Democrats talk impeachment, climate, Afghanistan in 2019's final debate

By Daniel Uria
Democrats talk impeachment, climate, Afghanistan in 2019's final debate
Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden (L), former vice president of the United States, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders stand onstage at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, Calif., Thursday during the sixth and final primary debate . Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 20 (UPI) -- Seven Democrats took the stage in Los Angeles for the final primary debate before 2020 just one day after the House voted to impeach President Donald Trump.

Among the field of candidates were former Vice President Joe Biden, whom Trump is accused of attempting to pressure Ukraine to investigate, and three senators who will participate in the forthcoming impeachment trial -- Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Businessmen Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttgieg rounded out the debate stage.



Biden, who was at the center of the impeachment investigations along with his son Hunter Biden, said the House's vote to impeach Trump was a "constitutional necessity."


"Is it any wonder that if you look at the international polling that's been done, that the Chinese leader is rated above the American president, or that Vladimir Putin congratulated him, saying stand fast and that in fact it was a mistake to impeach him," said Biden. "We need to restore the integrity of the presidency, of the office of the presidency."

Sanders repeated his assertion that Trump is a "pathological liar," saying he betrayed his campaign promises to America's working class.

"We have a president who is running the most corrupt administration in the modern history of this country and we have a president who is a fraud because during his campaign he told working people one thing and he ended up doing something else," he said.

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Warren said the trial gives the Senate the opportunity to uphold the Constitution.

"I see this as a constitutional moment. Last night the president was impeached. And everyone now in the Senate has taken a constitutional oath to uphold our Constitution. And that doesn't mean loyalty to an individual. It doesn't mean loyalty to a political party. It means loyalty to our country," she said.

Klobuchar said she would call for witnesses to appear in the trial, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, as some Republicans in the chamber have suggested they will seek a quick trial.


"As we face this trial in the Senate, if the president claims that he is so innocent, then why doesn't he have all the president's men testify," she said. "If President Trump thinks that he should not be impeached he should be not scared to put forward his own witnesses."

Climate Change

Steyer reiterated that he would declare a national emergency in response to climate change on the first day of his presidency, but said the climate crisis could also present the chance to rebuild the country on an accelerated basis.

"This is also the opportunity to create literally millions of middle-class union jobs across the United States of America," he said. "Our biggest crisis is our biggest opportunity."

Steyer also spoke out against nuclear power as a clean energy source expressing concern about its economic viability as well as safety risks, advocating instead for wind and solar power.

Warren placed her focus on eliminating carbon from energy resources, saying she would not seek to build more nuclear power plants but keep some in place while increasing research into other forms of clean energy.

"We need to do what we do best and that is innovate our way out of this problem and be a world leader," she said.


Buttigieg called for increased funding for research as well as offering a plea to "summon the energy of the entire country to deal with" climate change by having the government take more direct action.

"I insist that we act with a carbon tax and dividend with massive increases in research on renewable energy, energy storage and carbon storage," he said.

Yang supported nuclear energy as a viable option to curb America's reliance on fossil fuels but advocated for thorium reactors instead of the uranium ones commonly in use today.

Yang also supported spending resources to relocate Americans from areas that may become uninhabitable due to rising sea levels as a result of climate change.

"Part of my plan is literally called 'move people to higher ground' because that's what we need to do," he said.


In light of The Washington Post's report that senior U.S. officials knowingly misled the public about the progress of the war in Afghanistan, Biden was asked about his role in the Obama administration, which advocated a troop surge and more expansive operations in the country.

Biden said that he was strongly opposed to the Pentagon's stance under the administration and said he would remove all combat troops because he disagrees with the "national building notion" employed in Afghanistan.


"Rebuilding that country as a whole nation is beyond our capacity. I argued from the very beginning that we should have a policy that was based on an anti-terrorism policy with a very small footprint that in fact only had special forces to deal with potential threats from that territory to the United States of America," he said.

Sanders cited the death toll of the Afghanistan war and said he would support quick action to remove all troops from the Middle Eastern country within a year.

"It is time right now that we bring this world together to try to end these endless wars and address the root causes, which are causing these wars," he said.

Buttigieg, who served in Afghanistan, has also pledged to withdraw all U.S. troops but said the situation might necessitate some kind of limited operation in an intelligence capacity.

"We're going to leave one way or the other. The question is to make sure we do it well and not poorly and of course that has to respond to the conditions on the ground and the need for a political settlement," he said.

He also said that as president anytime he sought an authorization to go to war it would come with a "three-year sunset" as a means to prevent drawn-out conflicts.


"If there really does have to be a conversation about extending it, it has to be brought to Congress, brought to the American people and those members of Congress have to take that tough up or down vote," he said.

Other Issues

As he's emerged as one of the field's stronger candidates, Buttgieg was a frequent target on Thursday night -- primarily due to his youth, political inexperience and accepting campaign funds from wealthy donors. Warren criticized him for a recent private fundraiser in California wine country.

"Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the president of the United States," she said.

Biden and Sanders engaged in a mild argument over each's healthcare plans. The former vice president dismissed Sanders' "Medicare for All" proposal as cost-prohibitive.

The next debate will be held in Des Moines, Iowa, on January 14. It will be hosted and moderated by CNN and the Des Moines Register. Qualifying criteria for the seventh primary debate has not yet been specified by the Democratic Party.

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