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Inside the Education Department’s effort to ‘obstruct’ student loan investigations

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The Education Department is intervening on behalf of student loan servicers, some accused of illegally exploiting borrowers, by declining to turn over information to law enforcement agencies in multiple states investigating the businesses, some consumer advocates say.

The department’s reluctance to share data from or about student loan servicers was revealed in documents and correspondence to the Senate education subcommittee recently obtained by NBC News.

“It’s a brazen act of lawlessness,” said Christopher Peterson, a law professor at the University of Utah and former enforcement lawyer at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the government’s consumer watchdog.

“I think they are overinterpreting what their authority is to stop law enforcement,” he added.

Diane Auer Jones, a top adviser to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, wrote to two Democratic members of Congress on June 24 that “we no longer grant such requests for nonconsensual disclosure of records from entities purporting to exercise regulatory or enforcement power,” a policy the agency says stems from its interpretation of federal law.

The Education Department posted an announcement in March 2018 in the Federal Register arguing that its oversight pre-empts state regulations when it comes to policing the student loan industry, and its responsibility to oversee the nine servicers currently contracted to handle federal student loans is being undermined by state enforcement.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., one of the lawmakers who received the letter and a vocal critic of the department under DeVos, said the explanation from Jones gets at the heart of how she believes the department has put the interests of student loan servicers before student borrowers. Those borrowers have paid out billions of dollars in additional interest charges to student loan servicers, some of whom continue to reap big earnings, lawmakers and advocates say.

“After nearly a year of hiding the truth, Secretary DeVos’ Department of Education finally admitted that it is interfering with law enforcement in order to protect predatory student loan servicers and debt collectors instead of making sure student loan borrowers get treated fairly,” Murray said in a statement. “That’s completely backwards and it tells you all you need to know about Secretary DeVos’ priorities.”

Jones was responding to a Feb. 19 letter from Murray and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who are on appropriations subcommittees that fund the Education Department, in which they told DeVos that her agency has “historically and appropriately” granted access to student loan-related records.

“However, recent steps by the Department suggest your agency’s previous commitment to information-sharing with law enforcement may no longer be your policy or practice,” the lawmakers said.

More than 20 Democratic state attorneys general, including of California, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, also echoed that concern in a joint letter to DeVos in April, writing that the department’s “recent rejection of requests” is a “sharp departure from its longstanding practice,” and that such information is pivotal in their law enforcement roles to litigate against large-scale fraud, particularly in higher education’s for-profit and debt relief sectors.

Also in April, the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which began during the Obama administration collecting tens of thousands of complaints on both private and federal education loan companies, suggested in a letter to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. — who helped establish the consumer bureau almost a decade ago — that the agency has been stifled because “student loan servicers have declined to produce information.”

The Education Department maintains that under the Privacy Act of 1974, it has the discretion of releasing student borrower data shared by its contractors, and that a third party that wants access to those records must go through the department.

In questions about Jones’ letter, the Education Department denied Monday that there is a blanket policy of not sharing data with state law enforcement agencies. If information is being requested as part of an effort to regulate a student loan servicer, and the department believes that regulation is pre-empted by federal law, then the data won’t be released, a spokesman said.

He added that requests are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

In her letter, Jones said, the department determines whether to release records by seeking “to balance a borrower’s interest in privacy with the need for the record. In addition, before disclosing a record, the Department must ensure that the legal requirements for disclosure have been met.”

Jones also stressed in her letter that federal law can pre-empt state regulations. In recent months, several states, including California, Illinois, Maryland and New York, have adopted rules trying to force loan servicers to comply with state consumer protection or licensing laws.

Liz Hill, an Education Department spokeswoman, said in a previous statement that a “state-by-state approach to regulating federal assets causes confusion for borrowers and makes administration of the loan program more complicated and costly.”

The Student Loan Servicing Alliance, a trade group, has defended the department’s interpretation as “not just good law, it is good policy.”

But student borrower advocates and higher education analysts who spoke with NBC News say the department’s guidance has no legal standing.

“There is no explicit pre-emption of state law with regards to servicer oversight in the Higher Education Act or any other federal law,” said Whitney Barkley-Denney, senior policy counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending, a North Carolina-based nonprofit that studies student loan debt and predatory lending. She added that in the case of loan servicing, “the states have long been recognized as having the power to police corporations and industry on behalf of consumers.”

The tussle between the federal government and states comes as part of a wider shift during the Trump administration to move away from clamping down on student loan servicers and for-profit colleges accused of preying on students. The nation’s student debt crisis has only grown as 45 million student borrowers have seen their collective debt balloon to roughly $1.5 trillion.

Navient Corp., one of the nation’s largest student-loan servicing companies with 12 million customers, is facing at least six lawsuits — from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and state attorneys general in California, Illinois, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Washington — accusing the loan giant of steering struggling borrowers into higher-cost payment plans or overusing forbearance, which allows students to temporarily postpone repayment while still being charged interest. Navient says the allegations in the lawsuits “are false and we are vigorously contesting them in court,” and that it has “helped millions of borrowers” enroll in income-driven repayment plans.

With lawsuits winding through the courts involving student loan servicers, there has been disagreement about whether federal law supplants state and local laws as suggested by the Education Department. Judges reviewing cases in Pennsylvania and Illinois, however, have lent credence to the right for states to hold student loan servicers accountable when it comes to consumer protection.

“So far, courts have given almost no legal weight to the DeVos memo,” Barkley-Denney said.

Meanwhile, the Education Department has received at least 40 law enforcement data requests during this fiscal year, Jones said, and many have been fulfilled. Most requests were related to local agencies investigating individual borrowers rather than broader probes, and some involved the use of subpoenas.

But according to the letter, as of June, still pending were requests for information from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which first contacted the Education Department in January, and the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office, which was initially denied its request last October related to the department’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, even though the office made a point to ask for aggregate data and not borrowers’ private information.

The office of Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who has been among the most aggressive state law enforcement officials in going after predatory student loans, said the data it has sought also refrains from compromising the privacy of borrowers — a concern raised by student loan companies for why records should remain under wraps. The data has included internal documents, policies and procedures, and nationwide loan files.

“We aren’t asking for disclosure of sensitive information, and without this data we are asking for, we cannot fully address ongoing problems with the system as it stands now,” Jacklin Rhoads, Shapiro’s spokeswoman, said.

Seth Frotman, executive director of the Student Borrower Protection Center, a consumer advocacy group, said Jones’ response to lawmakers this summer underscores how “the department is engaged in a calculated, unprecedented effort to obstruct law enforcement officials working to protect borrowers.”

Frotman formed the nonprofit center after abruptly resigning last summer as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s student loan ombudsman in protest of what he believes are harmful policies promoted under the current White House. Under Frotman, the consumer bureau in 2017 filed its lawsuit against Navient, a case that remains held up in red tape.

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Republican projected to beat Democrat for Texas state House, in race watched for 2020 clues

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WASHINGTON — A Republican candidate for a Texas state House seat beat his Democratic rival, in a special election Tuesday which had been closely watched for a glimpse as to just how competitive the delegate-rich state might be in the presidential election, according to unofficial results.

Gary Gates, a self-funded businessman, beat Democrat Eliz Markowitz, an education specialist, for the House District 28 seat, according to unofficial results. The margin, according to those unofficial results, was 58.05% to 41.95%.

Gary Gates, the Republican candidate for Texas State Representative, speaks during an interview in Katy, Texas, on Jan. 11, 2020.John L. Mone / AP file

The Republican State Leadership Committee tweeted that “Gary Gates defeated the entire national Democratic party tonight.”

Gates, speaking to supporters at around 9 p.m. Tuesday, said “They thought this was a seat they could flip,” according to The Texas Tribune.

Tuesday’s election was a runoff to replace Rep. John Zerwas, a moderate Republican who is not running for re-election.

In the November election, Markowitz, the only Democrat in the race, won 39.1 percent of the vote. Gates received 28.4 percent, while three other Republicans split the remainder of the vote.

The legislative stakes of the runoff in House District 28, a rapidly diversifying suburb of Houston, are relatively low.

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Gates will most likely not even cast a single vote before they have to face re-election in November, as the Legislature does not meet this year. And even had Markowitz won, Texas Republicans would still have controlled the House by eight seats.

Markowitz, rallying supporters at around 8 p.m., referenced the November election, saying “we get to do this all again in 11 months, y’all!” according to the Texas Tribune.

Democrats are itching to demonstrate that Texas is a competitive state and will be up for grabs in 2020. The state has 38 votes in the Electoral College, second to only California, with 55. Many say that demographic changes in the district, part of ethnically diverse Fort Bend County, are part of a larger shift in suburbs around the state — trends that could shift electoral results in Democrats’ favor.

“Fort Bend County is representative of what is happening in Texas writ large. There are a lot of immigrants,” said Brendan Steinhauser, a Texas-based Republican strategist who ran Sen. John Cornyn’s 2014 campaign. “Republicans want to hold this and need to hold this to say: ‘Look, we can stem the tide of the blue wave that everyone is talking about.’”

House District 28 has long been considered reliably Republican, voting for President Donald Trump by 10 percentage points in 2016 and backing Republican Sen. Ted Cruz over Democratic challenger Rep. Beto O’Rourke by 3 points in the 2018 Senate race.

“The fundamentals in the district right now favor the Republicans,” said Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas, Austin.

But the greater Fort Bend area tells a different story: Hillary Clinton won the county in 2016 by almost 7 percentage points, and O’Rourke beat Cruz in 2018 by 12 points. Texas Democrats point to census data suggesting that the electorate is more diverse than ever — residents of Fort Bend County are now roughly 32 percent white, 25 percent Latino, 21 percent Asian and 20 percent African American — suggesting that the rest of the county will soon be trending blue, too.

“The question about a district like this is, how are the changes of the composition of the electorate changing what our expectations should be,” Henson said.

Democrats have poured resources into the race, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of Markowitz. Forward Majority, a Democratic super PAC focused on flipping state houses, says it alone spent $400,000 on the race, including airing an ad that resurfaces allegations from 2000 that Gates abused his children. Child Protective Services ultimately dropped the case against him.

Even Democratic presidential candidates, otherwise preoccupied with their own primary race, have chimed in.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg have all endorsed Markowitz. Former Housing Secretary Julián Castro, a native of San Antonio who dropped out of the 2020 race this month, has campaigned for Markowitz in the district. And O’Rourke, fresh off his own failed presidential bid, has spent days at a time in the district, energizing the Democratic base and going door to door to urgeg people turn out for Markowitz.

Despite the Democratic hype around the contest, early voting results from last week did not look good for the party. By Monday, many were downplaying expectations, quietly throwing cold water on the idea that Tuesday’s outcome would serve as a bellwether for November.

“This isn’t easy terrain for us in the first place,” said Abhi Rahman, a spokesperson for the Texas Democratic Party. “The fact that it’s so close is a win for us already. … The fact that Republicans had to spend here already shows how diverse and changing Texas is.”

Texas Democrats gained 12 seats in the state House in 2018 and need to flip only nine seats to gain control of the chamber and take the majority. With redistricting just around the corner in 2021, control of the Texas House is paramount to both parties. Texas, because of its population growth, is expected to gain multiple U.S. House seats.

“They’re all worried about redistricting. We have to hold the House,” said Steinhauser, who said he has heard from members of Congress concerned that Democrats could take the Texas House, giving them the ability to redraw congressional districts to be more competitive.

“That’s first and foremost on their minds: Am I going to lose my seat?” Steinhauser continued. “The donors are talking about it. The state party leadership are talking about it. The county parties are talking about it. The candidates are talking about it. It’s on the front of their minds, in some ways more than congressional races.”



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Amy Klobuchar drops final Iowa ads, six days until caucus

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is in Washington, D.C. for the Senate impeachment trial, but her face will be on Iowa airwaves by way of two final TV ads launching Tuesday — just six days before Iowans go to their caucus sites.

“Iowa, it’s time to choose,” one of the ads, “99,” opens before pivoting to highlight Klobuchar’s endorsement from the Quad City Times along with the co-New York Times endorsement that commends her “Midwestern charisma and grit.” “99” seeks to convince viewers that she can unite the party, and “perhaps,” the country — proven by her commitment to visit all of Iowa’s 99 counties. 

The second ad, “It’s About You,” features Klobuchar hitting Trump off the bat. “We have a president who thinks everything is about him,” she says. “His tweets, his golf course, his ego.”

“But I think the job is about you,” Klobuchar adds as she ticks through common issues that come up on the campaign trail like healthcare, education, and security. “I’ll be a President who restores decency to the White House and gets things done for you.” 

Klobuchar’s ability to physically campaign in the state has hit a speed-bump due to the impeachment trial, so these ads combined with tele-town halls are possibly the only access caucus goers will get to the senator until the impeachment trial is wrapped.

At her final campaign event of six over the past weekend, Klobuchar took photos with various Iowa staffers, joking that she might not be able to come back before caucus — a nod to newly surfaced revelations from former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s book that may give Democrats more substance behind their push for witnesses at the trial. If witnesses were to be called, the trial schedule could directly interfere with the caucuses.  

Most recent Iowa-specific polls have placed Klobuchar in fifth place, but an Emerson poll released Sunday evening shows Klobuchar in third place with 13 percent, behind Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., with 30 percent and former Vice President Joe Biden with 21 percent. 

Biden leverages Trump’s attacks to win over Iowa voters

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — With the Iowa Caucus one week out, Joe Biden reminded voters in the state that they should support him because he’s taken on the most heat from President Trump.

“There’s a reason why this man is on trial. The reason he’s on trial is because he does not want to run against me,” Biden said. “I hope I’ve demonstrated I can take a punch. And if I’m the nominee, he’s going to understand what punches mean.”

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event at the North Iowa Events Center on Jan. 22, 2020, in Mason City, Iowa.John Locher / AP

The former Vice President focused primarily on health care, gun reform, and climate change while speaking to the 200-person crowd at the University of Northern Iowa.

On the issue of health care, Biden reignited attacks against his progressive opponents along with Medicare for All, which he called a “catchy idea” that takes too long to implement.

“Well there’s an old expression in the long run we’ll all be dead,” he added.

Biden said that some of his rivals have failed to tell the truth about how much their plans cost because the prospect of higher taxes “scares the living devil out of people.”

“I show how I pay for everything in my campaign,” he said.

Addressing the issues he vows to reform, Biden pointed out that first “we’ve got to beat Donald Trump” to get any of that done.

Biden also touted his electability against President Trump, selling himself as the candidate most likely to beat him because of his support among minorities and across partisan lines.

Having that support, Biden argues, is key to unseating Trump and helping down-ballot Democratic candidates.

He even suggested that if a candidate cannot garner significant support from minority groups, they should not become the nominee.

“I don’t believe you can win a nomination in this party and more importantly, I don’t believe you should win the nomination in this party unless you can demonstrate … substantial support from each and every one of those communities,” he said. “That’s what is needed.”

Bloomberg takes on Sanders in his home state of Vermont

BURLINGTON, Vt. – Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg drew a contrast between himself and Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential campaign rival, during his Tuesday swing through Sanders’ home state.

“I can’t speak for the senator, I can only speak for myself,” Bloomberg told reporters when asked to address voters in the Super Tuesday state who are considering voting for their home state senator in the Democratic primary.

“I’m the kind of person that pulls teams together, I can attract the great, the best people, I can get them to work together. I’ve shown that again and again and again, that’s what this country needs. It doesn’t need one idea person, it’s a job where you have to have a manager and management is something that you develop over a long period of time. And it’s not something you just walk in and say I got a good idea I’m gonna manage, that’s just not the way the real world works.”

Presidential candidate, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg greets Jewish voters on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020 at Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center in Aventura, Fla.Andrew Uloza / AP

When pressed if he was saying that Sanders is a “one idea” person, Bloomberg pushed back, saying, “You’d have to ask Bernie what his ideas are. I’m not an expert on him any more than he is an expert on me.”

The Sanders campaign has not yet returned a request for comment about Bloomberg’s remarks. 

Back when Bloomberg announced his candidacy in November, Sanders accused Bloomberg of attempting to buy the election by sinking his own personal wealth into his bid.

“We say to Michael Bloomberg and other billionaires: Sorry, you ain’t going to buy this election,” Sanders said in Iowa at the time.

Bloomberg has spent over $218 million so far on television and radio ads, according to data from Advertising Analytics, and millions more on digital ads. While Bloomberg has until the end of the month to file his first spending report with the Federal Election Commission, he’s said he will not accept individual donations and will bankroll his campaign with his own deep pockets. 

On Monday, Bloomberg said he thinks he is the only candidate capable of beating President Trump in the election.

“I do think I’m the only candidate that can beat Trump because I think the country is, wants evolution rather than revolution,” Bloomberg said. “The country likes an awful lot of what we have, they just don’t like the style. And so they’re not looking for big change I don’t think in anything other than management, and how we conduct ourselves.”

Bloomberg, who is skipping early state contests and instead focusing on the rest of the Democratic nominating calendar states, has officially visited all of the states that hold their nominating contests on Super Tuesday. His campaign ticked off the last state with a stop in Portland, Maine Monday afternoon.

He said he was not following the news coming out of the early states, where he is not on the ballot, because his campaign strategy isn’t focusing on those states. 

He added that he decided to run because  “I didn’t like what the candidates were doing in terms of their policies. I didn’t think they made any sense, that you couldn’t fund them, you’d never get them through Congress, and I didn’t think they could beat Donald Trump.  So I decided, okay, I’m going to run.”

—Gary Grumbach contributed

Trump-aligned non-profit brings anti-impeachment message to Michigan, Pennsylvania

WASHINGTON — America First Policies, a non-profit advocacy group aligned with President Trump, is expanding its anti-impeachment advertising to the key general election swing states of Michigan and Pennsylvania, NBC has learned. 

AFP has booked more than $350,000 in television spending across the two states, data from Advertising Analytics shows. A spokeswoman with the group told NBC that in total, each state will see more than $200,000 in television spending, and when combined with a corresponding digital effort, the group plans to spend $500,000 across the two states. 

The new ads blast impeachment as a partisan and political act, calling on Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, as well as Michigan Democratic Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, to oppose removing the president. 

“For the radical left, this is really about one thing: winning the White House,” a narrator says in one ad. 

“The left’s impeachment scam, exposed. Instead of standing up for America and securing our borders, Bob Casey is standing with radicals.” 

Out of the three senators targeted by the new ads, Peters is the only one up for re-election this year (Casey and Stabenow both won a new term in 2018). The ads serve as a way to get the anti-impeachment message out into the bloodstream in states that will be pivotal to Trump’s re-election effort (both are states Trump narrowly won in 2016). 

The new ads will air starting on Tuesday, and come after the group dropped almost $400,000 on television ads targeting Sen. Doug Jones, R-Ala., on impeachment. Jones is considered one of the most vulnerable senators in 2020, having to defend his seat in a deep-red state. 

Elizabeth Warren picks up a slew of new progressive endorsements

WASHINGTON — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., gained endorsements from progressive thinkers and influencers on Monday even as she falls behind in polls to Bernie Sanders, underscoring an enduring divide within the movement in the final week before the Iowa caucuses.

The endorsements — rolled out by the pro-Warren groups Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Working Families Party, and Black Womxn — include well-known policy minds within liberal circles such as Heather McGhee of Demos, Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and Larry Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks in Des Moines, Iowa, on Jan. 19, 2020.Patrick Semansky / AP

The groups touted more than 75 new endorsements for Warren from current or former state and local officials, including Mayors Meghan Sahli-Wells of Culver City, California and Chris Taylor of Ann Arbor, Michigan. The list also included former congressmen Sander Levin of Michigan and Brad Miller of North Carolina.

Another notable name was Susheela Jayapal, who is the Multnomah County Commissioner in Oregon. Her sister, Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Pramila Jayapal, has endorsed Sanders for president.

“My choice has been between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. I voted for Bernie in 2016, and continue to admire and appreciate his fierce advocacy,” Susheela Jayapal said in a statement. “But 2020 is not 2016. In 2020, I’m with Warren. In 2020, more than ever, we need bold policy and advocacy — and we also need a president who can actually govern.”

Those endorsements, part of about 3,000 announced by the groups Monday, come at a critical moment for Warren who has lost ground in surveys and now trails Joe Biden and Sanders in national and early-state polls. Sanders has consolidated large swaths of the progressive community and jumped into the lead in recent polling in Iowa by the New York Times/Siena and New Hampshire by CNN and the University of New Hampshire.

One bright spot for Warren? She’s the top second-choice preference for voters in both surveys.

Moulton endorses Biden’s presidential bid

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa —Former Democratic presidential candidate and current Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential bid Monday morning, arguing he’s the right person to lead the country. 

Moulton announced his endorsement in a statement on Twitter that said he’s backing Biden given his decades of experience “serving the country, especially his eight years as vice president.” He went on to list several achievements of Biden’s career, including passing the Violence Against Women Act and the Affordable Care Act. 

The Afghanistan veteran’s statement also argued that Biden “will beat Donald Trump and unify our country after four years of the most reckless commander-in-chief in American history.” 

The endorsement is not too surprising given the personal relationship both men have. In the statement, Moulton points out that Biden “was the first person to hold a rally for me” when he launched his long-shot congressional bid in 2014. They have since become friends and Moulton considers him a mentor.

During an interview with NBC News last year, before Moulton launched his own presidential bid, Moulton said he’s “a huge fan of the vice president” and that he’s gone to Biden “multiple times” to ask for advice.   

Pete Buttigieg releases ‘closing’ Iowa ad

DES MOINES, Iowa — Pete Buttigieg is out with what his campaign is calling his “closing” TV ad in Iowa that will air statewide through caucus night, just one week from today.

In the ad, Buttigieg says that “It’s time to turn the page from a Washington experience paralyzed by the same old thinking, polarized by the same old fights, to a bold vision for the next generation.”

He addresses issues like corporate greed, “inaction” on climate change, and endless wars with photos of him campaigning across the state on screen. The former South Bend Mayor finishes off his closing ad saying that “We need to break from the old politics and unify this nation.”

The 30-second ad, “It’s Time,” is one of four ads the campaign is airing in Iowa ahead of the February 3 Caucus.

In a statement released by his campaign, Buttigieg is advertised as the “president who can rally this country around bold ideas for the next generation and achieve things that have never been done before.”

Democratic group targets vulnerable GOP senators on impeachment

WASHINGTON — Majority Forward, the not-for-profit group associated with the Democratic Senate Majority PAC, is launching a six-figure ad campaign on Monday targeting vulnerable Republican senators on impeachment. 

The two 30-second ads, which will run on digital and associated platforms like Hulu, will run in Arizona to target Sen. Martha McSally, Colorado to target Sen. Cory Gardner, Iowa to target Sen. Joni Ernst, Maine to target Sen. Susan Collins and North Carolina to target Sen. Thom Tillis.

The ads, entitled “Oath” and “Rigged”, focus on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s comments on coordinating with the White House during the impeachment trial, and the oath of impartiality that all senators took before the trial began.

The ad campaign marks the first full-throated effort by a Democratic group to run ads in support of impeachment and the trial. Prior to this, mostly only presidential candidates like philanthropist Tom Steyer and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg focused on the topic in ads

“Senate Republicans have broken their oath of impartiality and their promise to the American people by playing along with Mitch McConnell’s cover-up,” Senate Majority PAC president J.B. Poersch said in a statement. “By refusing to get the facts and demand a fair trial from the onset, Senate Republicans are putting party politics over principle. Our new ad campaign urges these vulnerable incumbents to do their jobs and demand a fair trial now.”

All five of the senators targeted are facing difficult reelection campaigns in 2020. While some of the senators, like Gardner and Collins, have chosen to take a more neutral approach when asked about calling witnesses to the trial or if the president’s conduct was appropriate, Tillis and Ernst have publicly sided with the president.

“I think it’s so ironic that [House impeachment managers] really hammered in their brief, ‘overwhelming’, I think they said that word 11 times in their brief, and yet we haven’t seen overwhelming evidence of an impeachable offense,” Ernst told NBC News on Friday. 

And Tillis shared a Twitter video last week where he called the trial a “sham”.

“They don’t have the information, it’s a sham impeachment,” Tillis said. “It’s a waste of America’s time, and people in North Carolina are getting tired of it.” 

McSally, who lost her Senate bid in 2018 and was then appointed to her seat, wouldn’t say in an interview on Fox News if she would vote for witnesses or not. Instead she said she wanted a “fair trial.” 

In the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, 66 percent of Americans said they wanted witnesses called in the Senate trial. 

Buttigieg goes on the offensive as Sanders pulls ahead in the polls

DES MOINES, Iowa — With Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., pulling ahead in the latest early state and national polls, fellow Democratic hopeful and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg is sending a message to his supporters that Sanders must be stopped. 

The Buttigieg campaign sent an email to their followers on Saturday asking them to donate to the campaign in order to stop Sanders’ surge.

“Right now, Bernie’s campaign is out-raising and out-spending us,” the email states. “If this continues, there’s a good chance he wins the Iowa Caucuses.” 

Hours later Buttigieg’s Deputy Campaign Manager, Hari Sevugan, followed up with an email saying that if Sanders wins the nomination, Democrats will lose in 2020.

“Bernie performs the worst against Trump amongst all major candidates,” Sevugan writes citing the latest New York Times/Siena College poll. Sevugan continues, “In short, we risk nominating a candidate who cannot beat Donald Trump in November. And that’s a risk we can’t take.”

In sharp contrast to the emails sent to supporters, Buttigieg was reluctant to address Sanders by name when asked if the senator’s candidacy was too risky to defeat Trump.

“I believe that we should be very mindful that one of the worst risks we can take at a time like this is to recycle the same Washington style political warfare that brought us to this point,” Buttigieg said. “If we believe it’s important to win, and I sure do, then the best thing we could do is put forward a candidate who offers something new, something different.”

Shortly after Buttigieg made those comments, supporters received another message from the campaign this time via text. Echoing earlier emails suggesting that Sanders won’t beat Trump, the message included a graphic showing Sanders losing to Trump by 6 percentage points.

This comes as support for Sanders has ticked up and recent polling and Buttigieg aims to bolster his pitch as the candidate best positioned to beat Trump. Both Sanders and Buttigieg are campaign in Iowa this weekend, with only days until the first-in-the-nation caucus on Feb. 3.

Klobuchar on Democratic primary: ‘I should be leading the ticket’

WASHINGTON — Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar appealed to Democratic primary voters on Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” arguing that her mix of pragmatism and legislative success is what the party needs to defeat President Trump in November. 

While Klobuchar said she’s “ready to support the winner” of the Democratic Party’s nominating fight, she pointed to recent Democratic victories in purple and red states to argue that she fits the profile of a successful nominee. 

Just eight days before the pivotal Iowa caucus, she also took a swipe at Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has seen his stock improve in a handful of recent polls and has taken more incoming in recent days from his Democratic rivals. 

“I think Senator Sanders’ idea of kicking 149 million Americans off their current health insurance is wrong. That’s why I don’t think he should be leading the ticket,” she said, referring to Sanders’ push for Medicare for All, which would ultimately replace private insurance with a government-run system. 

“I think I should be leading the ticket because my ideas are much more in sync with bold ways of getting things done, taking on the pharmaceutical companies, nonprofit public option, having an education plan that actually matches our economy, and the experience of getting things done. I’m the only one in the Senate running left on that stage that has passed over 100 bills as the lead Democrat. That matters to people right now.”

Biden surrogates hope to take attention away from Sanders dispute in Iowa

DES MOINES, Iowa — With a little over a week until the Iowa caucuses, surrogates for former Vice President Joe Biden want voters to focus on Biden’s electability argument, rather than his ongoing policy debate on Social Security with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. 

In an email exclusively obtained by NBC News, four Hawkeye state Biden endorsers reminded supporters and Iowa politicos to dismiss “falsehoods” spread about Biden’s Social Security record circulating in negative posts by Sanders’ campaign. They claim that the Sanders campaign is currently “spending hundreds of thousands of dollars” against Biden, a tactic also employed by President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.

“There is no surer way to reelect Donald Trump than by letting Bernie Sanders get away with these false attacks and negative tactics,” Bruce Koeppl, the former director of Iowa AARP, wrote in an email. “The attacks of Bernie Sanders, his campaign, and his supporters on Joe Biden only help one person: Donald Trump.”

The letter comes as Biden and Sanders continue to face off on Social Security, a political he-said-he-said that started last Saturday when Biden demanded an apology from Sanders and his aides for spreading supposed out-of-context videos of Biden. While Sanders did apologize to Biden earlier this week, it was specifically for a Sanders supporter and staffer saying Biden has a “corruption problem.” 

The Biden-Sanders back-and-forth has strengthened as Sanders climbs in state and national polls. For Biden supporters like Koepple, former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack, Iowa Building and Construction Trades Council president Bill Gerhard and Liveable Communities advocate Kent Sovern, it’s time for action. 

“It’s time for the caucus-goers of Iowa to tell Senator Sanders that we’re not going to put up with his malarkey – or his negative attacks,” the group said in a note to Biden supporters. 

The Biden campaign has tried to elevate Biden’s electability argument this week: They posted a Twitter video, and emphasized in a fundraising email, that Democratic infighting will only help elect Trump, and that Biden is still the most electable candidate.

The Sanders campaign responded in a similar video, continuing to highlight comments Biden made on the Senate floor about Social Security.

In an interview with NBC News affiliate WIS10, Biden said that candidates picking apart statements from “35 years” ago may be acting in “desperation.” 



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Warren releases plan to combat epidemics like coronavirus

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Warren releases plan to combat epidemics like coronavirus

WASHINGTON — As focus on the coronavirus intensifies, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is releasing a new plan on how to prevent the transmission of infectious diseases and better prepare for global outbreaks. 

Her in-depth agenda focuses on fully funding global health agencies, investing in the development of vaccines and ensuring that health departments and hospitals are prepared to handle potential outbreaks

“The best way to beat a pandemic is to prevent it from starting in the first place,” Warren’s plan says, “As president, I will work to build the foundations that help us catch infectious diseases before they spread.” 

Though Warren does not specify where the funding would come from, a large portion of her plan revolves around funding organizations that would strengthen global health infrastructure. She specifically mentions fully funding the Centers for Disease Control, USAID and the Global Health Security Agenda, which involves 50 countries.

Elizabeth Warren smiles during a rally at West Delaware High School, on Jan. 4, 2020, in Manchester, Iowa.Andrew Harnik / AP file

Warren’s plan addresses fighting epidemics on a global level, but she also ties in a commitment to stop infectious diseases, like Hep C and HIV, in the United States. Earlier in her campaign, Warren released a plan to make PrEP, an HIV prevention drug more affordable and accessible. The plan drew attention from a now high profile endorser, Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness, who recently introduced Warren in Iowa. 

In Washington, Warren plans to restore a position in White House leadership on health security, one that was originally part of the Obama administration that Trump then removed. She also will create a “swear jar” policy for when drug companies break the law — and the funding from that will go to the NIH to expand development of vaccines and treatments and study of infectious diseases. 

Of note, Warren makes a point to mention the importance of spreading factual information and countering misinformation in the process of combating global outbreaks. She says she will work with the private sector on this issue. 

“Science will once again be in charge at the CDC,” the plan says. 

The focus on science also ties into Warren’s portion of the plan that tackles the crossover between climate change and disease outbreak. Her plan folds in portions of her previously released plans on climate and adds in a focus on preventing spread of disease after natural disasters. 

Warren ends her plan by specifically mentioning the coronavirus, as a reminder of the importance of investing in public health institutions. 

“Diseases like coronavirus remind us why we need robust international institutions, strong investments in public health, and a government that is prepared to jump into action at a moment’s notice,” Warren says in her plan, “When we prepare and effectively collaborate to address common threats that don’t stop at borders, the international community can stop these diseases in their tracks.” 

The death toll from the disease has now risen to 106 people.

Amy Klobuchar drops final Iowa ads, six days until caucus

DES MOINES, Iowa — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is in Washington, D.C. for the Senate impeachment trial, but her face will be on Iowa airwaves by way of two final TV ads launching Tuesday — just six days before Iowans go to their caucus sites.

“Iowa, it’s time to choose,” one of the ads, “99,” opens before pivoting to highlight Klobuchar’s endorsement from the Quad City Times along with the co-New York Times endorsement that commends her “Midwestern charisma and grit.” “99” seeks to convince viewers that she can unite the party, and “perhaps,” the country — proven by her commitment to visit all of Iowa’s 99 counties. 

The second ad, “It’s About You,” features Klobuchar hitting Trump off the bat. “We have a president who thinks everything is about him,” she says. “His tweets, his golf course, his ego.”

“But I think the job is about you,” Klobuchar adds as she ticks through common issues that come up on the campaign trail like healthcare, education, and security. “I’ll be a President who restores decency to the White House and gets things done for you.” 

Klobuchar’s ability to physically campaign in the state has hit a speed-bump due to the impeachment trial, so these ads combined with tele-town halls are possibly the only access caucus goers will get to the senator until the impeachment trial is wrapped.

At her final campaign event of six over the past weekend, Klobuchar took photos with various Iowa staffers, joking that she might not be able to come back before caucus — a nod to newly surfaced revelations from former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s book that may give Democrats more substance behind their push for witnesses at the trial. If witnesses were to be called, the trial schedule could directly interfere with the caucuses.  

Most recent Iowa-specific polls have placed Klobuchar in fifth place, but an Emerson poll released Sunday evening shows Klobuchar in third place with 13 percent, behind Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., with 30 percent and former Vice President Joe Biden with 21 percent. 

Biden leverages Trump’s attacks to win over Iowa voters

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — With the Iowa Caucus one week out, Joe Biden reminded voters in the state that they should support him because he’s taken on the most heat from President Trump.

“There’s a reason why this man is on trial. The reason he’s on trial is because he does not want to run against me,” Biden said. “I hope I’ve demonstrated I can take a punch. And if I’m the nominee, he’s going to understand what punches mean.”

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event at the North Iowa Events Center on Jan. 22, 2020, in Mason City, Iowa.John Locher / AP

The former Vice President focused primarily on health care, gun reform, and climate change while speaking to the 200-person crowd at the University of Northern Iowa.

On the issue of health care, Biden reignited attacks against his progressive opponents along with Medicare for All, which he called a “catchy idea” that takes too long to implement.

“Well there’s an old expression in the long run we’ll all be dead,” he added.

Biden said that some of his rivals have failed to tell the truth about how much their plans cost because the prospect of higher taxes “scares the living devil out of people.”

“I show how I pay for everything in my campaign,” he said.

Addressing the issues he vows to reform, Biden pointed out that first “we’ve got to beat Donald Trump” to get any of that done.

Biden also touted his electability against President Trump, selling himself as the candidate most likely to beat him because of his support among minorities and across partisan lines.

Having that support, Biden argues, is key to unseating Trump and helping down-ballot Democratic candidates.

He even suggested that if a candidate cannot garner significant support from minority groups, they should not become the nominee.

“I don’t believe you can win a nomination in this party and more importantly, I don’t believe you should win the nomination in this party unless you can demonstrate … substantial support from each and every one of those communities,” he said. “That’s what is needed.”

Bloomberg takes on Sanders in his home state of Vermont

BURLINGTON, Vt. – Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg drew a contrast between himself and Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential campaign rival, during his Tuesday swing through Sanders’ home state.

“I can’t speak for the senator, I can only speak for myself,” Bloomberg told reporters when asked to address voters in the Super Tuesday state who are considering voting for their home state senator in the Democratic primary.

“I’m the kind of person that pulls teams together, I can attract the great, the best people, I can get them to work together. I’ve shown that again and again and again, that’s what this country needs. It doesn’t need one idea person, it’s a job where you have to have a manager and management is something that you develop over a long period of time. And it’s not something you just walk in and say I got a good idea I’m gonna manage, that’s just not the way the real world works.”

Presidential candidate, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg greets Jewish voters on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020 at Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center in Aventura, Fla.Andrew Uloza / AP

When pressed if he was saying that Sanders is a “one idea” person, Bloomberg pushed back, saying, “You’d have to ask Bernie what his ideas are. I’m not an expert on him any more than he is an expert on me.”

The Sanders campaign has not yet returned a request for comment about Bloomberg’s remarks. 

Back when Bloomberg announced his candidacy in November, Sanders accused Bloomberg of attempting to buy the election by sinking his own personal wealth into his bid.

“We say to Michael Bloomberg and other billionaires: Sorry, you ain’t going to buy this election,” Sanders said in Iowa at the time.

Bloomberg has spent over $218 million so far on television and radio ads, according to data from Advertising Analytics, and millions more on digital ads. While Bloomberg has until the end of the month to file his first spending report with the Federal Election Commission, he’s said he will not accept individual donations and will bankroll his campaign with his own deep pockets. 

On Monday, Bloomberg said he thinks he is the only candidate capable of beating President Trump in the election.

“I do think I’m the only candidate that can beat Trump because I think the country is, wants evolution rather than revolution,” Bloomberg said. “The country likes an awful lot of what we have, they just don’t like the style. And so they’re not looking for big change I don’t think in anything other than management, and how we conduct ourselves.”

Bloomberg, who is skipping early state contests and instead focusing on the rest of the Democratic nominating calendar states, has officially visited all of the states that hold their nominating contests on Super Tuesday. His campaign ticked off the last state with a stop in Portland, Maine Monday afternoon.

He said he was not following the news coming out of the early states, where he is not on the ballot, because his campaign strategy isn’t focusing on those states. 

He added that he decided to run because  “I didn’t like what the candidates were doing in terms of their policies. I didn’t think they made any sense, that you couldn’t fund them, you’d never get them through Congress, and I didn’t think they could beat Donald Trump.  So I decided, okay, I’m going to run.”

—Gary Grumbach contributed

Trump-aligned non-profit brings anti-impeachment message to Michigan, Pennsylvania

WASHINGTON — America First Policies, a non-profit advocacy group aligned with President Trump, is expanding its anti-impeachment advertising to the key general election swing states of Michigan and Pennsylvania, NBC has learned. 

AFP has booked more than $350,000 in television spending across the two states, data from Advertising Analytics shows. A spokeswoman with the group told NBC that in total, each state will see more than $200,000 in television spending, and when combined with a corresponding digital effort, the group plans to spend $500,000 across the two states. 

The new ads blast impeachment as a partisan and political act, calling on Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, as well as Michigan Democratic Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, to oppose removing the president. 

“For the radical left, this is really about one thing: winning the White House,” a narrator says in one ad. 

“The left’s impeachment scam, exposed. Instead of standing up for America and securing our borders, Bob Casey is standing with radicals.” 

Out of the three senators targeted by the new ads, Peters is the only one up for re-election this year (Casey and Stabenow both won a new term in 2018). The ads serve as a way to get the anti-impeachment message out into the bloodstream in states that will be pivotal to Trump’s re-election effort (both are states Trump narrowly won in 2016). 

The new ads will air starting on Tuesday, and come after the group dropped almost $400,000 on television ads targeting Sen. Doug Jones, R-Ala., on impeachment. Jones is considered one of the most vulnerable senators in 2020, having to defend his seat in a deep-red state. 

Elizabeth Warren picks up a slew of new progressive endorsements

WASHINGTON — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., gained endorsements from progressive thinkers and influencers on Monday even as she falls behind in polls to Bernie Sanders, underscoring an enduring divide within the movement in the final week before the Iowa caucuses.

The endorsements — rolled out by the pro-Warren groups Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Working Families Party, and Black Womxn — include well-known policy minds within liberal circles such as Heather McGhee of Demos, Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and Larry Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks in Des Moines, Iowa, on Jan. 19, 2020.Patrick Semansky / AP

The groups touted more than 75 new endorsements for Warren from current or former state and local officials, including Mayors Meghan Sahli-Wells of Culver City, California and Chris Taylor of Ann Arbor, Michigan. The list also included former congressmen Sander Levin of Michigan and Brad Miller of North Carolina.

Another notable name was Susheela Jayapal, who is the Multnomah County Commissioner in Oregon. Her sister, Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Pramila Jayapal, has endorsed Sanders for president.

“My choice has been between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. I voted for Bernie in 2016, and continue to admire and appreciate his fierce advocacy,” Susheela Jayapal said in a statement. “But 2020 is not 2016. In 2020, I’m with Warren. In 2020, more than ever, we need bold policy and advocacy — and we also need a president who can actually govern.”

Those endorsements, part of about 3,000 announced by the groups Monday, come at a critical moment for Warren who has lost ground in surveys and now trails Joe Biden and Sanders in national and early-state polls. Sanders has consolidated large swaths of the progressive community and jumped into the lead in recent polling in Iowa by the New York Times/Siena and New Hampshire by CNN and the University of New Hampshire.

One bright spot for Warren? She’s the top second-choice preference for voters in both surveys.

Moulton endorses Biden’s presidential bid

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa —Former Democratic presidential candidate and current Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential bid Monday morning, arguing he’s the right person to lead the country. 

Moulton announced his endorsement in a statement on Twitter that said he’s backing Biden given his decades of experience “serving the country, especially his eight years as vice president.” He went on to list several achievements of Biden’s career, including passing the Violence Against Women Act and the Affordable Care Act. 

The Afghanistan veteran’s statement also argued that Biden “will beat Donald Trump and unify our country after four years of the most reckless commander-in-chief in American history.” 

The endorsement is not too surprising given the personal relationship both men have. In the statement, Moulton points out that Biden “was the first person to hold a rally for me” when he launched his long-shot congressional bid in 2014. They have since become friends and Moulton considers him a mentor.

During an interview with NBC News last year, before Moulton launched his own presidential bid, Moulton said he’s “a huge fan of the vice president” and that he’s gone to Biden “multiple times” to ask for advice.   

Pete Buttigieg releases ‘closing’ Iowa ad

DES MOINES, Iowa — Pete Buttigieg is out with what his campaign is calling his “closing” TV ad in Iowa that will air statewide through caucus night, just one week from today.

In the ad, Buttigieg says that “It’s time to turn the page from a Washington experience paralyzed by the same old thinking, polarized by the same old fights, to a bold vision for the next generation.”

He addresses issues like corporate greed, “inaction” on climate change, and endless wars with photos of him campaigning across the state on screen. The former South Bend Mayor finishes off his closing ad saying that “We need to break from the old politics and unify this nation.”

The 30-second ad, “It’s Time,” is one of four ads the campaign is airing in Iowa ahead of the February 3 Caucus.

In a statement released by his campaign, Buttigieg is advertised as the “president who can rally this country around bold ideas for the next generation and achieve things that have never been done before.”

Democratic group targets vulnerable GOP senators on impeachment

WASHINGTON — Majority Forward, the not-for-profit group associated with the Democratic Senate Majority PAC, is launching a six-figure ad campaign on Monday targeting vulnerable Republican senators on impeachment. 

The two 30-second ads, which will run on digital and associated platforms like Hulu, will run in Arizona to target Sen. Martha McSally, Colorado to target Sen. Cory Gardner, Iowa to target Sen. Joni Ernst, Maine to target Sen. Susan Collins and North Carolina to target Sen. Thom Tillis.

The ads, entitled “Oath” and “Rigged”, focus on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s comments on coordinating with the White House during the impeachment trial, and the oath of impartiality that all senators took before the trial began.

The ad campaign marks the first full-throated effort by a Democratic group to run ads in support of impeachment and the trial. Prior to this, mostly only presidential candidates like philanthropist Tom Steyer and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg focused on the topic in ads

“Senate Republicans have broken their oath of impartiality and their promise to the American people by playing along with Mitch McConnell’s cover-up,” Senate Majority PAC president J.B. Poersch said in a statement. “By refusing to get the facts and demand a fair trial from the onset, Senate Republicans are putting party politics over principle. Our new ad campaign urges these vulnerable incumbents to do their jobs and demand a fair trial now.”

All five of the senators targeted are facing difficult reelection campaigns in 2020. While some of the senators, like Gardner and Collins, have chosen to take a more neutral approach when asked about calling witnesses to the trial or if the president’s conduct was appropriate, Tillis and Ernst have publicly sided with the president.

“I think it’s so ironic that [House impeachment managers] really hammered in their brief, ‘overwhelming’, I think they said that word 11 times in their brief, and yet we haven’t seen overwhelming evidence of an impeachable offense,” Ernst told NBC News on Friday. 

And Tillis shared a Twitter video last week where he called the trial a “sham”.

“They don’t have the information, it’s a sham impeachment,” Tillis said. “It’s a waste of America’s time, and people in North Carolina are getting tired of it.” 

McSally, who lost her Senate bid in 2018 and was then appointed to her seat, wouldn’t say in an interview on Fox News if she would vote for witnesses or not. Instead she said she wanted a “fair trial.” 

In the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, 66 percent of Americans said they wanted witnesses called in the Senate trial. 

Buttigieg goes on the offensive as Sanders pulls ahead in the polls

DES MOINES, Iowa — With Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., pulling ahead in the latest early state and national polls, fellow Democratic hopeful and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg is sending a message to his supporters that Sanders must be stopped. 

The Buttigieg campaign sent an email to their followers on Saturday asking them to donate to the campaign in order to stop Sanders’ surge.

“Right now, Bernie’s campaign is out-raising and out-spending us,” the email states. “If this continues, there’s a good chance he wins the Iowa Caucuses.” 

Hours later Buttigieg’s Deputy Campaign Manager, Hari Sevugan, followed up with an email saying that if Sanders wins the nomination, Democrats will lose in 2020.

“Bernie performs the worst against Trump amongst all major candidates,” Sevugan writes citing the latest New York Times/Siena College poll. Sevugan continues, “In short, we risk nominating a candidate who cannot beat Donald Trump in November. And that’s a risk we can’t take.”

In sharp contrast to the emails sent to supporters, Buttigieg was reluctant to address Sanders by name when asked if the senator’s candidacy was too risky to defeat Trump.

“I believe that we should be very mindful that one of the worst risks we can take at a time like this is to recycle the same Washington style political warfare that brought us to this point,” Buttigieg said. “If we believe it’s important to win, and I sure do, then the best thing we could do is put forward a candidate who offers something new, something different.”

Shortly after Buttigieg made those comments, supporters received another message from the campaign this time via text. Echoing earlier emails suggesting that Sanders won’t beat Trump, the message included a graphic showing Sanders losing to Trump by 6 percentage points.

This comes as support for Sanders has ticked up and recent polling and Buttigieg aims to bolster his pitch as the candidate best positioned to beat Trump. Both Sanders and Buttigieg are campaign in Iowa this weekend, with only days until the first-in-the-nation caucus on Feb. 3.

Klobuchar on Democratic primary: ‘I should be leading the ticket’

WASHINGTON — Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar appealed to Democratic primary voters on Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” arguing that her mix of pragmatism and legislative success is what the party needs to defeat President Trump in November. 

While Klobuchar said she’s “ready to support the winner” of the Democratic Party’s nominating fight, she pointed to recent Democratic victories in purple and red states to argue that she fits the profile of a successful nominee. 

Just eight days before the pivotal Iowa caucus, she also took a swipe at Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has seen his stock improve in a handful of recent polls and has taken more incoming in recent days from his Democratic rivals. 

“I think Senator Sanders’ idea of kicking 149 million Americans off their current health insurance is wrong. That’s why I don’t think he should be leading the ticket,” she said, referring to Sanders’ push for Medicare for All, which would ultimately replace private insurance with a government-run system. 

“I think I should be leading the ticket because my ideas are much more in sync with bold ways of getting things done, taking on the pharmaceutical companies, nonprofit public option, having an education plan that actually matches our economy, and the experience of getting things done. I’m the only one in the Senate running left on that stage that has passed over 100 bills as the lead Democrat. That matters to people right now.”



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