Welcome to 2020 Vision, the Yahoo News column covering the presidential race. Reminder: There are 248 days until the Iowa caucuses and 521 days until the 2020 presidential election.
After the April release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., became the first major 2020 Democratic candidate to call for President Trump’s impeachment. Few were ready to join her. But more are now, following Mueller’s public statement emphasizing his office could not conclude that Trump had not committed a crime.
Below is an updated list of where every candidate stands on the impeachment issue.
Should Congress launch an impeachment inquiry into President Trump?
• Cory Booker: “Robert Mueller’s statement makes it clear: Congress has a legal and moral obligation to begin impeachment proceedings immediately.”
• Pete Buttigieg: “This is as close to an impeachment referral as it gets. Robert Mueller could not clear the president, nor could he charge him — so he has handed the matter to Congress, which alone can act to deliver due process and accountability.”
• Julián Castro: “I think it would be perfectly reasonable for Congress to open up impeachment hearings against President Trump.”
• John Delaney: “If we continue to allow this President to be unchecked and manipulate the truth, we will forever alter our Democracy for the worse.”
• Kirsten Gillibrand: “It’s time for Congress to begin impeachment hearings and follow the facts. Robert Mueller clearly expects Congress to exercise its constitutional authority and take steps that he could not.”
• Kamala Harris: “We need to start impeachment proceedings. It’s our constitutional obligation.”
• John Hickenlooper: “I think we have to begin an impeachment inquiry and that doesn’t mean we’re going to impeach President Trump tomorrow or maybe ever, but I think we do have an obligation to follow where the facts lead.”
• Wayne Messam: “I believe the President should be placed under impeachment proceedings and let the weight of the full report carry out the justice the American people deserve.”
• Seth Moulton: “Mueller did his job. Now it’s time to do ours. Impeachment hearings should begin tomorrow.”
• Beto O’Rourke: “There must be consequences, accountability and justice. The only way to ensure that is to begin impeachment proceedings.”
• Bernie Sanders: “This president must be held accountable, and I believe that the Judiciary Committee should begin impeachment inquiries.”
• Elizabeth Warren: “If he were anyone other than President of the United States, he would be in handcuffs and indicted.”
• Michael Bennet: “Let’s let the process go forward and see where it takes us.”
• Joe Biden: “Congress must do everything in its power to hold this Administration to account. That is what Congress is doing and should do: continue to investigate.”
• Steve Bullock: “I think we should have the full investigations … oversight that’s occurring right now.”
• Bill de Blasio: “I think we should continue the investigations in the Congress … and I believe they will eventually lead to impeachment.”
• Tulsi Gabbard: “I don’t think that we should defeat Donald Trump through impeachment.”
• Jay Inslee: “Congress needs to get to the bottom of what’s going on here. Impeachment should not be off the table.”
• Amy Klobuchar: “If the House brings the impeachment proceedings before us, we will deal with them.”
• Tim Ryan: “The President, no President, is above the law. And it’s Congress’s job to make sure we are true to our founding principle that the President is not a King and must answer to the American people.”
• Eric Swalwell: “I’m confident that he’s going to be removed, whether it’s by the voters in November 2020 or by Congress. We’re near the end of Donald Trump.”
• Marianne Williamson: “While I think the president has committed impeachable offenses, the political cost for beginning impeachment proceedings could be extremely high. There are multiple investigations going on and all of them must be allowed to be completed. If congressional findings point to impeachment at that time, I will support it.”
• Andrew Yang: “My focus is on beating Donald Trump at the ballot box and solving the problems that got him elected in the first place.”
In his statement Wednesday, Mueller said he was bound by a long-standing Justice Department policy that a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office, and “charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider.”
On Friday, Warren called on Congress to pass a law changing that.
“No president is above the law,” she said in a statement released by her campaign. “Congress should make it clear that presidents can be indicted for criminal activity, including obstruction of justice.”
Golden State (weekend) warriors
This weekend California will become ground zero for the 2020 contest when at least 13 major candidates — Sanders, Harris, Warren, Buttigieg, O’Rourke, Booker, Klobuchar, Inslee, Castro, Hickenlooper, Gabbard, Gillibrand and Swalwell — swarm Los Angeles and the Bay Area for the California Democratic Party’s organizing convention and related events. All told, it should be the single largest gathering of 2020 hopefuls to date. Yahoo News West Coast Correspondent Andrew Romano has a preview:
Much will be made of how the huge herd reflects California’s increased importance on the 2020 primary calendar. Often one of the last states to vote, California has moved its primary up to Super Tuesday, March 3 — the first primary following voting in the four states that traditionally lead the primary season (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada). Pundits will say that the presence of nearly every top-tier candidate — with the notable exception of Biden, who is campaigning in Ohio instead — is a sign that the fight for the state’s huge trove of 495 delegates (nearly a quarter of the 2,026 needed to win the nomination) will be especially intense this year.
Maybe so. But there’s probably a bigger prize this weekend than making inroads with voters, or even making money. (Wealthy, coastal California has long been considered the party’s political ATM, and Buttigieg, for instance, is holding four fundraisers Saturday alone.)
The real goal may be to make news. As New York Times television critic James Poniewozik has astutely observed, “the umpteen Democratic candidates have two challenges. One is to figure out what entices news producers to show their clips and what lures voters scrolling their phones to hit play. The second, related to the first, is to implicitly argue how they, in a general election, would seize attention from a president who can rescramble the day’s news lineup by tweeting a mean nickname before breakfast.”
Where better to show that you can stand out from the pack than in the middle of the pack itself — in some of the biggest media markets in the country, surrounded by the entire national press corps?
Whoever gives rise to the California convention’s clickiest moment might reasonably be declared its true winner. The candidates will have no shortage of opportunities: at a Unity & Freedom forum Friday in Pasadena, Calif., where Sanders, Harris, Castro and Inslee will tackle the hot-button issue of immigration; at a Service Employees International Union breakfast in San Francisco Saturday, where Booker, Buttigieg, Harris, Klobuchar, O’Rourke and Sanders will discuss work and inequality; onstage at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, where all of the candidates will address the convention, back-to-back; at a MoveOn forum Saturday afternoon, where Sanders, Booker, Warren, O’Rourke, Gillibrand, Harris, Castro and Klobuchar will each unveil one “big idea” that will “inspire and mobilize voters” in 2020.
Stay tuned for the (viral) fireworks.
DNC tightens rules for third debate
If you have a favorite Democratic candidate and want to be (reasonably) sure of seeing that candidate debate, be sure to tune in for the June and July events because access to the debate stage is going to shrink considerably thereafter. For the early rounds, candidates need to get either 1 percent in three polls or 65,000 donors to qualify. Those who hit both marks are automatically given a space, and the rest of the 20 slots are allocated on a sliding scale. Starting with September’s forum, the bar for admission from the Democratic National Committee rises steeply: Candidates will both need 130,000 donors and to hit 2 percent in four polls.
Those likely to clear the higher bar are Biden, Sanders, Warren, Harris and Buttigieg. O’Rourke is in good shape, and then it starts to get dicey with the tier containing Booker and Klobuchar. Candidates will have the advantage of the June and July debates to reach a broader audience and perhaps get a bump to propel them into the fall, but a consolidation of support around the frontrunners could choke out the candidates now struggling.
Campaigns have said the new donor requirements will be a drain on resources as money is spent chasing individual donors via social media, mainly on Facebook. Others in the party say the money could be put to better use on down-ballot races and for local organizing.
“And as a point of scale: the amount of money many of the campaigns will have to spend in ads in order to hit 130k donors by September would fund Run for Something for a year,” tweeted Amanda Litman, the executive director of Run for Something, a group that recruits and trains Democratic candidates.
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., is struggling in early poll numbers as he combats the perception that he is falling behind in the 2020 presidential race. Yahoo News White House Correspondent Hunter Walker reports on the state of Booker’s campaign:
When Booker entered the presidential race in February, he was widely considered one of the leading contenders in the crowded Democratic primary. Although he has largely held steady and is still edging out more than half the declared candidates, he’s still at just over 2 percent support in most polls. He is behind some of his Senate colleagues, and he has watched far lower-profile politicians vault over him.
Faced with these daunting poll numbers and waning buzz, senior members of Booker’s campaign made their case to Yahoo News for why, as the Democratic presidential debates begin in late June, they still think he can pull ahead. They’re betting on a two-pronged strategy focused on building an organization in key early states and rolling out an ambitious policy agenda devoted to the idea of “justice.”
“Our philosophy has been, the race is going to be won in January or February of next year. The goal is to build a sustainable organization and have a platform, policywise and infrastructurally speaking, to be in it for the long haul,” Addisu Demissie, Booker’s campaign manager, said in an interview with Yahoo News last week.
The Booker campaign’s plan to build a quality team and detailed suite of policies also includes a tight focus on the first four states on the primary calendar: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
“In Iowa and New Hampshire, in these places, you can actually win these things with retail politics. You can win by organizing and introducing yourself to people,” Demissie said. “The way to cut through the noise … you can win hand to hand.”
Even though Booker is getting in front of voters in key states with what he believes is a unique agenda, he’s not receiving the extended coverage of his biography that other Democratic presidential hopefuls, like former Texas Rep. O’Rourke and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Buttigieg, are enjoying. Booker, who took office as mayor of Newark, N.J., in 2006, became something of a national political celebrity, thanks to his pioneering social media presence and hands-on approach, like personally shoveling snow for constituents and rescuing a woman from a burning building.
Demissie acknowledged that his candidate doesn’t have what he termed the “newness thing.” However, he pointed to poll numbers indicating that much of the public has yet to meet Booker, even if reporters have already shared many of his stories.
“We have nine months to introduce him to these folks, and the numbers will change when that changes,” Demissie said.
An update on the ‘AOC primary’
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s recent appearance alongside Sen. Warren in a pair of viral videos has led to some speculation — and reports on fringe conservative websites — that the 29-year-old freshman phenom may endorse the Massachusetts senator over Sen. Sanders. Ocasio-Cortez, who got her start in politics as an organizer for Sanders’s 2016 campaign, was quick to squash the rumor.
“I don’t know why people are suddenly trusting alt-right outlets with ‘scoops’ on who I’m endorsing,” she tweeted Friday. “Let’s use our reading skills. Context clues. If they haven’t ever reported about me honestly & in good faith, why would they start now?”
Ocasio-Cortez added: “I’m not endorsing for some time.”
It may sound strange, but outside of former President Barack Obama, there is perhaps no bigger endorsement for a Democratic candidate this cycle.
So who has the AOC edge? In an interview with the Yahoo News podcast “Skullduggery” in April, Ocasio-Cortez praised both progressive firebrands.
“I haven’t endorsed anybody, but I’m very supportive of Bernie,” she said. “I also think what Elizabeth Warren has been bringing to the table is truly remarkable, truly remarkable and transformational.”
One Democratic candidate who likely won’t be getting AOC’s seal of approval anytime soon: former Vice President Joe Biden. Biden’s candidacy “does not particularly animate me right now,” Ocasio-Cortez told “Skullduggery.”
“I’m not a person of color. I’m not a citizen of a tribe, and I shouldn’t have done it.”
— Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., when asked on “The Breakfast Club” about her past claims of Native American ancestry
“Right now, there’s no path … I don’t see a way to get there.”
— Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich on the possibility of him running for president in 2020
“Before Bernie, Jerry and I used to be the most famous guys from Vermont.”
— Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Ben Cohen while introducing Sanders at a rally in Montpelier, Vt.
“I think they agree in their assessment of former Vice President Joe Biden.”
— White House press secretary Sarah Sanders when asked on NBC’s “Meet The Press” about Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un both calling Biden a “low IQ” person
“For a president, especially a president who never served, to say he’s going to come in and overrule that system of military justice undermines the very foundations, legal and moral, of this country.”
— South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, an Afghanistan War veteran, when asked on ABC’s “This Week” about Trump’s possible pardoning of some war criminals
“If we go down the road tomorrow and impeach President Trump, we’re actually doing him a favor. That’s what he wants, to be able to say he was railroaded, and then to have the impeachment from the House go to the Senate where I guarantee you Mitch McConnell and the Republicans are not going to convict Donald Trump. They’re going to acquit Donald Trump, and then he’s going to run for president saying he was acquitted.”
— Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., during a CNN town hall in Atlanta
“It’s a dirty, filthy, disgusting word. And it had nothing to do with me.”
— President Trump to reporters on the word “impeach”
Des Moines, Iowa
• Friday, May 31: Partly cloudy, 87°/60°
• Saturday, June 1: Thunderstorms, 79°/51°
• Sunday, June 2: Mostly sunny, 73°/50°
• Friday, May 31: Partly cloudy, 76°/53°
• Saturday, June 1: Mostly sunny, 76°/54°
• Sunday, June 2: Thunderstorms, 74°/51°
Source: Weather Underground
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