Democratic Debate: Candidates Agree Trump Should Be Impeached

Democratic Primary Debate_1 - Getty - H 2019
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Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders noted Trump is "the most corrupt president in modern history" but added, "We cannot simply be consumed by Donald Trump" or the Democratic Party will lose the election.

The Democratic presidential debate opened Wednesday night with the candidates agreeing that President Donald Trump should be impeached.

"The president broke the law again and again and again," Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said in the event’s opening minutes. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Trump "puts his own private interests" ahead of the country’s and "this is wrong."

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders called Trump "the most corrupt president in modern history" but added, "We cannot simply be consumed by Donald Trump" or the Democratic Party will lose the election. He said Democrats instead should focus on the needs of working people.

Such broad agreement was unlikely to last, though. Pete Buttigieg’s rise in the primary makes him a prime target as the four candidates now bunched at the top seek to distinguish themselves with less than three months until voting begins.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker disagrees with the wealth tax proposed by Warren. Booker says Warren’s proposal "is cumbersome," has failed in other countries and would stunt economic growth in blighted urban areas.

Warren has proposed raising taxes by 2 cents on income over $50 million to finance a host of programs including universal preschool and higher teacher pay.

Warren, who has come under attack recently for the proposal, called her policy “transformative.”

Booker is fighting to break out in the debate, hosted by MSNBC and The Washington Post, in part because he has not yet qualified, by fundraising and polling criteria, for the December debate.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is continuing to push for modifications to Obama-era health care reforms over the holistic "Medicare for all" proposals from two of his Democratic presidential rivals.

During Wednesday night’s Democratic debate, Biden argued that voters are hesitant to make the transformative, government-backed changes pushed by candidates including Sanders and Warren.

Biden says he doesn’t want to force anyone to give up private health insurance.

Warren says that she wants to "bring as many people in and get as much help to the American people as fast as we can."

When questioning came to Sanders, he responded: "Thank you, I wrote the damn bill."

Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard has criticized 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party, prompting a sharp back-and-forth with Sen. Kamala Harris.

The congresswoman from Hawaii and California senator are among 10 Democratic candidates debating Wednesday night in Atlanta.

Gabbard doubled down on earlier comments that Clinton represents the “personification of the rot in the Democratic Party.” She says the party is influenced by a “foreign policy establishment” that supports regime-change wars. She calls it the “Bush, Clinton, Trump foreign policy doctrine.”

Harris responded by saying it’s unfortunate to have a candidate on stage who criticizes President Barack Obama on Fox News, “buddied up” to Trump adviser Steve Bannon to get a meeting with Trump and wouldn’t call out a war criminal.

Gabbard accuses Harris of "smears and innuendo."

Sen. Cory Booker took a moment during Wednesday night’s debate to remind voters that he too is a Rhodes scholar — a distinction more regularly pointed out in reference to 2020 Democratic rival Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

The line drew applause from the debate audience in Atlanta. Booker also pointed out that both candidates are mayors. Some observers suggest the discrepancy is because Booker is African American and Buttigieg is favored by the news media.

Booker was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University and earned an honors degree in U.S. history in 1994. He was later mayor of Newark, New Jersey.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is defending his lack of national experience by punctuating his executive experience, albeit in a city of roughly 100,000 people.

He says during Wednesday night’s debate that his isn’t traditional establishment, Washington experience but that “I would argue we need something very different right now.”

But Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is repeating her argument that, were Buttigieg a woman, he would not be on the debate stage as a top-tier candidate for president.

Klobuchar has been arguing that her trove of passed legislation is proof of pragmatism, and victory in conservative parts of Minnesota proof she can beat President Donald Trump.

She says, "What I said is true," adding, "Otherwise, we could play a game called name your favorite woman president."

Harris says she has crafted her plans for paid family leave around what she characterizes as a campaign-wide position on policies to help elevate women.

The California senator said during Wednesday night’s Democratic debate in Atlanta that much of the "burden" of raising children and caring for aging parents falls to women, whom she noted are "not paid equally for equal work in America."

Harris’ plan would provide leave for up to six months, a timeframe she said was selected in part due to women having children later in life than in previous generations.

Klobuchar’s own plan would cover up to three months. She said she kept plan costs in mind when selecting that timeline, noting an obligation to being "fiscally responsible" while still helping people.

Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker say they’d address racial and income disparities in housing, while Tom Steyer says he’d make it harder for local governments to halt building.

These are some of the proposals from the Democratic White House hopefuls on how to tackle the nation’s housing crisis. Their remarks come during a debate in Atlanta, a city facing its own housing challenges.

Steyer notes the problem is particularly bad in his home state of California. He says he would put federal money toward building affordable units.

Warren similarly says she’d invest taxpayer money to build more than 3 million new homes.

Booker, a former New Jersey mayor, says he’d give renters a tax credit if they pay more than a third of their income in rent.

Biden says if he becomes president he would not direct his administration's Justice Department to investigate Donald Trump.

At Wednesday night’s Democratic debate, Biden said he would "not dictate who should be prosecuted or who should be exonerated."

Biden says, "That's not the role of the President of the United States.”

Biden says that's a judgment to be made by the attorney general.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg says he would continue the payments to farmers started in the Trump administration as a result of the U.S. trade war with China.

Buttigieg says they won’t be needed “because we will fix the trade war.”

He claims the Trump administration measure “isn’t even making farmers whole,” and that “I don’t think this president cares one bit about farmers.”

Buttigieg points to rural America as a place where farms can be part of the solution to climate change by pursuing the “carbon negative farm,” likening the concept to the electric car.

He says that enlisting farmers is a way to get out the message on climate change that recruits everybody to be part of the solution, including politically conservative parts of the nation.

Biden has answered a challenge from Tom Steyer on the threat of climate change, also calling it “the No. 1 issue” facing the country.

Steyer has framed his candidacy around the issue. He said during Wednesday night’s debate that neither the former vice president nor Warren would characterize climate change as the most critical issue.

Biden replied that he does see climate change as such, calling climate change “the existential threat to humanity,” eliciting a somewhat stunned look from the billionaire businessman.

Referencing Steyer, the former vice president went on to say, “I don’t need a lecture from my friend,” noting his own work on Senate climate change legislation.

Bernie Sanders repeated his suggestion that executives in the fossil fuel industry could be prosecuted for their actions.

Sen. Kamala Harris says President Donald Trump got “punked” by North Korea.

Harris said during the Democratic debate that Trump has conducted foreign policy based on his “fragile ego” and traded a photo opportunity with Kim Jong Un for “nothing.”

The administration has been trying to conduct diplomacy with North Korea over its nuclear capabilities.

Harris says she wouldn’t make concessions to North Korea and slammed Trump for suspending military training operations with South Korea.

Harris also referred to the commander in chief as a “her,” one of her popular lines from the campaign trail about a woman winning the presidency.

Biden says during Wednesday night’s Democratic debate that he would make the Saudi Arabian government “pay the price” for any responsibility in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.

Biden says he believes The Washington Post columnist was killed at the behest of Saudi Arabian Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and that, as president, he would end subsidies and sales of military material to the kingdom.

Biden says, “They have to be held accountable.”

More broadly, Biden says the U.S. needs to “vocally” call out these and other “violations of human rights” around the globe, which he argued that President Donald Trump has not addressed adequately.

Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination are weighing in on foreign policy while criticizing President Donald Trump — and getting in a few one-liners.

California Sen. Kamala Harris says “Donald Trump got punked” by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Harris says Trump has compromised America’s ability to provide a check on North Korea’s nuclear program.

Biden and Klobuchar said they would work to rebuild relationships with allies.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders says “it’s time to bring our troops home” from Afghanistan, and he would work with the international community to do so.

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang was asked what he’d say in his first call to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Yang, referencing Trump, responded: “First, I’d say I’m sorry I beat your guy.”

Biden on Wednesday night advocated for cultural change in the wake of the #MeToo era, although perhaps with an interesting choice of words.

On stage in Atlanta, the former vice president advocated for the reauthorization of a bill that he supported in its original form, the Violence Against Women Act.

Biden went on to discuss domestic violence, saying he felt that no man has the right to raise a hand to a woman in anger “other than in self-defense,” which he called rare.

Biden said, "We have to just change the culture. Period.” He then added: “And keep punching at it. And punching at it. And punching at it."

Discussing the priorities of black voters, Cory Booker challenged Biden’s recent comments that he would not push to legalize marijuana and that it’s a “gateway drug.”

Smiling and looking over at the former vice president, Booker mused, “I thought you might have been high when you said it!”

The New Jersey senator pointed out that marijuana is “already legal for privileged people.”

Biden replied that he believes marijuana should be decriminalized and that people convicted of marijuana-related crimes should be released from prison and have their records expunged. But, he added, he does support studying the drug’s long-term effects.

Kamala Harris is calling herself the Democratic presidential candidate best poised to revive the coalition of voters that sent Barack Obama to the White House.

In Wednesday night’s candidate debate, Harris highlighted her ability to connect with black women in particular, saying the Democratic Party has often relied on them to win without truly focusing on their issues.

She declined an opportunity by moderators to criticize Pete Buttigieg, who has struggled to win support from minority voters. But her response was a clear suggestion that she has long built relationships with black voters.

Harris is half-black and half-Indian. She’s offered policy proposals on black maternal health and achieving equal pay for black women.

Buttigieg says he understands what it’s like to have his rights threatened as a gay man. He says he welcomes the opportunity to connect with black voters who don’t yet know him.

Joe Biden has incorrectly said during the Democratic presidential debate that he has the support of the “only African American woman ever elected to the Senate.”

That drew a response from California Sen. Kamala Harris, an African American woman on stage alongside Biden and other hopefuls Wednesday in Atlanta.

Harris interjected by saying that “the other one is here.” Sen. Cory Booker, who is also black, said to Biden “that’s not true.”

Biden quickly stated, “I said the first.”

Harris’ campaign tweeted moments later: “Proud to be the second Black woman elected to the U.S. Senate.”

Biden was arguing that he has support from black voters, who are critical to a Democratic victory. He says that “they know me.”

In Wednesday night’s Democratic debate, Pete Buttigieg became the focus of several of his Democratic opponents for what they characterized as a lack of experience.

After the South Bend, Indiana, mayor called for federal leadership on voting rights, Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar pointed out she supported such legislation in the Senate — and had won a statewide race.

Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard turned to foreign policy, saying Buttigieg had called for U.S. troops to be sent to Mexico. Buttigieg accused her of misrepresenting his past remarks that he supported a “security partnership” with Mexico but “would only order American troops into conflict if there were no other choice.”

Buttigieg noted Gabbard’s meeting with Syria’s president and said he wouldn’t have met with “a murderous dictator.”

The debate comes amid uncertainty about the Democratic field, with some party donors worried no one is positioned to deny Trump a second term. Former President Barack Obama even recently warned the party against moving too far to the left.

Speaking to that anxiety, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick entered the race last week. Billionaire Michael Bloomberg, the ex-New York City mayor, is openly flirting with a bid — though neither was onstage Wednesday.

The Georgia backdrop for the debate, featuring the cycle’s first all-female moderator team, may be fitting for such doubts since Democrat Stacey Abrams was narrowly defeated in the gubernatorial race last year — raising her party’s hopes of winning a state in 2020 the GOP has consistently carried in recent presidential cycles.

There are seven more Democrats without promising polling who will just be hoping for the chance to shine before a prime-time debate audience, including Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Booker and Klobuchar.