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Debate's Question No. 1: Impeachment

Newser — Rob Quinn

A dozen Democrats are onstage at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, for the largest presidential primary debate in American history. Frontrunners Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders are at center stage at the CNN/New York Times debate.

Kamala Harris, Beto O'Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Andrew Yang, Cory Booker, Tulsi Gabbard, Tom Steyer, and Julian Castro are also present, and the AP notes that this is likely to be the last debate for several of them.

The first question went to Elizabeth Warren, who was asked by CNN's Anderson Cooper whether the electorate, not lawmakers conducting impeachment proceedings, should decide President Trump's fate.

She said impeachment "must go forward" to send a message to future presidents about America's values. More:

  • All 12 candidates were in favor of impeachment, the Guardian reports.

"As a former prosecutor, I know a confession when I see it," Harris said of Trump's comments on his Ukraine phone call. Asked whether impeachment would distract Democrats from other tasks, Klobuchar said: "We can do two things at once."

  • Booker, asked if he could be fair during an impeachment trial in the Senate, said "this has got to be about patriotism, not partisanship," reports the New York Times.
  • Biden, asked about his son Hunter's business activities overseas while he was vice president, said: "My son did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong. I carried out the policy of the United States government in rooting out corruption in Ukraine." He said Trump was falsely accusing him of corruption because he knows that in a general election, "I will beat him like a drum."
  • Asked whether her Medicare for All plan would raise taxes on the middle class, Warren said she wouldn't sign a bill that raised costs for the middle class, NBC reports.

After Buttigieg said it was "A yes-or-no question that didn’t get a yes-or-no answer," she fired back, saying his plan is "Medicare for all who can afford it." Sanders, who "wrote the damn bill," said it was "appropriate to acknowledge taxes will go up."

  • Christopher Groskopf at FiveThirtyEight notes that Warren is being targeted by many of her rivals.

"However, in doing so they are giving her way more time to respond than anyone else."

  • Harris raised the issue of women's reproductive rights, saying it hasn't come up a single time in the previous debates.

"People need to keep their hands off of women's bodies and let them make decisions about their own lives," she said.

  • During a discussion of automation and job losses, Yang again made the case for a universal basic income.

People "do not want to work for the federal government," he said after Sanders defended his federal jobs guarantee.

  • Sanders and Steyer—the only billionaire onstage—both agreed on the need for a wealth tax to combat income inequality, which Sanders called a "moral and economic outrage." "The corporations have bought our government," Steyer said.
  • Biden, asked about Trump's withdrawal of troops from northern Syria, said it was "the most shameful thing" any president in modern history has done on foreign policy.
  • Gabbard, a military veteran, called for an end to the "regime change war." Buttigieg, also a veteran, told her she was "dead wrong" to advocate abandoning US allies.

He said what kept him safe as a soldier was the fact that people knew the US keeps it word, the Times reports.

  • Castro got a big round of applause when he referred to reports of ISIS prisoners escaping during the Turkish offensive against the Kurds and said: "This president is caging kids at the border, and letting ISIS prisoners go free."
  • A lighter moment: When Biden pointed to his right, where Sanders was standing, while discussing Vladimir Putin, Sanders said: "Are you suggesting I'm Vladimir Putin?" They laughed and embraced.

Biden slammed Trump's dealing with Putin, calling Trump a "crazy, erratic president who knows not a damn thing about foreign policy," the Guardian reports.

  • O'Rourke and Buttigieg clashed over gun control after O'Rourke was pressed on how he would enforce his mandatory gun buyback program.

After O'Rourke called him a "poll-tested politician," Buttigieg told him: "I don't need lessons from you on courage, political or personal."

  • Warren pointed out that gun violence isn't just mass shooters, but violence in the home, while Castro brought up the shooting of Atatiana Jefferson in Fort Worth and said the gun issue also includes police violence.
  • On the opioids crisis, Klobuchar said she would force producers of medications to pay the costs of the epidemic.

Yang called the epidemic "a disease of capitalism run amok."

  • When moderator Erin Burnett announced that the next question would be on "candidates and their health," Sanders, who had a heart attack two weeks ago, said "I'm feeling great" and addressed the opioids question, saying the predatory behavior of companies shows the need for a "political revolution." The 78-year-old invited anybody concerned about whether he could handle the stress of the presidency to his upcoming rally in Queens, New York.

Biden, 76, promised to release his medical records "before Iowa," adding: "I'm the only guy that’s released anything up here!"

  • Warren, 70, said she "will outwork, out-organize, and outlast anyone, and that includes Donald Trump, Mike Pence, or whoever the Republicans get stuck with."
  • Yang argued against breaking up big tech companies, saying doing so would not "revive main street businesses around the country," ABC reports.

Warren disagreed, saying she wasn't willing to let monopolies rule the country and we need to "enforce our antitrust laws, break up these giant companies that are dominating big tech, big pharma, big oil, all of them."

  • On abortion, Klobuchar had a message for the president: "You, Donald Trump, are not on the side of women." She pledged to codify Roe vs.

Wade into federal law. Booker called for establishing an Office of Reproductive Freedom.

  • Warren said the establishment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was among her achievements, Biden pointed out that he helped secure the votes for it.

"I got you votes!" he shouted. The Guardian reports that there were "gasps in the press room" when Warren, asked to respond, said she was grateful to former President Obama for making the bureau a reality.

  • In the final question, Cooper asked candidates to describe a friendship that would "surprise us." Gabbard named former Republican Rep.

Trey Gowdy. "I don't see deplorables, I see fellow Americans," she said of people she disagrees with. Klobuchar named John McCain. "I miss him every day," she said.

O'Rourke said his unlikely friend was GOP Rep. Will Hurd, and Harris named Sen. Rand Paul.

  • Yang described a friendship with a Trump-supporting trucker called Fred.

Sanders named McCain and GOP Sen. Mike Lee. Biden also named McCain, while Warren cited Reagan-era Solicitor General Charles Freid, as well as her two GOP-supporting brothers.

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