Morning Digest: Big Lie pushers aim to recall Wisconsin Republican for not pushing Big Lie enough

The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.

Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast

Leading Off

WI State Assembly: Far-right groups seeking to oust Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos announced Monday that they'd turned in about 10,700 signatures to recall the powerful Republican. The effort comes less than two years after Vos narrowly won renomination against an opponent backed by Donald Trump, who sought to punish the speaker for failing to do enough to advance the Big Lie.

If the recall campaign qualifies for the ballot, each party would hold separate primaries ahead of a general election. Vos' 63rd District in the Racine area is solidly Republican turf, so the best way for his conservative detractors to get rid of him may be to deny him the nomination. It only takes a simple plurality to win the primary, though, so a crowded field would likely benefit the incumbent.

Vos, whose 11 years in power makes him the longest-serving speaker in state history, has used his power to continuously block Democratic Gov. Tony Evers from implementing his agenda and responded to Joe Biden's tight 2020 win in Wisconsin by claiming that he believed there was "widespread fraud."

That pronouncement, however, was far from good enough for Trump. The two had a public falling out in 2022 after Vos told Congress that Trump had called him and urged him to retroactively decertify Biden's victory—a move the speaker said was legally impossible.

Trump retaliated by endorsing a previously little-known Republican named Adam Steen. The challenger came very close to defeating Vos, but the speaker hung on with a 51-49 win. (Steen's subsequent general election write-in campaign came nowhere close to succeeding.) While Vos has continued to frustrate Evers, the speaker antagonized election deniers again last year when he wouldn't advance an impeachment effort targeting Wisconsin's top elections official, Meagan Wolfe.

Vos argued in November that, while he wanted Wolfe removed, his party was "nowhere near a consensus" on how to do it. "We need to move forward and talk about the issues that matter to most Wisconsinites and that is not, for most Wisconsinites, obsessing about Meagan Wolfe," he said. But conspiracy theorists were far from done obsessing about Meagan Wolfe and quickly made good on their threats to launch a recall effort.

However, it's not clear exactly which voters would decide Vos' fate. Last month, Evers signed new legislative districts into law to replace gerrymandered Republican maps that the new liberal majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down. (The court has yet to sign off on the new lines.) Last week, though, the justices declined Evers' request to clarify which set of maps would be used for any special elections or recalls that take place before November, when the new districts are otherwise set to go into effect.

Matt Snorek, who is leading the recall effort against Vos, acknowledged this uncertainty to WisPolitics even as he argued that the old boundaries should apply. "It's unconstitutional to allow folks who didn't vote for him in 2022 to remove him," Snorek said, but also noted that the recall campaign sought to collect signatures in both versions of the seat.

The partisan makeup of Vos' constituency didn't change dramatically, but it did become several points bluer: The old district favored Trump 58-40 in 2020, while the revamped version backed him 56-43.

If the previous lines are used, recall organizers will need 6,850 valid signatures, which represents 25% of the votes cast in the old 63rd District in the 2022 race for governor; the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writes that it's not clear what this target would be under the new boundaries. Recall expert Joshua Spivak also added that an "unusual feature" in state law makes it easier to put a recall on the ballot: While most states require anyone who fills out a petition to be a registered voter in their district, the Badger State mandates only that signatories be "eligible" voters.

Vos, though, is hoping his enemies have failed to gather enough signatures and says his team plans to review each petition. Scott Bauer of the Associated Press writes that the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission has a total of 31 days to conduct its own review, though its decision can be challenged in court.

If the recall campaign qualifies, a primary would be held six weeks later, with a general election four weeks after that. (In the unlikely event that no primaries are necessary, the recall would take place on the day that primaries would have taken place.)

P.S. While Vos is on the outs with Big Lie spreaders now, the Republican has a long history of advancing conspiracy theories about elections. Vos responded to Democrat John Lehman's 819-vote victory over GOP state Sen. Van Wanggaard in a June 2012 recall by claiming, "Unfortunately, a portion of [the vote] was fraud." The soon-to-be speaker, though, acknowledged he "did not personally witness any voter fraud" in the campaign, which gave Democrats control of the upper chamber for a few months before Republicans won it back that fall.

Election Night

Mississippi: Tuesday is primary night in Mississippi, but none of the state's members of Congress appear to be in any danger of losing either renomination or the general election.

The most eventful race is the GOP primary for the 4th Congressional District, where self-funding perennial candidate Carl Boyanton has been airing animated ads depicting freshman Rep. Mike Ezell as a "busy bee" who's too close to special interests. (One even features a rhyming jingle.)

Boyanton, however, failed to break out of the single digits in either 2020 or 2022, so it would be a surprise if he gave Ezell a hard time on Tuesday. A third candidate, Michael McGill, is also in, though his presence would only matter if no one earned the majority of the vote needed to avert an April 2 runoff.


MI-Sen: Former Rep. Mike Rogers picked up the "Complete and Total Endorsement" of Donald Trump on Monday, a move that likely shortcircuits any prospect of a strong MAGA-flavored candidate entering the August GOP primary against the NRSC favorite. Rogers himself mulled challenging Trump in this year's presidential race, but the former congressman has spent his Senate bid cozying up to the man whose time he once said had "passed."

MN-Sen: SurveyUSA shows Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar with a 49-33 advantage over Republican Joe Fraser, a banker and Navy veteran who launched a campaign in January. This poll for the ABC affiliate KSTP, which is the first look we've had at this matchup, also shows Joe Biden ahead 42-38 in Minnesota.

NJ-Sen: Rep. Andy Kim won the Ocean County Democratic convention 86-13 on Saturday against former financier Tammy Murphy. Kim represented about half of this longtime GOP bastion under the congressional map that was in place when he won his first two terms in the House, though now it's split between two Republican-held districts, the 2nd and the 4th.

Senate: The Democratic group Senate Majority PAC announced Monday that it has reserved a total of $239 million in TV advertising in four additional states:

  • Arizona: $23 million
  • Michigan: $14 million
  • Pennsylvania: $42 million
  • Wisconsin: $14 million

The super PAC also said it had booked $65 million to defend Sen. Sherrod Brown in Ohio, which is a bit more than the $61 million the GOP firm Medium Buying relayed last month. SMP previously reserved $45 million in Montana and $36 million in Nevada. All seven of these states are held by members of the Democratic caucus, including Arizona, where independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is not seeking reelection.


IN-Gov: Sen. Mike Braun has publicized a late February internal from Mark It Red that gives him a 41-12 advantage over Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch ahead of the May 7 Republican primary for governor, which is similar to the 40-13 spread the firm found in December.


AZ-02: Former Yavapai County Supervisor Jack Smith filed paperwork with the state on Friday for a potential August primary bid against freshman Rep. Eli Crane, who was one of the eight House Republicans who voted to end Kevin McCarthy's speakership last year. Smith, who does not have the most helpful name for a Republican candidate seeking office in 2024, has not said anything publicly about his plans. The filing deadline is April 1.

Politico reported last month that McCarthy's network planned to target Crane in northeastern Arizona's reliably red 1st District. There's no word yet, though, whether the former speaker sees Smith, who resigned from office in 2019 to become state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program, as a strong option.

CA-20: NBC projects that Republican Assemblyman Vince Fong has secured first place in last week's top-two primary to succeed his old boss, former Rep. Kevin McCarthy. Fong, who served as McCarthy's district director before winning a seat in the legislature in 2016, leads with 38% as of Tuesday morning. Another Republican, Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, holds a 25-22 advantage over Democrat Marisa Wood for second.

It's not clear how many ballots remain to be tabulated, though. NBC estimates that 65% of the total vote has been counted, but the Associated Press places the proportion at just 62% reporting. The AP has almost 1,500 more votes tallied than NBC even as it reports that a lower percentage of the vote is in.

Note that the first round of the special election for the remaining months of McCarthy's term will take place on March 19. Donald Trump, who like McCarthy backs Fong, carried this Central Valley seat 61-36.

Georgia: Candidate filing closed Friday for Georgia's May 21 primaries, which will mark the first time that the state's new congressional map will be used, and you can find a list of contenders available here. A June 18 runoff will take place in contests where no candidate wins a majority of the vote. The state also conducts a general election runoff between the top two vote-getters on Dec. 3 if no candidate receives a majority on Nov. 5, though that's unlikely to come into play in any congressional races this year.

There was one notable development just ahead of the filing deadline when state Rep. Mandisha Thomas became the third and final Democrat to launch a campaign for the new 6th Congressional District, a safely blue seat in the western Atlanta suburbs. Thomas, though, will face a challenging battle against 7th District Rep. Lucy McBath, a nationally known gun safety activist who ended 2023 with $1 million at her disposal. Cobb County Commissioner Jerica Richardson is also running, but she finished last year with a mere $4,000 banked.

MO-03: State Rep. Justin Hicks announced Monday that he was joining the August Republican primary to replace retiring GOP Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer. The launch comes several months after Max Calfo, a former Jim Jordan staffer who was challenging him for renomination, shared what he claimed were court documents from St. Louis County dating to 2010 in which a woman accused the then-17-year-old Hicks of trying to choke her.

"The restraining order's true," the woman, whose name has not been shared publicly, told the St. Louis Post Dispatch's Jack Suntrup in November. The county's Circuit Court would not confirm the existence of the records, however, though a spokesperson informed Suntrup that the forms posted by Calfo appeared to match those used by the court at the time. Hicks does not appear to have responded to the allegations, though Calfo claims the state representative is now suing him.

NY-03: Politico reports that the Nassau County Republican Committee has endorsed former Assemblyman Mike LiPetri, who does not appear to have shown any prior public interest in taking on Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi. LePetri ran for the open 2nd District in 2020 under a prior map but lost the primary 63-36 against Andrew Garbarino, his then-colleague and the eventual general election winner.

Politico says that, while the Nassau GOP only announced its support for LiPetri late Sunday, party chair Joe Cairo gave a heads-up to the other notable Republican running in the June primary, Air Force veteran Greg Hach. Hach quickly used that information to blast LiPetri on Friday as an "Anti-Trumper" who was "anointed by the local back-room political machine" and has "financial ties" to George Santos. But even though LiPetri fired off nine different tweets that same day, he only confirmed he was running to Newsday on Monday evening.

SC-01: Donald Trump on Saturday endorsed Rep. Nancy Mace, whom he'd unsuccessfully tried to defeat in the GOP primary last cycle. The congresswoman that Trump called "an absolutely terrible candidate" in 2022, however, has used the ensuing two years to remake herself into a diehard MAGA defender. Mace does not appear to have a similar reconciliation with Kevin McCarthy, whom she voted to oust as speaker in October.

Mace faces a June primary challenge from former state cabinet official Catherine Templeton, whom the incumbent labeled "McCarthy's puppet" last month. Dan Hanlon, who is Mace's former chief of staff, filed FEC paperwork in late January, but he still has not said anything publicly about this race. The candidate filing deadline is on April 1.

TX-23: Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales on Monday unveiled an endorsement from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, one of the most powerful far-right politicians in Texas, ahead of his May 28 primary runoff against gun maker Brandon Herrera, whom he led 45-25 in the first round of voting. Patrick's stamp of approval could be a welcome asset for Gonzales a year after the state party censured him for, among other things, voting to confirm Joe Biden's victory in the hours after the Jan. 6 attacks.

WA-06: State Sen. Emily Randall on Monday unveiled endorsements from two Democratic congresswomen who represent neighboring House seats, Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of the 3rd District and Rep. Marilyn Strickland of the 10th. Retiring Rep. Derek Kilmer, whose seat Randall is seeking, previously endorsed the other major Democrat in the race, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz.

Ballot Measures

MO Ballot, MO-Sen, MO-Gov: A new poll from the GOP firm Remington Research Group for the local tip-sheet Missouri Scout finds a 42-26 plurality in favor of amending the state constitution "so that future constitutional amendments would need a statewide majority vote and a majority vote in a majority of congressional districts to take effect."

Note that this poll sampled November general election voters even though the proposed constitutional amendment would likely appear on the August primary ballot (should lawmakers actually pass the measure).

In the Senate race, Remington also finds GOP incumbent Josh Hawley outpacing the Democratic frontrunner, Marine veteran Lucas Kunce, 53-39. GOP Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft likewise holds a similar 53-36 advantage in a hypothetical race for governor against state House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, though both candidates face contested primaries this summer.

Prosecutors & Sheriffs

Cook County, IL State's Attorney: Attorney Clayton Harris has publicized an endorsement from Rep. Chuy Garcia, a high-profile progressive who is also one of the most prominent Latino politicians in the Chicago area, ahead of next week's Democratic primary.

Ad Roundup

Campaign Action

Opening hearing into Jan. 6 by joint Senate committee highlights confusion over intelligence

On Tuesday, a joint oversight hearing in the Senate began investigations into the events of Jan. 6. Testifying were a number of officers and leaders in law enforcement including: former House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving, former Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger, former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, and acting Chief of the Metropolitan Washington D.C. Police Robert Contee. 

The hearing actually opened with moving and disturbing testimony from Police Captain Carneysha Mendoza, who recounted her experiences during the Jan. 6 insurgency. She rushed to the Capitol in response to first signals of the emergency by dealing with a pipe bomb and charging into the fray at the Capitol. She suffered a punishing physical attack that included sustaining lingering chemical burns from armed insurgents.

The opening statements from police leadership showed some significant differences between how these officials viewed their roles on Jan. 6 and the limits of their positions and forces. They were united around the idea that this was “a failure of intelligence,” but not always in the sense that information wasn’t properly relayed. Despite Republican efforts, the outcome of these discussions seems to be focused in a way that can’t be making Republicans happy.

One issue came up as a possible solution to dealing with these events: Washington, D.C. statehood.

Just the opening agreements showed how clumsy the existing structure is when it comes to dealing with … anything, really. Sund indicated that he had to go through the Capitol Police Board—which included Stenger and Irving—to get so much as “a glass of water for his officers on a hot day.” In later testimony, Contee made it clear that Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser lacks the authority of a state governor when it comes to calling in the National Guard. 

Under questioning, a picture built of a lack of intelligence—not always in the lack of communication but in the lack of basic information. Specifically, Sund repeatedly pointed out that the FBI and other agencies did not seem to be taking domestic terrorists seriously.

The two biggest issues that came up were intelligence—especially with Sund repeatedly saying that intelligence agencies failed to cast “a wide enough net” when it came to considering the plans of white supremacist domestic terrorist groups—and the clumsiness of getting more forces assigned to the Capitol because of the divided, multilevel control of forces in and around Washington.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar

Klobuchar opened by asking all to agree that this was a planned and coordinated attack involving white supremacists and extremist groups that represented a real threat to the Capitol. All the former and current police leadership agreed.  

Klobuchar then questioned Sund about the reaction of the Capitol Police to an intelligence report received from the FBI on Jan. 5 warning of potential violence, and that Trump supporters were coming “prepared for war.” Sund variously claimed that it wasn’t reviewed until the evening of Jan. 5, that he never saw the report, and that it was never sent to either the Metro D.C. Police or the sergeants at arms. This report, and the lack of response to the extremely violent language it showcased, came up in much subsequent questioning.

Sund repeatedly defended the idea that he had conducted an “all hands on deck” approach that was “appropriate” based on all past events. However, he also pointed out that he had to run everything past the Capitol Police board (specifically in this case just Stenger and Irving). Sund claimed that he could not request the National Guard without a declaration of emergency from the Capitol Police board.

Questioned about the delay in National Guard response, Sund admitted to frustration. “I don’t know what issues there were at the Pentagon, but I was certainly surprised at the delay.”

Sund finished by saying: “Jan. 6 was a change in the threat we face.” While Stenger noted that while the United States has  greatly expanded intelligence since 9/11, it doesn’t seem efficient at gathering information on internal threats.

Sen. Gary Peters

Peters noted an FBI report carrying a number of expressly violent threats from the Proud Boys and other groups did reach the Capitol Police on Jan. 5, but it didn’t get to operational command. Sund pushed the report off as “raw data” based on “social media posts” that needed to be investigated, something that could not happen given the few hours between the report and events on Jan. 6. 

Sund insisted that the CP “expanded our perimeter” and “coordinated”  based on a Jan. 3 report. Peters went back to Sund’s claims about “military style coordination” and asked what the leaders saw. Sund noted that insurgents “brought climbing gear, they brought explosives, they brought chemical agents.” Sund also indicated that marching toward the Capitol 20 minutes before Trump’s speech ended appeared to be a coordinated movement.

Contee noted that insurgents used hand signals, radios, coordinated use of chemical munitions, and placement of pipe bombs. Both Irving and Stenger agreed it was a coordinated attack.

Contee also noted he was “stunned” by the “tepid response” from the National Guard when the coordinated nature of the attack was clear. He said that Sund was “begging” for the National Guard on a call to the Pentagon, but there was not an immediate “yes.” Instead there was a concern about “optics” and an “exercise to check the boxes.” 

In closing remarks, Peters noted that intelligence agencies are eight months late on a requested report on the threat from domestic terrorism.

Sen. Roy Blunt:

Blunt asked Sund about attempts to secure the National Guard on Jan. 6. Sund said he made a call asking for this assistance at 1:09 PM, but Irving and Stenger didn’t approve it until 2:10 PM. This timing became the focus of much later questioning. 

Irving said first: “I did not take call from Sund as a request.” Then he clarified that he meant the earlier call on Jan. 4. According to Irving, Sund said he had received an “offer” for National Guard forces and that Irving “talked it through” with Sund and Stenger, who “agreed” the “intelligence did not support” using National Guard. Irving says they all decided to “let it go.”

Stenger was asked about what was meant by the National Guard being “on stand by.” It appears neither he nor Sund did anything to keep the Guard in the loop. 

Sund claimed that he asked Irving for Guard assistance at 1:09 PM. Irving said he was on the floor at the time (which appears to be the case) and didn’t recall getting request until 2:10 PM. “I have no phone record of a call from Chief Sund.” He then says he talked to Sund at 1:28 PM, but Sund did not make a request at that time. 

Sen. Rob Portman

Portman requested that they get Sund and Irving’s phone records to deal with the issue. 

Sund admits that Capitol Police were not prepared for a large insurrection or “infiltration” of the Capitol. Portman got both Stenger and Irving to admit that Secret Service has a plan for a similar attacks on the White House, and he wondered why the Capitol Police did not.

Under questioning, Sund admits that all Capitol Police are not outfitted with “hard gear” (helmet, shields, etc.). “Up until Jan. 6, the [seven platoons of “civil disturbance” officers] had been enough” for every previous event. Only four of those platoons had hard gear. Sund said he had ordered riot gear, but it was delayed “because of COVID.”

Contee indicated that in addition to seven platoons with full riot gear, all Metro D.C. police have helmets, protective gloves, gas masks, batons, etc. and all officers have basic civil disturbance training and almost all get additional training. Sund said that such training was “a process being implemented” by Capitol Police.

Portman underlined that officers had not given proper training and didn’t have the necessary equipment. “I appreciate the sacrifice and the bravery of that day, but we owe it to the officers” to fill those needs.

Sen. Patrick Leahy

Leahy acted to cut off claims that the House or Senate were a bottleneck. He asked all of the law enforcement leaders if “the appropriations committee has met your request for salaries and operating expenses in every fiscal year.” Irving: “Yes.” Stenger: “Yes.”

“I happen to think that we have not a failure of inadequate resources,” said Leahy, “but a failure to deploy the resources that we have.”

Leahy points out that when the police were given a warning of armed extremists, they can't then claim that there was no warning of violence. The repeated claims that things were going to be no worse than previous events were not backed up by the intelligence that was received.

Sen. Ron Johnson

Johnson skipped out on asking any questions to instead read a lengthy statement from an anti-Muslim hate group blaming “fake Trump protesters” and “agent provocateurs” for Jan. 6. According to Johnson, all the “real” Trump supporters were “happy” and “in high spirits.” Johnson’s account ended with claims that Capitol Police incited the crowd by firing tear gas after police overreacted to “a tussle.”

So it was all the fault of antifa and the police. Everyone but the Trump supporters, who were all “cheerful” in marching on the Capitol.

Johnson then spent the rest of his time complaining about not getting answers on his conspiracy theories. He made one feint at the end to get Sund to agree that Trump protesters were “pro police,” but Sund noted there were Trump people claiming to be police even as they were pushing through police lines. In terms of wacky highlights, this was it.

Sen. Jacky Rosen

Rosen asked Contee about the report from the FBI on Jan. 5, which also reached the Metro D.C. police late at night by email. Contee’s initial response was much the same as Sund’s: that this was raw data without a suggested response. However, he noted that the Metro police were already prepared for widespread violence in association with Jan. 6. They just weren’t responsible for the Capitol.

Contee also noted that the previous two MAGA rallies in November and December included weapons recovered from several people. “Those were the only rallies were we’ve seen people coming armed,” said Contee. 

Rosen noted that there seemed to be “a breakdown” between the FBI and Capitol Police. But Sund insisted that it wasn’t just the FBI, and it was more than just how the message was delivered. “We need to look at the whole intelligence community and the view that they have on domestic extremists,” said Sund.

Sen. Mark Warner

Warner expressed concern that the “hurdles from the previous administration” slowed and limited to support for Washington and limited its ability to prepare. He brought up Washington, D.C. statehood as a solution for streamlining some of those difficulties.

Warner noted that he talked directly with FBI leadership on Jan. 4 and Jan. 5. “I felt like the FBI felt like they were in better shape in terms of intel,” said Warner. 

Sund said the relationship between Capitol Police and the FBI is “outstanding.” He noted that the FBI was very effective in the aftermath of the events in helping investigate those who invaded the Capitol. And Sund again indicated that the failure was more about the intelligence being gathered rather than what was passed on.

Contee said he wanted more a “whole intelligence approach,” noted that the FBI was a “great partner” for the Metro police.

Warner agreed, noting that Jan. 6 drew the same kind of antigovernment extremists who were on the streets of Charlottesville, but that these groups aren’t “getting the level of serious review” that other threats were. He also noted that these groups have ties to extremist groups overseas, specifically in Europe.

Sen. James Lankford

Lankford was the first to seem more interested in how to twist the information to support some Fox News-worthy narrative. He started by asking Sund to talk at length about a letter from Sund to Nancy Pelosi. Sund said that Pelosi called for his resignation “without a full understanding of what we had gone through and prepared for.”

Lankford then asked about how the pipe bomb was found at the Republican National Committee (RNC). When he was told that an employee at the RNC located the pipe bomb and called it in, Lankford then seemed to take this as proof that the pipe bombs weren’t really “coordinated” with the rest of the attack because the discovery of those bombs at that time was coincidental. (But was it? This certainly seems like a good thing to investigate.)

Lankford also spent some time trying to dismiss the idea that the National Guard was slow to respond. He insisted that it usually takes “multiple days” to approve the National Guard, and insisted that the delays in their approval on Jan. 6 were “typical,” saying that the National Guard was not “the riot police” or “a SWAT team.” Lankford attempted to get Sund to agree that he knew the National Guard was forced to be unarmed, with no drones and no helicopter. Sund denied knowing these restrictions had been put on. Lankford then claimed these “restrictions were put on them by the city of Washington D.C.” without evidence and without asking Contee about this point.

Finally, Lankford spent some time comparing the attack on the Capitol to the “attack on a federal courthouse in Portland” and insinuating that the same forces were involved in both.

Sen. Tom Carper

Carper started off by pointing out that the National Guard is frequently called in to respond quickly to emergencies, and does so. But “the D.C. National Guard operates differently.” Carper also noted that this is one of the reasons he’s worked for years in favor of Washington, D.C. statehood.

Carper gave Contee another opportunity to make it clear that Bowser has no authority to authorize National Guard deployment—that she has to go through an entire chain of requests and approvals. This includes both the Capitol Police board and Pentagon officials.

Carper then asked Contee if having an easier means of calling the National Guard—similar to that given every state—would help to protect the city and federal installations. Contee’s response was an enthusiastic “yes,” and an agreement that this needs to be investigated as part of the response to Jan. 6.

Carper asked Sund why the threat of a “truly devastating attack” was so badly underestimated. Sund pointed back at the FBI and other intelligence agencies for not warning that a coordinated attack across many states was being prepared. Sund indicated that it was not so much “a failure to communicate” but a failure to investigate and focus on domestic extremists.

Sen. Jeff Merkley

Merkley pointed out the level of violence called for in the statement from the FBI, which included white supremacists calling directly to disrupt the certification of the electoral vote “or die.” That report is the same one that was emailed to both Capitol Police and Metro D.C. Police, but not until late in the evening on Jan. 5 and without any warning or flag that would have made its importance obvious.

Merkley spent a good deal of time dealing with specific incidents of Capitol security. That included how the police dealt with what Sund kept describing as “an expanded perimeter” without additional forces to secure that perimeter.  

Stenger noted that there is a drill “once a year” in which there is a test of locking and protecting Congressional chambers, which is something that failed on Jan. 6. He could not say when the last such drill took place.

Sen. Rick Scott

Scott focused on an extremely odd point for his entire time at bat: Why was the National Guard still in Washington? No matter what he was told, or how futile his questions became, Scott wouldn’t move from this issue.

"No one has any reason why we have the National Guard here," said Scott. (Ignoring that little insurgency thing.) Scott kept hammering this point, even when each of those testifying made it clear they had no involvement in maintaining the Guard or information on why they were there.

When told that he should ask the current Capitol Police and sergeant at arms, he seemed genuinely confused. However, he still could not leave this pointless question alone. "I'm flabbergasted that there's no public information why we have all this National Guard here," said Scott. Sund and others tried to point out there had been an insurrection. Scott never seemed to get it. 

Sen. Maggie Hassen

Hassen asked Contee to describe the coordination between Metro police and the National Park Service when it comes to approving permits. Contee agreed that this system needed to be reviewed, especially when it comes to evaluating risks. While the Parks department was still giving out permits, even with the evidence of violence by the same groups in previous appearances, the Washington government had actually suspended mass gathering since March to respect the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hassen expanded the discussion of intelligence beyond the FBI and asked about any communication from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Sund and Contee agreed that no one from DHS attempted to issue a national security event or reach out to Capitol Police with any concerns around Jan. 6.

Sen. Josh Hawley

The idea that Hawley would be questioning law enforcement officials is itself an indictment of the government. However, Hawley made an elaborate point of thanking Capt. Mendoza and other police for their work in "repelling these violent criminal rioters."

For most of his questioning, Hawley remained reasonable. He asked Sund about National Guard activation. Back on the 1:09 PM phone call question, Sund said Irving told him he needed to run a Guard request "up the chain of command." Hawley pondered who this "chain of command" might be. 

Irving again said he didn't recall the phone call, and his phone records do not show a call at that time. Irving claimed that had he gotten such a request, he "would have approved it immediately." Instead, Irving says Sund called him a half hour later and didn't actually make a request until 2:10 PM.

Sund insisted he made request at 1:09 PM. And that his call at 1:22 PM was to "follow up on the status of that request."

Irving said he never consulted "congressional leadership" or waited for their approval. Irving denies seeking approval from Pelosi or McConnell, which likely deflates some theory by Hawley that Pelosi nixed Guard approval.

Sund repeated that Irving was concerned about the "optics" of bringing in National Guard on Jan. 4.  Irving denied this, saying his "issue was with whether the intelligence warranted" calling in Guard. He said again that his understanding was that Sund had "an offer" of troops, but that he, Stenger, and Sund talked about it and agreed to turn it down. Hawley asked what the concern over deploying guard was. Irving says he wasn't concerned about anything but intelligence.

Finally, Hawley asked Klobuchar for an extra minute. When this was granted, Hawley used the time to attack Pelosi for appointing retired Gen. Russel Honoré to conduct an investigation into events on Jan. 6.

Sen. Alex Padilla

Padilla began by asking all the witnesses if the video of events shown during Trump's impeachment was accurate. All agreed that it was.

Sund again said they had no information on the scope of what was coming. No idea that "we would be facing an armed insurrection involving thousands of people."

Padilla asked if the previous MAGA incidents in November and December might have been "trial runs" during which the same groups involved on Jan. 6 could gather intelligence on the limits of police response. Sund agreed this was possible. Padilla made it clear that Donald Trump had had control of those intelligence agencies that were failing to focus on domestic terrorism by white supremacist extremist groups.

Padilla asked about the difference in preparations on Jan. 6 versus protests over the summer, noting hundreds of arrests. However, Sund claimed there were just six arrests during the BLM protests and said preparation on Jan. 6 was far greater. Of course, Sund is limited to the Capitol, not other sites around the city. But clearly preparations on Jan. 6 were nothing like the masses of troops that met some peaceful protests.

Sen. Bill Hagerty

Hagerty wasn’t much interested in anything the witnesses had to say, but, like Johnson, had plenty to say on his own. He started by claiming the Guard presence in summer of 2020 was "necessary following some of the worst rioting in decades."

Hagerty then tried blaming the failure of Guard to appear on Jan. 6 on "backlash" against the use of the Guard to "restore order" in the summer. So … the insurgency was BLM’s fault.

Sund refused to agree, insisting again that he was surprised by how reluctant the Pentagon was to cooperate. Thwarted, Hagerty then went straight to attacking Pelosi and Honoré. And ... that was it. Hagerty couldn't even think of how to fill his time because he had no actual questions.

Sen. Angus King

King refocused on the intelligence failure, but—in contradiction to Sund's statements—kept returning to "a failure of communication." King then turned to asking Sund about how to secure Capitol without "turning it into a fortress."

Sund insisted there was a process to get credible intelligence where it needs to be and again said the failure was in intelligence gathering. He said the Capitol Police well prepared for issues like lone gunmen, etc., but insisted that much of this should be discussed in a closed, classified session.

King asked Sund to expand on the intelligence shortfalls. Sund said even the director of the field office for the FBI gave no hint that there was a coordinated attack planned despite a direct call on Jan 5. The email late on Jan. 5 might have had some alarming language, but there was no hint it was part of a large, multistate plan.

King asked about the process for making assistance requests, calling in the Guard, etc. Sund agreed that the process needs to be streamlined.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema

Sinema asked about the meetings leading up to Jan. 6 and which agencies were involved. Contee detailed a number of meetings that included both Metro D.C. police and Capitol Police.

Contee discussed what he saw as the major mistakes. He said the issue on sharing information, and how it was shared, is a concern. The FBI sent the most frightening information to email boxes at 7 PM on the night before the event. It didn’t raise concerns in earlier calls and did not contact Contee or Sund to bring any concerns to their attention.

Sund emphasized again that the report—which he didn’t even learn about until after he had resigned—was seen as raw data that wasn’t moved forward. He recounted the process for moving information from the FBI, but again emphasized that the letter was sent as raw data without analysis or recommendations on the evening of Jan 5. There wasn’t a high level of attention assigned to it.

Contee confirms that the Metro D.C. Police were aware of the significance of Jan. 6 and that Bowser called up additional units, pulled in forces from the outlying districts, and requested Guard officers to free up additional police forces.

Sen. Ted Cruz

Irony, part two.

Cruz described Jan. 6. as "a terrorist attack" on the Capitol. He then went back to requests from Sund, and Sund's statement that Irving was "concerned about the optics." Sund was asked to describe the conversations at length. Sund said he met with Irving in his office and again said that Irving told him "I didn't like the optics" and told Sund to talk to Stenger. Stenger asked Sund to call National Guard Commander Gen. William J. Walker to prepare. Walker told Sund that the 125 troops being deployed to Washington could be armed and sent to the Capitol quickly. That response seemed to satisfy Irving and Stenger.

Irving said the meeting on Jan. 4 was a phone call. (Sund said it was an in-person meeting.) Irving said it was an "offer" to send in Guard. (Sund said it was a request.) Irving said he can't recall using term "optics." Irving and Stenger said they did contact Pelosi and McConnell on Jan. 6, but only to inform them that there "might" be a request for National Guard assistance.

Cruz joined others in asking for phone records. Cruz was surprisingly subdued and didn't ask any “gotchas.”

Sen. Jon Ossoff

Again, Ossoff and Sund discussed the training and preparation of the Capitol Police. Sund returned to saying that there was no training on how to deal with a mass insurrection. Sund did say that Capitol Police called out “tabletop exercises” in advance of national security events such as the inauguration, but this was not done on Jan. 6.

Sund also said that communication and chain of command “broke down” during Jan. 6 as communications with those on the scene at the Capitol became difficult.

Ossoff asked if procedures exist for dealing with an emergency like an attack on the Capitol without the approval of the Capitol Police board. Short answer: No.

Sund emphasized that Capitol Police are a “consumer” of intelligence and the organization is not configured to collect or analyze intelligence.

Your blow-by-blow recap of the 10th Democratic debate, with a little help from Twitter

The 10th Democratic presidential primary debate kicked off in Charleston, South Carolina, ahead of that state’s primary on Saturday. Norah O’Donnell, anchor of “CBS Evening News,” and Gayle King, co-host of “CBS This Morning,” were the main moderators, but were joined mid-debate by “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan, “60 Minutes”’ Bill Whitaker, and CBS News chief Washington, D.C. correspondent Major Garrett. 

With Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders the current frontrunner after three strong finishes in Iowa, New Hampshire, and particularly in Nevada, former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg buying his way into every market, and former Vice President banking on South Carolina to keep his campaign alive, there is a LOT at stake in the Palmetto State, which will is the first of the early states with a significant black voting population.

Let’s dig right in—but be warned: The tension was high and the candidates have stopped being polite, and started getting real. Yes, that’s a MTV’s Real World  reference, but it really was quite hectic on that stage.

can someone get these dingdongs some jeopardy buzzers or something

— Mike Case (@MikeACase) February 26, 2020


Sanders got the first question, which positively framed the current economy and asked the Vermont senator how he thought he “can do better” than Donald Trump. Sanders was quick to note that the current economy only benefits people like Bloomberg, before listing several realities that millions of Americans currently face.

YouTube Video

Bloomberg got the rebuttal and deflected the economy talk to bring up recent intelligence that indicates Russia aims to support Sanders’ candidacy. The audience erupted in “oohs” reminiscent of the “Jerry Springer Show.” Sanders, clearly disgusted by Bloomberg’s statement, alluded to the billionaire’s relationship with China and vowed to shut down Putin as president. 

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren chimed in, asserting that progressive ideals are clearly popular now, and that while she and Sanders agree on a lot of issues, she’s got the plans to actually get it done—with a side note about the attacks she’s been fielding from the Sanders campaign.

Buttigieg was next, and said that Russia wants chaos. He then asked people to imagine a campaign that pitted Sanders vs. Trump, and what that political climate might do to our country between now and November. He then acknowledged the progressive wing of the party before demanding that a different tone was needed.

The other billionaire on the stage, Tom Steyer, asserted that he agrees with Sanders’ analysis of, but not his solutions to current issues. He then vowed to end corporate control of the government, while still keeping a robust private sector in place. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden brought up Sanders’ gun voting record against the Brady Bill in particular, implying that it enabled Dylann Roof’s deadly 2015 attack at the Mother Emanuel A.M.E. church near the debate venue; he also brought up recent oppo research that revealed Sanders once considered primarying Barack Obama in 2012. 

�I�m not saying he�s responsible for the nine dead.,� says Biden, the nicest thing anyone has said about Bernie so far.

� Dan Froomkin/ (@froomkin) February 26, 2020

Sanders noted that Buttigieg has accepted billionaire donations. Buttigieg used it as an opportunity to entice grassroots voters to donate via his website.

Biden was asked why his support was dropping in South Carolina. He voiced his long relationship with the state before stating that he intended to win the state on Tuesday. King asked him if he’d drop out if he didn’t—and Biden repeated that he would win.


Bloomberg was then asked what exactly he’s apologizing for when he apologizes for Stop and Frisk. He repeated the false talking point that he stopped using it by 95% when he “realized” it was a bad practice, before attempting to segue into a different topic.

Bloomberg did not �cut back� stop and frisk. He continues to lie about this, and it�s disturbing. A judge ruled stop and frisk unconstitutional. Bloomberg fought for *years* defending the policy, and only reversed course when he decided to run for president.

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 26, 2020

King pushed back on the topic—though not the facts—and Bloomberg asserted that people are only talking about Stop and Frisk because it benefits their campaigns, before rattling off several of his other accomplishments as mayor of New York City, including another lie—that he supported teachers.

So - Bloomberg was in an all out war with the teachers union in NYC for years. If you call them as Bloomberg suggested you will get quite an earful.

— Eliza Shapiro (@elizashapiro) February 26, 2020

When asked, “mayor to mayor,” if Stop and Frisk was racist, Buttigieg agreed that it was, quoting Bloomberg’s comment that “white people were being stopped too often.” Stopping just short of owning his own controversy with black people and the police in South Bend, the former mayor noted that it was weird to be talking about racial justice as one of seven white people on the stage, listing a bunch of racist and harsh experiences that people of color have.

Pete's outreach to black voters getting a little desperate

— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) February 26, 2020

Bloomberg then piped in with the newsflash that his life would have been harder if he’d been black, and vowed to do more than “just demagogue” about it. Klobuchar was asked about race next; after quoting MLK, she vowed to protect voter rights nationwide.

Warren was asked about her characterization of Bloomberg as the “riskiest” Democratic primary candidate. She confirmed she still feels that way before pointing out all key races he’s thrown his money and voice into, including his support of her own opponent and Sen. Lindsey Graham, and said no Democrats would accept him as the nominee.

YouTube Video

Bloomberg said he’s been training for the presidency since 9/11; Warren shared her oft-repeated story of workplace discrimination while pregnant before invoking the “Kill it!” allegation against Bloomberg—to boos from his supporters.

�Mike Bloomberg has on repeated occasions faced and fought allegations that he directed crude and sexist comments to women in his office, including a claim in the 1990s that he told an employee who had just announced she was pregnant to "kill it."�

— Mona Eltahawy (@monaeltahawy) December 16, 2019

Bloomberg denied the allegation before noting that Warren wouldn’t have been fired for being pregnant in today’s New York City. Warren then repeated her call for the billionaire to release his former employees from their NDAs. He was then asked if he was wrong to make “jokes,” or if the women just took them wrong. Yes, that was an actual question.

After saying he did not recall the jokes, Bloomberg noted that since the Nevada debate, he’d released three women from their NDAs and his company would no longer use them, saying that, for Warren, “enough is never enough.”

Still thinking about Bloomberg saying about Warren, �The trouble is with this senator, enough is never enough.� Which basically is the equivalent of �Nevertheless she persisted.� ������

— Meena Harris (@meenaharris) February 26, 2020

Instead of stopping there, Bloomberg then said that he’d changed the world and corporations everywhere by banning the NDAs. Warren was then asked what her basis was for the “serious” allegation, and she cited the woman’s “own words.” Bloomberg insisted again that he never said “Kill it” to a pregnant employee.


O’Donnell asked Sanders about the math on his proposals, saying he can only pay for “about half” of his proposals. Naming recent research from the Lancet, which endorsed the financial and human impact of Medicare for All, he started to list potential revenue streams to fund it—starting with a payroll tax. He was cut off by Klobuchar, who cited different data and Sanders’ own recent “60 Minutes” interview. Calling his plans “a bunch of broken promises on a bumper sticker,” she touted her own proposals.

All hell broke loose right about then, as Sanders tried to respond, Buttigieg started shouting soundbites over him, and Steyer entered the fray for the first time. 

Out of control! WTH #DemDebate

— Andrew Gillum (@AndrewGillum) February 26, 2020

Sanders was given the chance to respond. He said that Buttigieg’s program was more expensive both financially and with regards to human impact. More chaos ensued before Steyer declared that Democrats are on the cusp of either choosing a “democratic socialist or a lifetime Republican,” and thus handing Trump the win. Bringing up economic, racial, and climate justice, the philanthropist fought for his last seconds on the clock when the moderators tried to silence him.

Buttigieg promised that with Sanders as the nominee, we were facing four more years with Trump, Kevin McCarthy as Speaker, and the continued GOP control of the Senate; he then entreated candidates to pay attention to who was behind the Blue Wave of 2018. 

Biden came in hot, noting that the majority of those Blue Wave folks were supporting him for president, and calling out Sanders for few accomplishments in his lifelong tenure in Congress, and Steyer for owning private prisons that he knew were toxic, citing harmful policies in both South Carolina and Georgia. When Steyer angrily protested his innocence, Biden shut him down.

Joe Biden ate his Wheaties this morning. #DemDebate

— Imani Gandy (@AngryBlackLady) February 26, 2020

The shouting resumed; Steyer insisted that he didn’t know about his prisons’ atrocities and sold them as soon as he learned of them. He then declared his commitment to racial justice. Klobuchar got the floor by shouting over the fray. She then explained that she’s far more effective when it comes to legislation than Warren or Sanders, before noting that many promises have been broken to the African American community by our society.

Bloomberg than noted that he helped fund half of the Blue Wave Democrats, to an audible grunt from Buttigieg. 

wait, did Bloomberg just refer to the new House Democratic majority by saying **�I bought that?�**

— Amanda Fischer (@amandalfischer) February 26, 2020

The former mayor then echoed the same story about Sanders vs. Trump that the other moderates told, namely that he’ll lose and commit the nation to four more years of the madman in the White House. Sanders was greeted by boos when he said only billionaires supported Bloomberg before highlighting his diverse coalition as a counter to the former New York mayor’s prediction that moderates will never vote for him. Warren then asserted that she too has popular progressive plans that will unite moderates, stressing that she knows how to pay for them all.

Then, 38 minutes in, it was time for our first glorious break!


The new moderators joined O’Donnell and King, who circled back to Biden, who had been the first to bring up the Mother Emanuel A.M.E church massacre of 2015. She asked why anyone should believe he can finally get meaningful gun reform through Congress. Calling out Sanders’ gun stances, while listing his gun control accomplishments going back to the 90s, Biden asserted that he was the only one on the stage who’d gotten gun legislation through in the past, end promised gun manufacturers that “I’m coming for you.”

Warren used the topic as an opportunity to voice her support to end the filibuster in order to push through gun reform.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren talks about her plan for passing gun safety legislation as President. #DemDebate

— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) February 26, 2020

Sanders was then asked why, out of all the industries he’s gone after, gun manufacturers get a pass. Sanders admitted his vote to shield gun manufacturers from wrongful death lawsuits was “a bad vote,” careful to point out Biden has a few bad votes in his history. He then touted his D- rating with the NRA.

Bloomberg then cited his funding of the gun reform groups Moms Demand Action and Everytown before Klobuchar noted that she wrote the bill that closes the “boyfriend” loophole. She then invoked her ability to win Midwestern voters, again citing her dear “Uncle Dick in the deer stand.”

Noting Sanders’ refusal to support the ending of the filibuster, Buttigieg explained that he was in high school for Columbine and waited for the government to fix things so it never happened again. They never did. Buttigieg next invoked his military experience as giving him an understanding of what guns can do. 

Sanders again invoked his D- NRA rating before Steyer brought up popular polling for gun reform and the Senate’s endless blocking of it. He segued his support of term limits as a way to get McConnell, Ted Cruz, and Graham out. 


Whitaker brought up the education gap among white and black students in South Carolina. Citing Bloomberg’s heavy-handed expansion of charter schools in New York, he asked if he’d expand them nationwide. Bloomberg claimed that New York’s charter schools are some of the top in the nation, but he couldn’t speak to whether or not such expansion would work nationwide.

Warren boldly stated that her Secretary of Education would be a former public school teacher, who would eliminate high-stakes testing and keep public funds in public schools. She also noted that “education is not free,” and that an investment in education was necessary.

YouTube Video

Sanders went further, by naming several of the policies that they agree upon, including universal pre-K and free college tuition. He cited his funding plan—taxing “Wall Street speculation”—clearly in a preemptive strike against criticism of his lack of funding plans.

Noting that he was married to a public school teacher, Buttigieg brought up the fact that teachers are expected to defend their classrooms from gun violence. Warren tried to keep the education discussion going, but Garrett jumped in with the first Twitter-sourced question of the day.

Klobuchar got the first chance to respond: How will she help minimum wage workers with housing and education equity. Klobuchar focused on affordable housing in urban and rural areas. Warren cut her off, pointing out that race-neutral housing policies don’t acknowledge redlining, with a quick jab at Bloomberg for blaming its end for the 2008 crash. 

�We can no longer pretend that everything is race neutral� @ewarren nails it!!! I�m tired of this �I don�t see race BS�.... #WokeAF #DemDebate2020 if your plans don�t incorporate people of color throw them TF out! Period.

— DanielleMoodie-Mills (@DeeTwoCents) February 26, 2020

Bloomberg denied that he supported redlining, despite that not being the question, before pausing for a failed joke about winning the last debate. He then segued awkwardly to his early support of marriage equality.

— Rob Flaherty (@Rob_Flaherty) February 26, 2020

Biden was then asked why black voters should believe he can change centuries of inequality. The former vice president focused on supporting black entrepreneurship and first time homeowners, as well as a pushback against gentrification and the institutionalized devaluing of homes in communities of color. While talking about dismantling institutional racism, he was cut off by moderators. Biden then openly declared that his signature politeness about time limits was a thing of the past in this debate.

Sen. @AmyKlobuchar (D-MN) reacts as former Vice President @JoeBiden and @TomSteyer get into it during the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary debate #DemDebate2020 �: @WinMc

— Getty Images News (@GettyImagesNews) February 26, 2020

Steyer explained his banking approach to affordable housing, then asserted that he’s the only candidate open to establishing on commission on reparations, but moderators squashed all other attempts to discuss it—O’Donnell even demanded that candidates “respect the rules of the debate.”

Sigh. I like Tom Steyer. I think he could be so useful. Just not on this stage.

— Tiffany Cross (@TiffanyDCross) February 26, 2020

She then lobbed a question at Klobuchar, about health care access in rural areas. Klobuchar spoke about making it easier for better and more doctors to get their education, and for immigrant doctors to come to the U.S.

Buttigieg was next, saying that there was no difference between life expectancies along rural and urban Americans when he was born, but there is now. He then cited his Douglass Plan’s voting rights act before Sanders brought up the tenets of his Medicare for All plan that support rural health care. 

Bloomberg admitted that what works in New York won’t work everywhere (via a Naked Cowboy joke) before he asserted the value of science, and noting that his policies shaped the nation’s policies. He specifically cited the city’s indoor smoking bans as an example, conveniently omitting the fact that California banned smoking in public places in 1995, while New York City got there eight years later. He also pointed out the crisis at the CDC that Trump’s created.

Biden explained his plan to expand the National Institutes of Health, insisting that it would have bipartisan support, before Klobuchar was asked if it marijuana conviction expunging was realistic; after citing the importance of process, she agreed that it could be done. Bloomberg was less eager to legalize cannabis. saying that while he would not take legal weed away from states who had passed it, it was too soon to move on legalizing marijuana without doing the scientific due diligence about its effects, particularly on young minds.

Sanders then clarified the differences between narcotics and opiates versus marijuana and vowed to effectively legalize it, expunge convictions, and support people of color as they enter the legal-cannabis industry.  Biden began to assert that he wrote the “drug court” bill before it was time for yet another break!

Once again, shocking that a dem debate goes this far and does NOT mention Trump post impeachment purge, attacks on independent justice and intelligence, and just today Supreme Court justices...

— Susan Glasser (@sbg1) February 26, 2020


Back from commercial, O’Donnell asked Warren about how bringing combat troops back from the Middle East will impact national security. Citing a need to use “all the tools in the toolbox,” Warren contrasted her multi-faceted foreign policy against Trump’s. Bloomberg was asked if he’d pull all combat troops, and he made a jab at George W. Bush and the Iraq War looking good on paper. 

As the only combat veteran on the stage, Buttigieg noted that he first visited South Carolina as a member of the military, just before he headed to the Middle East. He also focused on his own multi-pronged ideas, starting with restoring American credibility. 

Klobuchar was asked about the coronavirus: Should we close the border to those who have been exposed? Klobuchar didn’t answer, instead zooming in on the need to treat and quarantine those who are sick, agreeing with Bloomberg’s earlier assertion of Trump’s failure to properly support the work of the CDC. She then plugged the CDC website, noting that she could have given the one of her campaign instead. 

Biden was then asked what he would do. He invoked his work containing the Ebola virus during the Obama administration, including supporting and funding the CDC and NIH, also noting that he had the relationships with world leaders to get them to better cooperate.

After a Trump joke, Sanders essentially agreed with Biden. Bloomberg was then asked about his statements about working with Chinese president Xi Jinping, and asked if Chinese firms should be permitted to help build critical U.S. infrastructure. He vehemently asserted that he did not, but that he also planned to negotiate with Xi as president. Biden got the same question and also answered “No,” before noting that he had a relationship with him. Warren got the same question and, noting that Bloomberg had long relationships with China, brought up the billionaire’s tax returns, which have not been released, before saying that she would not work with China on infrastructure. 

Bloomberg, as in the last debate, said the tax returns were on their way, but fellow billionaire Steyer dismissed his excuse, saying he’d already released a decade of his own. He then brought up his commitment to combating climate change. Sanders got into a small bicker with the audience after noting that the communist Chinese had made great strides in education before saying that he wouldn’t work with authoritarians—all referencing former president Barack Obama, who once noted that authoritarian governments are bad thing but still could manage to do good things. Buttigieg took that as an opportunity to allude to the recent Sanders-Castro scandal, and offered general disdain for nostalgia for the mid- to late-1900s, but Sanders was not having it. 

Pete pretends to be intelligent, but pretending that the coups from the 1950s and 1960s don't have a bearing on today's foreign policy just shows that you're dumb as an effing rock. #DemDebate

— Jonathan "Boo and Vote" Cohn (@JonathanCohn) February 26, 2020

As the audience exploded, Klobuchar got in there to say that the whole conversation was the worst nightmare of a moderate, particularly in Super Tuesday states. Sanders responded by reminding her that he’s got the highest favorability scores among anyone on the stage.

Biden was then asked if he’d launch cyberattacks in retaliation if it was proven that Russia intervered in the 2020 election. Biden asserted that it’s already been proven they are interfering, it was proven they interfered in 2016, and that sanctions should be imposed now. Steyer then asked where Trump was in the face of the “hostile” acts of cyberwarfare, noting that Trump has sided with a hostile foreign power—getting the biggest applause of the night.

Sanders then was asked about being Jewish, and about Jews who might believe he is unsupportive of Israel; he was also asked if he’d move the U.S. Embassy from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv. After calling out Benjamin Netayanhu for his corruption and evil deeds, Sanders voiced that he wouldn’t make any action as president without considering the Palestinians. Bloomberg, as the other Jew on the stage, vowed to leave the embassy where it was, and was cut off as he began to explain his own two-state solution.

American Jews overwhelmingly vote Democratic & are not single-issue voters who favor whatever is in the Israeli government's best interest. Acting like this isn't reality is deeply problematic

— Stephen Wolf (@PoliticsWolf) February 26, 2020

Warren agreed with Sanders that a two-state solution was essential, but that it’s not up to the United States, as allies, to decide what that looks like: It’s up to Israelis and Palestinians. She refused to answer further when pressed about moving the embassy. 

Klobuchar was then asked if she, like Trump, would meet with Kim Jong Un of North Korea. She said that she would, but not like Trump has, instead working with allies and having required deliverables. Biden said he would not work with any dictator; noting that Trump has given Jong Un, whom he called a “thug,” legitimacy. Despite his feisty promise to go over time, Biden stopped talking when moderators asked, noting that it must be his “Catholic school training” that made him do it.

The next Twitter question, which centered on the chaos in Idlib, Syria, which is facing violence at the hands of the Syrian regime and Russia, came to Buttigieg first; he cited military action, while Warren voiced a desire for anything but.

It was then time for the final break; King promised the final question would be a personal one, letting candidates share their “words to live by.”


King asked the final question, a two-parter: What’s the biggest misconception about you, and what’s motto that describes you?

Steyer noted that he draws a cross on his hand every day, as a reminder “to tell the truth and do what’s right no matter what.” He said it’s untrue that he’s defined by his business success and money.

Tom Steyer doesn't want to be defined by his billions even though he's only on stage because of his billions. #DemDebate

— Secular Talk (@KyleKulinski) February 26, 2020

Klobuchar asserted that she is not boring before quoting Paul Wellstone; “Politics is about improving people’s lives.”

Biden didn’t offer a motto; rather he named several mottos about resilience and representation before vowing to put a black woman on the Supreme Court, to huge cheers. He also noted his loyalty. Biggest misconception? “I have more hair than I think I do.”

Sanders declared that “the ideas I’m talking about tonight are not radical,” he said. He quoted Nelson Mandela as his motto: “Everything is impossible until it happens.” 

Warren joked that she eats all the time as a joke; but the real misconception was that she’s always thought she was supposed to be president. She returned to Matthew 25 for her motto: “In as much as ye hath done int unto one these, the least of thy brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

Buttigieg said that the biggest misconception was that he’s not passionate, since he’s “kinda level”; his motto? “Of you would be a leader you should first be a servant.”

Bloomberg joked that people mistakenly believe that he’s six feet tall; his motto was his own word: “I’ve trained for this job for a long time, and when I get it, I’m going to do something, not just talk about it.”

"What is your motto?" BIDEN: Stay loyal WARREN: Be true to yourself BLOOMBERG: [mouth opens and money shoots out]

— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) February 26, 2020

O’Donnell then attempted to end the night—but King said there was time for more debate after the break … yet when they came back, O’Donnell then actually ended the debate.

Wait, did CBS seriously delay the conclusion of the debate to get in another commercial block? Truly insulting to viewers

— Matt McDermott (@mattmfm) February 26, 2020

Once all was said and done, it was hard to declare a clear “winner”; but talking time was a pretty evenly distributed, according to CNN, as long as you look past Sanders and Steyer, that is.

At the end of the #DemDebate, Sen. Bernie Sanders had a clear lead in speaking time with nearly 16 minutes, followed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, all at more than 13 minutes.

— CNN (@CNN) February 26, 2020

Eleven takeaways from last night’s Iowa debacle

What a night, huh? Here are the big takeaways:

1) Ever since there was a Daily Kos in 2002, I’ve railed against the Iowa caucus system. It is unfair (who made Iowa king?), unrepresentative (91% white and mostly rural), and undemocratic. With turnout expected to be around the same as 2016’s, and well off the 2008 mark, it means that only about 6% of Iowa voters turned out. And yet it’s this small group of people that’s supposed to shape the field for us? Enough is enough. The first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus is a disgrace, and finally everyone else sees it. 

2) There is no conspiracy theory that explains away the incompetence of Iowa’s Democratic Party. That’s what happens when an unelected elite thinks it deserves an unearned gift—complacency and unresponsiveness.

3) That said, Joe Biden benefits the most, given what seems to be, by all indications, a dismal night. In our world of media micro-cycles, we’ll be moving on to chattering about whether Donald Trump will mention impeachment in tonight’s State of the Union address, the New Hampshire debate, and New Hampshire’s looming primary (another unrepresentative state with an unearned pole position in the primary). 

4) The biggest loser, conversely, is the person who appears to have won the night—Bernie Sanders. He loses his prime-time victory speech. Ironically, it was his campaign’s insistence that Iowa count actual votes that led to last night’s disaster, but don’t blame him—he was right. While Hillary Clinton won the delegate counts in the 2016 caucuses, chances are very good that Sanders would’ve won a count of the popular vote. And why are we recreating everything that is wrong with the Electoral College at the state level? The obvious answer was to ditch the stupid delegate counts and just declare the popular vote winner the winner, right? But the Sanders camp didn’t push that. 

5) The biggest asshole of the night was small-liberal-college-town Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who gave a victory speech utterly divorced from the reality on the ground. His pretend “I won and shocked the nation” speech was everything we hate about politics—a Trumpian attempt to create reality by merely declaring it so. 

6) It’s hard to see how Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar continue forward from here. Sure, there’s no reason to quit before New Hampshire, but they’ve got no juice left. They bet all on Iowa, and Iowa said, “We suck,” and that was that. 

7) Republicans are taking a victory lap, with a “If they can’t run a caucus, how can they run a country?” tour. Let them have it. We’d do the same if they were in these shoes. Luckily for everyone, the Iowa Democratic Party isn’t on the presidential ballot. I think we could agree to vote for the other candidates instead. And you can always ask them about the raging success of their “repeal and replace” strategy. 

8) The cable networks pretty much all cut away from Elizabeth Warren’s speech, for reasons that make zero sense. Now, Klobuchar was smart enough to go onstage when the cable network pundits were all staring at each other with nothing to say or do. But really, with all that dead air to fill, just play the candidate speeches. All of them. I mean, CNN cut away from Warren to put on RICK FUCKING SANTORUM. Unacceptable. 

9) Given last night’s mess, it’s extrafortuitous that our new national pre-primary primary (aka “2019”) whittled down the field before Iowa could get its grubby hands on it. As a result, candidates spent less time in Iowa than they had in prior cycles.


Now I’m looking forward to seeing that number go down to single digits in future cycles. 

10) Another note on turnout: 


11) For all the talk about Sanders reshaping the electorate, it’s just not happening. If he eventually gets 25%, which seems about right, he will have lost half his support from 2016, without managing to increase the number of caucus-goers. Fact is, only Barack Obama has managed to “reshape the electorate” in recent history, and we have no one of his caliber on the line. Michelle Obama would’ve done it. Hard to see anyone else. And that’s tragic, because Obama made everything so much easier.