Impeachment takes centre stage in Democratic debate

The fifth Democratic presidential debate was held on Wednesday evening at the Tyler Perry studios in Atlanta, Georgia.

For at least a few hours, 10 presidential candidates did their best to wrest the attention of American voters away from the ongoing impeachment hearings that have dominated national headlines for weeks.

First, however, they had to address the elephant in the room.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, a front-runner and one of the first candidates to suggest Donald Trump should be impeached, said she would try to convince Republican senators to vote to remove the president by telling them to view the latest revelations about Ukraine as part of what she said was Mr Trump’s ongoing lawlessness.

She added a plug for her anti-corruption plan, which includes a proposal to ban big campaign donors (like Gordon Sondland, the star of the day’s impeachment hearings) from being named ambassadors.

Two other candidates with strong support, Senator Bernie Sanders and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, also had an opportunity to chime in.

Sanders, as he often does, labeled Trump a pathological liar and the most corrupt president in modern history.

Buttigieg said the president had abused his power, but pivoted to calls for unity – a major theme of his campaign.

Then there was Joe Biden, the man Trump encouraged the Ukrainians to investigate. Although the former vice-president’s once dominating lead in the polls has been greatly reduced, he said he attracted Trump’s attention because he’s the one best positioned to beat him.

With that out of the way, the Democrats turned to the kind of topics that have dominated previous debates: taxes, the environment, foreign policy and, most of all, healthcare.

Senator Kamala Harris sharply criticised Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard after she said the Democratic Party was corrupted by the foreign policy establishment, the military-industrial complex and “greedy corporate interests”.

It was a bit of payback after Gabbard attacked Harris’s criminal justice record in the July debate – a moment that marked the beginning of Harris’s slow but steady slide from near-front-runner to back-of-the pack afterthought.

Sanders took a swipe at Biden’s support for what he labeled the “terrible” 2003 Iraq War.

Then there was an exchange on the Democratic Party’s appeal to black voters, which included Biden’s rather extraordinary assertion that he “comes out of the black community” in terms of his support. -BBC

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