Posted on

A Major Fear for Democrats: Will the Party Come Together by November?

FORT DODGE, Iowa — Democrats have always represented a cacophonous array of individuals and interests, but the so-called big tent is now stretching over a constituency so unwieldy that it’s easy to understand why voters remain torn this close to Iowa, where no clear front-runner has emerged.

The party’s voters are splintered across generational, racial and ideological lines, prompting some liberals to express reluctance about rallying behind a moderate presidential nominee, and those closer to the political middle to voice unease with a progressive standard-bearer.

The lack of a united front has many party leaders anxious — and for good reason. In over 50 interviews across three early-voting states — Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — a number of Democratic primary voters expressed grave reservations about the current field of candidates, and in some cases a clear reluctance to vote for a nominee who was too liberal or too centrist for their tastes.

As she walked out of a campaign event for former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in Fort Dodge this week, Barbara Birkett said she was leaning toward caucusing for Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and dismissed the notion of even considering the two progressives in the race, Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

“No, I’m more of a Republican and that’s just a little bit too far to the left for me,” said Ms. Birkett, a retiree. She said that she’d like to support a Democrat this November because of her disdain for Mr. Trump but that Mr. Sanders would “be a hard one.”

Elsewhere on the increasingly broad Democratic spectrum, Pete Doyle, who attended a Sanders rally in Manchester, N.H., last weekend, had a ready answer when asked about voting for Mr. Biden: “Never in a million years.” He said that if Mr. Biden won the nomination, he would either vote for a third-party nominee or sit out the general election.

The uncertainty about party unity has been exacerbated in recent days by clashes among the Democratic candidates, as well as one involving a prominent party leader.

Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren have accused one another of lying about a private conversation in 2018 over whether a woman could become president; Mr. Sanders and Mr. Biden have attacked each other over Social Security and corruption; and Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee, has come off the sidelines to stoke her rivalry with Mr. Sanders, declaring that “nobody likes him.”

The lack of consensus among Democratic voters, 10 days before the presidential nominating primary begins with the Iowa caucuses, has led some party leaders to make unusually fervent and early pleas for unity. On Monday alone, a pair of influential Democratic congressmen issued strikingly similar warnings to very different audiences in very different states.

“We get down to November, there’s only going to be one nominee,” Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the third-ranking House Democrat, said at a ceremony for Martin Luther King’s Birthday at the State House in Columbia. “Nobody can afford to get so angry because your first choice did not win. If you stay home in November, you are going to get Trump back.”

“No matter who our nominee is, we can’t make the mistake that we made in ’16,” Representative Dave Loebsack of Iowa said that night in Cedar Rapids as he introduced his preferred 2020 candidate, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., at a town hall meeting. “We all got to get behind that person so we can get Donald Trump out of office,” Mr. Loebsack added.

In interviews, Democratic leaders say they believe the party’s fights over such politically fraught issues as treasured entitlement programs, personal integrity, and gender and electability could hand Mr. Trump and foreign actors ammunition with which to depress turnout for their standard-bearer.

“I am concerned about facing another disinformation campaign from the other side,” said Representative Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania, a Biden supporter who was uneasy enough that he recently sought out high-profile congressional backers of some of the other contenders to discuss an eventual détente. “For those of us who are elected officials, we need to exercise real leadership to make sure all of the camps are immediately united after all this is over.”

Most Democrats believe that the deep revulsion their party’s voters and activists share for Mr. Trump will ultimately help heal primary season wounds and rally support behind whoever emerges as the nominee. “If it means getting rid of Donald Trump, they would swallow Attila the Hun,” State Representative Todd Rutherford, the Democratic leader of the South Carolina House, said of his party’s rank-and-file.

And some leading Democrats were less worried about recovering from the cut-and-thrust of the primary fights than figuring out how to address the deep fissures within their coalition that this race has exposed.

“The Democrats cover everybody from Bernie to Bloomberg and that does present a real problem in terms of making a decision,” said former Gov. Jerry Brown of California, himself a former presidential hopeful, referring to former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York. “It’s not blendable at this point. And if the division continues you’re not going to get a first-ballot candidate.”

The political and cultural distance between the two leading Democratic candidates, Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders, is easy enough to grasp from their events.

A rally for Mr. Sanders in Exeter, N.H., last weekend featured the actor John Cusack, who introduced his candidate by invoking left-wing writers like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn and denouncing neoliberalism and imperialism.

The event had few of the trappings of Mr. Biden’s events, like the Pledge of Allegiance and a call for blessings upon the American military and the restoration of consensus and comity in Washington. The former vice president does not ask his audiences to raise their hands if they know anyone arrested for marijuana possession, as Mr. Sanders usually does.

Vivid as the surface differences are between Mr. Sanders and Mr. Biden, what’s even more revealing are the views that emerge in polling and conversations with their supporters.

A new CNN survey showed that about as many Democrats under 50 would be upset or dissatisfied with Mr. Biden as the nominee as they would be enthusiastic. And among those older than 65, views were even starker about Mr. Sanders: just 23 percent said they’d be enthusiastic about him while 33 percent said they’d be upset or dissatisfied.

Mr. Sanders has tried to bolster his standing with older voters, and lessen their ardor for Mr. Biden, by trumpeting his support for Social Security and highlighting the former vice president’s past willingness to consider cuts to the program — a contrast Sanders supporters believe is vital given Mr. Trump’s suggestion this week that he’d pursue entitlement trims.

Interviews with Sanders supporters at his events in New Hampshire and at the King Day gathering in South Carolina revealed a group of progressive activists who were as dedicated to him as they were in 2016 — and who were uneasy about his rivals, especially Mr. Biden. That was borne out in a new poll of New Hampshire primary voters this week from Suffolk University, which indicated that nearly a quarter of the Vermont senator’s supporters would not commit to backing the party’s nominee if it was not Mr. Sanders.

That number could drop by November if Mr. Sanders does not win the nomination: research shows that most of Mr. Sanders’s supporters eventually rallied to Mrs. Clinton against Mr. Trump. Yet it would not necessarily happen easily, especially if Mr. Sanders’s supporters believe he’s been treated unfairly by the party.

Many Sanders supporters who said they would grudgingly support one of his rivals against Mr. Trump quickly added that that’s all they’d do, ruling out doing the volunteer work that is the lifeblood of all campaigns.

“I just couldn’t morally,” Laura Satkowski said, explaining why she would not canvass or make phone calls on behalf of Mr. Biden. “I don’t like his policies.”

Some pro-Sanders households are mixed.

Michelle McKay and her partner, Bill Davis, came to the South Carolina State House from their home in Raleigh, N.C., she wearing a vest festooned with Sanders buttons, to show their support for their candidate.

“Hell no,” Ms. McKay said about the prospect of backing Mr. Biden. Reminded that North Carolina could be a pivotal state in the general election, she said: “I don’t care. My vote is not going to an establishment Democrat.”

Mr. Davis, though, said that while he didn’t want to vote for anybody besides Mr. Sanders, he’d cast a ballot for any Democrat against Mr. Trump. “I think the party will come together,” he said, as Ms. McKay looked on unconvinced.

For many Democratic leaders, the hope for party unity rests on shared loathing of Mr. Trump. His divisive record and conduct in office helped propel Democrats to a new House majority in 2018 and a number of governorships in the last three years.

Yet while his astonishing election and often demagogic politics have accelerated the rise of the left, energizing a new generation of progressives and socialists, Mr. Trump’s presidency has also enlarged the moderate wing of the party, creating a slice of de facto Democrats among the Republicans and right-leaning independents who cannot abide him.

Phil Richardson, a farmer who came to the Biden event in Fort Dodge with his wife, Christy, said he’d be happy to vote for Mr. Sanders.

But Mr. Richardson said his worry is that others in his community would find it harder to support somebody so liberal.

“I’ve had some of my farmer friends tell me they could probably live with Biden but he couldn’t go for Bernie,” he said.

Over in Dubuque, Iowa, Ron Davis said flatly that he’d support Mr. Trump if Mr. Sanders was the nominee.

An Ames, Iowa, native who now lives in suburban Detroit, Mr. Davis and his wife, Barbara Rom, are retirees traversing Iowa as political tourists this week — “candidate groupies,” he called them — and trying to decide who to support in Michigan’s primary in March.

On Wednesday they came to the University of Dubuque to see Mr. Buttigieg, who impressed Mr. Davis. Mr. Sanders, however, would be “too radical a change,” he said. Ms. Rom said she’d back Mr. Sanders if it meant defeating Mr. Trump.

If it all seems messy, and the party hopelessly fragmented, that’s for good reason, said Kathleen Sebelius, the former Kansas governor and health and human services secretary who grew up in Democratic politics as the daughter of a former Ohio governor.

“This primary is a reflection of the politics of the country at large,” Ms. Sebelius said. “There are clearly differences among people who still feel incremental change is the best way of getting things done, and folks who say we need more to pursue more radical change.”

She said she’d be more worried if Democrats didn’t have Mr. Trump as “a rallying cry,” but conceded there was no candidate on the horizon who could fully unify the party’s factions.

“There is no savior who’s going to rescue us from the current state of affairs,” she said. “We’re all going to need to save each other.”

Posted on

Lawmakers react to apparent recording of Trump saying Yovanovitch should be fired

Lawmakers had mixed reactions Friday to an ABC News report detailing a recording that appears to capture President Donald Trump saying he wanted the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch to be fired — a development that could have an impact on the Senate impeachment trial.

The recording appears to catch Trump speaking at an intimate dinner gathering at Trump International Hotel in D.C. on April 30, 2018, one that included Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman — two former business associates of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani who have since been indicted in New York on charges including campaign finance fraud.

It also appears to contradict recent statements by President Trump that he doesn’t know Parnas and instead support the narrative that has been offered by Parnas during broadcast interviews in recent days that Trump demanded Yovanovitch’s termination.

“Get rid of her!” is what the voice that appears to be President Trump’s is heard saying. “Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it.”

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told ABC News in a statement, “Every President in our history has had the right to place people who support his agenda and his policies within his Administration.”

Kellyanne Conway doubled down on that notion speaking to reporters on Friday afternoon at the White House.

“We’ve always maintained, he can have whatever staff. We serve at his pleasure,” she said. “How anything you are describing now is a high crime and misdemeanor or leads to an impeachment or removal of a democratically elected president eight months before the next election, is a puzzle to me.”

Here’s how politicians are responding:

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.

Asked by ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Mary Bruce about the Parnas reporting, Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead House impeachment manager said: “Plainly, if the president, at the urging of Giuliani or Parnas or Fruman, if this is additional evidence of his involvement, it could certainly corroborate much of what we’ve heard.”

He said he couldn’t comment further since he hadn’t yet reviewed the tape or report.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.

Sen. Tim Kaine also stopped to talk with reporters just before the start of Friday’s session, and when asked about Yovanovitch’s termination, said that senators “should definitely see this tape.”

“I want to know why she was smeared. I want to know why she was fired, and I want to know why she was threatened. And I’m entitled to know that and the American public is entitled to know that,” Kaine told ABC News’ Ben Siegel.

“I would love to look at all the documents and then, based on that, likely call Parnas in. But we should definitely see this tape.”

Vice President Mike Pence

Speaking to reporters in Rome, Vice President Mike Pence was asked about ABC’s reporting and whether it was ever appropriate for President Trump to speak in such a way about a U.S. ambassador.

“I have not heard the tape and would not be prepared to comment on it. But all of the ambassadors for the United States of America serve at the pleasure of the president of the United States. And I don’t think the president has made any secret of the fact that he had concerns about our ambassador to Ukraine and wanted her replaced,” Pence said.

Pence went on to say: “The tape that’s been released today, in my judgment, will only confirm what people already know, is that the president had concerns, and in his authority as president made a decision to make a change.”

When asked about Parnas saying that Pence knew about a campaign to pressure Ukraine regarding the Bidens, Pence attempted to clear himself of any association with the Parnas and Fruman who have pleaded not guilty.

“Well, I’m not aware of what Mr. Parnas said about the Ukrainian ambassador, but I can tell you, what he has said about me has been completely false,” he said. “I don’t recall ever having met Mr. Parnas, although I’ve seen a couple of photographs where apparently he was in my vicinity.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer

ABC News asked Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for his reaction to the recording at a news conference he held shortly before Friday’s Senate impeachment trial session.

“I haven’t seen that, so I wouldn’t comment on that yet, but I can say the granularity of the description of the despicable treatment of this prized, wonderful, public servant, Ambassador Yovanovitch, I think stuck in people’s minds again.” Schumer said.

“So I think there’s tremendous sympathy for Ambassador Yovanovitch from one end of America to the other — my guess is in the hearts of many of our Republican Senators — so I don’t know that thing, but I do know that the Yovanovitch was terribly treated.”

Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C.

When asked about the report at the Republican news conference before Friday’s trial session, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina reiterated the notion that, when it comes to ambassadors, a president can remove anyone at any time.

“The president can fire any ambassador they want. I could give you a lot of examples of ambassadors being fired ’cause they lost the confidence of the president,” he told reporters.

ABC’s Trish Turner pressed Graham on the president saying he didn’t know Parnas — while the audio is clear that the pair are at a dinner talking about Yovanovitch.

“All I can say is — I don’t trust anything Lev Parnas says,” Graham chuckled, before he was asked to follow up on whether the president knew Parnas.

“Does he know him? I’m a politician. You can show me at a dinner with somebody — and if you try to mean that I know them — so if you want to go down that road, I mean, this is what I’m saying — if we go down that road, then we’re going to call in Hunter Biden. … And we’re going to call Joe Biden.”

When asked if the president was caught in a contraction, Graham continued to downplay Trump’s association with Parnas.

“I’m a politician,” he interrupted. “You’re not going to get me to believe the president is lying because he’s at a dinner with a guy.”

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah

ABC News’ Lissette Rodriguez caught Romney as he was leaving this office earlier Friday morning, and while Romney said he had not yet seen the video or reporting, he said he expects any current allegations will be raised by either the House managers or the president’s defense team.

“I haven’t seen it, and I presume all matters relating to the current allegations being considered will be raised by either the House managers or by the President’s defense team so we’ll see at that.”

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.

Johnson, a staunch Trump supporter, dismissed Trump’s words on the tape arguing that the American people knew his style and still elected Trump.

“I’m somebody from Wisconsin. I’m not a New Yorker. Totally different styles, okay? That means just totally different styles,” Johnson told ABC News’ Cheyenne Haslett. “I mean, the American people elected President Trump, and they knew who President Trump was and they understood his style.”

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio

Jordan sided with the president and downplayed the tape, when asked about the report, saying he’s not surprised that a “guy who had a TV show where he talked about firing people was willing to recall the ambassador.”

“My guess is we’re probably not surprised that the guy who, you know, had a TV show where he talked about firing people is willing to recall the Ambassador,” Jordan said.

“I also point out that, you know, if this was all part of some scheme, as the Democrats allege, why would they replace Ambassador Yovanovitch with Ambassador Taylor? Ambassador Taylor was their star witness. He was their first witness. The guy they call up for their very first public hearing.”

Jordan added that her termination was more than a year ago and said, “the president was wanting to recall ambassador, which he did, subsequently did, which he’s totally allowed to do.”

ABC News’ Mary Bruce, Katherine Faulders, John Santucci, Allison Pecorin, Olivia Rubin, Trish Turner, Ben Siegel, Cheyenne Haslett, Lissette Rodriguez and Ben Gittleson contributed to this report.

Posted on

Mike Pompeo Won’t Say If He Owes Apology To Ex-Ambassador To Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch : NPR

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo participates in a press briefing at the White House on Jan. 10, 2020.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

hide caption

toggle caption

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo participates in a press briefing at the White House on Jan. 10, 2020.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

With the State Department facing continued questions over the treatment of Marie Yovanovitch before she was recalled as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would not say on Friday whether he owed the career diplomat an apology.

“I’ve defended every single person on this team,” Pompeo said in an interview with NPR. “I’ve done what’s right for every single person on this team.”

Pressed on whether he could point to specific remarks in which he defended Yovanovitch, Pompeo responded, “I’ve said all I’m going to say today. Thank you. Thanks for the repeated opportunity to do so. I appreciate that.”

The exchange with Mary Louise Kelly, co-host of All Things Considered, follows the release by House Democrats last week of messages suggesting that Yovanovitch may have been under surveillance in the days before she was told to return to Washington from her posting in Kyiv last year.

The messages were sent between Robert Hyde, a Republican congressional candidate and fervent Trump supporter, and Lev Parnas, an associate of president Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.

Parnas has emerged as a central figure in efforts by Giuliani to pressure the government of Ukraine to investigate political rivals of President Trump. That campaign is now the focus of the ongoing impeachment trial against President Trump in the Senate.

Possible surveillance of a U.S. ambassador

The State Department itself is now investigating the possible surveillance of Yovanovitch, who during testimony before House impeachment investigators in November said she had felt threatened by President Trump. Before her recall, Yovanovitch had been accused of disloyalty by allies of the White House, and during his now-infamous July 25 call with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Trump said of Yovanovitch, “She’s going to go through some things.”

In an interview last week with the conservative radio show host Hugh Hewitt, Pompeo said he “never heard” that Yovanovitch may have been under surveillance. In her testimony before the House, Yovanovitch said she was told by the State Department that she was being recalled due to concerns about her “security.”

Pompeo has come under criticism — including, at times, from career diplomats in his own department — for failing to more forcefully defend Yovanovitch in the face of political attacks. During testimony before impeachment investigators, for example, Michael McKinley, a former senior adviser to Pompeo, said he resigned from the department in part over what he interpreted as a “lack of public support for Department employees.”

“I’m not going to comment on things that Mr. McKinley may have said,” Pompeo said on Friday. But he dismissed the suggestion that a shadow foreign policy involving Ukraine was in place.

“The Ukraine policy has been run from the Department of State for the entire time that I have been here, and our policy was very clear,” Pompeo said.

Immediately after the questions on Ukraine, the interview concluded. Pompeo stood, leaned in and silently glared at Kelly for a period of several seconds before leaving the room.

A few moments later, an aide asked Kelly to follow her into Pompeo’s private living room at the State Department without a recorder. The aide did not say the ensuing exchange would be off the record.

Inside the room, Pompeo shouted his displeasure at being questioned about Ukraine. He used repeated expletives, according to Kelly, and asked, “Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?” He then said, “People will hear about this.”

The State Department did not immediately respond on the record to NPR’s request for comment.

The U.S. and Iran

The interview began earlier with a series of questions about the Trump administration’s policy toward Iran. Pompeo defended the president’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran, saying it is “absolutely working.”

“This is a regime that has been working to develop its nuclear program for years and years and years. And the nuclear deal guaranteed them a pathway to having a nuclear program,” Pompeo said in reference to the international agreement signed by Iran, the U.S., Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia in 2015. “It was a certainty. It might have been delayed for a month or a year or five or 10 years, but it guaranteed them that pathway. This administration has pulled the Band-Aid off.”

As the nation’s chief diplomat, Pompeo has played a central role in shaping the president’s more aggressive posture toward Iran. It’s a policy Pompeo has described as “re-establishing deterrence.”

The policy has taken many forms. Less than two weeks after Pompeo was sworn in as secretary of state in 2018, President Trump announced the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. The announcement was followed by the reinstatement of steep economic sanctions against Tehran.

Under Pompeo, the State Department has also designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, the first time the U.S. has given that label to the branch of another government.

Yet perhaps no action has been more controversial than the administration’s decision this month to launch the drone strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s influential Quds Force, outside the airport in Baghdad. While the administration has declined to offer specifics about the intelligence that prompted the strike, Pompeo has defended the president’s order, saying it was carried out in response to an “imminent threat” of attack on U.S. embassies.

For days, the killing revived fears of an all-out war. Iran retaliated with strikes against two bases housing American troops in Iraq. No Americans died in the attack, though the U.S. military later revealed that 11 service members were injured.

Tensions have since eased, but the episode has renewed questions about whether the president’s “maximum pressure” campaign has emboldened Tehran. Since President Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal, Iran has shot down a U.S. drone, targeted oil tankers in the strategic Strait of Hormuz and been blamed for a debilitating attack on Saudi oil facilities.

At the same time, Iran has stepped away from key provisions of the nuclear deal. In an interview this month with NPR, the country’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said “all limits” on centrifuges used to enrich uranium “are now suspended.”

“He’s blustering,” Pompeo said in Friday’s interview. “This is a regime that has never been in the position that it’s in today.”

The secretary declined, however, to detail specifics of the administration’s policy for preventing Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, saying only, “We’ll stop them.”

Pompeo would not say whether direct U.S. engagement is taking place with Iran, but did say the administration has built a coalition that’s working to put pressure on Iran to end its missile program, its processing of uranium and the reprocessing of plutonium.

He said the U.S. has also “raised the cost” for Iran’s use of force through proxy groups in the Middle East.

“This is beginning to place real choices in front of the Iranian regime,” Pompeo said. “You can see in the protests inside of Iran. You can see the Iranian people not happy with their own government when they have to raise the fuel cost. All the things that are undermining this regime’s ability to inflict risk on the American people are coming to fruition as a direct result of President Trump’s strategy.”

He would not comment on whether a new deal is being developed in order to prevent Tehran from acquiring a weapon, but instead said “the economic, military and diplomatic deterrence that we have put in place will deliver that outcome.”

“The Iranian leadership will have to make the decision about what its behavior is going to be,” he said.

Posted on

The Stump Speech Analyzer: Joe Biden

Editor’s note: PolitiFact is analyzing the Democratic presidential candidates’ stump speeches. Following our summary of the speech’s main themes, we present fact-checks of specific talking points. Read other stump speech analyzers for Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

The stump speech: Biden’s 47-minute speech in Vinton, Iowa Jan. 4, 2020

Former Vice President Joe Biden portrays himself as the experienced adult at the grown-ups table in the Democratic primary. His opponents include “good folks,” he says, but he’s the guy with major legislative accomplishments under his belt such as ushering Obamacare into law and, while in the Senate, passing the Violence Against Women Act.

Instead of attacking his primary opponents, Biden largely saves his swipes for President Donald Trump. Some are subtle, such as his frequent calls for civility in politics.

Other swipes are direct. Biden often recounts one of Trump’s statements following the 2017 violent protests at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., where a Neo-Nazi rammed his car into protesters, killing a woman.

“The president was asked to comment on what happened at that conflict, and he said there were very fine people on both sides,” Biden said. 

Days after the 2017 rally, Trump said “you had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”

Biden does not make many specific legislative promises if elected but generally vows to protect the Affordable Care Act, invest in research for diseases that include cancer and touts the importance of preschool. One of his only specific promises is to immediately rejoin the Paris climate accord, if elected.

He makes his family an important part of his stump speeches. Biden makes a veiled reference to the impeachment proceedings which stem from Trump’s efforts to ask Ukraine to investigate the Bidens including Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine. Joe Biden doesn’t provide any details about Hunter’s work, but instead says the Republicans have unfairly attacked his family.

“They spend millions of dollars lying about me — they spent millions of dollars going after my surviving son,” Biden said.

Biden makes health insurance personal by recounting his family’s experiences, including when his first wife and daughter were killed in a car crash and his sons were hospitalized. Biden’s eldest son, Beau, died of brain cancer in 2015.

“I promise you, I guarantee you, if I am your president I will protect your family’s right to have access to health insurance that is affordable and good as if it were my own family — I get it.”

Biggest applause line: “Unions built the middle class.” 

Post-Trump vision: Biden says the next president will inherit two things: “a very divided country as well as a world in disarray.” The next president will have to be able to “command the respect of the rest of the world.”

Music: Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher”

Anything else: He said the word “folks” 12 times.

Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden during a campaign rally at Eakins Oval in Philadelphia, May 18, 2019. (AP/Matt Rourke)


Fact-checking Biden’s statements

“We make up 15% of the problem in the United States of America.” 

This is accurate. The Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research shows that for 2018 the United States produced about 14% of the emissions, compared to about 30% for China, the highest country. 

Biden said there are two studies about what the ratio is for school psychologists to students and one study showed there is one for every 1,400 students and the other one shows one for every 1,507. “The point is, it should be closer to between 1 and 500-700.”  

We rated a similar statement by Biden about the 1 to 1,400 statistic as Mostly True. The National Association of School Psychologists found in its 2015 membership survey a 1,381-to-1 ratio of students to psychologists. The association was unaware of any similar study with the 1,507 number.

“It costs about $30-40 trillion over 10 years to do Medicare for All.” 

This range aligns with two independent estimates which found that the program would add about $32 trillion to the federal budget over the next 10 years. By comparison, Sen. Elizabeth Warren says federal spending for Medicare for All would rise $20.5 trillion over that decade, which is based on a series of assumptions.

“A lot of people in America, about 160 million, like their health care plan they have negotiated with their employer.” 

We rated a similar statement by Biden Half True. We found in November that a cursory look at polling would suggest that most of the people he was talking about — Americans who get coverage through work — are happy with their plans. But once you dig a little deeper, that narrative gets more complicated. Even while Americans say they like their plans, large segments indicate that the private coverage they have still leaves meaningful gaps. 

Medicare for All “is going to cause significant increases in taxes for middle class people — Bernie acknowledges it.” 

This is a challenge to evaluate because the latest Medicare for All bill is silent about the taxes needed to pay for it. But Biden is distorting Sanders’ position in two ways: first, Sanders never said the rise in taxes would be significant (in 2016 his plan included a 2.2% additional tax on income). More importantly, Sanders always says middle class families will net out ahead because they won’t have to pay premiums. Sanders said that multiple studies show that under Medicare for All “average middle-class families will save $3,000 every year.” However, the studies don’t back him up.

The $900 billion Recovery Act passed during the Obama administration was “without any waste or fraud or abuse.” 

Republicans criticized some of the projects as wasteful, but some of that is subjective. Biden delivered a report in 2010 that found low levels of waste, fraud or abuse. At the time, the number of open or consequential investigations by the Inspector General represented less than 0.2 percent of the number of total Recovery Act awards. While the act produced tangible results, it’s reasonable to question whether it did so in the most efficient way possible.

RELATED: Who is Joe Biden? A bio of the Democratic presidential candidate

RELATED: Stump speech analyzers for Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.


Posted on

Lindsey Graham Says He Would Oppose Effort to Compel Hunter Biden Testimony

Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) on Friday said if Republican colleagues attempt to compel Hunter Biden to testify in the impeachment trial of President Trump, he will vote against the subpoena.

“I don’t want to call Hunter Biden. I don’t want to call Joe Biden. I want someone to look at this when this is done,” Graham told reporters on Capitol Hill.

“I don’t think it’s wrong for us to look at the Biden connection in the Ukraine, the $3 million given to the vice president’s son by the most corrupt company in the Ukraine,” Graham said. However, he added, “To my Republican friends, you may be upset about what happened in the Ukraine with the Bidens but this is not the venue to litigate that.”

Republicans such as Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) have repeatedly threatened to subpoena Hunter Biden if Democrats follow through on their intention to summon former White House national security adviser John Bolton. Paul and colleague Ted Cruz (R., Texas) have suggested the idea of “witness reciprocity,” allowing Democrats to call a witness to testify in exchange for a Republican witness.

Graham acknowledged he will need several Republican senators to vote with him to prevent a subpoena of Hunter Biden and that he doesn’t yet know of other senators who would join him.

The fate of possible votes regarding Bolton and other possible Democratic witnesses was still unclear. A group of moderate GOP senators, including Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah, have signaled support in the past for allowing witnesses at the trial.

More from National Review

Posted on

Trump Showed Up at the March for Life and Said Everything Abortion Foes Want to Hear

WASHINGTON — To hear President Trump address the country’s premier anti-abortion event, you’d hardly recall this same president has racked up an astonishing string of personal sex scandals, including even criminal investigations of hush-money payments to multiple women that remain unresolved.

But when Trump became the first U.S. president to ever personally appear at the March for Life on Friday in downtown Washington, none of that mattered.

Trump rolled up, and said everything they wanted to hear. And the crowd of thousands went nuts for it.

“Every child is a precious and sacred gift from god,” Trump said. “When we see the image of a baby in the womb, we glimpse the majesty of god’s creation.”

READ: How Women Are Training to Do Their Own Abortions.

For many of Trump’s evangelical and Catholic supporters, his full-throated endorsement of the March for Life movement is the thing that makes his long, long history of personal peccadillos, divorces, affairs, ungodliness, lies, and sex scandals — never mind that he once identified as pro-choice — fade into the distant background. Trump announced his historic decision to attend the event in a surprise Tweet on Wednesday, the 47th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. And when he hit the stage, he didn’t disappoint.

The crowd roared whenever Trump name-checked anti-abortion groups like Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of nuns that’s been in a years-long legal battle over the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act. That’s the signature healthcare policy of Trump’s predecessor, former President Barack Obama.

His appearance was scripted, yet he came off more comfortable than he sometimes looks when reading from a teleprompter. He didn’t curse. He didn’t use schoolyard taunts. He spoke the language of the true believers.

“We see the splendor that radiates from each human soul,” Trump told the crowd. “As the Bible tells us, each person is wonderfully made.”

Viewers watching on cable news could see a split-screen image of Trump waxing lyrical about defending the unborn, while House Democrats held a press conference to accuse Trump of stomping on the Constitution by pressuring a foreign country, Ukraine, to investigate his 2020 rival Joe Biden. Nearby, on Capitol Hill, Trump’s Senate impeachment trial over the Ukraine scandal kicked off again moments after he finished speaking.

But at the rally, attendees heard Trump boast that “unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House.”

That particular boast rang true to many of his listeners, including Olivia Duesenberg, a 21-year-old student at Colorado Christian University and a faithful evangelical.

Strong Christian faith and support for the anti-abortion movement represent “the most important thing” Duesenberg looks for in a candidate, she told VICE News.

“He gets a lot of flack for saying the stupid things that he does,” Duesenberg said of President Trump. “But in all honesty, he’s done a lot for the economy. He’s done a lot for business. And he’s done a lot for the pro-life movement.”

Asked if Trump’s tweets bother her, Duesenberg replied: “Absolutely.”

But he’s done plenty to help the movement. Besides appointing two conservative Supreme Court justices, which helps ensure the high court’s rightward majority for perhaps a generation, he’s also appointed more than a quarter of the country’s federal appeals judges.

READ: Extremists Are Winning the War on Abortion.

On the funding front, he’s blocked abortion providers from participating in Title X, the only federal program dedicated to family planning. That’s forced Planned Parenthood out of the program, costing the reproductive healthcare giant — the anti-abortion movement’s biggest boogeyman — an estimated tens of millions of dollars.

James Griffith, 19, said he doesn’t necessarily believe reports of Trump’s bad behavior anyway.

“I think we can all agree that some of the media is very slanted,” said Griffith, who came to the march with his church. “You don’t know [if] what you heard is true about him either, and what he may have done and what he hasn’t. So I’m in full support of him.”

And as long as Trump opposes abortion, Griffith said: “He’s got my vote just on that.”

Cover: Supporters listen as President Donald Trump speaks during the annual “March for Life” rally on the National Mall, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Posted on

Bernie Sanders the Realist

As some would have it, the central question facing American liberalism is one of means rather than ends.

While there is broad agreement (or so the story goes) around the legislative program Democrats should aspire to, there is a mostly friendly debate taking place about how best it might ultimately be achieved given inevitable Republican obstruction and the wider constraints imposed by the American political system. On one side of this fraternal parley sit realists who emphasize the value of incrementalism and the necessity of bipartisan compromise. On the other, more progressively minded liberals insist on pushing a more ambitious and ideologically grounded agenda.

This tidy, self-serving narrative of American politics comes with an obvious benefit: namely, that it allows centrist commentators and right-leaning liberal politicians alike to have their proverbial cake and eat it too, expressing nominal sympathy with goals and policy ideas they all but oppose in practice. Probe it a bit more closely and you find that even this lip service to both sides implicitly tilts towards the more conservative side of the equation: when politics is framed as a contest between reality (i.e., centrism) and progressive idealism (read: good intentions that must ultimately be considered naive) most people are bound to side with the former.

Which brings us to the New York Times editorial board’s bizarre decision earlier this week to endorse both Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar for the Democratic presidential nomination. Even taken on its own terms, the board’s logic is flimsy at best — oscillating awkwardly between praise for Warren and concern-trolling that her politics are too radical to be considered realistic (a line of reasoning that almost explicitly favors Klobuchar and the conservative approach she embodies, even as the Times’s editors in theory endorse both). The editorial is thus better understood as an index of elite confusion and anxiety than a coherent (let alone correct) statement on the present political moment: an aggregated collection of pathologies and irritable mental gestures cumulatively amounting to the larger belief that political change on anything but the smallest scale is basically impossible.

Bernie Sanders, the actual radical of the 2020 race, is lazily dismissed as too old and intransigent early in the piece, leaving the editors free to refrain from any serious engagement with a candidacy they deem mostly synonymous with Warren’s. Since she is then left as the sole standard-bearer for what the editors call the “radical model” of liberal politics, many of the critiques leveled at her are also clearly directed at Sanders (as when, for example, the editorial complains of “us-versus-them”-ism or whines about attacks on big business).

The irony of it all is that, with Sanders and his own theory of change removed from the equation, the basic line of criticism leveled at the so-called radical lane actually ends up making a certain degree of sense:

At the same time, a conservative federal judiciary will be almost as significant a roadblock for progressive change. For Ms. Warren, that leaves open questions — ones she was unwilling to wrestle with in our interview. Ms. Warren has proposed to pay for an expanded social safety net by imposing a new tax on wealth. But even if she could push such a bill through the Senate, the idea is constitutionally suspect and would inevitably be bogged down for years in the courts. A conservative judiciary also could constrain a President Warren’s regulatory powers, and roll back access to health care. Carrying out a progressive agenda through new laws will also be very hard for any Democratic president.

All of this is true inasmuch as there are clearly serious institutional hurdles to a progressive legislative program, and Warren has yet to really explain or lay out any serious strategy for overcoming them. Her agenda, though less radical than Sanders’s, would undoubtedly face considerable opposition from Congressional Republicans and corporate interest groups, as would (in all likelihood) the agendas of every candidate currently seeking the Democratic nomination.

Faced with this reality, the Times’s editors can see no alternative besides retreating to familiar platitudes about bipartisanship and the transparently silly idea that most Democrats (including Sanders) are basically committed to the same agenda. Taken in its entirety, the argument is an incoherent mess. Nonetheless, it serves as a good heuristic for how the centrist mainstream tends to conceive politics and the ways in which its point of view is exceedingly limited.

Thanks to its anti-majoritarian design and the overbearing influence of big money, the American political system is indeed uniquely obstructionist. Add to this the existence of a reactionary right-wing party addicted to voter suppression and gerrymandering and the barriers to actualizing a progressive policy agenda look practically insurmountable. Staring down these constraints, the standard centrist maneuver is to conclude they are simply an indelible feature of American life to be managed and negotiated against rather than transcended or overcome. The invariably conservative orientation that follows is generally what passes for “realism” in American politics.

But how realistic is it to think even a somewhat moderate liberal agenda could ever be realized in the face of such barriers? The Times’s editors may be wrong in their claim that all Democrats ultimately share the same goals, but their somewhat awkward fudging of highly caricatured “realist” and “radical” positions inadvertently underscores the futility of both strands of liberalism they put on the table.

An alternative, and altogether better way of thinking about political realism would both recognize the obstacles faced by any serious reform agenda and offer up a strategy by which they might be overcome. This is what Sanders, unique among candidates running for the Democratic nomination, ultimately does through his embrace of mass democracy.

The Vermont Senator, after all, isn’t naive about the institutional obstruction his policy agenda will face — it being something he repeatedly emphasizes in his stump speeches. “The truth is that the powers that be … they are so powerful, they have so much money, that no one person, not the best president in the world, can take them on alone,” said Sanders in Iowa last year. But rather than treating such obstruction as axiomatic and narrowing his ambitions accordingly, Sanders hopes to mobilize popular power as a counterweight. Thus, he continued: “The only way we transform America is when millions of people together stand up and fight back.”

Other presidential candidates have certainly paid lip service to ideas like movement-building and mass participation in the political process. But none has ever made these things as central to their campaign or overall political strategy. The difficulties inherent in such an effort are certainly real. But, if the goal is push serious reform of any kind, there’s simply no alternative to a mobilized electoral coalition assembled around an ambitious agenda.

Though often dismissed by pundits and rivals as a pie-in-the-sky idealist, Sanders is the true realist of the Democratic field because he is honest about what it will actually take to push American politics in a progressive direction. Bogus as its dichotomy between realism and radicalism is, the Times editorial is right to emphasize the importance of the former.

We just need a better definition of what it means.

Posted on

‘Take her out’: tape appears to catch Trump demanding removal of Ukraine ambassador – live | US news

Evening summary

Trump unveils Space Force logo


Garcia says Trump ‘orchestrated a cover-up’

Impeachment managers begin arguments on obstruction of Congress

Schiff concludes presentation on abuse of power article of impeachment

Schiff warns Trump is ‘still trying to cheat in the next election’

Schiff plays clip from Trump-Putin press conference

Posted on

Bernie Sanders faces ire over Joe Rogan ‘endorsement’

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Sanders is the US Senator for Vermont

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is facing a backlash after he touted a thumbs-up from a podcast host loathed by many liberals.

Joe Rogan, a comedian turned provocateur, has told his seven million YouTube subscribers that he would “probably vote for Bernie”.

Amid the ensuing outcry, Mr Sanders said his campaign was “a big tent”.

Mr Rogan has previously drawn criticism for making what some consider sexist and transphobic comments.

‘I like him a lot’

In a video on his show, The Joe Rogan Experience, the YouTube star said he likes Mr Sanders because the Democrat has been “insanely consistent his entire life”.

“I like him a lot,” he said.

“He’s basically been saying the same thing, been for the same thing his whole life. And that in and of itself is a very powerful structure to operate from,” Mr Rogan says of the septuagenarian Vermont senator.

The clip was tweeted by the Sanders campaign and has been watched over four million times.

However, the decision to highlight the association with Mr Rogan provoked criticism from some of Mr Sanders’s backers.

In particular there has been heavy criticism from some transgender women, who have labelled Mr Rogan “transphobic” over previous comments he has made on his show.

Image copyright
Sheryl Ring/Twitter

Mr Rogan once said that a transgender woman was not “an actual woman”.

He has also been criticised for interviewing controversial figures such as Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist.

Others thought Mr Rogan’s backing could help Mr Sanders gather more support.

The blowback risk is real

Analysis by Anthony Zurcher, BBC Washington

It wasn’t a full-throated endorsement. In fact, “I think I’ll probably vote for Bernie … I like him a lot” wasn’t much of an recommendation at all. But there’s a reason Bernie Sanders is touting Joe Rogan’s comments – even at the risk of provoking anger from some of his left-wing supporters.

Rogan has a loyal following of millions of men, many of whom aren’t particularly political and might be open to a Sanders campaign built around his us-against-the-system economic populism. It represents a largely untapped pool of potential voters in the Democratic primaries – ones who may have voted for Donald Trump’s establishment-smashing pitch in 2016 and are shopping around again this year.

The blowback risk to Sanders is real, however. Some of Rogan’s past comments have been viewed as derogatory toward women. Given that Sanders critics – including, most recently, 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton – have said the Vermont senator has been too tolerant of misogyny among his followers, his celebration of the Rogan endorsement could amplify those concerns.

Sanders is walking a fine line – but in a tight race just over a week before the first primary contest starts, he appears to have deemed the potential to expand his electoral coalition to be worth the risk.

Responding to the backlash, the Sanders campaign said it is trying to “build a multi-racial, multi-generational movement that is large enough to defeat Donald Trump”.

“Sharing a big tent requires including those who do not share every one of our beliefs while always making clear that we will never compromise our values,” the campaign statement continued.

Mr Sanders previously appeared as a guest on the Rogan podcast in August 2019.

Andrew Yang and Tulsi Gabbard, two other 2020 Democratic hopefuls, have also appeared on The Joe Rogan Experience.

Mr Rogan has since said that representatives for three other Democratic contenders, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, had been touch about an appearance.

But he said he would not invite them on to the show because he would “rather talk to my friends”, adding: “I like Tulsi and I like Bernie. That’s it.”

Mr Rogan is not formally affiliated with any particular political party, and his show has featured guests with varying political views.

Posted on

Trump Says ‘Take Her Out’ of Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch on Recording

Stephanie KeithGetty Images

WASHINGTON—Friday was the last day that the House managers would “control the time,” as they say here in the world’s greatest deliberative body, and it was the day they dedicated to demonstrating their contention that the President* of the United States obstructed Congress to cover up the fact that he was blackjacking Ukraine to help him ratfck the 2020 election. Now, why would the president* do this, and what exactly was he covering up? I think it’s entirely possible that it was something like this, from ABC News.

The recording appears to contradict statements by President Trump and support the narrative that has been offered by Parnas during broadcast interviews in recent days. Sources familiar with the recording said the recording was made during an intimate April 30, 2018, dinner at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. Trump has said repeatedly he does not know Parnas, Soviet-born American who has emerged as a wild card in Trump’s impeachment trial, especially in the days since Trump was impeached. “Get rid of her!” is what the voice that appears to be President Trump’s is heard saying. “Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it.”

It is possible that the president* was suggesting Parnas treat Yovanovich to a nice dinner and a movie, but I doubt it.

It is here where we all should remember that, if he had wanted to, the president* could have fired and/or recalled Marie Yovanovich himself and not given any reason at all. He’s the president*. He can do that. Of course, there would have been gossip, and some inconvenient news coverage, and Yovanovich likely would have made a lot of noise, but there would have been no doubt that the president* was within his rights to do what he did.

Instead, because he left his guts somewhere in Queens, he had to get Rudy Giuliani and his band of Volga Bagmen involved, which ultimately forced every one of them, including the president*, to lie and obstruct Congress and, thereafter, lie about how they obstructed Congress. They are the Gang That Couldn’t Obstruct Straight. So now it is clear that both Parnas and Igor Fruman, his partner in sleaze, have flipped like circus acrobats, and god alone knows what else will come out. Who knows how many tapes exist of the president* proposing who knows how many crimes? I would think, given recent developments, the president*’s relationship with Saudi Arabia might be a target-rich environment.

Impeachment Hearing - Washington, DC

The president* could have just fired the ambassador.

The Washington PostGetty Images

In any event, the language from the White House is taking a turn toward what the Godfather script would have read like had it been written by Gilbert and Sullivan. CBS reported that someone at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue warned Republican senators, “Vote against the president and your head will be on a pike.” Meanwhile, a White House aide was cruising the Senate hallways, mumbling about how he “can’t wait for the revenge.” I remain amazed by the salience of this argument. I honestly do not believe that the Trump operation, working on its own, could muster up serious primary challenges to five or six incumbent Republican senators at once. In the first place, there aren’t enough serious candidates willing to take that dive; there are more Roy Moores out there than there are Lamar Alexanders.

Second, I don’t think the Trump organization could beat Lisa Murkowski in Alaska. It can’t do anything at all to Mitt Romney in Utah or to Alexander, who’s halfway out the door anyway. Absent fanciful theories about mob hits or hidden kompromat, what are these people afraid of? Why does Lindsey Graham lose his goddamn mind every time he gets in front of a microphone? After spending a month screaming about the Bidens and Burisma, Graham announced Friday that he would oppose any effort to haul Hunter Biden in front of the Senate.

“I have said consistently that I am not going to grant witness requests from the defense. They could’ve called all these people if they wanted to in the House. They denied the president his day in court, and I’m not going to legitimize that. There are a bunch of people on my side who want to call Joe Biden and Hunter Biden. I want to end this sooner than later. I don’t want to turn it into a circus. I think Schumer said yesterday that they’re not willing to trade Joe Biden for anybody. I think I know why. I want the American people to pick the next president. Not me.”

Of course, that’s a bit of obstruction there, too, pending the next hit release from the Lev Parnas Recording Company.

Respond to this post on the Esquire Politics Facebook page here.