Sarah Sanders stokes Twitter feud with Joe Biden

Democratic presidential candidates from left, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and businessman Tom Steyer participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

LOS ANGELES (AP) —  An onstage moment from Thursday night’s Democratic debate has sparked a Twitter back-and-forth between President Donald Trump’s former spokeswoman and Joe Biden.

The former vice president imitated a stutter as he related a tale of how he connects with people as he campaigns, including a child who may have had a speech impediment.

Afterward, former Trump press secretary Sarah Sanders seemed to imitate a stutter as she tweeted, “I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I hhhave absolutely no idea what Biden is talking about. #DemDebate.”

Sanders followed up with a tweet saying she wasn’t making fun of anyone but “pointing out I can’t follow much of anything Biden is talking about.”

Biden suffered from a stutter as a child. After the debate, he tweeted in response, “I’ve worked my whole life to overcome a stutter” and encouraged “empathy” to understand those who have experienced the same.


10:30 p.m.

Pete Buttigieg is taking increasing heat from his rivals as he rises to the top in polls in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Targets included his high-dollar fundraisers, including one in a wine bar, pointed out by Elizabeth Warren, and his experience, raised by Amy Klobuchar. Buttigieg is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

Minnesota Sen. Klobuchar points to her two terms in the Senate and her prodigious list of other accomplishments, suggesting that Washington experience, which Buttigieg criticizes, is more an asset than a liability.

Klobuchar says Democrats need someone leading the ticket “that has actually won and been able to show that they can gather the support that you talk about.” Klobuchar often notes her widespread victories in politically diverse regions of Minnesota.

Klobuchar, a moderate, sees Buttigieg as someone she can peel support from in neighboring Iowa, but where he has led in recent polls and has among the campaign’s most robust organizations.

Likewise, Warren is hoping to slow Buttigieg’s momentum in New Hampshire, which neighbors her home state, Massachusetts.


10:20 p.m.

It came at the tail end, but the most fiery back-and-forth at Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate came in the form of former Vice President Joe Biden’s renewed criticism of the estimated costs of the “Medicare for All” health care proposals of some of his opponents.

Biden calls it “absolutely preposterous” for candidates like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to maintain that middle-class Americans would actually save anything under proposals that cost tens of trillions of dollars over a decade.

Sanders, who has reminded debate opponents he “wrote the damn bill” on Medicare for All, complained of the “byzantine and complex administration of thousands of separate health care plans” that exist now. Sanders said taxes will go up under his proposals but noted the savings in the elimination of premiums and copays.

“Put your hand down for a second, Bernie, OK?” Biden asked as he launched into his initial explanation.

“I’m just waving to you, Joe,” Sanders replied.


10 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidates — most of them white men and several in their 70s — were asked to respond Thursday to former President Barack Obama’s comments that if women ran countries there would be significant improvements, and that a lot of problems are caused by old men not getting out of the way.

Bernie Sanders was asked to respond first. The 78-year-old Vermont senator quipped “and I’m white too.” Sanders says he disagrees with Obama, noting that’s “maybe a little self-serving.” He says the bigger issue is that the power in America resides with a handful of billionaires.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, 77, says, “I’m going to guess he wasn’t talking about me either.” Biden says he has more experience than any candidate on the stage in Los Angeles, and with that experience comes judgment and wisdom. Asked if he would run for a second term at age 82 if he wins in November, Biden wouldn’t commit but said “it’s a nice thought.”

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is talking up her history of winning in her state, noting she outperformed Donald Trump there in 2016. She also touted her record of passing bills in Washington.

Seventy-year-old Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, asked about possibly being the oldest person ever elected president, noted, “I’d also be the youngest woman ever inaugurated.”


9:45 p.m.

Wine caves, campaign contributions and access.

A dispute over big-dollar donors and fundraising between Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has spilled onto the presidential debate stage.

Warren on Thursday night described a lavish Buttigieg fundraiser in a “wine cave” with $900 bottles of wine and crystal chandeliers, noting that, unlike the South Bend, Indiana mayor, “I do not sell access to my time.”

The Associated Press reported last week of Buttigieg’s fundraiser at the Hall Rutherford wine caves in California’s Napa Valley, with a chandelier with 1,500 Swarovski crystals and bottles of cabernet sauvignon selling for as much as $900.

Warren for weeks pushed Buttigieg to open his fundraisers and be more transparent about donors. His campaign has said Buttigieg doesn’t solely rely on big-dollar donations and has received an outpouring of small amounts averaging $32 during the last three-month reporting period.

On Thursday, Buttigieg countered Warren, saying it wouldn’t “pollute my campaign” if Warren herself made a maximum donation to his campaign.

It’s a head-spinning back and forth. Buttigieg says Warren held big fundraisers when she ran for Senate last year, and transferred millions of those dollars to her 2020 campaign under rules written by Congress for members. She says she doesn’t “meet behind closed doors with big-dollar donors” and hasn’t held private fundraisers as a candidate for president.


9:20 p.m.

A possible boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympics? South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg says “any tool should be on the table” in dealing with China.

Buittigieg and other Democrats seeking their party’s presidential nomination are advocating a mix of policies in response to China’s mass detention camps for Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities.

Billionaire Tom Steyer is stressing the need for a relationship with China, a “frenemy,” to combat the global challenge of climate change.

Asked specifically about Chinese military buildup, former Vice President Joe Biden says China would need 17 years to achieve the status of the U.S. military. He also says it must be clear the U.S. will not abide by any human rights abuses on the part of China.

The Chinese government has long struggled with its 11 million-strong Uighur population, an ethnic Turkic minority native to Xinjiang province, and in recent years has detained 1 million or more Uighurs and other minorities in the camps.


9:15 p.m.

Bernie Sanders is calling for a U.S. policy toward Israel that makes space for both Israeli security and a “pro-Palestinian” perspective.

Sanders, who would be the first Jewish president if he wins the Democratic nomination in 2020 and bests President Donald Trump, has called for the United States to consider conditioning aid to Israel as a means to nudge its government away from expanding settlements in the West Bank and other moves that have impeded Israel-Palestinian relations.

Two of the other Democratic presidential candidates debating in Los Angeles on Thursday, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg, have joined Sanders in leaving the door open to such conditions on U.S. aid to Israel.


9:05 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is pushing back against criticism that it’s naive to suggest a Democratic president could negotiate with some Republicans.

Harking back to his eight years as former President Barack Obama’s trusted adviser, he says it’s time to build on that work and invite Republicans to participate. Besides, he says, with a Democrat in the White House Republicans won’t have President Donald Trump “to intimidate those half a dozen Republicans we may need.”

Subtly jabbing Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Biden says he refuses “to accept the notion, as some on this stage do,” that compromise is a thing of the past. He says, “If that’s the case, we’re dead as a country.”

Given the impeachment proceedings that have touched on Trump’s questions about Biden’s tenure and his son’s work in Ukraine, Biden says he should be the one angriest with Republicans for “the way they’ve attacked me, my son and my family.”


9 p.m.

Race took the debate stage toward the end of the first hour, as questions of diversity were posed to candidates.

Asked why he was the lone minority candidate on the debate stage, Andrew Yang said most people of color don’t donate to political campaigns because they lack the disposable income.

Yang, who is Asian American, lamented the absence of California Sen. Kamala Harris — who suspended her campaign earlier this month despite qualifying for the debate — and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, whom Yang predicted would return to the debate stage.

He then turned the issue into a pitch for his candidacy, telling moderators his proposed “freedom dividend,” which would give every American $1,000 a month, would “guarantee” he would not be the only minority candidate on stage.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar was asked what she would say to white Americans uncomfortable with the idea of becoming a racial minority. She responded that the country must “strive for a more perfect union,” which means including people of color in economic progress and fighting voter suppression.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said climate change is also part of addressing racial inequality, and said all candidates “have an obligation” to speak to issues such as criminal justice, the economy and the environment. particularly in the absence of candidates of color.


8:50 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is acknowledging that the blue-collar workers whose causes he champions may suffer in a push to make American business greener.

Biden was asked at Thursday night’s Democratic presidential debate if such jobs will likely be lost with a move toward cleaner energy. He responded that “the answer is yes.”

But Biden says those same workers would benefit from the higher-paying jobs created in such an economy.

Billionaire Tom Steyer agrees with Biden on job creation, while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is pushing for a declaration of a national emergency on the need to address climate change.


8:35 p.m.

Democratic senators are demonstrating divergent views on free trade, with Vermont’s Bernie Sanders vowing to vote against the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement and Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar promising to support it.

Though Sanders says it would make “modest” improvements in the economy, he says nowhere in the agreement do the words “climate change” appear. What’s more, the Democratic Socialist says, it’s “not going to stop corporations from moving to Mexico” to take advantage of cheaper labor.

However, Klobuchar says the agreement includes improved environmental and labor standards, and a better agreement for the U.S. on pharmaceutical sales.

Klobuchar says the agreement can “encourage work made in America.”


8:20 p.m.

As the national impeachment debate turns toward the U.S. Senate, the Democrats vying for their party’s nomination to replace President Donald Trump are united in pushing for his removal from office.

On the debate stage Thursday night, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota says Trump’s situation is even more serious than the events that brought down Richard Nixon, calling Trump’s alleged misdeeds “a global Watergate.” Referencing the 1974 book by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, Klobuchar wondered of Trump, “If he is so innocent, then why doesn’t he have all the president’s men testifying?”

Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — who, along with Klobuchar, will likely participate in an impeachment trial early next year — are focusing on the need to eradicate what they see as Trump’s corruption. Former Vice President Joe Biden is calling Trump’s removal “a constitutional necessity.”


7:55 p.m.

Seven candidates are taking the stage for the final Democratic presidential debate of 2019.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren are clustered at the top of the field. They are being joined by South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, entrepreneur Andrew Yang and billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer.

The Los Angeles debate in the heart of the holiday season is overshadowed by Congress’ historic impeachment vote, raising the prospect that it may draw the smallest audience yet. But the stakes are not small in the broader tug-of-war between passionate progressives and pragmatic moderates who are battling over the party’s positions on core issues like health care, immigration, education and trade.

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