Twelve US Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls met onstage in Westerville, Ohio, for a fourth primary debate Tuesday night kicking off with the question that has taken over Washington D.C. the past month — Should President Trump be impeached?
Presidential candidates on stage include: Former Vice President Joe Biden, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, California Sen. Kamala Harris, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, businessman Tom Steyer, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and businessman Andrew Yang
The first question of the night focused on the impeachment inquiry into President Trump with all 12 candidates uniting in support of impeaching the President.
Here’s what they said:
Sen. Warren answered first, being asked why Congress, rather than voters, should decide whether Trump should be impeached.
“Sometimes there are issues that are bigger than politics, and I think that’s the case with this impeachment inquiry,” Warren said. “Donald Trump broke the law again in the summer, broke it again this fall. You know, we took a constitutional oath. And that is that no one is above the law, and that includes the President of the United States.”
Warren added, “Impeachment is the way that we establish that this man will not be permitted to break the law over and over without consequences. This is about Donald Trump. The impeachment must go forward.”
Sen. Sanders was asked if he thinks Democrats have a chance to impeach Trump.
“No, they don’t,” Sanders replied. “In my judgment, Trump is the most corrupt president in the history of this country. I think that the House will find him guilty of — worthy of impeachment because of the emoluments clause. So I look forward, by the way, not only to a speedy and expeditious impeachment process, but Mitch McConnell has got to do the right thing and allow a free and fair trial in the Senate.”
Biden agreeing with Sanders statement that Trump “is the most corrupt president in modern history,” when asked if Democrats are being “careful enough in pursuing” impeachment.
“I said from the beginning that if, in fact, Trump continued to stonewall what the Congress is entitled to know about his background, what he did, all the accusations in the Mueller Report, if they did that, they would have no choice — no choice — but to begin an impeachment proceeding, which gives them more power to seek more information” Biden said. “This president — and I agree with Bernie, Senator Sanders — is the most corrupt president in modern history and I think all of our history.”
Sen. Harris defended her call to impeach and remove Trump for office as fair.
“Well, it’s just being observant, because he has committed crimes in plain sight,” Harris said. “I don’t really think this impeachment process is going to take very long, because as a former prosecutor, I know a confession when I see it. And he did it in plain sight. He has given us the evidence. And he tried to cover it up, putting it in that special server. And there’s been a clear consciousness of guilt. This will not take very long. Donald Trump needs to be held accountable. He is, indeed, the most corrupt and unpatriotic president we have ever had.”
Sen Booker was asked if he could be fair in the impeachment trial.
“We must be fair,” Booker said. “We are talking about ongoing proceedings to remove a sitting president for office. This has got to be about patriotism and not partisanship. So I swore an oath to do my job as a senator, do my duty. This president has violated his. I will do mine.”
Asked what she thought about those that fear that impeachment is a “distraction,” that could backfire on Democrats, Sen. Klobuchar said, “We can do two things at once.”
“We can do two things at once. That’s our job,” Klobuchar said. “We have a constitutional duty to pursue this impeachment, but we also can stand up for America, because this president has not been putting America in front of his own personal interests.”
Klobuchar added, “I’m still waiting to find out from him how making that call to the head of Ukraine and trying to get him involved in interfering in our election makes America great again. I’d like to hear from him about how leaving the Kurds for slaughter, our allies for slaughter, where Russia then steps in to protect them, how that makes America great again. And I would like to hear from him about how coddling up to Vladimir Putin makes America great again. It doesn’t make America great again. It makes Russia great again. And that is what this president has done.”
Castro was also asked if he thinks impeachment is “a distraction.”
“Not at all. We can walk and chew gun at the same time,” Castro responded. “We have to impeach this president. And the majority of Americans not only support impeachment, they support removal. He should be removed.”
Mayor Buttigieg was asked about his previous comment that “impeachment should be bipartisan.” With no Republicans supporting impeachment, Buttigieg asked if it was a mistake for Democrats to proceed.
“It’s a mistake on the part of Republicans, who enable the president whose actions are as offensive to their own supposed values as they are to the values that we all share,” Buttigieg said. “Look, the president has left the Congress with no choice. And this is not just about holding the president accountable, for not just the things emerging in these investigations, but actions that he has confessed to on television.”
The only sitting House member on stage, Rep. Gabbard was asked to respond on why she supports an impeachment inquiry.
” If impeachment is driven by these hyperpartisan interests, it will only further divide an already terribly divided country,” Gabbard said. “The serious issues that have been raised around this phone call that he had with the president of Ukraine and many other things that transpired around that are what caused me to support the inquiry in the House. And I think that it should continue to play its course out, to gather all the information, provide that to the American people, recognizing that that is the only way forward.”
Gabbard added, “If the House votes to impeach, the Senate does not vote to remove Donald Trump, he walks out and he feels exonerated, further deepening the divides in this country that we cannot afford.”
Tom Steyer, a billionaire executive and first time on the debate stage, has called for impeachment for two years.
“Two years ago, I started the Need to Impeach movement, because I knew there was something desperately wrong at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, that we did have the most corrupt president in the country, and that only the voice and the will of the American people would drag Washington to see it as a matter of right and wrong, not of political expediency,” Steyer said. “So, in fact, impeaching and removing this president is something that the American people are demanding. They’re the voice that counts, and that’s who I went to, the American people.”
Yang pointed out that talking about impeaching Trump, even though he supports impeachment is the reason Democrats are losing.
“I support impeachment, but we shouldn’t have any illusions that impeaching Donald Trump will, one, be successful or, two, erase the problems that got him elected in 2016,” Yang said. “The fact is, Donald Trump, when we’re talking about him, we are losing. We need to present a new vision, and that even includes talking about impeaching Donald Trump.”
O’Rourke said Trump had to be held accountable for his actions.
“We have a responsibility to be fearless in the face of this president’s criminality and his lawlessness,” O’Rourke said. “The fact that as a candidate for the highest office in the land, he invited the participation, the invasion of a foreign power in our democracy. As president, he lied to investigators, obstructed justice, fired James Comey, head of the FBI, tried to fire Mueller, head of the investigation, then invited President Zelensky to involve himself in our politics, as well as China, in exchange for favorable trade terms in an upcoming trade deal.”
He added, “If we do not hold him to account, if there is not justice, not only have we failed this moment, our Constitution and our country, but we have failed everyone who has sacrificed and laid their lives down on the line.”
The question was asked more than an hour after Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would not hold a formal vote to launch an impeachment inquiry.