With less than one month until the first Democratic presidential primary debates, the Democratic National Committee announced on Wednesday that its third primary debate will be hosted by ABC News in September. They also upped the ante to qualify, raising both the polling and fundraising thresholds, which will make it even more important that candidates make a good impression in the first debate.
The question of whether or not to impeach President Donald Trump also grabbed the national spotlight again, after special counsel Robert Mueller made his first public statement in two years on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Some 2020 Democratic candidates like Sens. Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren took a direct step towards calling for an impeachment inquiry. While others, including former Vice President Joe Biden, took a more cautious approach, saying that Congress should "continue to investigate."
Here’s the weekly candidate roundup:
May 24-30, 2019
Michael Bennet (D)
Michael Bennet, faces uncertainty on whether he will qualify for the first debate in June. He has yet to reach the 65,000 donor threshold and still needs to crack one percent in another qualifying poll in the next month. He stated this past week, however, that he will keep going even if he does not qualify for the first debate and will hold out until the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary next year.
This weekend, he is making his first stop in South Carolina since launching his presidential bid.
Joe Biden (D)
Biden released the first major plank of his platform this week on public education. His proposal would boost federal funding for low-income school districts, increase teacher pay, make preschool universal, and increase investment on mental health services for K-12 students.
Biden will also make his second campaign trip to Iowa on June 11th -- the same day Trump is scheduled to visit the state for a fundraiser.
Cory Booker (D)
Booker called for impeachment proceedings against Trump for the first time following Mueller’s public statement on Wednesday.
"Robert Mueller’s statement makes it clear," Booker tweeted. "Congress has a legal and moral obligation to begin impeachment proceedings immediately."
The senator has previously expressed hesitation in calling for impeachment, even as other Democratic presidential contenders approved of such a step. This week, Booker also made his third trip to Nevada to appeal to swing voters.
Steve Bullock (D)
The Montana Governor who declared his candidacy earlier this month is working to catch up to other campaigns, especially in Iowa. This past week, Bullock hired ten more staffers in the first-in-the-nation caucus state to help build grassroots support.
Pete Buttigieg (D)
On ABC’s "This Week," Buttigieg told Martha Raddatz that "there is no question" that the president used bone spurs as an excuse to avoid service.
"I think to any reasonable observer that the president found a way to falsify a disabled status, taking advantage of his privileged status in order to avoid serving," he said.
Buttigieg also criticized Trump for meeting with Kim Jong Un, saying it gave the North Korean government"legitimacy." "The way diplomacy works, the way deals work, is you give someone something in return for something... it hasn’t worked at all," he said.
On the topic of impeachment, Buttigieg moved closer to calling for it than he had previously tweeting, "This is as close to an impeachment referral as it gets. Robert Mueller could not clear the president, nor could he charge him — so he has handed the matter to Congress, which alone can act to deliver due process and accountability."
Julian Castro (D)
Last Thursday, Castro pledged to refuse contributions from oil, gas, and coal industry executives.
He tweeted saying, "Since day one, my campaign refused contributions from PACs, corporations, and lobbyists. Today I announced we're also refusing contributions from oil, gas, and coal executives—so you know my priorities are with the health of our families, climate and democracy."
The former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development is also set to participate in a Fox News Town Hall on June 13. Many democratic presidential contenders have wrestled with the decision to participate in events hosted by the conservative news network, but Castro will be the fourth to do so.
Bill de Blasio (D)
During CNN’s "State of the Union" this past week, de Blasio said that Biden’s 1994 crime bill was a "huge mistake" citing a "mass incarceration crisis" in the country.
"That crime bill was one of the foundations of mass incarceration in a very painful era in our nation's history," said de Blasio. "The (former) vice president and anyone else has to be accountable for every vote they take and what's on their record, and I think that was a huge mistake."
De Blasio also said that he understands Trump’s tricks and strategies better than other Democratic candidates and can "get under his skin."
"I know something about Donald Trump that’s different from the other candidates because I watched him for decades."
John Delaney (D)
Currently, he has made the cut to participate in the first debate, having met the polling threshold, but he has not met the 65,000 donor threshold. This could complicate his chances to participate if more than 20 candidates qualify as candidates who meet both thresholds will have their spots secured first.
On ABC News’ "The Briefing Room," he declared that the debates are "really important" to his campaign’s ability to gain traction and blasted "the crazy DNC methodologies" which might keep him off the debate stage.
Delaney also released a $2 trillion infrastructure plan that would create seven new infrastructure funds and increase the size of the Highway Trust Fund.
Tulsi Gabbard (D)
Earlier this week, Gabbard, who served in the medical unit of the Hawaii Army National Guard, criticized some politicians who she said exploit the real meaning of Memorial Day in a statement to ABC News.
"So nothing angers me more than the hypocrisy exhibited every Memorial Day by warmongering politicians and media pundits feigning sympathy for those who paid the ultimate price in service to our country, while simultaneously advocating for more counterproductive regime change wars and the new Cold War and arms race," she said.
The Hawaii congresswoman has made foreign policy a centerpiece of her agenda, highlighting her credentials as a veteran. She also recently signaled during an interview with Fox News that she would reverse course with the Trump administration on the Iran nuclear deal, and re-enter the agreement if elected to the White House.
Gabbard heads to the West Coast this weekend for the California Democratic Party convention among other events across the state.
Kirsten Gillibrand (D)
Mueller’s public statement Wednesday moved Gillibrand to explicitly support steps to remove the president.
"It's time for Republicans and Democrats to begin impeachment hearings and follow the facts wherever they may lead," she said in a statement. "We cannot let this president defy basic accountability measures built into our Constitution."
In an early and significant show of support in the first-in-the-nation primary state, the New York senator landed her first New Hampshire endorsement this week, from state Rep. Sue Ford, who said she's "the best person" for the White House.
Kamala Harris (D)
Earlier in the week, Harris stopped by Wofford College in South Carolina for an MSNBC town hall to outline her plan to confront the spate of anti-abortion laws sweeping across the country.
"On this issue, I'm kinda done," she said. Harris is one of several co-sponsors of the Women’s Health Protection Act, a bill currently stalled in the Senate, but if passed, would vet laws passed to restrict access to abortion services.
Harris also joined Booker and Gillibrand in calling for impeachment, tweeting, "Now it is up to Congress to hold this president accountable. We need to start impeachment proceedings. It's our constitutional obligation."
Harris returns to her home state this weekend for the California Democratic Party convention and the MoveOn Big Ideas Series.
John Hickenlooper (D)
Amid the wave of states like Alabama, Georgia and Missouri passing highly-restrictive anti-abortion laws, Hickenlooper unveiled a new proposal to "protect the reproductive rights" of women by proposing a federal expansion of long-acting reversible contraception.
"I think that it’s a fundamental inalienable right that women should have control over their own bodies," Hickenlooper told MSNBC of his newly-announced plan. "What’s going on in Indiana and even Missouri now, I mean so many states, is horrific."
On Thursday morning, Hickenlooper echoed the newest slate of 2020 candidates in calling for impeachment proceedings, telling CNN, "After listening to Mueller, and I wanted to hear what he had to say, I think of myself as an extreme moderate. But I think he laid the responsibility clearly at the doorstep of Congress."
"I think we have to begin an impeachment inquiry," he said.
Jay Inslee (D)
Inslee announced this week he crossed the 65,000 donor mark, virtually ensuring himself a spot on the debate stage next month, making him one of a dozen candidates to qualify for the first debate based on both the DNC's polling and fundraising criteria.
At a campaign stop in Nevada, the Washington governor endorsed Marie Newman, a progressive Democrat who is staging a primary challenge in the Illinois 3rd to oust one of the few pro-life Democrats still left in Congress. Inslee joins Gillibrand as the only other 2020 Democratic candidate to weigh in on the race. Gillibrand endorsed Newman back in April.
Inslee is also set to address the California Democratic Party State Convention in San Francisco this weekend.
Amy Klobuchar (D)
At a campaign stop in Iowa over the weekend, Klobuchar recounted to a crowd the day of Trump’s "dark inauguration," sitting between Sen. Sanders and the late Sen. John McCain.
"John McCain kept reciting to me names of dictators during that speech because he knew more than any of us what we were facing as a nation," Klobuchar she said. "He understood it. He knew because he knew this man more than any of us did," she added.
This prompted a response from McCain’s daughter, Meghan McCain, who asked Klobuchar to leave her "father’s legacy and memory out of presidential politics."
Wayne Messam (D)
Messam reiterated his call for impeachment on Wednesday, writing in a tweet, "Congress must now do its job of oversight and do what Mueller wasn’t allowed to."
Seth Moulton (D)
Moulton, a former Marine Corps officer, disclosed this week that he struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder after returning home from Iraq in 2008 -- as he announced a new plan to expand military mental health services for active-duty military and veterans.
"I had some particular experiences or regrets from the war that I just thought about every day, and occasionally I’d have bad dreams or wake up in a cold sweat," Moulton told Politico in an interview." He added that, "But because these experiences weren’t debilitating ... it took me a while to appreciate that I was dealing with post-traumatic stress and I was dealing with an experience that a lot of other veterans have."
Moulton unveiled his plan as part of a "Veterans Mental Health Tour" Tuesday night in Massachusetts and will continue his tour in Nevada this weekend.
Beto O’Rourke (D)
The former Texas congressman rolled out a sweeping immigration policy proposal this week that would among other things, establish a pathway to citizenship for the roughly 11 million undocumented people living in the U.S., invest $5 billion in foreign aid to "Northern Triangle" countries in Central America, and increase the number of immigration lawyers at the southern border.
"The current administration has chosen to defy this American aspiration, drafted into our Declaration of Independence, welded into the welcome of our Statue of Liberty, and secured by the sacrifices of countless generation," a memo from the campaign read. "Instead, the current administration is pursuing cruel and cynical policies that aim to sow needless chaos and confusion at our borders."
Tim Ryan (D)
Ryan tiptoed closer to calling for impeachment proceedings, without explicitly calling on Congress to open an inquiry.
"The President, no President, is above the law," Ryan wrote on Twitter. "And it’s Congress’ job to make sure we are true to our founding principle that the President is not a King and must answer to the American people."
Bernie Sanders (D)
Before a series of negative headlines about the progressive senator’s second attempt to capture the presidency emerged, Sanders returned to his home state of Vermont earlier this week for a rally in Montpelier, and went on the offense, turning his attention to taking on Trump.
"The underlying principles of our government will not be racism, will not be sexism, will not be xenophobia and will not be religious bigotry – and all the other mean-spirited beliefs of the Trump administration," a fired-up Sanders told the crowd.
Sanders’ campaign also took on Biden in emails to supporters. Sanders’s campaign manager Faiz Shakir had previously attacked the Biden campaign for their "high-dollar" fundraisers and now, he’s once again criticizing the former vice president’s fundraising efforts.
"These are not grassroots fundraising events. These are high-dollar functions hosted and attended by corporate lobbyists, health care executives, a Republican casino-CEO, and a union-busting lawyer among others," the email reads. "We can win elections without begging those people for money. And, indeed, we are more likely to win with a candidate who does not."
Eric Swalwell (D)
Swalwell stated that as a white man, he understands when to promote the voices of others.
In a video interview with Vice News, Swalwell stated, "A white guy who doesn't see other identities or understand other experiences should not be president."
"I do," Swalwell continued. "And where there would be gaps in my knowledge or my experience, I will pass the mic to people who do have that experience."
"‘Prepare for impeachment.’ That's what I've told my colleagues," he said.
Elizabeth Warren (D)
Asked if she believed Mueller might be convinced to testify before Congress or be drawn to speak out against comments from the president this morning, Warren said on ABC’s "The View" Thursday that she didn’t take Mueller for someone who would act on impulse.
"I think Mueller’s got a slow pulse. He knows what he’s doing. I don't think rage is how he rolls," she told the co-hosts. "I think he’s one of those people who says read the footnotes." Warren added that she thought this wasn’t about politics for Mueller, saying, "It's about the Constitution. It's not only about this president, but it's about what are the rules for the next president and the next president?"
The Massachusetts senator has also not shied away from her policy to break up big tech companies ahead of her visit to the Bay Area this weekend for the California Democratic Convention, which will take place, of course, on many of the nation's most powerful tech companies' home turf. On Thursday, Warren unveiled a billboard that her campaign put up in San Francisco. It says "BREAK UP BIG TECH" next to a photo of her.
Andrew Yang (D)
"We’ve continued in a constant state of war for the last seventeen years, and it has cost us tremendously in American lives as well as billions of dollars that could have been used to help families here at home," Yang said in a statement.
The tech entrepreneur joined fellow 2020 hopefuls Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Sen. Mike Gravel in signing onto the pledge.