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Wednesday August 12th, 2020 5:08PM

The Latest: Biden: 'Irrelevant' if Trump claims exoneration

By The Associated Press
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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Latest on the January Democratic presidential debate (all times local):

9:45 p.m.

Joe Biden says the outcome of a Senate impeachment trial against President Donald Trump won’t affect his arguments against the Republican president in the 2020 campaign.

And the former vice president said at Tuesday night's Democratic presidential debate that it’s “irrelevant” whether Trump claims exoneration if the Republican-led Senate votes as expected and doesn’t remove him from office.

Biden said House Democrats had “no choice” but to impeach the president for Trump's efforts to pressure Ukrainian officials to launch investigations into Biden's son Hunter's business dealings in the country and his own foreign policy engagement in Ukraine when he was vice president.

Trump’s claims about the Bidens have been debunked. But Biden said he expects Trump and Republicans to continue to allege that the Bidens are corrupt.

“I did my job,” Biden said at the debate.

___

9:35 p.m.

It all comes back to health care.

Even after Democratic presidential candidates had an extended foreign policy discussion at Tuesday’s presidential debate, they saved the fireworks for another fight over how to expand health insurance coverage.

Joe Biden suggested that Bernie Sanders wasn’t being “candid” with voters over the cost of his single-payer insurance idea. Amy Klobuchar said “Medicare for All” is so impractical that the “debate isn’t real.” And Pete Buttigieg bristled at the suggestion that adding a “public option” plan to the existing market isn’t a major step forward.

Sanders said those more moderate candidates misrepresent a plan he said would indeed increase Americans’ taxes but eliminate the “absurdity” of private insurance costs.

Elizabeth Warren tried a bit of a twist. She defended single payer, but noted that Republicans want to roll back even existing coverage. “I’ll take our side of the argument any day,” she said of the entire Democratic field.

___

9:25 p.m. Former Vice President Joe Biden says one of his top rivals needs to "be candid" with voters on the cost of his health care reform proposal.

Biden said Tuesday during the Democratic presidential debate in Des Moines, Iowa, that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders should be more upfront with voters on how much it will cost to move the country to a single-payer "Medicare for All" system.

Asked if voters deserved more information on the price of his signature proposal, Sanders maintained his argument that his proposal "wouldn't bankrupt the country" because it would end out-of-pocket and prescription drug prices.

Biden proposes making fixes to the existing Affordable Care Act system, and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg proposes somewhat of a hybrid.

Noting she would use executive power to cut prescription drug prices, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said her $20-plus trillion plan costs more than those ideas because they represent only incremental change.

___

9:10 p.m.

Elizabeth Warren’s argument that a woman is best suited to take on President Donald Trump led to a prolonged awkward dispute with Bernie Sanders.

Sanders denied during Tuesday night’s debate that he told Warren in 2018 that he didn’t think a woman could beat Trump.

Warren says he did and argued Tuesday night that she’s the only candidate on stage who defeated an incumbent Republican candidate any time in the last 30 years.

The Vermont senator disputed that, arguing that he defeated incumbent Republican Peter Smith in a 1990 congressional race.

Warren then began counting quietly with her finger, asking, “Wasn’t it 30 years ago?”

Sanders noted his win again and then said the dispute isn’t a pressing concern.

___

9:05 p.m.

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren declined an opportunity to continue their recent campaign trail feud during Tuesday night’s debate, but Warren still took on her progressive opponent.

Sanders again denied that he told Warren in a private 2018 meeting that a woman couldn’t win the presidency. He called it “incomprehensible” that he would believe such a thing and said he didn’t want to “waste a whole lot of time” on the issue “because this is what Donald Trump ... wants.” He also committed to doing “everything in my power” to making sure the eventual nominee wins.

Warren has said Sanders did in fact tell her a woman can’t win, and on the debate stage, she took on the issue of whether a woman can win head-on. Warren told the crowd that the male candidates on the stage collectively lost 10 races while she and Sen. Amy Klobuchar were “the only people on this stage who have won every single election that they’ve been in.”

She also argued that female candidates have outperformed men, noting that female candidates and voters were pivotal in taking back the House and flipping statehouses during the last midterms.

Warren pivoted to an implicit contrast with Sanders on electability, arguing that “the real danger” for Democrats “is picking a candidate who can't pull our party together.”

___

9 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and businessman Tom Steyer say they would not meet with North Korea's leader without “preconditions,” as President Donald Trump has done.

Biden said at Tuesday night's Democratic presidential debate in Iowa that Trump's meetings with Kim Jong Un gave the North Korean leader “legitimacy," and he criticized Trump for weakening sanctions against the country. He said his approach to North Korea would include working with China and Japan.

Biden also noted that Kim once described him as a “rabid dog" who "must be beaten with a stick.”

Steyer, a billionaire businessman, said the U.S. would need to work with its allies in regard to North Korea. He said staff could meet "and see how far we can get."

___

8:55 p.m.

What has become a signature trade deal of President Donald Trump's administration is a conflict point among the Democrats competing to replace him.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said at Tuesday night's Democratic presidential debate at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, that he opposes the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, or USMCA, in part because it "does not incorporate very, very strong principles to significantly lower fossil fuel emissions in the world."

Asked why she backed the deal, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said it was a "modest improvement" over existing agreements and could be a placeholder for future reform.

Former Vice President Joe Biden said that, as president, he wouldn't push a trade deal that didn't include buy-in from environmentalists and unionists. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said she backed the deal, as did former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who said it “has been improved. It is not perfect.”

___

8:35 p.m.

There’s a divide in Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate over the American military footprint abroad.

The leading progressive candidates, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, blasted the trillions of dollars that the U.S. has spent in Middle East wars since the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Warren said “We have to stop this mindset” and bring home “combat troops.”

The more moderate candidates countered that a U.S. presence is necessary in the Middle East, though former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg said the focus should be on small special forces.

To some degree, the debate is about framing. Sanders and Warren don’t go so far as to say they would never order military deployments. Biden, Klobuchar and Buttigieg are careful to express caution about large, extended missions of ground troops.

But the differences highlight two distinct foreign policy camps within the Democratic Party.

___

8:25 p.m.

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders says he fears that President Donald Trump's actions involving Iran could be leading the United States into a foreign policy quagmire of the highest level.

The Vermont senator said at Tuesday night's Democratic candidate debate at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, that what he sees as the country's top foreign policy disasters - the wars in Vietnam and Iraq - were “based on lies.”

Sanders accused Trump of being dishonest about the intelligence that led to the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Sanders pressed the need for an international coalition, adding, "We cannot keep acting unilaterally."

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said this week that he had seen no hard evidence that four American embassies had been under threat when Trump authorized the targeting of Iran’s top commander, raising questions about the scale of the threat described by Trump last week.

___

8:15 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden wasted no time in the opening minutes of Democrats’ presidential debate in calling his 2002 vote authorizing an Iraq invasion a mistake.

It was an unusually matter-of-fact tone of contrition for Biden, especially as he tries to emphasize his long foreign policy record as a vice president and a six-term U.S. senator. The 77-year-old candidate has throughout his campaign mostly defended portions of his record that have come under criticism from his party’s progressive flank.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders nonetheless tried to capitalize on the issue Tuesday night. He pointed out that he voted against the Bush administration’s war powers request as a member of the House, and he called the war the “worst foreign policy blunder in history.”

Biden maintained that he’d compare his “record overall” to any of his Democratic competitors, and he pointed to his role in the Obama administration in dramatically scaling back U.S. involvement in Iraq.

___

8 p.m.

Six Democratic presidential candidates are taking the debate stage in Des Moines, Iowa, in a final showdown before primary voting begins.

The half dozen candidates on stage Tuesday are all white and include four men. It's a stark winnowing of the Democratic field that was once the most diverse in history.

The first debate of 2020 is starting with fresh tension between Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Warren said Monday night that Sanders privately told her in 2018 that he didn’t think a woman could defeat President Donald Trump. Sanders has vigorously denied making the comment.

The dispute isn’t likely to be the only one on stage. Sanders has ratcheted up his criticism of Vice President Joe Biden over his past support of the Iraq War and other issues. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is looking to break out of the pack, building on strong debates and her arguments that former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg doesn’t have enough experience to be president. Billionaire Tom Steyer is expected to face criticism that he's trying to buy his way to the White House as he floods early voting states with campaign ads.

___

Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”

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