Democrats debate Trump impeachment, Syria, abortion

By Daniel Uria
Democratic presidential candidates take the stage prior to the debate Tuesday on the campus of Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. Photo by Robert Moorhead/UPI
1 of 10 | Democratic presidential candidates take the stage prior to the debate Tuesday on the campus of Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. Photo by Robert Moorhead/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 16 (UPI) -- Most of the Democratic presidential candidates spent the fourth primary debate Tuesday night addressing several main topics -- from the House impeachment inquiry to Turkey's incursion into Syria to healthcare.

Twelve candidates qualified for the debate at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, and all were unified in calling for President Donald Trump to be removed from office over a controversy involving a whistle-blower report, withheld military aid to Ukraine and candidate Joe Biden's family.


Impeaching Trump

At the debate, the first since the scandal emerged, Biden said he didn't discuss his son's involvement in a Ukrainian company and neither of them did anything wrong. The impeachment investigation is trying to determine whether Trump withheld the aid to Ukraine in exchange for Kiev investigating Joe and Hunter Biden over the Ukraine ties.


"My son did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong," the former vice president said. "I carried out the policy of the United States government of rooting out corruption in Ukraine. What I think is important is we focus on why it's so important to remove this man from office."

All 11 other candidates said Tuesday night they support Trump's impeachment, at the very least. To be removed from office, Trump would also have to be convicted by the Republican-majority Senate, a far less likely prospect.

"Impeachment is the way we establish that this man will not be permitted to break the law over and over without consequences," Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said.

Billionaire Tom Steyer, whose appearance Tuesday was his first in the series of debates, said he's been trying to get Trump impeached for two years -- declaring that all 12 contenders on the stage were "more coherent and more patriotic than the criminal in the White House."

"Two years ago, I started the need to impeach movement because I knew there was something wrong at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., that we did have the most corrupt president in the country and the voice and will of the American people would drag Washington to see it as a matter of right and wrong, not political expediency," he said. "Impeaching and removing the president is something the American people are demanding."


California Sen. Kamala Harris said she plans to vote for impeachment when the issue reaches the House floor, stating it's become clear Trump has committed crimes in office.

"It's just being observant," Harris said. "He has committed crimes in plain sight. I mean, it's shocking but he told us who he was."

After meeting with Democratic leaders about the possibility, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said late Tuesday there are no immediate plans for an impeachment vote on the House floor.

"There is no requirement that we have a vote, and so at this time we will not be having a vote," she told reporters. "We're not here to call bluffs."


The president's recent actions in Syria drew significant criticism from the Democratic field in Ohio Tuesday night.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii slammed his decision to remove U.S. troops and allow a Turkish military offensive targeting Kurdish forces in the country's northeast -- saying the clashes are a result of years of American efforts at "regime change" in the battle-scarred nation.

"Donald Trump has the blood of the Kurds on his hands," she said. "But so do many of the politicians in our country from both parties who have supported this ongoing regime-change war in Syria that started in 2011, along with many in the mainstream media, who have been championing and cheerleading this regime-change war."


South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg disagreed, saying Gabbard's assessment is "dead wrong."

"The slaughter going on in Syria is not a consequence of American presence, it is a consequence of a withdrawal and a betrayal by this president of American allies and American values," he said.

Julian Castro, the former Housing and Urban Development secretary, said Trump has made "a tremendous mistake" in Syria, calling the decision to withdraw troops "a total disaster" that has hampered his credibility as a leader.

"If you're Kim Jong Un, for instance, why in the world would you believe anything this president says to contain your nuclear weapons program when he tore up an Iran nuclear agreement that we just signed four years ago ... and now he's abandoned the very people that we gave our word to," Castro said.

American jobs

The U.S. job market was also a focus of the debate. The Labor Department said earlier this month 134,000 new positions were created in September -- slightly beating expectations -- and unemployment fell to a 50-year low.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders promised his federal jobs plan would guarantee work for millions of Americans at risk of losing their jobs to automation.


"We have an infrastructure which is collapsing. We can put 15 million people to work rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our water systems, our wastewater plants, airports," he said, adding that Democrats' Green New Deal would create as many as 20 million jobs and spur much needed change in the fight against global warming.

Businessman Andrew Yang said many Americans don't want to work for the federal government, and Sanders' plan doesn't account for those who stay home to care for children and the elderly. He presented his universal basic income plan to provide all Americans with $1,000 a month as an alternative.

"If you rely upon the federal government to target its resources, you wind up with failed retraining programs and jobs that no one wants," he said. "If we put the money in our hands we can build a trickle-up economy from our people, our families and our communities up."

Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke pledged to use trade deals with foreign nations, including some allowing Mexican workers to enter unions, elevating unions in the United States, investing in "world-class" public education and eliminating the issue of cost for higher education to help Americans secure jobs.


"We will make sure that every single American has a shot," he said. "They don't want a handout, they don't want a job guarantee, they just want a shot. And as president, I will give them that shot."


As candidates discussed the state of the Supreme Court and Roe vs. Wade -- the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide -- Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar submitted a glimpse of what she would tell the president during a one-on-one debate.

"You, Donald Trump, are not on the side of women. You are not on the side of people of this country when over 75 percent of people want to keep Roe vs. Wade on the books -- when over 90 percent of people want to make sure we have available contraception," she said. "You defunded Planned Parenthood. I would fund it again."

A national movement to restrict abortion and put the issue again before the Supreme Court is well underway, as a number of conservative states have enacted new legislation barring the procedure under many circumstances. Lawmakers and advocates in those states hope resulting legal actions will end up before the high court.


"We are seeing all over this country women's reproductive rights under attack," New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker said, citing the closure of two Planned Parenthood locations in Ohio and calling on men to join the fight for reproductive rights.

"Women should not be the only ones taking up this fight, and men, it is not just because women are our daughters and our friends and our wives, it's because women are people and people deserve to control their own bodies," he said.

Warren said a potential reversal of Roe vs. Wade would mostly affect those who cannot afford an abortion.

"I lived in an America where abortion was illegal and rich white women still got abortions," Warren said. "What we're talking about now is that the people who are denied access to abortion are the poor, are the young."

About half of the field Tuesday night has qualified for the next debate in Georgia next month. The Democratic Party has raised the requirements for the next event, mandating 165,000 unique donors and 3 percent support in polling nationally, or in four early primary voting states.


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