Power Up: Bernie Sanders wants Democratic voters to know that he’d back a female nominee in 2020

Good Wednesday morning. The president’s impeachment trial in the Senate is expected to commence next Tuesday. Tips, comments, recipes? Reach out and sign up. Thanks for waking up with us.

The Campaign

SHAKE IT OFF OR NOT: Sen. Bernie Sanders continued to flatly deny Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s claim that he told her in a private 2018 meeting that he didn’t think a woman could beat President Trump in 2020. 

But Sanders did feel compelled to add a disclaimer that might comfort Democratic debate watchers: that he will back a female presidential nominee in 2020. 

  • “Let me be very clear,” said Sanders (I-Vt.). “If any of the women on this stage or any of the men on this stage win the nomination — I hope that’s not the case, I hope it’s me — but if they do, I will do everything in my power to make sure that they are elected in order to defeat the most dangerous president in the history of our country.”

It was a telling moment. The overt subtext: Sanders doesn’t intend to be a spoiler in 2020 in the same way some Democrats felt he and his supporters were in 2016, when he seemingly only reluctantly got behind the eventual nominee, Hillary Clinton, after a protracted primary fight. 

  • “Not a trivial thing that [Sanders] felt the need to assure voters that he would fully support a woman if one should be nominated,” David Axelrod, a chief architect of President Obama’s two presidential campaigns, tweeted.
  • “[Warren] tossed a hand grenade his way by asserting that he had told her a woman couldn’t win. Stirred the embers of smoldering resentments from ’16,” he continued. 

Warren, sticking to her claim, seized on the fracas to make the broader argument that women are more than electable — not only can they win, but they do win. Her strong remarks were part of an apparent pivot to put more emphasis on her gender just three weeks before the Iowa caucuses. 

  • “Bernie is my friend, and I am not here to try to fight with Bernie,” Warren said after asked about Sanders’s 2018 comment. “But look, this question about whether or not a woman can be president has been raised, and it’s time for us to attack it head-on.”
  • “Look at the men on this stage: Collectively, they have lost 10 elections,” Warren added. “The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they’ve been in are the women, Amy and me.” 
  • Warren also argued that she was more electable than Sanders or any of the moderates on the stage — candidates “who can’t pull our party together, or someone who takes for granted big parts of the Democratic constituency.” 
  • This not-so-subtle closer confirmed her embrace of her status as the top-polling woman: “Hope and courage. That is how I will make you proud every day, as your nominee and as the first woman president of the United States of America.”
  • Don’t forget Amy: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) piped into the conversation to plug her own record. “Every single person that I have beaten, my Republican opponents, have gotten out of politics for good. And I think — I think that sounds pretty good. I think that sounds pretty good with the guy we have in the White House right now,” Klobuchar said. 

Warren throughout the race has largely stayed at arms length from directly addressing the thorny issue of gender bias throughout her campaign. Addressing the issue is a “trap” in and of itself, New York Magazine’s Rebecca Traister writes, and a topic that has frustrated the Massachusetts senator in previous races.

  • “What has been exposed here are some of the complicated, painful, difficult dynamics that have kept women from the presidency for the country’s entire history,” Traister writes. “Among those dynamics is the chilling fact that talking in any kind of honest way about marginalization becomes a trap for the marginalized.”
  • As The Atlantic’s Emma Green puts it: “It’s a lose-lose situation: Women candidates don’t want to seem whiny, but they also don’t want to look weak if they’re insulted or discriminated against because of their gender.” 
  • Leaning in: But as of late, our colleagues who cover Warren closely report that she has been putting more emphasis on her gender, seeking to re-energize the anti-Trump passion that gave rise to women’s marches and a high turnout of female voters in 2018.”
  • “The extended confrontation was remarkable, coming four years after the party selected Clinton as its first female nominee,” Matt Viser, Michael Scherer and Annie Linskey write. “Her loss to President Trump amid what many felt were misogynistic attacks helped energize women who came out for massive marches the day after he was inaugurated, helped fuel the election of record numbers of women to Congress and handed the House speaker’s gavel back to Nancy Pelosi.”

He said, she said: Sanders issued an outright denial on stage. “Does anybody in their right mind believe that a woman can’t be president? I don’t think anybody believes that,” he said. But Warren’s insistence she she does, in fact, believe he said it could carry its own risks in sexist attacks, Traister writes. 

  • “Engaging in a he-said-she-said back-and-forth doesn’t often redound positively to the woman, especially since the defense from Sanders’s team is that she is outright lying. That’s a charge that’s particularly perilous for Warren, for reasons not coincidentally related to some of the particular hurdles faced by female candidates. Charges of dishonesty or inauthenticity can stick effectively to women and have already been made to stick harder to her than to any of the other candidates in the race, even those with spottier track records.”

Water under the bridge: The squabble may not be over just yet. The cameras caught Sanders offering Warren a handshake after the debate that she appeared to deny. You can see below how the pair exchanged seemingly heated words and Sanders gesticulated before walking away from Warren. 

  • Tom Steyer awkwardly looked on: “I was really just trying to say goodnight to both of them… I think they were trying to figure out something between the two of them but I didn’t really hear what it was,” he said later, per CBS News’s Ed O’Keefe.

THE FOREIGN POLICY DEBATE: It was just last week that President Trump was on the brink of a major escalation in the Middle East after his decision to kill Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani. Candidates were asked right off the bat in Des Moines difficult questions about their past votes, stances on U.S. interventionism and whether they would commit troops to the Middle East. 

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden expressed regret for his vote for the Iraq war: “It was a mistake and I acknowledge that.” 
  • Sanders drew a contrast with Biden: “Right now, what I fear very much is that we have a president that is lying again and could drag us into a war that is even worse than the war in Iraq,” he said. “Joe and I listened to what Dick Cheney and George Bush and Rumsfeld had to say. I thought they were lying. Joe saw it differently.”
  • Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg made it personal when addressing the Trump administration’s decision to send more troops to the Middle East: “Whenever I see that happen, I think about the day we shipped out and the time that was set aside for saying goodbye to family members. I remember walking with a friend of mine, another lieutenant I trained with, as we walked away, and his one-and-a-half-year-old boy was toddling after him, not understanding why his father wasn’t turning back to scoop him up. And it took all the strength he had not to turn around and look at his boy one more time.”

A commonality: “The candidates agreed on the need to reduce the U.S. military footprint in Iraq and Afghanistan, though they differed slightly on timetables and other details,” per Matt, Michael and Annie.  

The Investigations

PARNAS BOMB DROPS: New materials “appear to show Ukraine’s top prosecutor offering an associate of [Trump’s] personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, damaging information related to former vice president Joe Biden if the Trump administration recalled the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine,” our colleagues Paul Sonne, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger report.

Among the bombshells: “The text messages and documents provided to Congress by former Giuliani associate Lev Parnas also show that before the ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, was removed from her post, a Parnas associate now running for Congress sent menacing text messages suggesting that he had Yovanovitch under surveillance in Ukraine,” our colleagues write.

  • Yovanovitch’s attorney has said that the possibility she was surveilled should be investigated. “Needless to say, the notion that American citizens and others were monitoring Ambassador Yovanovitch’s movements for unknown purposes is disturbing, We trust that the appropriate authorities will conduct an investigation to determine what happened,” attorney Lawrence Robbins told NBC News’s Josh Lederman.
  • Remember: Parnas has been indicted over federal campaign finance charges. He has pleaded not guilty. Meanwhile, Parnas and his attorney have made a public campaign of touting how much he might know.

Other revelations: 

  • Possible involvement by Trump himself: “A message from Giuliani to Parnas saying he had involved a person he called ‘no 1’ — possibly Trump himself — in an effort to lift a U.S. visa ban on a former Ukrainian prosecutor who was planning to come to the United States to make claims about Biden,” our colleagues write.
  • Parnas’s handwritten notes and text messages are particularly notable. Here he appears to confirm a key allegation, that Giuliani and his associates wanted an announcement of an Biden-related investigation directly from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky himself.

And here is possible evidence that Yovanovitch was followed. This is from a thread of texts he had with Robert Hyde, a GOP congressional candidate: 

On The Hill

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT IN IMPEACHMENT: The House will take a historic vote today “on sending two articles of impeachment to the Senate and approving the team of lawmakers who will prosecute [Trump] for high crimes and misdemeanors,” our colleagues Rachael Bade and Mike DeBonis report.

Today: Later this morning, Pelosi will announce the House’s impeachment managers. The managers will be the lawmakers tasked with prosecuting the case against Trump in a Senate trial, a plum assignment that many have privately been wrangling over.

  • Later in the evening, the managers will formally walk over the articles of impeachment across the Capitol and present them to a Senate official.

Later this week: The Senate formally begins its process. Chief Justice John Roberts will be sworn in as the presiding officer, as outlined in the Constitution. All senators will then be sworn in with a special oath just for the impeachment trial. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters to expect both developments by the end of the week.

Next week: The trial kicks off. Congress will recess briefly for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, but McConnell said to expect the real meat of the trial to begin next Tuesday.

What happens from there?: Politico’s Kyle Cheney and Andrew Desiderio have a detailed guide on everything that follows. 

REPUBLICANS MAY GIVE A LITTLE ON WITNESSES: McConnell “quietly invited Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah to his office to discuss strategy, according to people familiar with the meeting,” Politico’s Burgess Everett and John Bresnahan report.

  • Some in the GOP want reciprocity: “Cruz pitched McConnell on the idea of witness reciprocity — if Democrats want to hear from former Trump national security adviser John Bolton on the Ukraine scandal, then Republicans get to hear from Hunter Biden,” Politico reports.
  • “McConnell was open to that message, said a source familiar with the discussion. Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) later raised the strategy to the broader Senate Republican Conference.”

UNPRECEDENTED PRESS RESTRICTIONS: “The Senate sergeant-at-arms and Capitol Police are launching an unprecedented crackdown on the Capitol press corps for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, following a standoff between the Capitol’s chief security officials, Senate Rules Chairman Roy Blunt and the standing committees of correspondents,” according to CQ.

At the Pentagon

THE SENATE HAS ENOUGH VOTES TO LIMIT TRUMP ON IRAN: “The Senate is poised to formally counter [Trump’s] ability to initiate further military action against Iran, as four Republicans now say they will vote with Democrats to pass a resolution invoking Congress’s war powers,” our colleague Karoun Demirjian reports.

  • The four Republicans include: Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), who on Tuesday declared her support for the measure, and Todd C. Young (Ind.), Mike Lee (Utah) and Rand Paul (Ky.). Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) is leading the resolution that has the support of all 47 Democrats. 

Meanwhile, Dems push for new briefing: Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and eight of his colleagues are pressing the director of national intelligence for a classified briefing to outline the specific evidence Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are citing when they claim that multiple U.S. embassies were under threat of imminent attack when Trump ordered the strike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. 

  • Of note, Sens. Warren and Sanders are among the eight who signed the letter. 

ABOUT THE SITUATION IN IRAQ: “The Trump administration is preparing possible cuts of $250 million in military aid to Iraq, funds already approved by Congress, if the government expels U.S. troops, and is reconsidering a broad spectrum of other economic and military assistance that isn’t yet committed,” the Wall Street Journal’s Vivian Salama reports

Leave a Reply