A women’s rights group is calling for the removal of NBC News Chairman Andy Lack from a New York state tourism board following recent revelations from Ronan Farrow’s new book, “Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators.”
The Sexual Harassment Working Group (SHWG), which was founded by former state legislative staffers who “experienced, witnessed or reported sexual harassment by former New York legislators and their staff,” told the New York Post on Tuesday that Lack should be removed as vice chairman from the Olympic Regional Development Authority’s board of directors. The group’s purpose has been to promote tourism in the Lake Placid area.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., reportedly appointed Lack to the board years ago.
“#MeToo has exposed the systematic way that well-connected men protect each other and minimize workplace abuse.. [Cuomo] should remove Lack immediately,” the SHWG told the Post.
The Post also reported that sources close to Lack have said he planned to leave the board when Cuomo appoints a new vice chairman, possibly early next year. NBC News did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
In his book, Farrow detailed Lack’s alleged history of “unrelenting” pursuits of women who worked for him throughout his career. Farrow also alleged that Lack was one of the top NBC executives who killed the explosive Harvey Weinstein story at the network, and that he knew about the misconduct claims against disgraced anchor Matt Lauer before his ousting in 2017.
Lack responded in a scathing memo to employees last week, “It disappoints me to say that even with passage of time, Farrow’s account has become neither more accurate, nor more respectful of the dedicated colleagues he worked with here at NBC News.”
The stakes in Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate were particularly high for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who faced pressure to demonstrate his vitality to serve as president.
Sanders’ health may not have been the debate’s central focus, but with an energetic performance he achieved the goal his campaign had set for him. Notwithstanding an occasional rasp in his voice, Sanders sounded as alert, impassioned and articulate as he ever has.
The 12-candidate showdown at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, was his first campaign event since his hospitalization for a heart attack nearly two weeks ago.
With public polling showing Democrats doubting his physical viability, campaign aides vowed that the 78-year-old would assuage such concerns with a robust showing in the three-hour faceoff.
He set the tone early, inserting himself into an exchange about the business dealings of former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, to expound on a different topic.
Shannon Stapleton / Reuters Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) delivered a lively performance in Tuesday’s Democratic presidential debate. Aides hope it reassures voters anxious about his health.
Discussing the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, Sanders reiterated one of his campaign’s enduring themes: That impeaching Trump ― or otherwise confronting his crimes ― is no substitute for delivering real economic relief for ordinary Americans.
Sanders supports the president’s ouster from office, but he said, “What would be a disaster if the American people believe that all we were doing is taking on Trump, and we’re forgetting that 87 million Americans are uninsured or underinsured, we’re forgetting about the existential threat of climate change, we are forgetting about the fact that half of our people are living paycheck to paycheck.
“What we have got to do is end this corruption, set a precedent for future history that says presidents like this cannot behave this way. But we cannot and must not turn our backs on the pain of the working class of this country.”
Time and again during the debate’s first hour, Sanders deployed the mix of passion, moral clarity, anger and dry wit that he is capable of when he is at his best.
As part of a prolonged exchange over the middle-class tax hikes that his “Medicare for All” plan entails, Sanders managed to at once shame centrist critics and draw a subtle contrast with Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Warren, unlike Sanders, will not explicitly say that her support for the plan is tantamount to backing a tax increase for non-affluent earners.
“I do think it is appropriate to acknowledge that taxes will go up,” he said.
Without naming them though, he saved his real ire for the likes of South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who teamed up against Warren over her reluctance to explicitly defend tax increases that would help fund Medicare for All.
“The issue is whether the Democratic Party has the guts to stand up to the health care industry, which made $100 billion in profit, whether we have the guts to stand up to the corrupt, price-fixing pharmaceutical industry, which is charging us the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs,” he said, prompting applause from the audience. “And if we don’t have the guts to do that, if all we can do is take their money, we should be ashamed of ourselves.”
Sanders’ health and fitness to serve in the White House did not come up until the end of the second hour of the debate. CNN’s moderators asked him, Biden and Warren ― all of whom are septuagenarians and, if elected, would be the oldest to ever become a U.S. president ― to speak directly to skepticism about their viability.
“I’m healthy, I’m feeling great,” Sanders began.
Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey interjected with a joke.
“And Sen. Sanders is in favor of medical marijuana,” he said. “I want to make sure that’s clear, as well.”
“I do. I’m not on it tonight,” Sanders quipped back, prompting laughter.
Pressed again to address the health issue, Sanders invited everyone watching to attend his campaign’s first rally since his heart attack ― a “Bernie’s Back” gathering on the East River waterfront in Queens on Saturday. Sanders extended a warm thank you to all those across the country who had reached out to express their concern while he was ill.
“We are going to be mounting a vigorous campaign all over this country ― that is how I think I can reassure the American people,” he said.
To add to Sanders’ solid performance, the campaign confirmed toward the end of the debate that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York would be endorsing Sanders at his comeback rally in Queens on Saturday.
Sanders’ aides were ebullient about his performance. Jeff Weaver, his 2016 campaign manager and the owner of a comic book store, said campaign staffers had started calling the senator “Wolverine,” a reference to the fast-healing member of the X-Men, because of his “amazing regenerative powers.”
“If I can get a pint of his blood, I’m going to store it for the next time I’m ill,” Weaver said.
Sanders’ supporters were apparently pleased with his showing as well.
Over the course of the day Tuesday, Sanders raised over $620,000 from more than 40,000 contributions, according to the campaign. The campaign raised more money during the debate on Tuesday night than during any previous debate. From 9 to 10 p.m. Eastern, 35% of the donations coming into the Democratic small-donor site ActBlue were for Sanders, the campaign said.
“Hands down, Bernie won the debate,” said Sanders campaign spokesman Mike Casca. “His ideas dominated the night and his commanding performance left no doubt he’s ready to go toe-to-toe with Trump and defeat him.”
Kevin Robillard contributed reporting from Westerville, Ohio.
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Harris previously sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in which she listed a series of problems she had with the president’s Twitter activity. When asked about the idea, Warren laughed it off and flatly rejected it at the beginning of October.
Harris apparently saw that and referenced her answer during Tuesday’s Democratic debate. “I would urge you to join me,” she said before claiming that Trump used Twitter to “obstruct justice.”
“This is a matter of corporate responsibility. Twitter should be held accountable and shut down that site,” she said. “It is a matter of safety.”
Warren seemed to agree Trump should leave Twitter but didn’t explicitly endorse his suspension. “So look, I don’t just want to push Donald Trump off Twitter, I want to push him out of the White House. That’s our job,” she said.
When Harris pressed Warren on joining her call to suspend Trump, Warren shook her head and said “no.” Harris, apparently surprised, smiled and said “wow.”
Harris ignited a Twitter controversy in October after she alerted Dorsey to one of Trump’s tweets. At that point, she had already sent her letter in which she told the company: “I believe the president’s recent tweets rise to the level that Twitter should consider suspending his account. When this kind of abuse is being spewed from the most powerful office in the United States, the stakes are too high to do nothing.”
“Twitter is here to serve and help advance the global, public conversation. Elected world leaders play a critical role in that conversation because of their outsized impact on our society,” the post read.
“Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial tweets would hide important information people should be able to see and debate. It would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions.”
A final question: Tell us about a friendship you have that would surprise us?
Castro: People “older than me, who had a lot to teach me,” and “people who thought differently from me.”
Gabbard: Former Representative Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican who led an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
Klobuchar: Senator John McCain. She tells stories about traveling with Mr. McCain and visiting him when he was dying. She says she will appeal to independents and moderate Republican voters.
Steyer: A woman in South Carolina who is fighting “for clean water and environmental justice.”
O’Rourke: Former Representative Will Hurd, a Texas Republican with whom he took a cross-country trip. “Not only had we formed a friendship, but we had formed trust.”
Booker: Former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican, and Senator Jim Inhofe, with whom he joins in Bible study.
Yang: “We have to evolve in the way we think about ourselves and our work and values. It’s not left or right. It’s forward and that is where we must take the country in 2020.”
Harris: “I do believe that to beat Trump but also to heal our country, we need a leader who has the ability to unify the country. And see that the vast majority have so much more in common than what separates us.”
Buttigieg: Talks generally about “building a sense of belonging in this country” and working together as Americans.
Sanders: “There is no job that I would undertake with more passion than bringing our people together around an agenda that works for every man, woman and child in this country. Rather than the corporate elite and the one percent. A progressive agenda that stands for all, is the way we transform this country.”
Warren: “Look, people across this country, whether they are Democrats, independents or Republicans, they know what’s broken. They know that we have an America, that’s working better and better and better, for a thinner and thinner and thinner slice at the top. And leaving everyone else behind.”
Biden: “We have to unite the country, because folks it’s time we stopped walking around with our heads down. We’re in a better position than any country in the world to own the 21st century. So for God’s sake, get up. Get up and remember this is the United States of America. There’s nothing we’re unable to do, when we decide we’re going to do it. Nothing at all.”
Democrats debate who is best to take on Trump
The entire Democratic argument was distilled into a five-minute discussion with Joe Biden on one side and Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on the other. Mr. Biden, as he has done since his campaign began, argued that his history of working with Republicans would make him more palatable to independents and some Republicans while at the same time offering an implicit argument that his more doctrinaire opponents would hand a second term to Mr. Trump.
At the same time, Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren pitched themselves as capable of expanding the Democratic electorate by exciting voters about bolder proposals. “For me,” Ms. Warren said, “this is about knowing what’s broken, knowing how to fix it and yes, I’m willing to go out there and fight for it.” Her implication, of course, is that Mr. Biden doesn’t know any of those things.
Biggest moment of the night? Biden vs. Sanders and Warren
Joseph R. Biden Jr. speaks about his accomplishments.CreditTamir Kalifa for The New York Times
One of the debate’s closing segments brought a clear example of the two poles in the party: Joe Biden vs Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
After touting himself as “the only one on this stage who has gotten anything really big done,” Mr. Biden slammed both Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders as offering “vague” ideas. Pushing a “Medicare for all” overhaul as they do, Mr. Biden said, “requires you not be vague. Tell people how you’re going to get it done.”
Ms. Warren followed by reciting her history of envisioning and then creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Mr. Biden sought to claim credit for that too.
“I went on the floor and I got votes for that bill, I convinced people to vote for that,” he said. “Let’s get that straight.”
Ms. Warren paused, and speaking slowly, said, “I am deeply grateful to President Obama who fought so hard to make sure that agency was passed into law,” specifically not giving credit to Mr. Biden.
Biden, Buttigieg spar on expanding the Supreme Court
As conservatives have taken a decisive majority on the Supreme Court, Democrats publicly grappled with the idea of expanding the court to take back power.
Mr. Biden said he was against adding additional justices to the Supreme Court, calling it “court packing,” worried about the trust in the institution itself.
“We begin to lose any credibility the court has at all,” Mr. Biden said.
Mr. Buttigieg, who has floated multiple options to expand the high court to as many as 15 justices — an idea, he acknowledged, was attacked as “too bold to even contemplate” — said that he wanted to depoliticize the court.
Now, he said “we have this apocalyptical ideological firefight” with every vacancy.
Ms. Warren said she was open to expanding the court — but stopped short of embracing it outright.
Democrats tackle questions about abortion
Finally, there came a question on abortion.
Ms. Harris said she’d require Justice Department pre-clearance for any state laws restricting abortion access. Ms. Klobuchar asked viewers to imagine her onstage debating abortion rights with Mr. Trump. And then Mr. Booker said he’d create an “office of reproductive rights” in the White House.
There’s little disagreement among the Democratic candidates on abortion rights, it’s more a matter of degree to which.
Ms. Gabbard said she’d prohibit third trimester abortions, a position that puts her nearly along among candidates who have stressed that decisions about ending a pregnancy should be left to women and their doctors.
Harris hits Warren hard over Trump and Twitter
Ms. Harris, who had refrained from attacking her opponents for the debate’s first two hours, asked Ms. Warren why she did not call for Twitter to suspend Mr. Trump’s account.
“Senator Warren, I just want to say that I was surprised to hear that you did not agree with me that on this subject of what should be the rules around corporate responsibility for these big tech companies, when I called on Twitter to suspend Donald Trump’s account, that you did not agree,” Ms. Harris said.
Ms. Warren shot back, “I don’t just want to push Donald Trump off Twitter, I want to push him out of the White House.” She did not say whether Twitter should indeed suspend the president from its platform.
Ms. Harris got another shot, and again pressed Ms. Warren. Ms. Warren once again did not take the bait and dodged the question.
Warren pitches breaking up Big Tech
Throughout the primary, Ms. Warren has led the field in her aggressive stance to break up big tech companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook and she did so again on Tuesday.
“I’m not willing to give up and let a handful of monopolists dominate our economy and our democracy,” she said.
Ms. Warren walked through Amazon’s role as a product marketplace and product seller.
“You get to be the umpire in the baseball game or you get to have a team. You don’t get to be both at the same time,” she said.
While her Democratic rivals do want to go as far, most agree with the sentiment. Mr. O’Rourke said they should not call out particular companies. Mr. Yang said breaking up companies would not solve problems, rattling off a joke that grew broad laughs.
“There is a reason why no one is using Bing today,” he said. “Sorry Microsoft.”
Mr. Booker, meanwhile, called for “regulation and reform,” while acknowledging that tech companies represent a “massive problem in our democracy.”
Sanders says he’s healthy and will mount a ‘vigorous’ campaign
As the debate approached the end of the second hour, Bernie Sanders was asked directly to reassure the American people about his health two weeks after a heart attack. But before the moderator Erin Burnett could get the question out, Mr. Sanders delivered his answer. “I’m healthy, I’m feeling great,” he said.
Cory Booker interjected with a joke that Mr. Sanders also supports medical marijuana.”
I’m not on it tonight,” Mr. Sanders retorted.
When Ms. Burnett then asked the question, Mr. Sanders invited people to his rally this weekend in New York. “We are going to be mounting a vigorous campaign all over this country. That is how I think I can reassure the American people,” he said, thanking his rivals for their “love” and “prayers.”
“I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I’m so happy to be back here with you this evening,” he said to applause.
Opioid discussion shows challenge for candidates
The opioid discussion that just took place is a good exhibit of why some of the most vexing issues facing the presidential candidates is so difficult as a debate topic.
Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer each bemoaned prescription drug companies for pushing prescription opioids on Americans to enrich themselves, but didn’t reveal much contrast between themselves or their onstage opponents, or even Mr. Trump.
Yet this is a topic that hits home for millions of Americans and one that candidates are asked about frequently on the campaign trail. It’s a serious problem without easily digestible solutions.
There’s a lot of agreement onstage, with little understanding of what, exactly any of the candidates would do.
O’Rourke and Buttigieg spar in tense exchange over mandatory assault weapon buybacks
Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg sparred aggressively over guns in an intense and personal exchange. Mr. O’Rourke has called for the mandatory buyback of assault weapons by the government. Mr. Buttigieg has called that unrealistic and a plan that damages the Democratic Party.
“If the logic begins with those weapons being too dangerous to sell, then it must continue by acknowledging with 16 million AR-15s and AK-47s out there, they are also too dangerous to own,” Mr. O’Rourke said. “Every single one of them is a potential instrument of terror.”
But Mr. O’Rourke struggled to say how he would handle taking the guns from Americans who do not want to give up those weapons. “Congressman, you just made it clear that you don’t know how this is actually going to take weapons off the streets,” Mr. Buttigieg said. “We can’t wait, we can’t wait for universal background checks.”
“We cannot wait for purity tests,” he concluded, “We just have to get something done.”
After Mr. O’Rourke said it was time to stop listening to polls and be bold, Mr. Buttigieg jumped back in. “I don’t need lessons from you on courage,” Mr. Buttigieg said, saying the real problem was the National Rifle Association, whom they should unite against. He said Democrats could conceivably ban assault weapons and not get “wrapped around the axle” of mandatory buybacks.
“If you’re not going door to door, it’s not mandatory,” Mr. Castro said, opposing the plan, noting that in many communities the idea of police knocking on doors has also led to violence.
Biden challenges Trump on foreign policy
Joe Biden tried once again to present himself as the person onstage with the most direct foreign policy experience.
“I may be the only person who has spent extensive time alone with Putin and Erdogan,” he said, referring to the Russian and Turkish leaders.
During two opportunities to discuss the current situation in Syrian, Mr. Biden didn’t exactly say whether he’d send additional American troops to quell the fighting along the Syria-Turkey border, but blamed Mr. Trump for inflaming a tense situation.
“We have an erratic, crazy president who knows not a damn thing about foreign policy and operates under his own fear for re-election,” he said.
Democrat after Democrat piled onto Mr. Trump on international affairs.
“This president is turning the moral leadership of this country into a dumpster fire,” Senator Cory Booker said.
“This president is caging kids on the border and letting ISIS prisoners run free,” added Julián Castro.
Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke and Amy Klobuchar, three candidates who sorely need to boost themselves in the polls, have adopted the same strategy tonight: Go after Elizabeth Warren.
All three sought to contrast themselves and their plans with Ms. Warren, with Mr. O’Rourke arguing the Massachusetts senator is “more interested in being punitive” than offering a positive vision. Ms. Klobuchar has twice offered “a reality check to Elizabeth.” And Mr. Buttigieg scolded her for not saying whether her health care plan will raise middle class taxes.
Ms. Warren, a polling co-leader with Mr. Biden, serves a useful foil for the three aiming to occupy the party’s moderate lane. Ms. Klobuchar and Mr. O’Rourke are in danger of missing next month’s debate, while Mr. Buttigieg is trying to lift himself into the field of front-runners.
By contrast, there were few attacks on Mr. Biden, who took much of the incoming fire from rivals in the past debates. Going after Ms. Warren lets the would-be moderate standard-bearers avoid a contrast with Mr. Biden, particularly on the Ukraine issue where he has become vulnerable. Attacking Ms. Warren serves as a rehearsal for the party’s moderate voters of how the candidates would fare against her in a presumed one-on-one matchup much later in the primary process.
It also shows which of the liberal candidate is feared most by the moderates. It’s no longer Bernie Sanders, it is only Ms. Warren.
Cory Booker and Kamala Harris seek uplift by avoiding the fray
Mr. Booker and Ms. Harris both came into the debate struggling for support and attention. And it was apparent by the end of the first hour that they had adopted a similar game plan: seeking to rise about the fray and food fight unfolding around them.
“Tearing each other down because we have a different plan is unacceptable,” Mr. Booker said at one point, saying Democratic infighting would be “a disaster for us.”
Earlier, Mr. Booker had been the first candidate to castigate the media for asking Mr. Biden questions about his son’s work in Ukraine.
“I feel like I’m having déjà vu up here,” Mr. Booker said, lashing Mr. Trump for circulating false allegations.
At one point, Ms. Harris aired a complaint that women’s advocates have pressed for months: the lack of questions about abortion.
“This is the sixth debate we have had in this presidential cycle. Not one word with all of these discussions about health care, on women’s access to health care. It’s outrageous,” Ms. Harris said to cheers.
Gabbard hits The New York Times, CNN
Tulsi Gabbard attacked The New York Times, CNN, the “mainstream media” and others who have written about how Russians are praising her and encouraging her presidential campaign.
“Just two days ago The New York Times put out an article saying that I’m a Russian asset and an Assad apologist and all these different smears,” Ms. Gabbard said. “This morning a CNN commentator said on national television that I’m an asset of Russia. Completely despicable.”
The Times article did not describe Ms. Gabbard in these ways. It noted that she has drawn support from Russian state news media sources and others in that country, as well as white nationalist and members of the alt-right.
Her broadside came in response to a question about whether additional U.S. troops should be sent to protect Kurdish communities in Syria, who are under attack by Turkish troops following Mr. Trump pulling U.S. forces out of the country.
Ms. Gabbard repeatedly invoked the phrase “regime change war” to describe American policy abroad and in the Middle East in particular.
“As president I will end these regime change wars by doing two things — ending the draconian sanctions that are really a modern day siege, the likes of which we are seeing Saudi Arabia wage against Yemen that have caused tens of thousands of Syrian civilians to die and to starve,” she said. “And I would make sure we stop supporting terrorists like Al Qaeda in Syria who’ve been the ground force in this ongoing regime change war.”
Mr. Buttigieg, who like Ms. Gabbard is a military veteran, sharply disagreed.
“Well, respectfully, congresswoman, I think that is dead wrong. The slaughter going on in Syria is not a consequence of American presence, it’s a consequence of a withdrawal and a betrayal by this president, of American allies and American values,” he said.
Should billionaires exist?
Bernie Sanders got a question right in his wheelhouse: Should billionaires exist? He didn’t quite say yes but did launch into his regular tirade against the ultra-wealthy, saying it is “a moral and economic outrage” that the three richest Americans control as much wealth as half the country.
Mr. Steyer, himself a billionaire, went next. He denounced corporate power and blamed Republicans for passing legislation cutting taxes for the wealthy.
“The results are as shameful as Senator Sanders said,” he said. “It’s absolutely wrong, undemocratic and unfair.”
Ms. Warren then weighed in: “My question is not why do Bernie and I support a wealth tax, it’s why doesn’t — does everyone else on this stage — think it’s more important to protect billionaires than it is to invest in an entire generation.”
Mr. Biden then remarked, “No one is supporting billionaires.”
Ms. Warren didn’t quite roll her eyes, but she threw him a side eye.
Ms. Klobuchar weighed in soon after: “I want to give a reality check here to Elizabeth. No one on this stage wants to protect billionaires. Not even the billionaire wants to protect billionaires. We have different approaches. Your idea is not the only idea.”
Health care reveals schism among Democrats
The health care discussion showed the greater schism in the Democratic Party. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are on the side of eliminating private health insurance and installing a Medicare for all system, while Joseph R. Biden Jr., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar are on the other, castigating Medicare for all as a “pipe dream,” as the Minnesotan called it.
It is the broader debate rippling throughout the 2020 Democratic campaign trail. Polls show the party’s voters tend to favor the Warren-Sanders proposals, but are nagged by whether a candidate running on eliminating private health insurance can win a general election. This is the crux of the Democratic debate: a pull between early-state voters’ hearts and heads, with each of them becoming prognosticators guessing about what swing voters in key swing states might prefer.
Buttigieg and Klobuchar hit Warren hard on ending private health insurance
Senator Elizabeth Warren, as she has done for weeks on the campaign trail, refused to entertain the question of whether “Medicare for all” will require a middle-class tax increase.
Instead she aimed to turn the question to overall costs.
“Let me be clear on this,” she said. “I will not sign a bill into law that does not lower costs for middle class families.”
She repeatedly refused to say.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg immediately pounced.
“A yes or no question that did not get a yes or no answer,” he said, saying it sounded like the type of things Americans hate about Washington. He added, “Your signature senator is to have a plan for everything: Except this.”
Mr. Buttigieg then pitched his “Medicare for all who want it.” When Ms. Warren’s turn came, she said that Mr. Buttigieg’s vision amounts to “Medicare for all who can afford it.”
Mr. Buttigieg came back and said Ms. Warren would “obliterate” the private health insurance of 150 million Americans. “It’s just better than Medicare for all whether you want it or not,” Mr. Buttigieg said, rebranding Ms. Warren’s plan in a more negative light.
Senator Amy Klobuchar followed up with her own hit on Ms. Warren.
“At least Bernie’s being honest here,” Ms. Klobuchar interrupted, addressing Ms. Warren as “Elizabeth,” saying Americans deserved to know where the “invoice” was going.
Ms. Klobuchar continued, dismissing Ms. Warren’s ideas as unrealistic, declaring there is a “difference between a plan and pipe dream.”
It fell to Mr. Sanders to explain exactly what Medicare for all would require.
“Taxes will go up,” he said, before explaining that costs will go down because, under his plan, medical insurance premiums and co-pays would be eliminated.
Maggie Astor, Thomas Kaplan, Jonathan Martin, Sydney Ember, Katie Glueck and Kevin McKenna contributed reporting.
Medicare for All is one of the most hotly debated topics in the 2020 election. But what is it? And how will it work? We explain. Just the FAQs, USA TODAY
Twelve Democratic presidential candidates sparred Tuesday over healthcare, guns and other issues at a debate in Westerville, Ohio.
11 p.m. EDT
Warren emerges as top target in feisty debate
Welcome to the lead, Elizabeth Warren.
Throughout a feisty three-hour Democratic debate in Ohio on Tuesday, the Massachusetts senator, who has risen to frontrunner status in recent polls, drew sharp and repeated attacks from other candidates on how to pay for health care, whether to tax the wealthy and what has caused the erosion of American middle class jobs.
“Your idea is not the only idea,” Amy Klobuchar said at one point as she turned to Warren during an exchange over taxing billionaires.
The sixth debate night of the 2020 presidential election cycle came during an inflection point in the race, as Joe Biden’s longstanding status as the frontrunner has been battered by Warren’s momentum. A common and telling refrain from the moderators throughout the debate: “I want to give Senator Warren a chance to respond.”
The piling on began almost immediately, on the issue of health care. After five debates in which health care has been a top issue, the candidates drew sharper battle lines over how they would pay a Medicare-for-All system that has divided the field. Warren once again declined to say explicitly whether more government involvement in health care under Medicare for All would require Americans to pay more in taxes.
“So let me be clear on this,” Warren said. “Costs will go up for the wealthy. They will go up for big corporations. And for middle-class families, they will go down.”
Pete Buttigieg jumped, noting the lack of concrete response.
“Well, we heard it tonight, a yes or no question that didn’t get a yes or no answer,” he said in response to Warren. “Look, this is why people here in the Midwest are so frustrated with Washington in general and Capitol Hill in particular.”
Bernie Sanders acknowledged that taxes would go up but said that families would save more than enough money in their health insurance plans to make up for it.
“At least Bernie’s being honest here,” Klobuchar said at one point. “I think we owe it to the American people to tell them where we’re going to send the invoice.”
It was a frontrunner’s debate, with Warren and Biden getting far more airtime than the other candidates on stage. The two had one of their first extended scuffles over a fundamental rift in the field: Whether the nominee should pursue a more ambitious agenda, catering to a progressive wing that wants major change, versus the more pragmatic approach favored by Biden and others on stage.
– John Fritze, Maureen Groppe, Ledyard King and Courtney Subramanian
10:47 p.m. EDT
Biden to Warren: ‘You did a hell of a job’
In one of the more tense moments in the debate, Joe Biden sparred with Elizabeth Warren over how to get things done in Washington.
The back-and-forth came during a debate over whether Democrats should pursue a more ambitious agenda, catering liberal elements of the party that want major structure change, versus Biden’s more pragmatic approach and argument that the party should not overreach.
To underscore her argument that Democrats should pursue bold ideas, Warren touted her role in setting up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2010 after the Great Recession and 2007-2009 financial crisis. The effort required a big fight. Republicans bitterly opposed the idea, viewing it as government overreach.
“I went on the floor and got you votes,” a visibly upset Biden told Warren. “I got you votes.”
Warren looked past Biden’s remarks and instead thanked his former boss, President Barack Obama.
“I am deeply grateful to President Obama for fighting so hard,” Warren said.
“You did a hell of job in your job,” Biden acknowledged.
“Thank you,” Warren said.
– John Fritze, Maureen Groppe, Ledyard King and Courtney Subramanian
10:40 p.m. EDT
Democrats name check … Robert Bork?
The most unusual name check of Democratic debate night: The late conservative jurist Robert Bork.
Cory Booker first invoked his name in mocking proposals to enforce antitrust law, saying that “Robert Bork is just laughing in his sleep.”
Numerous commentators pointed out an inconvenient fact.
“Bork has been dead for six years. He’s more than asleep,” tweeted political writer Walter Shapiro. (Bork actually died in December of 2012, almost seven years ago.)
Political scientist Jack Pitney invoked the words of writer Raymond Chandler: “You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that, oil and water were the same as wind and air to you.”
Later in the debate, Joe Biden also jumped on the Bork bandwagon.
Biden noted that, in 1987, he led the Senate effort to reject Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court, a pivotal event in the hyper-partisanship that has marked so many judicial nominations.
– David Jackson
10:29 p.m. EDT
Cory Booker, a vegan, calls Trump ‘most unhealthy’ candidate
In the middle of his criticism of big corporations, Cory Booker playfully chided the moderators for asking older candidates – Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren – about their health.
“I feel qualified to say this as the vegan on the stage,” the New Jersey senator said. “It’s rich to me that we asked three people about their health when, looking at this stage, we know that the most unhealthy person running for the presidency in 2020 is Donald Trump.”
In February, after Trump took his annual physical exam, then White House press secrer Sarah Sanders said Trump is “in very good health and I anticipate he will remain so for the duration of his Presidency, and beyond.”
A Huffpo/YouGov poll released Monday found that voters age 65 and older are more likely (61%) than voters age 18 to 29 (51%) to question a candidate’ physical health.
– Ledyard King
10:15 p.m. EDT
Sanders: ‘I’m feeling great’
When pressed about whether he’s “up to the stress” of the presidency after suffering a heart attack earlier this month, Sen. Bernie Sanders responded, “I’m healthy. I’m feeling great.” The 78-year-old canceled several campaign events after undergoing surgery, releasing a video in which he said lying in a Las Vegas hospital “made me feel even more strongly the need for us to continue our efforts to end this dysfunctional and cruel health care system.”
But as the Vermont senator seeks to turn his heart attack into a conversation about Medicare for All, the scare has renewed questions about whether his age will affect his stamina in the race and in the White House should he win in 2020.
A Huffpo/YouGov poll released Monday found that voters age 65 and older are more likely (61%) than voters age 18 to 29 (51%) to question a candidate’ physical health.
Sanders said he’s reassuring Americans about his fitness by “mounting a vigorous campaign” across the country and he plugged a rally in Queens he is planning on Saturday. The Vermont senator also drew cheers after he thanked his supporters and those who sent prayers and well wishes for his recovery.
The same question was put to another septuagenarian – Joe Biden, who would be 78 if elected to office.
“One of the reasons I’m running is because of my age and my experience – with it comes wisdom,” Biden said.
9:55 p.m. EDT
Buttigieg takes on O’Rourke over gun buybacks
Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg got into an extended personal debate in a continuation of an argument they’ve been having over O’Rourke’s proposal to require people to give up assault-style weapons.
Asked how he would enforce a mandatory buyback program, O’Rourke said he expects “my fellow Americans to follow the law.”
Buttigieg, who has called O’Rourke’s proposal a “shiny object” that distracts from taking gun control steps for which there is widespread support, said O’Rourke’s response makes clear that he doesn’t know how the plan would work.
“We cannot wait for purity tests,” Buttigieg said. “We have to just get something done.”
O’Rourke countered that Democrats should decide what they’re going to believe in and not be limited by polls, consultants and focus groups.
Buttigieg said the problem isn’t the polls; the problem is the policy.
“I don’t need lessons from you on courage, political or personal,” Buttigieg added. “Everyone on this stage is determined to get something done.”
O’Rourke then said Buttigieg’s “shiny object” description of the buyback plan was a slap in the face to every survivor of a mass shooting.
Amy Klobuchar echoed Buttigieg’s criticism when asked what’s wrong with a mandatory buyback program.
“I just keep thinking of how close we are to finally getting something done on this,” she said. “Let’s not mess this up with this fight.”
Kamala Harris, when asked why she supports a mandatory buyback program, replied by saying there are 5 million assault weapons are on the streets.
“I have personally hugged more mothers of homicide victims that I care to tell you,” the former prosecutor said. “I’m done and we need action.”
– Maureen Groppe
9:46 p.m. EDT
O’Rourke, Gabbard, Steyer getting less air time
It’s hard to make the argument on why voters should support you when you don’t get much of a chance to talk.
While Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, and Pete Buttigieg got most of the air time, Andrew Yang, Julian Castro, Cory Booker and new-to-the-stage Tom Steyer are having a harder time making their case.
According to a word count of the first hour of the debate, candidates at the top of the poll led the scramble for air time
Warren dominated speaking times for the first parts of the debate, based on a USA TODAY analysis of preliminary transcripts.
She spoke about 1,251 words during the first two parts of the debate, followed by Biden, who spoke 668 words. Buttigieg had the third-most speaking time, at 658 words.
On the other end, Beto O’Rourke (190 words) Tulsi Gabbard (157 words), and businessman Tom Steyer had the least speaking time so far, with about 140 words.
– Ledyard King and Nicholas Wu
9:42 p.m. EDT
Democrats debate troop presence in Middle East
Elizabeth Warren used the debate to make a statement about the Middle East that is sure to get some attention in coming days as the Democrats clashed on stage over how to respond to the ongoing conflict in Syria.
“I think that we ought to get out of the Middle East,” Warren said during a discussion of Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria. “I don’t think we should have troops in the Middle East. But we have to do it the right way, the smart way.”
Commentators on social media clamored for Warren to be more specific.
“Warren is making big news when she says we should have no troops in the Middle East,” tweeted Joe Lockhart, a press secretary for President Bill Clinton. “We have important bases all over the region that are important to our national security.”
Warren’s comments came during an extended debate how to proceed in the region. Democrats largely agree that President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria was an abandonment of U.S.-allied Kurds, but they disagreed somewhat on what to do next.
“So really what you’re saying, Mayor Pete, is that you would continue to support having U.S. troops in Syria for an extended period of time,” Tulsi Gabbard told Buttigieg.
“You can put an end to endless war without embracing Donald Trump’s policy,” Buttigieg responded. “What we were doing in Syria was keeping our word.”
Gabbard and Buttigieg are the only two Democrats on stage who served in uniform.
– David Jackson and John Fritze
9:38 p.m. EDT
Steyer: Trump’s America First ‘worst idea I’ve ever heard’
Tom Steyer, who has spent millions trying to combat climate change, made it clear how little he thinks of President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” platform that champions the massive development and expansion of carbon-causing fossil fuels to power the U.S. economy.
“We can’t solve the climate crisis by ourselves,” the one-time California hedge fund billionaire said. “We have to work with our allies and our frenemies around the word.”
“We’re going to have to lead the world morally,” he continued. “We’re going to have to lead it technologically, financially and commercially. This is the proof that this kind of America first, go-it-alone, trust nobody and be untrustworthy is the worst idea I’ve ever heard, and I would change it one day one in every single way.”
– Ledyard King
9:29 p.m. EDT
‘Dude gotta go’
Kamala Harris got in one of her signature lines on Donald Trump while criticizing his foreign policy. Harris said Trump has given 10,000 ISIS fighters a get-out-of-jail-free card, calling what’s happening in Syria a crisis of Trump’s own making. And he has a long list of those, she added.
“That’s why Dude gotta go,” Harris said.
9:27 p.m. EDT
Biden on Syria: ‘Most shameful thing’
Joe Biden came out swinging on Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria but declined to answer a direct question: Would he, as president, place special forces troops back in the region?
Biden called Trump’s decision the “most shameful thing any president has done in modern history in terms of foreign policy,” as he excoriated the president for clearing the way for Turkey to attack U.S. allied Kurds in Syria.
Biden said he believed the U.S. should be involved in air support, but declined to say whether he would order troops back.
The issue is a complicated one for Democrats, many of whom have criticized Trump’s move in Syria but who have also called for the U.S. to withdraw from entanglements in the Middle East. Trump has defended the move by saying he wants to extract American soldiers from overseas commitment.
“What we were doing in Syria was keeping our word,” said Pete Buttigieg.
– John Fritze and David Jackson
9:08 p.m. EDT
Warren emerges as biggest target
In the first debates, Joe Biden who led the polls was the target of rivals’ slings and arrows.
On Tuesday, riding polls that show her now on top, Elizabeth Warren discovered that she’s wearing the bullseye.
On health care, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden took turns hitting Warren on her Medicare For All plan that they said was costly and unrealistic.
On wealth distribution, Klobuchar took umbrage at how she thought Warren was painting her ”ultra-millionaire tax” as the best plan.
“We just have different approaches,” Klobuchar told Warren. “Your idea is not the only idea.”
Beto O’Rourke piled on: “I think it’s part of the solution but I think we need to be focused on lifting people up and sometimes I think Sen. Warren is focused on being punitive or pitting one side of the country against the other.”
– Ledyard King and Courtney Subramanian
9 p.m. EDT
Billionaires under fire, even from the billionaire
Democrats on stage largely agreed on at least one thing: Tax the rich.
Even the rich agreed.
Bernie Sanders took a question directly in his wheelhouse: Does he believe the billionaires should be taxed out of existence? Sanders didn’t go that far, but he did say that the country could not “afford to continue this level of income and wealth inequality.”
Tom Steyer, a philanthropist and longtime Democratic donor making his first appearance on the presidential debate stage, said he largely agreed with Sanders’ assessment.
“Sanders is right,” Steyer said during an extended debate about whether the candidates supported a wealth tax. “There have been 40 years where corporations have bought this government.”
Amy Klobuchar captured the sense of the debate a minute later: “Not even the billionaire wants to protect billionaires.”
– John Fritze
8:53 p.m. EDT
Andrew Yang likes ‘spirit’ of Green New Deal, not job guarantee
Bernie Sanders’ support of the Green New deal and its guarantee of federal work for millions of Americans didn’t sit well with businessman Andrew Yang, whose signature campaign proposal would give Americans a $1,000 monthly “dividend.”
Yang said he likes the “spirit” of a federal jobs guarantee, which Sanders said is needed with the onset of automation.
But “the fact is most Americans don’t want to work for the federal government,” Yang said. “And saying that is the vision of the economy of the 21st century to me is not a vision that most American would embrace.”
Yang said he’s rather put money directly in American’s pocket than rely on government to address the problem because “it will result in failed retraining programs and jobs that no one wants.”
– Ledyard King
8:51 p.m. EDT
Harris draws applause for raising abortion amid healthcare fray
Senator Kamala Harris was asked to weigh in on the back-and-forth over Medicare for All and instead turned the conversation to abortion rights.
“There are states that have passed laws that will virtually prevent women from having access to reproductive healthcare,” she said.
She said it was not an exaggeration to say poor women and women of color “will die” because of the restrictive state laws. Harris lambasted Republican lawmakers for being “out of touch” with American women and called on them to let women make their own decisions about their reproductive rights.
– Courtney Subramanian
8:37 p.m. EDT
Klobuchar: Where will we ‘send the invoice’ for health plan?
Elizabeth Warren, the candidate who boasts that she has a plan for everything, was pushed on why she hasn’t said how she would pay for expanding health are to all Americans.
Bernie Sanders, who like Warren supports Medicare for All, has acknowledged that taxes would need to go up to pay for it, but has said premiums would go down.
Asked whether her plan would require higher taxes on the middle class, Warren said costs will go up for the wealthy and for big corporations but down for middle class families.
“I will not sign a bill into law that does not lower costs for middle class families.” Warren said.
Buttigieg, who has criticized Warren on the issue, said she dodged the question – what he called an example of why people are “so frustrated with Washington.”
“I don’t understand why you believe the only way to deliver affordable coverage for everyone is by obliterating private plans,” Buttigieg said.
Warren said Buttigieg’s “Medicare for All Who Want It” proposal is really “Medicare for All Who Can Afford It.”
“That’s the problem we’ve got,” she said. “Medicare for All is the gold standard.”
Amy Klobuchar, another contender trying to distinguish herself by warning that the more liberal candidates are going too far, said Warren was handing Republicans a gift by offering up a plan they can attack as too expensive.
“I think we owe it to the American people to tell them where we’re going to send the invoice,” Klobuchar said.
“The difference between a plan and a pipe dream, is something that you can actually get done,” she said.
Joe Biden argued that taxes increases for some would exceed what they would save on health care costs.
“The issues is whether the Democratic Party has the guts to stand up to the health care industry,” Sanders shot back.
– Maureen Groppe and Courtney Subramanian
8:23 p.m. EDT
Biden demurs on Hunter Biden question
Everyone knew the question was coming: Why was it okay for Hunter Biden to have a business interest in Ukraine when, as vice president, Joe Biden was the Obama administration’s lead on that country?
Biden largely demurred on the question.
“Look, my son did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong,” Biden said.
“My son’s statement speaks for itself,” Biden said, before pivoting back to Trump. “What we have to do now is focus on Donald Trump. I’m proud of the judgment (Hunter) he made.”
The question had been guaranteed to come up early in this debate, the first since House Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry and the Trump campaign began firing back with television ads highlighting Hunter Biden’s former business dealings in the Ukraine and China.
Hunter Biden hours earlier acknowledged he made a “mistake” and showed “poor judgement” in not calculating the political ramifications of joining the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company while his father had official business in the country as vice president. Speaking to ABC News, Hunter Biden denied doing anything “improper” in the Ukraine.
Some Democrats saw the flap as a chance for Joe Biden to hit back at Trump, including by noting that Trump’s children also have overseas business tied to Donald Trump’s real estate empire. The former vice president didn’t raise the issue.
– John Fritze
8:20 p.m. EDT
Steyer pushes his signature issue: impeachment
Billionaire Tom Steyer, who launched his campaign in July, has long pushed for President Donald Trump’s impeachment before the formal inquiry began and made that his first point in his debut on the Democratic debate stage tonight.
Before calling every candidate on the stage more patriotic than the president, Steyer pointed out he launched the Need to Impeach, an online campaign focused on Trump’s impeachment in October 2017, two years before House Democrats opened a formal impeachment inquiry into the president’s interactions with Ukraine.
“Impeaching and removing the president is something the American people are demanding,” he said.
– Courtney Subramanian
8:17 p.m. EDT
Klobuchar makes first Syria reference
President Donald Trump has faced considerable blowback for his decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria this month, a move that all but paved the way for Turkey to begin airstrikes against U.S.-allied Kurds.
It didn’t take long for that issue to pop up at the Democratic debate. Amy Klobuchar raised it in the answer to her first question, tying it to a question about whether the president should be impeached and removed from office.
Klobuchar asked how “leaving the Kurds for slaughter, our allies for slaughter” would make “Make America Great Again.”
Look for this issue to come up a lot more over the next three hours.
– John Fritze
8:11 p.m. EDT
First question is about impeachment
The debate launched with a question about House Democrat’s impeachment inquiry, which all the Democratic presidential candidates support. But with a presidential election year coming up, why shouldn’t voters determine whether Trump stays in office, Elizabeth Warren was asked.
“Because sometimes there are issues that are bigger than politics,” she said.
Up next, Bernie Sanders called Trump the most corrupt president in history.
“I agree with Bernie,” Joe Biden echoed.
Because the White House has refused to cooperate with Democrats’ investigation, Biden added, Congress has no choice but to act.
Kamala Harris said she doubts the impeachment inquiry will last long.
“As a former prosecutor,” Harris said. “I know a confession when I see it.”
The latest debate of the Democratic presidential primary is underway in Ohio. With the impeachment inquiry in full swing, fighting along the Syria-Turkey border, Bernie Sanders’ recent health trouble and questions about Hunter Biden’s business dealings in the Ukraine, the moderators of the three-hour CNN/New York Times debate will have plenty to ask about.
Stay tuned here (and hit refresh often) for up-to-minute developments.
– John Fritze
Trump, RNC announce $125.7 million fundraising haul
7:50 p.m. EDT
Democrats will be on the debate stage Tuesday, but President Donald Trump’s campaign is still looming large.
The Trump campaign, campaign committees, and the Republican National Committee announced a $125.7 million fundraising haul for the third Federal Elections Commission filing quarter as Democrats prepared to take the stage for the fourth Democratic presidential debate.
In a release, the campaign said all of the groups would have $158 million cash on hand.
“President Trump’s campaign is a juggernaut on an unstoppable path to victory in November 2020,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said.
According to the Trump campaign, it received 1,056,126 individual donations last quarter, with an average donation of $44.50.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., raised about $25 million last quarter, the most out of any of the Democratic contenders.
– Nicholas Wu
Battle of the young guys: Beto v. Buttigieg
7:40 p.m. EDT
Expect sharper elbows from South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has already called out Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders this week while trading barbs with former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke.
The Indiana mayor launched a digital ad Monday explicitly attacking Sanders and Warren for their support for “Medicare for All” and instead touting his “Medicare for All Who Want It” plan.
Earlier this week, Buttigieg faced off with former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke over a mandatory buyback program for assault rifles, a policy O’Rourke made headlines over in the last debate.
Earlier this month O’Rourke slammed Buttigieg for his hesitancy over support for the program. The mayor responded to the criticism earlier this week in an interview with Snapchat’s “Good Luck America.”
“I get it. He needs to pick a fight in order to stay relevant,” Buttigieg said Monday.
O’Rourke responded in a tweet: “Pete can belittle the grassroots; he can call buybacks a ‘shiny object.’ He can say whatever he wants, but guns kill 40,000 people year.”
– Courtney Subramanian
Pelosi delivers debate question to stage
7:15 p.m. EDT
The dozen Democrats on the debate stage in Ohio will have to answer a boatload of uncomfortable questions Tuesday about health issues, the age of the field’s frontrunners and foreign entanglements in the Ukraine – to name a few.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just threw another touchy issue into the queue: Should the House hold a vote to formalize the impeachment Democrats announced at a press conference three weeks ago? Less than two hours before the debate got underway, Pelosi announced that he House would hold off on that vote for now.
Republicans have noted that every previous impeachment inquiry was preceded with a vote in the House to set up a special committee to conduct the investigation. Democrats say they don’t need to do that – and the Constitution doesn’t explicitly require it – but Republicans have raised process questions to hammer away at the inquiry and the White House has said it won’t provide documents absent a vote.
– John Fritze
Dems send signal by debating in Ohio
7:05 p.m. EDT
President Donald Trump won Ohio in 2016 by 8 points, rebranding a state long seen a presidential battleground into one that is older, whiter and more Republican.
When Trump won the state it raised questions about Ohio’s ability to mirror the national mood, according to Kyle Kondik, author of “The Bellwether.”
By holding their debate Otterbein University outside of Columbus, Democrats are signaling they’re not conceding the state.
“I am absolutely confident that battleground Ohio will once again be in Democratic hands,” Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez told reporters from state and national news organizations.
Democrats see hope in the suburbs, which have swung their way. That’s why Tuesday night’s debate will take place in an Ohio suburb that voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 but switched to Hillary Clinton in 2016.
The reason Ohio has become much more Republican relative to the nation? It’s significantly whiter with a smaller share of college graduates than average. That’s not the case in Westerville, however, the town where the debate is being held.
So unless Democrats can improve their standing with white voters without four-year college degrees, they’ll have a hard time carrying Ohio in 2020, Kondik concludes in an analysis for the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
— Cincinnati Enquirer, Maureen Groppe, Maureen and John Fritze
Bloomberg: Are we hiring a legislator in chief?
7 p.m. EDT
Is former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg still considering a run for president? Based on an op-ed published hours before the debate Tuesday in the Washington Post, it sure looks like he’s eager to remain in the mix.
Bloomberg – who initially announced he wouldn’t run but who more recently has reportedly told allies he’d consider it if Biden falters – writes that the current field of candidates is talking about the wrong things.
“Rarely are the candidates asked, and more rarely still do they talk about, how they would go about achieving their goals,” said Bloomberg, who is known for overseeing a technocratic administration that came on the heels of another former New York leader who’s been in the news a lot lately: Rudy Giuliani.
“The job’s essential skills primarily involve leadership and management, not policy analysis,” Bloomberg writes. “The country elects a commander in chief, and yet based on the campaign so far, one might think we are electing a legislator in chief.”
Bloomberg also uses the piece to take a swipe at Trump. Bloomberg says he spoke with the president shortly after the 2016 election and advised him to hire people “who are smarter than you.”
So how did Trump do? A few good hires, Bloomberg opines, otherwise not very well.
“Mostly he hired cronies, ideologues and sycophants,” Bloomberg wrote, “while also leaving hundreds of important senior level positions unfilled and paying less attention to many agencies than he does to cable TV news.”
– John Fritze
Are you smarter than a bookie?
6:50 p.m. EDT
Betting sites are taking all kinds of wagers on tonight’s debate, including on whether Bernie Sanders will withdraw from the race, whether anyone will curse on stage, who will be tweeted about most, and how many times certain words will be said.
Can you rank these words by the frequency in which SportsBetting.ag thinks they will be uttered? Billionaire. Impeach. China. Obama (as mentioned by Biden).
If you guessed China, impeach, billionaire and then Biden references to Obama, you’re thinking like a bookie. (The over/under on the China mentions is 40.5 and the over/under on Biden references to Obama is 3.5.)
– Maureen Groppe
AOC’s barb at Mayor Pete
6:45 p.m. EDT
A growing battle between Pete Buttigieg and the party’s progressive wing escalated in the lead-up to the debate.
Buttigieg released a new digital ad drawing a distinction between his “Medicare for all who want it” health care plan and the proposal backed by Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. The ad says Sanders and Warren “believe that we have to force ourselves into `Medicare for all,’ where private insurance is abolished.”
The ad is running in Iowa where a new poll from Firehouse Strategies has Buttigieg in third place, having moved ahead of Sanders.
Buttigieg’s increased attempts to go after the frontrunners include this comment he made Monday about Warren’s eschewing small donor strategy: “We’re not going to beat Trump with pocket change.”
In a tweeted response, Progressive icon Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said the grassroots campaigning that Buttigieg “insults” has outraised him.
And the Progressive Change Campaign Committee boasted that “numerous progressive voices sent warning flares to Mayor Pete before Tuesday’s debate.”
“Mayor Pete has been a rising star. But he needs to stop this,” the political action committee wrote in a fundraising email to supporters Tuesday.
Trump’s one-word attack
6:40 p.m. EDT
The Trump campaign’s response to the Democratic debate can be summed up in one word: socialism.
In a full-page ad in today’s Columbus Dispatch the campaign argues that Democrats’ “big government socialism will wreck Ohio’s economy.”
Banners scheduled to fly above the city of Westerville during the afternoon shouted “SOCIALISM DESTROYS OHIO JOBS.”
The campaign says Democrats would raise taxes, eliminate private health insurance and increasing electrical bills by “ending fossil fuels.”
– Maureen Groppe
What to expect
5:50 p.m. EDT
The Westerville debate is the first since House Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump last month over the Ukraine scandal. Joe Biden will have a chance to push back forcefully on the president’s efforts to get officials in Ukraine to investigate him and his son, Hunter. But Biden also may face questions about the appropriateness of his son’s having served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company when Biden was vice president.
Joe Biden told supporters at a California fundraiser last week that he’s had a target on his back at the debates because he began the race as a frontrunner. He’s facing competition for his frontrunner status, though. Elizabeth Warren has been climbing in the polls. In some surveys, she polls slightly higher than him while in others Biden maintains an edge.
Biden also enters the debate facing questions about how well he’s handled the Ukrainian controversy and having just been outraised by three of his opponents in the last quarter.
Plus, in an interview that aired Tuesday morning, Hunter Biden repeatedly admitted he made a “mistake” in not calculating the political ramifications of joining the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company while his father had official business in the country as vice president.
So should we expect a different Biden from the last three rounds?
“One of the problems I’m finding, I’ve got to be more aggressive,” Biden said at the fundraiser. “Which is good, I’m not complaining, I’m a big boy,” he said, while explaining that the debates’ time restraints don’t allow time for full answers.
– Maureen Groppe
While debates offer a chance for contenders to stand out by attacking an opponent, that can be difficult to do while remaining likable. And a poll out Tuesday underscores why Democrats need to stay in good graces with voters.
The latest findings from the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service Battleground Poll show Trump isn’t the only one who has a higher unfavorability than favorability rating. For six of the seven Democratic hopefuls tested, more voters had a negative opinion than a positive one. The exception was Pete Buttigieg, but 39% of respondents had no opinion of him or had never heard of him.
– Maureen Groppe
Contributing: Nicholas Wu
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2019/10/15/democratic-debate-westerville-ohio-event-test-biden-warren-sanders/3978928002/
WASHINGTON — A senior State Department official in charge of Ukraine policy told impeachment investigators on Tuesday that he was all but cut out of decisions regarding the country after a May meeting organized by Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, describing his sidelining by President Trump’s inner circle as “wrong,” according to a lawmaker who heard the testimony.
The revelation from George P. Kent, the deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, emerged as he submitted to hours of closed-door testimony to the House committees investigating how President Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.
Despite an edict by the White House not to cooperate with what it has called an illegitimate inquiry, Mr. Kent was one of a procession of top officials who have made the trip to the secure rooms of the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill, unspooling a remarkably consistent tale. They have detailed how Mr. Trump sought to manipulate American policy in Ukraine to meet his goals, circumventing career diplomats and policy experts and inserting his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani into the process, raising alarms in the West Wing and throughout the government.
“Here is a senior State Department official responsible for six countries, one of which is Ukraine, who found himself outside of a parallel process that he felt was undermining 28 years of U.S. policy and promoting the rule of law in Ukraine,” Representative Gerald E. Connolly, Democrat of Virginia, said of Mr. Kent, after departing from the room where he was being deposed.
“And that was wrong,” Mr. Connolly said. “He used that word, ‘wrong.’”
After the May 23 meeting called by Mr. Mulvaney, Mr. Kent told investigators, he and others whose portfolios included Ukraine were edged out by Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union; Kurt D. Volker, the special envoy for Ukraine; and Rick Perry, the energy secretary, who “declared themselves the three people now responsible for Ukraine policy,” Mr. Connolly said.
The meeting occurred on the same day that Mr. Sondland, Mr. Volker and Mr. Perry urged Mr. Trump in an Oval Office briefing to support and arrange a White House meeting for the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, from whose inauguration they had just returned. It was unclear if the meeting described by Mr. Kent was the same one or another session.
Mr. Trump replied skeptically, telling the group that Ukrainian politicians are “all corrupt.” In the weeks after that, Mr. Sondland and Mr. Volker began working with Mr. Giuliani to urge Mr. Zelensky to commit to the investigations sought by Mr. Trump.
Mr. Kent said he was told at another point to “lay low” on Ukraine matters.
The accounts are trickling out even as the White House seeks to block even more information from surfacing in the impeachment inquiry. Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday defied a request by investigators for documents related to the inquiry, and the Defense Department, the Office of Management and Budget and Mr. Giuliani all gave notice that they would defy subpoenas to turn over material. All of them cited the lack of a House vote authorizing the impeachment inquiry as grounds for stonewalling.
In a sternly worded response to an unusual request for documents, Matthew E. Morgan, the counsel to the vice president, accused the committees of requesting material that is “clearly not vice-presidential records” and blasted the investigation enterprise as a “self-proclaimed ‘impeachment inquiry’” that was ultimately illegitimate.
But House Democratic leaders, who spent much of Tuesday privately polling their rank-and-file members about whether to hold such a vote — a move that could carry political risks and which they have resisted — said they were not planning one.
“There is no requirement that we have a vote,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “We’re not here to call bluffs. We’re here to find the truth.”
Mr. Kent spent more than seven hours sequestered with investigators, discussing concerns he long ago raised with State Department colleagues about the pressure being directed at Ukraine by Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani to open investigations into the president’s political rivals.
Witness interviews and public records have now confirmed key elements of an anonymous C.I.A. whistle-blower complaint that accused Mr. Trump of abusing his power to gain an advantage in the 2020 presidential election, though critical questions remain unanswered.
“Every witness we have heard thus far has corroborated the basic narrative,” said Representative Tom Malinowski, Democrat of New Jersey and a former State Department official involved in the House investigation. “At first gradually and then completely, official policy was replaced by a shadow policy run by Giuliani that had as its objective not our national interest but the president’s political interest.”
Republicans, who have pounded Democrats for not holding a vote to authorize an inquiry, kept up the pressure on Tuesday, accusing them of ignoring obvious precedent set in the two modern presidential impeachment investigations to deny Mr. Trump and his party a fair process.
Across the Capitol, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, said Democrats had thrown “fairness and precedent to the wind.” And at the White House, Mr. Trump picked up a similar line of argument, accusing Democrats of “allowing no transparency at the Witch Hunt hearings.”
Republican lawmakers who participated in Mr. Kent’s questioning blasted Mr. Connolly for talking publicly about his testimony. Representative Lee Zeldin of New York claimed Mr. Connolly had only been in the questioning for “about a second, maybe it was two seconds. And he walks about, he starts telling the public what substantively happened behind closed doors.” He added: “This entire process is such a clown show.”
Mr. Connolly said he attended the questioning for more than an hour and a half.
Democrats defended their investigation, and said it was bearing fruit.
Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said the inquiry was being conducted behind closed doors to preserve its independence, and insisted that Republicans on the committee had been given an equal opportunity to ask questions.
Mr. Schiff said that the committees had made “dramatic progress” in understanding the July phone call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky that prompted the whistle-blower complaint. And the witnesses, Mr. Schiff said, had made clear that there was a paper record that had not been provided to Congress, despite numerous subpoenas.
“The case of obstruction of Congress continues to build,” he said.
New requests for depositions continued to stack up. The committees wrote on Friday to two top officials at the White House budget office, requesting they appear next week to discuss the suspension of security aid to Ukraine, according to one of the officials. They targeted Russ Vought, the office’s acting director, and Michael Duffey, a senior Trump appointee there who was said to have helped approve orders freezing the funds. The letters to the men said merely that investigators believed they had “information relevant to these matters.”
The picture that has emerged from the private testimony that has been offered so far has been striking. First, Marie L. Yovanovitch, whom Mr. Trump abruptly removed this spring as United States ambassador to Ukraine, on Friday offered a blistering assessment of the Trump administration’s foreign policy. The president’s allies had shoved aside career diplomats, including her, in service of “false claims” by outsiders working for their own personal and political objectives, she charged.
Then on Monday, Fiona Hill, a former top White House adviser for Europe and Russia, said that she and John R. Bolton, the president’s then national security adviser, objected strenuously to what they viewed as the hijacking of relations with Ukraine by unofficial channels. In her testimony, Ms. Hill quoted Mr. Bolton as warning he would not be part of any “drug deal” between other Trump appointees and Ukraine, and calling Mr. Giuliani a “hand grenade.”
The extent of Mr. Kent’s testimony was not immediately clear, but as far back as March, people familiar with his warnings said, Mr. Kent pointed to Mr. Giuliani’s role in what he called a “disinformation” campaign intended to use a Ukrainian prosecutor to smear Mr. Trump’s adversaries. Those included former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Ms. Yovanovitch and Ukrainians who disseminated damaging information during the 2016 campaign about Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.
In his voluntary appearance, Mr. Volker played down the idea that he and other presidential appointees had taken part in anything inappropriate, but he turned over a tranche of text messages with Ukrainian and American officials that showed at least some members of the diplomatic core were deeply alarmed by what they believed was happening.
Mr. Sondland, the Trump campaign donor turned ambassador who appears to be at the center of the pressure campaign, will meet investigators on Thursday.
Mr. Kent’s appearance fit an emerging pattern in which administration witnesses are instructed not to comply with the impeachment inquiry in line with a White House declaration last week that there would be a “full halt” to any cooperation, but who ultimately agree to do so. According to officials familiar with the investigation, the State Department directed Mr. Kent not to appear and sought to limit his testimony. The House Intelligence Committee then issued a last-minute subpoena ordering him to appear, and he complied.
The process was the same for Ms. Yovanovitch and Ms. Hill.
Mr. Kent’s warnings about the disinformation effort are reflected in internal State Department emails provided by the agency’s inspector general to Congress this month and obtained by The New York Times. In one, he assailed a “fake news smear” being pushed against Ms. Yovanovitch by conservative news media personalities allied with Mr. Trump. In another, he criticized the Ukrainian prosecutor who was pushing the claims about Ms. Yovanovitch and called them “complete poppycock.”
A career diplomat, Mr. Kent has served since last fall as the deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. He has deep experience in Kiev, and with Ukrainian corruption specifically, having served as an anticorruption coordinator in the State Department’s European Bureau in 2014 and 2015, and then as deputy chief of mission in the United States Embassy in Kiev from 2015 until 2018.
In his earlier roles, Mr. Kent had aggressively pushed Ukrainian prosecutors to pursue investigations into Mykola Zlochevsky, an oligarch who owned a gas company that started paying Hunter Biden, the presidential candidate’s younger son, as a board member in 2014. He was pressed at length on his views of the case on Tuesday, a personal familiar with his testimony said.
When a British case against Mr. Zlochevsky for money laundering was dismissed in January 2015 for lack of evidence, Mr. Kent and others in the State Department blamed Ukrainian prosecutors. The Ukrainian prosecutors had refused to provide evidence to British prosecutors, Mr. Kent told associates, because they and other officials were being paid off by Mr. Zlochevsky or his allies.
Tensions boiled over at a previously unreported meeting in early February 2015 in Kiev, in which Mr. Kent scolded a deputy prosecutor in the office of Vitaly Yarema, who was the general prosecutor of Ukraine — the nation’s top law enforcement post, similar to that of the attorney general of the United States.
According to a Ukrainian and an American with knowledge of the meeting, Mr. Kent demanded of the deputy prosecutor, “Who took the bribe and how much was it?”
The Ukrainian deputy replied — perhaps jokingly — that a $7 million bribe had been paid just before Mr. Yarema took office.
The F.B.I. looked into the bribe allegation, according to people familiar with it, but — as is common in the world of Ukrainian corruption investigations — the inquiry stalled amid contradictory and evolving stories.
In the days after the heated meeting with Mr. Kent, Mr. Yarema was fired and eventually replaced by another prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, whom American officials came to view as similarly problematic.
In 2016, the elder Mr. Biden successfully pushed for Mr. Shokin’s ouster because the Obama administration and other Western governments and international institutions contended he was turning a blind eye to corruption in his own office and among the country’s elite, including Mr. Zlochevsky.
It was Mr. Biden’s role in the dismissal of Mr. Shokin that Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani have subsequently held up as evidence that the former vice president intervened in Ukrainian affairs to help his son. There is no evidence of that.
Emily Cochrane and Sheryl Gay Stolberg contributed reporting.
Despite repeated demands by a moderator and her Democratic presidential opponents, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts refused to take the bait on a question about tax hikes on the debate stage Tuesday night in Ohio.
Moderator Marc Lacey asked Warren if she supported higher middle-class taxes to pay for a national health care program known as “Medicare for All” ― at least the third time essentially the same question has come up at a Democratic debate.
Warren gave the same answer she’s given many times before: “Costs will go up for the wealthy and for big corporations and for hard-working middle-class families, costs will go down,” she said.
Warren focuses on “costs” because her Medicare for All vision would trade higher taxes for lower household costs, and she doesn’t want to focus on the taxes in isolation.
Conventional wisdom holds that middle-class tax hikes are political poison, and research has shown that messaging about tax hikes can leverage negative voter attitudes on government spending and race. Warren has apparently decided a direct answer isn’t worth it.
Lacey pressed Warren, asking if she would explicitly acknowledge, as has rival White House contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), that Medicare for All would involve higher taxes. She again refused, stressing instead that overall costs would go down for middle-class families.
Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who on some issues has positioned himself as a centrist among the Democratic candidates, pounced.
“We heard it tonight: a yes or no question that didn’t get a yes or no answer,” Buttigieg said. “This is why people in the Midwest are so frustrated with Washington.”
Warren has not outlined exactly how she would pay for Medicare for All, but by refusing to rule out tax increases, she has implied they’d be part of her plan. On Tuesday, she came closer to such an acknowledgment when she said, “We can pay for this.”
Possible funding options that Sanders has suggested in the past include higher payroll taxes and higher taxes on the wealthy. A HuffPost / YouGov poll this week found that pairing Medicare for All with a tax on the super-rich made the health care proposal more popular.
Sanders offered a more forthright explanation of the taxes-and-benefits tradeoff under Medicare for All, a proposal he originally sponsored in the Senate.
“Premiums are gone. Co-payments are gone. Deductibles are gone. All out-of-pocket expenses are gone.” Sanders said, adding that the overwhelming majority of Americans would pay less overall.
“I do think it is appropriate to acknowledge that taxes will go up,” Sanders continued. “They will go up significantly for the wealthy and for virtually everybody, the tax increase will be substantially less ― substantially less than what they were paying for premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.”
Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota praised Sanders for being direct.
“At least Bernie’s being honest here and saying how he’s going to pay for this, and that taxes are going to go up,” Klobuchar said. “I’m sorry, Elizabeth, but you have not said that and I think we owe it to the American people to tell them where we will send the invoice.”
It was faint praise for Sanders because Klobuchar ― along with Buttigieg ― doesn’t support Medicare for All.
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In the clip, which has been taken down from Facebook but is still making the rounds on Twitter, Charlie immediately started swinging and punching at the spider after it “jumped” at him.
“I want to hit him!” Charlie bellowed as he began walloping the Halloween decoration, Fox 23 reported, adding that the Facebook post was viewed more than 20 million times by Tuesday morning before being taken down.
The Democratic debate actually began at 7 a.m. Tuesday, when Hunter Biden was on “GMA” admitting to a mistake—but nothing “unethical,” of course—to blunt the attacks on his father.
Given Joe Biden’s refusal to do any interviews since impeachment cast a spotlight on his family’s conduct, it was striking that he handed the ball to his son before the one forum where he couldn’t duck questions: the CNN/New York Times marathon.
And 17 minutes into the Ohio debate, when Anderson Cooper asked Biden the question, he retreated to “my son’s statement speaks for itself”—precisely the point of orchestrating the ABC interview.
Cooper asked a key question: If Hunter Biden now says he won’t do any foreign work if his dad becomes president, why was it okay when Joe was vice president?
Biden ignored that, saying “my son did nothing wrong, I did nothing wrong,” then pivoted to denouncing Rudy Giuliani, President Trump and his “thugs” as liars. He would not acknowledge the lousy optics that even Hunter conceded.
The striking aftermath: None of the other Democrats on the stage said a negative word about Biden or his son’s lucrative deal in Ukraine. They deemed it off limits. Cory Booker defended Biden, saying no one should be “attacking a statesman.”
But Cooper also softened the question by saying “the president has made false accusations against your son” and “there is no evidence of wrongdoing by you and your son.” Why not let Biden make that case? Why appear to take sides? And is there absolutely no wrongdoing by Hunter, who was unqualified for the Ukrainian gas gig, as opposed to no evidence of criminal wrongdoing?
The only real action was on health care, though it wasn’t as exciting as the Washington Nationals scoring seven first-inning runs in their drive for a World Series berth. In fact, that part of the debate seemed more like an old replay.
Once again, a journalist—in this case Marc Lacey of the Times—asked Elizabeth Warren if the middle class would pay more under the Medicare for All measure she is pushing.
Once again, Warren rolled out her standard response: The rich and big corporations will pay more, the middle class will pay less.
Lacey followed up—will you raise middle-class taxes?—and once again, the Massachusetts senator sidestepped: “I will not sign a bill into law that does not lower costs for middle-class families.” Notice she said costs, not taxes. (Bernie Sanders, who wrote the damn bill, admits middle-class taxes will rise.)
Pete Buttigieg was more blunt, saying Warren had failed to answer a yes or no question. She dodged it again.
Amy Klobuchar, showing unusual aggressiveness, said Warren would kick 150 million Americans off their private insurance. I don’t know why the debate questioners don’t focus on this rather crucial point.
Biden said what he said in the last debate, that Medicare for All would cost $30 trillion over a decade and taxes would go up, but his rejoinder had less force.
After that, the debate settled into something of a wonkfest. What about auto jobs? Should there be a wealth tax? Can gun buybacks work? CNN’s practice of usually letting each of the 12 candidates answer the same question added to the drone factor.
Something else was at work. It’s now clear that the race has settled into a contest between Biden and Warren, with Sanders (looking vigorous despite his heart attack) continuing to slip. Everyone else has been mired in single digits for many months. So there’s far less media excitement if Kamala Harris has a strong moment or Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke get into a spat on gun control. Impeachment dominated the pregame programming, with the debate a secondary story.
The moderators, who included Erin Burnett, were fine, but could have done far more to sharpen the contrasts between the contenders.
On Trump’s pullout from northern Syria, Biden was strikingly emotional, saying of the Kurds: “They lost their lives. This is shameful, shameful, what this man has done!” Warren accused Trump of giving ISIS a new lease on life. Buttigieg called it a “betrayal.” The only dissenter was Tulsi Gabbard, who wants to end the “endless war” and accused CNN and the Times of smearing her.
But such brief fireworks were the exception, and that was the weakness of the debate. Far too much time was spent on the candidates denouncing Trump in unison, sometimes just changing the adjectives. That undoubtedly made Democratic viewers feel good, but did little to distinguish among the contenders.
That pattern began at the outset, when Cooper asked about impeachment. While he tried mixing up the questions—why not let the voters evict Trump instead, is impeachment a distraction?—every Democrat on the stage competed to castigate the president in stronger terms (Bernie won with “most corrupt in history”). Biden and Warren talked about the Mueller report, making clear that they were primed for impeachment before the Ukraine mess surfaced.
The only real change from the last three debates was that Biden briefly had to defend his son’s buckraking in Ukraine. Impeachment has frozen the race, and that’s bad news for anyone not named Joe or Elizabeth.