2020 Vision: Biden draws fire from Sanders for flip-flop on PAC donations

Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden debate in Westerville, Ohio, earlier this month. (Photo: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

Welcome to 2020 Vision, the Yahoo News column covering the presidential race. Reminder: There are 101 days until the Iowa caucuses and 375 days until the 2020 presidential election.

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Biden says he'll accept super-PAC cash after vowing to reject it

In an interview that will air on CBS’s “60 Minutes” Sunday, former Vice President Joe Biden was pressed about his campaign’s last financial filing with the Federal Election Commission, which showed it has less than $9 million in cash on hand — putting it well behind the $34 million and $26 million that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, respectively, have in the bank.

“How do you compete against that?” asked “CBS Evening News” host Norah O’Donnell.

“I just flat beat them,” Biden replied. “We’re on a course to do extremely well. I’m not worried about being able to fund this campaign. I really am not, truly.”

The “60 Minutes” interview was conducted before the Biden campaign announced, in a reversal, that it would now accept donations from super-PACs. Previously its policy was to refuse them.

Biden’s fundraising situation is precarious because he doesn’t have the same broad base of donor support as some of his rivals. Just 38 percent of the $22 million he raised in the first half of the year came from donations of $200 or less. That is compared with 77 percent from small donors for Sanders and 67 percent for Warren. Donors are allowed to give only $2,800 to each primary candidate, meaning donors who give smaller amounts can donate again, while candidates whose supporters max out early might face trouble later.

Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign manager, defended the move, saying, “Those who are dedicated to defeating Donald Trump are organizing in every way permitted by current law.”

That’s a marked contrast from April, when both Biden and Bedingfield declared that the campaign would not welcome support from super-PACs.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. To speak to the middle class, we need to reject the super-PAC system,” Biden tweeted. “That’s exactly what this campaign is doing.”

The campaign manager for Sanders, who has based both of his presidential campaigns around rejecting cash from big-money donors, bashed Biden in an email Friday.

“Joe Biden’s campaign lacks grassroots enthusiasm,” Faiz Shakir wrote in a message to supporters. “It just does. And racing around the country collecting $2,800 checks isn’t enough. He needs bigger checks. Checks with more zeroes at the end.”

In January 2018, Biden claimed that he was the one who told Sanders not to accept money from corporate PACs.

“I sat with Bernie,” said Biden in a PBS interview. “I’m the guy that told him, you shouldn’t accept any money from a super-PAC, because people can’t possibly trust you. How will a middle-class guy accept you if you accept money?”

Biden was also asked by O’Donnell whether he still considers himself the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination.

“I know I’m the frontrunner,” Biden said. “But look, this is a marathon.”

President Trump and Joe Biden. (Photos: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP, Matt Rourke/AP)

‘My children are not going to sit in on Cabinet meetings’

In the same interview, Biden said President Trump’s decision to install his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner in official administration roles was “simply improper” and vowed not to do the same if elected.

“Look, I wasn’t raised to go after the children. Their actions speak for themselves,” Biden said. “I can just tell you this, that if I’m president, get elected president, my children are not going to have offices in the White House. My children are not going to sit in on Cabinet meetings.”

Biden continued: “It’s just simply improper, because you should make it clear to the American public that everything you’re doing is for them.”

Biden’s son Hunter has admitted he made a mistake in taking a seat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father was vice president — an appointment around which the Trump campaign has spun an elaborate, and unsupported, conspiracy theory.

The former vice president said Kushner, whose portfolio covers U.S. policy in Israel, should not be negotiating a Middle East peace plan.

“What credentials does he bring to that?” Biden said. “I mean, look, think of all the really solid people that were left, that were, started off in that administration. They’ve all left. They’ve all left. All the talent is gone.”

Biden went on to call Team Trump “thugs,” a slur he has repeated numerous times on the campaign trail.

“Joe Biden is correct on one point,” Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager, responded in a statement. “Hunter Biden would never have an office in the White House because he’s proven that his only qualification is being the son of Joe Biden.”

Trump, whose repeated requests for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens are at the center of an ongoing impeachment inquiry, continued to defend those calls on Friday.

“The president of Ukraine and his foreign minister said no pressure, no blackmail,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House. “They don’t even know what you people are talking about.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters at a rally in Queens, N.Y., last week. (Photo: AP/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

The ‘Bernie Blackout’

Earlier this week, Shakir sent an email to supporters griping about the media coverage of Sanders's Democratic presidential bid.

“Are you familiar with this phenomenon?” Shakir wrote. “When a poll shows less than favorable news for our campaign, it’s national news. Non-stop. They show it on the screen and pundits talk gleefully about how the campaign is over. But when a poll shows us winning in an early state, or like this week’s Emerson poll that showed us down 2 nationally to Biden and leading Warren by 4, there’s nary a peep.”

Sanders has faced skepticism about the viability of his campaign after his heart attack earlier this month, and political pundits think he has only limited room to increase his support, but his polling bump after his strong debate performance last week did not go unnoticed — at least not by Yahoo News.

Shakir said the media was engaging in a “Bernie Blackout.”

“Now, I am not here to tell you which polls are bad and which ones are good,” Shakir added. “I am here to tell you that the coverage of the polls seems to correlate well with how good or bad we are doing in them. I am here to say that we control our own destiny in this race. Not them. Us.”

Whether the media gives enough attention to polls showing spikes in support for Sanders is up for debate. But it certainly pays attention to his fundraising: Sanders raised $25.3 million during the third quarter — more than any other Democratic candidate.

Shakir’s email ended by asking for a $2.70 pledge to the Sanders campaign.

“Can Bernie count on you to chip in?” he wrote. “It would mean a lot to our fight.”

Photo: AP/Alex Brandon

Polls show impeachment support continuing to grow

Impeachment polling has continued to trend in the wrong direction for the White House. A CNN poll this week put support for the impeachment and subsequent removal by Senate trial of Trump at 50 percent, a new high. Support of the inquiry, a step toward impeachment, reached a new high in Quinnipiac polling, with 55 percent of Americans in favor — up from 51 percent last week — including 50 percent of independents.

Other polls released this week showed pluralities of Americans approving of impeachment, with 44 percent approving in an Economist/YouGov poll and 46 percent approving in a Reuters/Ipsos survey.

This week also saw the Senate’s top Republican dispute Trump’s recollection about a conversation the president said he had with him. Trump claimed earlier this month that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had praised his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“He read my phone call with the president of Ukraine,” Trump said. “Mitch McConnell, he said, ‘That was the most innocent phone call that I’ve read.’ I mean, give me a break. Anybody that reads it says the same thing.”

McConnell was asked about it at his regular press availability on Tuesday and denied that the conversation about the call had even occurred.

“The president has said that you told him that his phone call with the Ukrainian president was perfect and innocent,” asked a reporter in attendance before McConnell cut her off to say, “We’ve not had any conversations on that subject.”

“So [Trump] was lying about that?” asked the reporter.

“You’ll have to ask him,” said McConnell. “I don’t recall any conversations with the president about that phone call.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, in Westerville, Ohio, earlier this month. (Photo: AP/John Minchillo)

Gabbard not running for reelection, focusing on presidential run

On Thursday evening, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard announced that she wouldn’t be running for reelection in Hawaii’s Second District in order to focus on her run for the presidency. Gabbard, in her fourth term, was facing a primary challenge from Kai Kahele, a state senator who has raised nearly half a million dollars.

“At this time when our country is so divided, and our world is moving ever closer to a nuclear holocaust; a time when we may be sucked into another even more disastrous war in the Middle East, and tensions with other nuclear powers are escalating, and with that, a new arms race and Cold War that can only end in nuclear catastrophe, I believe I can best serve the people of Hawaiʻi and our country as your President and Commander-in-Chief,” said Gabbard in a statement.

Gabbard has yet to qualify via polling for next month’s debate. She was thrust into the headlines after a prediction from Hillary Clinton that she would run as a third-party candidate with surreptitious support from Russia. Gabbard has denied the charge and challenged Clinton to enter the primary race to face her directly.

Albuquerque sends Trump campaign $211,000 bill for rally

The city of Albuquerque has asked the Trump campaign to pay back over $200,000 for a rally the president held there last month. The costs come from $133,000 in paid time off for city employees who were required to leave their offices by the Secret Service while Trump stayed in the city, $71,000 for city police services and another $7,000 for barricades.

“The president’s campaign stop in the Albuquerque area cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, including over 1,500 hours of police overtime that was required by the campaign,” said Mayor Tim Keller in a statement.

Albuquerque isn’t the only city trying to collect from Trump, as a study from the Center for Public Integrity found that the campaign owed at least $841,219 to municipalities across the country. The city of El Paso, Texas, issued a late fee to the campaign this summer that pushed the total owed for a rally there to more than half a million dollars.

Photo: AP/Evan Vucci

The look ahead

Saturday: Day two of the three-day criminal justice reform summit at Benedict College in Columbia, S.C., where at least nine Democratic presidential hopefuls — Biden, Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg, Harris, Booker, Klobuchar, Castro and Delaney — are scheduled to appear.

Nov. 1: The 2019 Liberty & Justice Celebration, the Iowa Democrats’ fall event in Des Moines.

Nov. 13: The deadline to qualify for the Nov. 20 Democratic primary debate. So far nine candidates are set to be on the stage.

Dec. 19: The just-announced sixth Democratic debate, to be held in Los Angeles and to be hosted by PBS and Politico. This is also the night “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is released.

Verbatim

“All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here — a lynching.”

— President Trump in a tweet fuming about the ongoing impeachment inquiry

“Lynching is a reprehensible stain on this nation’s history, as is this President.”

— Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., in a tweet responding to Trump’s remark

“Even if the president should be impeached, history is going to question whether or not this was just a partisan lynching or whether or not it was something that in fact met the standard.”

— Then-Sen. Joe Biden, on CNN in 1998, on the Republican-led impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton

“This wasn’t the right word to use and I’m sorry about that. Trump on the other hand chose his words deliberately today in his use of the word lynching and continues to stoke racial divides in this country daily.”

— Biden, on Twitter Tuesday, about the newly unearthed CNN clip

“So Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio has finally dropped out of the race for President, registering ZERO in the polls & unable to even qualify for the debate stage. See Tim, it’s not so easy out there if you don’t know what you’re doing.”

— Trump, on Twitter, after Ryan ended his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination

“The idea here is you get more justices who think for themselves. Justices like Justice [Anthony] Kennedy or [former] Justice [David] Souter.”

— Pete Buttigieg, in an interview with Cosmopolitan magazine, on his plan to “depoliticize” the Supreme Court

“Interesting, I’d like more justices like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.”

— Bernie Sanders, responding to Buttigieg’s comments on Twitter

“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?”

— Then-candidate Trump at a campaign stop in Iowa in January 2016

“That is correct.”

— William Consovoy, Trump’s lawyer, when asked by a Manhattan judge Wednesday if he believes a president’s immunity from being charged with a crime in office would prevent Trump from being arrested in the scenario Trump described

“If anybody shoots someone, they get arrested. I don’t care if they’re the president of the United States or anybody else. If you shoot someone, you should get arrested, and we would arrest him.”

— New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, to reporters Thursday

“The Never Trumper Republicans, though on respirators with not many left, are in certain ways worse and more dangerous for our Country than the Do Nothing Democrats. Watch out for them, they are human scum!”

— Trump in a tweet Wednesday

“The people who are against him and have been against him and working against him since the day he took office are just that. They deserve strong language like that.”

— White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, on “Fox News Thursday,” defending Trump’s “human scum” remark

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