not clear whether any debate with Newsmax will go forward at all. Trump thanked Gingrich and Santorum for their willingness to participate nonetheless.

"I would like to thank Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum for having the courage, conviction, and confidence to immediately accept being a part of the Newsmax debate. I believe this would not only have been the most watched debate, but also the most substantive and interesting debate!" he said.