The dozen Democratic presidential candidates on stage for the primary campaign’s fourth debate agreed broadly on Tuesday night that President Donald Trump should be impeached and removed from office, even as some struck different tones in speaking about how the process should unfold.
“As a former prosecutor, I know a confession when I see one,” said Sen. Kamala Harris of California. “President Trump has committed crimes in plain sight."
When asked why Trump should be impeached with the election only one year away, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who was the first major candidate to call for Trump’s impeachment, said that, "sometimes there are issues that are more important than politics, and I think that’s the case with this inquiry.”
“Impeachment is a way that we establish that this man will not be permitted to break the law over and over without consequences,” Warren said.
But Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey urged caution, saying that while he supports impeachment, the president deserves a fair trial.
“I understand the outrage we all feel,” he said. “But we must conduct this process in a way that’s honorable.”
And Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, said it was important for Democrats to also focus on what comes after Trump leaves office.
"I’m running to be the president who can turn the page and unify a dangerously polarized country,” Buttigieg said.
Tuesday’s debate was the first since House Democrats initiated an impeachment inquiry over Trump’s attempts to press Ukraine to investigate unsubstantiated corruption allegations against former Vice President Joe Biden. The impeachment inquiry, which Trump has called an “illegitimate process,” stems from a whistleblower complaint regarding Trump’s July 25 phone call pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Biden. Trump has denied wrongdoing.
Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard had been the only Democrat running for president opposed to an impeachment inquiry. She said Tuesday in the debate that the July 25 call was serious enough to warrant the opening of a probe, but stopped at removal. “It’s important that Donald Trump is voted out of office by the American people,” Gabbard said.
The storm surrounding impeachment has ensnared Biden’s son, Hunter. In recent days, Biden has had to answer to false claims pushed by Trump that he pressured Ukraine to fire a prosecutor for investigating a company that was linked to his son.
In an ABC News interview that aired hours before the debate, Hunter Biden said he erred in not considering the political ramifications of the work he did in Ukraine and China, but did not do anything improper. He has said he would step down from the board of directors of a Chinese-backed private equity firm because his service had become a distraction.
On Tuesday night, Biden said his son “did nothing wrong," and said Trump was targeting him because he is Trump’s strongest political rival.
“He doesn’t want me to be the candidate,” he said. “He’s going after me because he knows that if I’m the candidate, I will beat him like a drum.”
“My son did nothing wrong," Biden said. “I did nothing wrong.”
At the debate, the Democratic candidates took turns pummeling Trump amid the impeachment inquiry.
“Trump is the most corrupt president in the history of this country,” Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont said.
“Every candidate here is more decent, more coherent, and more patriotic than the criminal in the White House,” billionaire businessman Tom Steyer said to applause in making his first appearance on the debate stage.