Posted By Ian Schwartz
CNN: The 2020 presidential candidates comment on the impeachment inquiry at the CNN/New York Times debate in Westerville, Ohio.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN MODERATOR: Since the last debate, House Democrats have officially launched an impeachment inquiry against President Trump, which all the candidates on this stage support. Senator Warren, I want to start with you. You have said that there’s already enough evidence for President Trump to be impeached and removed from office. But the question is, with the election only one year away, why shouldn’t it be the voters who determine the president’s fate?
WARREN: Because sometimes there are issues that are bigger than politics. And I think that’s the case with this impeachment inquiry.
When I made the decision to run for president, I certainly didn’t think it was going to be about impeachment. But when the Mueller report came out, I read it, all 442 pages. And when I got to the end, I realized that Mueller had shown, too, a fare-thee-well, that this president had obstructed justice and done it repeatedly. And so at that moment, I called for opening an impeachment inquiry.
Now, that didn’t happen. And look what happened as a result. 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.
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, but, understand, it’s about the next president and the next president and the next president and the future of this country. The impeachment must go forward.
COOPER: Thank you, Senator Warren. You’re all going to get in on this, by the way. Senator Sanders, do Democrats have any chance but to impeach President Trump? Please respond.
SANDERS: No, they don’t. In my judgment, Trump is the most corrupt president in the history of this country. It’s not just that he obstructed justice with the Mueller Report. I think that the House will find him guilty of — worthy of impeachment because of the emoluments clause. This is a president who is enriching himself while using the Oval Office to do that, and that is outrageous.
And I think in terms of the recent Ukrainian incident, the idea that we have a president of the United States who is prepared to hold back national security money to one of our allies in order to get dirt on a presidential candidate is beyond comprehension. 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.
COOPER: Vice President Biden, during the Clinton impeachment proceedings, you said, and I quote, “The American people don’t think that they’ve made a mistake by electing Bill Clinton, and we in Congress had better be very careful before we upset their decision.” With the country now split, have Democrats been careful enough in pursuing the impeachment of President Trump?
BIDEN: Yes, they have. 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.
This president — and I agree with Bernie, Senator Sanders — is the most corrupt president in modern history and I think all of our history. And the fact is that this president of the United States has gone so far as to say, since this latest event, that, in fact, he will not cooperate in any way at all, will not list any witnesses, will not provide any information, will not do anything to cooperate with the impeachment. They have no choice but to move.
COOPER: Senator Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that members of Congress have to be, in her words, fair to the president and give him a chance to exonerate himself. You’ve already said that based on everything you’ve seen, you would vote to remove him from office. Is that being fair to the president?
HARRIS: Well, it’s just being observant, because he has committed crimes in plain sight. I mean, it’s shocking, but he told us who he was. Maya Angelou told us years ago, listen to somebody when they tell you who they are the first time.
During that election, Donald Trump told us he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and get away with it. And he has consistently since he won been selling out the American people. He’s been selling out working people. He’s been selling out our values. He’s been selling out national security. And on this issue with Ukraine, he has been selling out our democracy.
Our framers imagined this moment, a moment where we would have a corrupt president. And our framers then rightly designed our system of democracy to say there will be checks and balances. This is one of those moments. And so Congress must act.
But the reality of it is that 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.
COOPER: Senator Booker, you have said that President Trump’s, quote, “moral vandalism” disqualifies him from being president. Can you be fair in an impeachment trial? Please respond.
BOOKER: So, first of all, we must be fair. We are talking about ongoing proceedings to remove a sitting president for office. This has got to be about patriotism and not partisanship.
Look, I share the same sense of urgency of everybody on this stage. I understand the outrage that we all feel. But we have to conduct this process in a way that is honorable, that brings our country together, doesn’t rip us apart.
Anybody who has criticisms about a process that is making all the facts bare before the American public, that works to build consensus, that’s what this nation needs, in what is a moral moment and not a political one. So I swore an oath to do my job as a senator, do my duty. This president has violated his. I will do mine.
COOPER: Thank you, Senator Booker.
Senator Klobuchar, you have — what do you say to those who fear that impeachment is a distraction from issues that impact people’s day-to-day lives, health care, the economy, and could backfire on Democrats?
KLOBUCHAR: We can do two things at once. That’s our job. 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.
He has not been standing up for the workers of Ohio. He’s not been standing up for the farmers in Iowa. And I take this even a step further. You know, when he made that call to the head of Ukraine, he’s digging up dirt on an opponent. That’s illegal conduct. That’s what he was doing. He didn’t talk to him about the Russian invasion. He talked to him about that.
So 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. So whether it is workers’ issues, whether it is farmers’ issues, he has put his own private interests…
COOPER: Thank you.
KLOBUCHAR: … and I will not do that.
COOPER: Thank you. Secretary Castro, is impeachment a distraction?
CASTRO: Not at all. We can walk and chew gun at the same time. And all of us are out there every single day talking about what we’re going to do to make sure that more people cross a graduation stage, that more families have great health care, that more folks are put to work in places like Ohio, where Donald Trump has broken his promises, because Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania actually in the latest jobs data have lost jobs, not gained them.
Not only that, what we have to recognize is that not only did the Mueller Report point out 10 different instances where the president obstructed justice or tried to, and he made that call to President Zelensky of the Ukraine, but he is in ongoingly — in an ongoing way violating his oath of office and abusing his power.
We have to impeach this president. And the majority of Americans not only support impeachment, they support removal. He should be removed.
COOPER: Mayer Buttigieg, you have said that impeachment should be bipartisan. There’s been, obviously, very little Republican support to date, yet Democrats are proceeding. Is that a mistake?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, 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.
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. It’s also about the presidency itself, because a president 10 years or 100 years from now will look back at this moment and draw the conclusion either that no one is above the law or that a president can get away with anything.
But everyone on this stage, by definition, is competing to be a president for after the Trump presidency. Remember, one way or the other, this presidency is going to come to an end. I want you to picture what it’s going to be like, what it’s actually going to feel like in this country the first day the sun comes up after Donald Trump has been president.
It starts out feeling like a happy thought; this particular brand of chaos and corruption will be over. But really think about where we’ll be: vulnerable, even more torn apart by politics than we are right now. And these big issues from the economy to climate change have not taken a vacation during the impeachment process.
I’m running to be the president who can turn the page and unify a dangerously polarized country while tackling those issues that are going to be just as urgent then as they are now.
COOPER: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Congresswoman Gabbard, you’re the only sitting House member on this stage. How do you respond?
GABBARD: If impeachment is driven by these hyperpartisan interests, it will only further divide an already terribly divided country. Unfortunately, this is what we’re already seen play out as calls for impeachment really began shortly after Trump won his election. And as unhappy as that may make us as Democrats, he won that election in 2016.
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.
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.
COOPER: Thank you, Congresswoman.
Mr. Steyer, you’ve been calling for impeachment for two years. Does there need to be bipartisan support?
STEYER: Well, Anderson, this is my first time on this stage, so I just want to start by reminding everybody that every candidate here is more decent, more coherent, and more patriotic than the criminal in the White House.
But I also want to point out that Anderson’s right. 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. 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.
COOPER: Mr. Yang, do you think there’s already enough evidence out there to impeach the president? Please respond.
YANG: 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. We’re standing in the great state of Ohio, the ultimate purple state, the ultimate bellwether state.
Why did Donald Trump win your state by eight points? Because we got rid of 300,000 manufacturing jobs in your towns. And we are not stopping there. How many of you have noticed stores closing where you work and live here in Ohio? Raise your hands.
It’s not just you. Amazon alone is closing 30 percent of America’s stores and malls, soaking up $20 billion in business while paying zero in taxes. These are the problems that got Donald Trump elected, the fourth industrial revolution. And that is going to accelerate and grow more serious regardless of who is in the Oval Office.
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.
COOPER: Congressman O’Rourke, on impeachment, please respond.
O’ROURKE: You know, I think about everyone who’s ever served this country in uniform. We have two examples here on this stage tonight in Mayor Buttigieg and Congresswoman Gabbard, those who have willingly sacrificed their lives to defend this country and our Constitution. We are the inheritors of their service and their sacrifice.
And we have a responsibility to be fearless in the face of this president’s criminality and his lawlessness. 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.
COOPER: Thank you, Congressman.
O’ROURKE: 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.
COOPER: Thank you.
O’ROURKE: And we cannot do that.