For almost three weeks Joe Biden tiptoed around whether or not he supports the impeachment of President Trump, after the president's request from the Ukrainian president for information about the Biden family. Today that changed. "To preserve our Constitution, our democracy, and our basic integrity, he should be impeached," Biden declared in a speech in Rochester, New Hampshire.
CBS News Campaign Reporter Bo Erickson noted that his language today marked a stark difference from what he would say on the matter last Friday in Los Angeles, when he was asked by reporters whether he would vote to convict the president if he were still in the Senate. Biden tossed the ultimate decision to Congress and continued to take the long view that impeachment is an extremely serious process, one that should only be considered for the gravest actions.
"With his words and with his actions, President Trump has indicted himself," Biden said to the crowd of roughly 200 voters on Wednesday. He added, "By obstructing justice and refusing to comply with the congressional inquiry, he has already convicted himself."
He also continued to defend his family from the unproven claims of Ukrainian corruption coming from the White House. "He is targeting me and my family with lies and distortions and smears and that is all that they are because he thinks it will undermine my campaign for the presidency," Biden said.
In interviews with eight voters ahead of his speech, seven said they hoped Biden would be more forceful in his response to Trump's claims on his family.
"I think he needs to be forceful and he needs to defend himself. And maybe he needs to clear up some of what might be unknowns that the public is thinking listening to Trump and think 'Is this really true?'" Barbara Paiton of Rochester, New Hampshire told CBS News.
Another voter standing nearby, Elaine Jaffin, interjected, "He needs to clarify what was going on with his son and the [Ukrainian energy] company." Paiton and Jaffin then started to debate whether the senior Biden's influence helped his son get a spot on the Ukrainian board. Paiton likened it to President Trump's adult children continuing to profit from their businesses. "That doesn't make it right," Jaffin replied.
Biden repeatedly has stated there is "zero" evidence about wrongdoing with the Bidens and Ukraine but has been reluctant to directly address the details of his son's job. "Focus on this man! Focus on what he is doing!" Biden shot back last Friday when asked by CBS News about the appearance of a conflict of interest.
In his speech today the former vice president riffed on President Trump's comment during the 2016 campaign that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York and not lose voter support. "He is shooting holes in our Constitution. We cannot let him get away with it," said Biden.
The former vice president's call today for Congress to begin impeachment proceedings means that all 19 Democratic presidential candidates are now calling for impeachment. Representative Tulsi Gabbard, Governor Steve Bullock, and former Representative John Delaney changed their position after reports of President Trump's call with Ukraine asking President Zelensky to investigate the Biden family. According to CBS News Political Unit Associate Producer Ellee Watson, the first candidates to call for impeachment were Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro. Tom Steyer founded his "Need to Impeach" campaign in 2017 and recently joined the presidential race.
FROM THE CANDIDATES
In an interview with CBS News Campaign Reporter Jack Turman last night, Booker doubled down on his campaign strategy and said he's going to win Iowa. "We don't we don't need to change our campaign strategy," Booker said. "We've said from the very beginning, this was the state we were going to make the most investments in, hire up the most staff in, and me have the most presence in."
Booker was also tough on the president's strategy in the Middle East and efforts to stabilize the region. When pressed about how long troops should stay in the region, Booker responded, "I'm not going to announce a timeline in a presidential campaign and signal the folks that ultimately I have to negotiate with."
Booker, a former Stanford football player, was also supportive of the California bill that allows student athletes to receive endorsement deals. "As a guy who played in the NCAA, I see things that are being done there that are inexcusable," Booker said. "Have somebody literally give their body for their team, a team makes millions of dollars off of promoting them, and then they get an injury and they lose her scholarship. Come on."
Warren said today that it was too early to guarantee that, should she win the Democratic nomination, her pick for veep will make the same pledge she has made not to hold high dollar fundraising events. She said such a decision would be "premature" but that she wants her eventual vice presidential pick to be "someone who is going to get out there and fight for the same values I'm fighting for."
Warren told CBS News in an exclusive interview yesterday that the fundraising promise she made earlier this year would continue into the general election. "I'm not going to go do the big dollar fundraisers. I'm just not going to do it," she said when asked whether she would be able to match President Trump's fundraising without courting large donors. Warren had previously said the pledge she made early in the cycle extended only through the primary.
Ahead of her trip today to South Carolina, Warren released a plan aimed at helping vulnerable communities deal with the ways that pollution and climate change affect them. Warren's plan overlaps with the Green New Deal, which she co-sponsored. But it adds measures characteristic of Warren's ambitious plans, including spending $1 trillion dollars over the next decade on underserved communities dealing with climate change. Warren discussed the plan today in Charleston, South Carolina, with local community leaders and state Senator Marlon Kimpson.
Bullock became the latest candidate Tuesday evening to avail himself of the Nevada Rural Democratic Caucus virtual town halls, answering questions from across the state. As in past visits to Nevada, Bullock sought kinship as governor of Montana, a fellow "western" state. But compared to the "first in the West" caucus state's largest operations, Bullock has done scarce organizing in the state, according to CBS News Campaign Reporter Alex Tin.
By contrast, Bernie Sanders' campaign announced Wednesday it had passed 1 million "attempted voter contacts" in Nevada. And the Montana governor has said little on key topics in Nevada politics, like the Culinary Union's fight with Station Casinos. Joe Biden last week reportedly penned a sternly worded letter to Station Casinos, in the latest bid by White House hopefuls to court the labor group.
FEUDING WITH FACEBOOK
Facebook denied a request by the Biden campaign to reject or limit the reach of a misleading ad by President Trump's presidential campaign, according to letters obtained by CBS News Political Unit Associate Producer Ben Mitchell. The ad incorrectly states that then-Vice President Joe Biden promised Ukraine $1 billion if it fired a prosecutor the Trump campaign alleges was investigating Biden's son, Hunter. No evidence has ever emerged to support this accusation.
But Facebook declined to take down the ad, writing that the ad is consistent with their policies. Facebook reportedly changed their misinformation policy two weeks ago, from a blanket policy rejecting any ads containing "deceptive, false or misleading content" to its new policy which only rejects "ads that include claims debunked by third-party fact checkers."
In response to the Biden campaign's request, Facebook wrote, "If the claim is made directly by a politician on their Page, in an ad or on their website, it is considered direct speech and ineligible for our third-party fact checking program. These policies apply to organic and paid content from politicians - including the ad by President Trump that you reference in your letter."
TRUMP AD GAME
The Trump campaign released its fourth ad, which is part of its previously announced $7 million national TV ad buy, reports CBS News Political Unit Associate Producer Ellee Watson. The latest ad, called "Facts," is the second ad accusing Biden and his son Hunter Biden of corruption without providing any evidence. The first ad against the family was called "Biden Corruption." The ad will also be mixed into the $1 million buy covering local stations in New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada, South Carolina. CBS News Political Unit Associate Producer Ben Mitchell reports that these ads will also appear on digital platforms, and according to Bully Pulpit Interactive, the Trump campaign has spent $3.9 million on Facebook in the past two weeks.
THE GOVERNOR'S MANSION
LOUISIANA GUBERNATORIAL RACE
The last televised debate for Louisiana's gubernatorial race is tonight, and the most recent polling from Market Research Insight shows Democrat incumbent Governor John Bel Edwards at 51%, within one percent of the margin of victory and winning outright on Saturday.
Other polls throughout the week have showed Edwards below that, reports CBS News Political Unit Broadcast Associate Aaron Navarro, with Edwards as low as 45% according to a Mason-Dixon Poll released Monday.
Republican candidate and Businessman Eddie Rispone has consistently polled above or tied with U.S. Representative Ralph Abraham in the past week. Republicans have been launching consistent ads attacking Edwards with claims that he ignored a sexual harassment victim of his former deputy chief of staff. Edwards has defended himself against the allegations and said he immediately demanded the resignation of this aide.
Rispone also released an advertisement today featuring Louisiana-native and Duck Dynasty TV personality Willie Robertson, praising his role as an outsider. "You're a businessman like me - pro-Trump, conservative, politically incorrect outsider and you're a Christian," Robertson said. President Trump will be holding a rally in Lake Charles, Louisiana on Friday night — twelve hours before the polls open at 7 a.m. CDT.
ON THE $$$
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee says it broke another record with its strongest third quarter in an off-year to date. CBS News Political Unit Associate Producer Sarah Ewall-Wice says the DCCC announced it raised $27.4 million from the months of July through September, nearly $6 million more than the committee raised in the third quarter of 2017. The DCCC will be finishing the quarter with $36.2 million cash on hand which is also $6 million more than it had at this point in the 2017 election cycle. $14 million of the Q3 funds were raised through small donations with the average being $16.