Democratic debate: rivals square off in final debate before Iowa caucuses – live

Democratic debate clashes with Trump’s impeachment trial

Hours before the debate on Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House would vote to send its impeachment charges against Donald Trump to the Senate the following day.

Nancy Pelosi leaves a House Democratic caucus meeting Tuesday.

Nancy Pelosi leaves a House Democratic caucus meeting Tuesday. Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

This clash of news cycles was inevitable albeit less disruptive than initially feared. (The Democratic National Committee was prepared to move the debate if a Senate trial was already underway.)

Still, according to the timeline offered by Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday, the ensuing impeachment trial is likely to play out at a critical moment as the candidates make their closing arguments before voting begins on 3 February.

The upcoming Senate trial, expected to begin next Tuesday, creates uncertainty for the senators running for president. Three of the candidates on stage – senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar – will be pulled off the campaign trail for days or possibly weeks to sit for the Senate’s impeachment trial. They are not allowed to speak during the trial, eliminating the chance for a courtroom showdown between a presidential hopeful and the president’s team.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden, the field’s frontrunner, has been a central figure in the impeachment scandal. The charges against Trump stem from his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter, who worked on the board of a Ukrainian gas company while his father was vice president. Despite no evidence of wrongdoing, Republicans are demanding Hunter Biden testify before the Senate.

Compounding the situation, the New York Times reported that the Ukrainian gas company, Burisma, was “successfully” hacked by Russia, an effort that mirrors the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Biden has said these efforts are an indication that not only Trump but Russia, too, is afraid to run against him.

All-white debate stage is set

Six Democrats qualified for the debate in Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday. All are white.

What began as the largest and most diverse presidential primary field in history has winnowed to an all-white top-tier that does not reflect the demographic diversity of the Democratic party.

Cory Booker addresses voters at a campaign stop in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

Cory Booker addresses voters at a campaign stop in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Photograph: Cj Gunther/EPA

Now the party’s candidates and voters are grappling with their lack of diversity, which was underscored on Monday by the departure of senator Cory Booker, who is black. Earlier this month, Julián Castro, the only Latino candidate to run in 2020, ended his campaign. Businessman Andrew Yang was the sole candidate of color on stage during the last debate in Los Angeles but did not qualify for this round.

“No one on that stage has ever been questioned about their citizenship or if they’re a ‘real’ American or been followed by store security when shopping,” said former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, who is the only black candidate still in the race. “No one has ever asked themselves whether a rejection for a job or an apartment or a loan was because of their race — though millions of Americans still do. Racism is the most consequential unfinished business of America. An election without those issues addressed by all the candidates is not consequential enough.”

In an interview on CBS, Booker said the party has to “do a better job” of addressing the structural barriers that still exist for candidates of color and women running for office.

Part of that problem is that Iowa and New Hampshire, two of the whitest states in the country, play an outsized role in selecting the presidential nominee. Polling in these early states helps qualify candidates for the debates.

But there is also a heightened focus on “electability” this cycle among a Democratic electorate that still carries scar tissue from losing to Trump in 2016. Electability is an ill-defined concept that often works against candidates of color and women.

To be sure, there is still opportunities to break barriers: senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar would be the first female president; Bernie Sanders would be the first Jewish president and Pete Buttigieg would be the first openly gay president and the youngest.

Democratic presidential candidates debate for final time before voting starts