Dems: Trump should be im­peached

Can­di­dates agree, mostly, but shift de­bate to is­sues

Orlando Sentinel - - NATION & WORLD - By Bill Bar­row and Will Weissert

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

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

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

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

The 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, In­di­ana, has gained sig­nif­i­cant ground in re­cent months in Iowa, which holds the na­tion’s first cau­cuses Feb. 3. But with top-tier sta­tus comes added scru­tiny, as the other front-run­ners dis­cov­ered in four pre­vi­ous de­bates.

For­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den had to swat back crit­i­cism of his past work with seg­re­ga­tion­ist Se­nate col­leagues and his sup­port of some un­pop­u­lar Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion poli­cies. War­ren has faced weeks of tough ques­tions about her sup­port for a “Medi­care for All” universal health in­surance plan, and San­ders has been forced to prove he has the stamina for the race, es­pe­cially af­ter the 78-yearold’s heart at­tack in Oc­to­ber.

But­tigieg could face pres­sure to demon­strate that he can woo black and other mi­nor­ity vot­ers and that his ex­pe­ri­ence run­ning a city of only about 100,000 res­i­dents is enough to qual­ify him for the White House.

Pre­vi­ous at­tacks against Bi­den, who turned 77 Wed­nes­day, War­ren and San­ders failed to re­shape the race — but the trio likely will face their own share of crit­i­cism on the de­bate stage in Atlanta.

Medi­care for All has dom­i­nated the pri­mary and could also be a key topic Wed­nes­day af­ter War­ren, 70, re­leased plans to raise $20-plus tril­lion in new gov­ern­ment rev­enue on universal health care. But she also said im­ple­men­ta­tion of the pro­gram may take three years — draw­ing crit­i­cism both from mod­er­ates like Bi­den and But­tigieg, who think she’s try­ing to dis­tance her­self from an un­pop­u­lar idea, and San­ders sup­port­ers, who see the Mas­sachusetts sen­a­tor’s com­mit­ment to Medi­care for All wa­ver­ing.

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

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

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

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

JOHN AMIS/AP

Pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates from left, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Rep. Tulsi Gab­bard, D-Hawaii, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete But­tigieg, Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren, D-Mass., for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den, Sen. Bernie San­ders, I-Vt., Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris, D-Calif., en­tre­pre­neur An­drew Yang and in­vestor Tom Steyer wave to the au­di­ence.

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