Democratic presidential contenders faced off in their fifth debate Wednesday, with each weighing in on the potential impeachment of President Donald Trump and his foreign policy as they shared a stage in Atlanta.
Debate moderator Rachel Maddow of MSNBC opened the event by asking the field of 10 candidates about impeachment proceedings following testimony by U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland that there was a “quid pro quo” regarding the new Ukrainian president’s request for a meeting with Trump.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who the Trump administration reportedly asked the Ukrainian government to investigate along with his son, Hunter Biden, said that Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin don’t want him to become the Democratic nominee.
Trump’s fear of facing him in next year’s general election was why the president withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Ukraine to secure a pledge to investigate the former VP and his son.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, meanwhile, took aim at Sondland, noting that he had contributed $1 million to Trump’s inaugural fund before being named EU ambassador.
If elected president, Warren said she would not “give away ambassador posts to the highest bidder” and pointed to an October proposal that would prevent donors from becoming ambassadors.
“My plan will make it the law by prohibiting campaign donations and political spending from being a consideration in the selection of an ambassador,” she said.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, meanwhile, said Wednesday’s testimony did not change her view that Congress should await a Senate trial on Trump before moving forward with impeachment.
“I have made it very clear that this [is] impeachable conduct and I’ve called for an impeachment proceeding,” she said. “I just believe our job as jurors is to look at each count and make a decision.”
During his testimony Wednesday and under questioning from House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Sondland contradicted his earlier “quid pro quo” statement when he said that, during a conversation over the summer, Trump specifically said he “wanted nothing” from the Ukrainians.
“I believe I just asked him an open-ended question, Mr. Chairman. ‘What do you want from Ukraine? I keep hearing all these different ideas and theories and this and that. What do you want?'” Sondland said.
“And it was a very short, abrupt conversation. He was not in a good mood. And he just said, ‘I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelensky to do the right thing.’ Something to that effect,” Sondland said.