Ten Democratic presidential candidates spent two hours Wednesday talking policy and sparring in the party's first debate of the 2020 election:
11 p.m. The first Democratic debate, which put on display a huge range of policy and personality differences in the crowded field, ended at 11 p.m. sharp.
There were poignant moments, including when the candidates described what they viewed as the biggest threats to the United States. There were one-line zingers, such as when Rep. Tusli Gabbard and Rep. Tim Ryan went back and forth over America’s role in the world. There were unusual technical glitches, which forced NBC to cut to an unexpected commercial break.
Never far from the stage was President Donald Trump, who repeatedly weighed in as the Democrats spoke, at one point posting that the event was “boring.”
For more coverage of the debate, check out these links:
10:55 p.m.: Beto O’Rourke said Congress should immediately begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump in response to special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings.
And if Congress doesn’t impeach, O’Rourke suggested that if he’s elected, the Justice Department would purse charges against Trump once he leaves office.
Mueller’s report detailed 10 episodes in which investigators said the president tried to thwart their work, though Mueller made no determination on whether the president's conduct was criminal.
“If we allow him to get away with this with complete impunity, we will set a new standard,” O’Rourke said.
John Delaney said while he believes no one is above the law, he supports House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to hold off on opening impeachment proceedings for now.
Impeachment isn’t the issue he’s hearing about most from voters, Delaney said. They care more about jobs, the economy, public schools and other pocketbook issues, he said.
10:52 p.m. Wrapping up foreign policy, the moderators asked each candidate to name the biggest threat to the United States. Jay Inslee got the most applause with his answer: Donald Trump.
Here’s what the other candidates said:
John Delaney: China and nuclear weapons.
Tulsi Gabbard: The fact that we’re at a greater risk of nuclear war than ever before.
Amy Klobuchar: China and what’s going on in the Mideast with Iran.
Beto O’Rourke: Climate change.
Cory Booker: Nuclear proliferation and climate change.
Julian Castro: China and climate change
Tim Ryan: China.
Bill de Blasio: Russia, “because they’re trying to undermine our democracy and they’ve been doing a pretty damn good job.”
10:48 p.m. Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii got into one of the more heated back and forths of the debate.
“If the United Sates isn’t engaged, the Taliban will grow and they will have bigger, bolder terrorist acts,” Ryan argued.
Gabbard, who served in Iraq and Kuwait with the National Guard, argued that the Taliban were there long before the U.S. engaged in Afghanistan.
“When we weren’t in there, they started flying planes into our buildings,” Ryan said.
“The Taliban didn’t attack us on 9/11,” Gabbard shot back. “al-Qaida did.”
10:42 p.m. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard explained her past anti-LGBTQ stances by saying she grew up in a conservative home and was very young. Gabbard, who has previously apologized for her remarks, has come under fire for years ago promoting her work for an anti-gay group.
“There is no one in our government at any level who has the right to tell any American who they should be allowed to love or who they should be allowed to marry,” Gabbard said.
Gabbard said she grew up in a “very conservative home” and “held views when I was very young that I no longer hold today.”
Sen. Cory Booker quickly fired back.
“That’s not enough, that’s not enough," he said. "About 30% of LGBTQ children do not go to school right now because of fear. It is not enough to be on the equality act of an original co sponsor.”
10:39 p.m. Tim Ryan argued that the Democratic Party has a perception problem. The party’s center of gravity has to shift, he said, from the coastal elite to the forgotten communities that have been left behind. Otherwise, the party won’t get the chance to implement its policies to address climate change, gun violence and other priorities.
“If you want to beat Mitch McConnell, this (had) better be a working class party if you want to go into Kentucky and take his rear end out,” Ryan said. “If we don’t address that fundamental problem with our connection to workers – white, black, brown, gay, straight – working class people, none of this is going to get done.”
10:30 p.m. Sen. Mitch McConnell, who refused to even grant a confirmation hearing to one of President Barack Obama’s nominees for the Supreme Court, was a topic for several minutes in the second half of the debate.
Moderators asked Sen. Elizabeth Warren if she had a plan to deal with McConnell.
“I do,” she said, drawing applause from the audience.
America is a democracy, Warren said, “and the way a democracy is supposed to work is the will of the people matters.”
“We have to push from the outside, have leadership from the inside and make this Congress reflect the will of the people,” she said.
10:27 p.m. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio turned a conversation on gun control into a much broader discussion about race relations and policing in the United States.
“Something that sets me apart from all my colleagues running in this race and that is for the last 21 years I’ve been raising a black son in America,” said de Blasio, who is white, referencing his son, Dante. “I have had to have very, very serious talks with my son…including how to deal with the fact that he has to take special caution.”
“We need to have a different conversation in this country about guns, but also a different conversation about policing,” he said.
De Blasio also referenced the police shooting in South Bend, Indiana, of a black man by a white officer that Mayor Pete Buttigieg – who is on stage Thursday – has been struggling with.
“There have been too many tragedies between our young men and our police, as we saw recently in Indiana,” he said.
10:15 p.m. Elizabeth Warren got emotional when the subject turned to gun violence in schools.
Her voice cracking, Warren said she has gotten inquiries from children asking how she will keep them safe.
“That’s our responsibility as adults,” she said, arguing that gun control is a “national health emergency” and should be treated as such.
Cory Booker tried to bring the debate home, saying he’s probably the only one on the panel who lives in a neighborhood where seven people were shot last week.
“This is not policy,” Booker said. “This is personal.”
Amy Klobuchar said she examines gun control proposals from the standpoint of, “Does this hurt my Uncle Dick in his deer stand?”
“These proposals don’t do that,” she said.
10 p.m. It was not a great moment for the audio to drop out.
In the middle of a question from NBC’s Chuck Todd about the impact of school shootings and gun control, the video feed carried the audio of the audience rather than the moderators and the candidates. Todd referred to the control room before cutting to an unscheduled commercial to fix the problem.
Despite the somber nature of the question, the unusual technical glitch drew instantaneous humor on social media.
"Oh no – technical difficulties," tweeted Democratic candidate Andrew Yang. "It’s the Russians."
Trump immediately picked up on the technical problem.
He posted on Twitter that the networks should "be ashamed of themselves for having such a horrible technical breakdown in the middle of the debate."
9:59 p.m Candidates not on stage until Thursday night watched Wednesday for tips on how to prepare.
“I need to learn Spanish by tomorrow night at 9,” Marianne Williamson tweeted after several candidates – and one moderator – spoke in Spanish.
9:58 p.m. Sen. Amy Klobuchar has emerged as the most aggressive critic of Trump in the debate, attacking the president on immigration, the economy and Iran.
“He has made us less safe than we are right now,” Klobuchar said in response to a question about the Iran nuclear deal.
“This president is literally every single day 10 minutes away from going to war, one tweet away from going to war,” Klobuchar said. “I don’t think we should conduct foreign policy in our bathrobe at 5 in the morning.”
Other Democrats also blasted the president for backing the U.S. out of the agreement.
“Donald Trump is marching us toward a far more dangerous situation,” Booker said. “We need to renegotiate and get back into a deal.”
9:55 p.m. Gov. Jay Inslee said President Donald Trump threatened to send refugees to his state if it passed a law declaring itself a sanctuary state.
“I told him that’s not a threat at all,” Inslee said. “We want refugees in our state.”
Washington, he said, values diversity.
9:52 p.m. Tim Ryan said there are terrorists being held at Guantanamo Bay that get better health care than the children who have tried to cross the border.
“That needs to stop,” Ryan said, calling on Trump to immediately send nurses and doctors to the border.
9:50 p.m. Democrats widely agreed Wednesday that the family separations that have taken place under President Donald Trump’s administration are not in the nation’s interest.
Former Mayor Julián Castro argued that the administration should “not criminalize desperation.” He called the Trump administration’s policies on immigration “horrendous.”
“The separation of children of families doesn’t just go on at our border,” argued Sen. Cory Booker. “ICE is ripping away parents from their children in American cities.”
9:45 p.m. President Donald Trump, who is en route to Japan for the G-20 summit, suggested he wouldn’t be tweeting much during the debate.
But he couldn’t resist.
Roughly half an hour into the program, Trump tweeted his snarky, one-word review: “BORING!”
9:40 p.m. As the debate was getting under way, President Donald Trump, en route to Japan for the G-20 summit, stopped in Alaska so Air Force One could refuel.
Trump also took the opportunity to say hello to a gathering of U.S. troops.
Reporters traveling with Trump overheard him tell the soldiers that he chose them over watching the debate because they are “so much smarter” than the Democrats on stage in Miami.
9:30 p.m. Several candidates drew applause lines for their positions on abortion.
Gov. Jay Inslee tried to stand out as a governor among a field of lawmakers by calling himself the only candidate who has passed a law protecting a woman’s right to reproductive health – a comment one of the women on stage couldn’t let pass.
“There are three women up here that have fought pretty hard for a woman’s right to choose,” Amy Klobuchar said to wide applause.
9:27 p.m. Only two hands shot up when the candidates were asked if they were willing to abolish their private health insurance in favor of a government plan. Elizabeth Warren’s hand was first in the air, followed by Bill de Blasio’s.
Warren said the current system lead to rising premiums, rising co-pays and fighting with insurance companies.
“Medicare for all solves that problem,” Warren said.
9:22 p.m. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio says the upcoming election is a battle “for the heart and soul of our party.
“This is supposed to be the party of the working people,” he said, adding, “there’s plenty of money in this country. It’s just in the wrong hands.”
9:19 p.m. Former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke had a mini-moment in the first Democratic debate by being the first candidate to break out in Spanish.
Hispanic voters are an increasingly important block of voters in the primary election.
O’Rourke used his aside in Spanish to say that the economy is not representative of everyone in the United States.
9:13 p.m. An early theme began to emerge in the Democratic debate, with virtually every candidate blasting the consolidation of major U.S. corporations. Underlying that point: Democrats are hoping to undercut Trump’s message on the economy by arguing that it is helping billionaires more than middle class families.
“I feel very strongly about the need to check the corporate consolidation and let the free market work,” said Sen. Cory Booker.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren agreed. “We’ve had the laws out there for a long time,” she said. “What’s been missing is courage – courage in Washington to take on the giants. …I have the courage to go after them.”
9:10 p.m. Sen. Amy Klobuchar was the first Democratic candidate to reference President Donald Trump. Democrats have wrestled with how much they want to discuss their own policies, and how much they want to lean on the president.
Klobuchar, who took the debate’s second question, raised Trump almost immediately.
“Donald Trump just sits in the White House and gloats about what’s going on,” she said before turning her answer to a broader response on the economy.
9:06 p.m. Tulsi Gabbard’s bright red jacket wins the color war, standing out among a sea of blue suits. Elizabeth Warren’s purple jacket is a close second. Amy Klobuchar opted for a pop of red blouse underneath her jacket.
Most of the seven men on stage opted for blue ties with their dark suits. Cory Booker, one of the tallest on stage, wore a dark red tie, given another reason for viewers to be drawn to him besides his stature.
9:04 p.m. The first question of the night went to Sen. Elizabeth Warren: What does she say to people who are concerned some of her policies could harm the economy?
“Who is this economy really working for,” Warren responded. “It’s doing great for a thinner and thinner slice at the top.”
9:01 p.m. The Democratic debate in Miami is under way. The goal? Finding a way to stand out in a crowded field angling to take on President Donald Trump in November 2020. The high drama at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, the first of two debates this week, features three senators, a governor, four current or former members of the House, New York's mayor and the former mayor of San Antonio.
From left to right on Wednesday night’s stage: New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, former San Antonio Mayor and Obama administration official Julián Castro, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney. (Breath).
The debate is airing on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo.
There are no opening statements. Save the popcorn runs for the four expected commercial breaks.
8:50 p.m. The scene outside the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami is beginning to heat up, according to the The (Fort Myers) News Press, part of the USA TODAY Network.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is not on stage until Thursday night, appeared on a rope line a few minutes before the Wednesday night debate began to shake hands with enthusiastic crowds.
Social media videos show that some outside the center were chanting “Green New Deal.” The Daily Show correspondent Ronny Chieng was spotted filming a segment.
Others were heard shouting at Democratic candidates as they walked by, including New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
8:27 p.m. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez isn’t worried that tonight’s debate will turn nasty.
“We’re going to talk about the issues,” Perez told reporters in Miami, according to The Hill. “There will be nobody talking about hand size. There will be nobody talking about silly nicknames for their opponents. We’ll leave that to the Republicans.”
The remark was in reference to a debate in 2016 when Sen. Marco Rubio made a not-so-subtle dig at the size of Trump’s hands.
Rubio acknowledged that Trump was taller than him but said Trump had small hands for his height.
"And you know what they say about guys with small hands," Rubio joked. He later apologized for the remark.
In an interview on MSNBC, Perez defended the bifurcated nature of the debate, which is taking place over the course of two nights.
“There’s no JV-Varsity, we’ve got a deep bench,” Perez told MSNBC in an interview.
8 p.m. Minutes after indicating he might not tweet much during the debate, Trump posted a tweet attacking former Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden has faced criticism in recent weeks for, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, helping to shepherd through the 1994 crime bill, which imposed mandatory minimum sentences for some drug crimes. The law has been widely criticized more recently for increasing prison populations and having a disproportionate impact on African Americans.
“Ever since the passage of the Super Predator Crime Bill, pushed hard by @JoeBiden, together with Bill and Crooked Hillary Clinton, which inflicted great pain on many, but especially the African American Community, Democrats have tried and failed to pass Criminal Justice Reform,” Trump posted on Twitter.
Trump touted his administration’s passage late last year of a criminal justice reform bill, though some have raised questions about the slow implementation of that law.
7:50 p.m. If playing GOP Bingo or a drinking game won’t get you through the debates, Democratic candidate Marianne Williamson has another suggestion. The motivational speaker and New Age spiritual guru, who won’t appear on stage until Thursday’s debate, is proposing a healthy alternative.
Instead of downing a shot, do a downward dog.
Instead of throwing back a Harvey Wallbanger, just try legs up the wall pose.
They shout infrastructure, you drop into a low plank.
And when the debate ends, hold hands with your fellow viewers and say a quick Namaste.
7:30 p.m. Those cheeky Republicans. The Republican National Committee has created a Bingo card for the debate in an effort to get in some pre-debate digs.
Will anyone mention “Biden’s segregationist pals?” How about the Hyde amendment? The Green New Deal? Raising taxes? Impeachment?
The game's free space is labeled “references to Trump” because, the RNC explains, “this one is a given.”
“You’ll probably hear President Trump’s name tonight more than any of the 2020 Democrats running for office,” the party's release says. “Sad!”
7:26 p.m. President Donald Trump is en route to Japan for a meeting with world leaders at the G-20 summit, but the Democratic presidential debate is clearly on his mind.
From Air Force One, Trump posted a message on Twitter suggesting he would not be live-tweeting the debate, something he had hinted earlier that he might consider doing. “Sorry, I’m on Air Force One, off to save the Free World!” he wrote.
Trump did tweet the accounts of several of his campaign aides, who he said would be monitoring the debate and offering “RAPID RESPONSE, FACT CHECKING and the TRUTH.”
5:30 p.m. The debates, which will began at 9 p.m. EDT, will air on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo.
In a break from past presidential debates, the candidates will not deliver opening remarks. They will have 60 seconds to answer questions and 30 seconds to respond to follow-ups, according to NBC. There will be five segments separated by four commercial breaks.
“Today” co-anchor Savannah Guthrie, "NBC Nightly News" host Lester Holt, “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and “Noticias Telemundo” host José Diaz-Balart will be the moderators.
Who's on stage: New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, Former Obama HUD Secretary Julian Castro of Texas, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland.
4:10 p.m. President Donald Trump's campaign promised to be heavily engaged in the debate, defending the administration's record and counter-attacking Democrats.
The so-called Trump "war room" began blasting emails a full five hours before the debate began. The first email, which arrived shortly after 4 p.m., was titled "15 Things You Won’t Hear At This Week’s Democratic Debates." It included bullet points on the strong economy, Trump's 2018 tax cuts and "any strong defense of capitalism."
Trump's first blast email reopened a criticism from the 2016 campaign: Predicting Democrats would not condemn Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan – the campaign misspelled Farrakhan's first name as "Louisa" – who has espoused anti-Semitic views.
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