Evan Vucci/AP

Story highlights

Donald Trump pointed Monday to critics who said NBC host Matt Lauer was soft on him

The Republican nominee used a CNBC interview to call for no debate moderators

CNN —  

Donald Trump said he’d like to do away with debate moderators and simply engage in a one-on-one discussion with Hillary Clinton.

“The fact is that they’re gaming the system. I think that maybe we should just have no moderator. Let Hillary and I sit there and just debate,” Trump said in a phone interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Monday morning.

The Republican nominee pointed to critics who said NBC host Matt Lauer was too soft on Trump during a national security town hall last week and argued that the next moderator will try to be overly tough on Trump to avoid similar criticism.

“I can see it happening right now,” Trump said. “The new person is going to try to be really hard on Trump just to show, you know, the establishment what he can do. So I think it’s very unfair what they’re doing.”

Trump in fact argued that Lauer wasn’t easy on him, but that Trump simply answered questions better than Hillary Clinton. “I thought he was very professional, I have to be honest. I think he’s been treated very unfairly.”

His comments come a week after Trump told reporters on his plane that he respected the chosen moderators. “I like them. I respect the moderators. Yeah, I do respect them.”

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced earlier this month the moderators for the three presidential debates were NBC’s Lester Holt for the first one, CNN’s Anderson Cooper and ABC’s Martha Raddatz for the second, and Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace for the final faceoff.

The first debate is set to take place Monday, September 26 at Hofstra University.