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Democrats Campaign At Labor Conference


The House Democrats' impeachment inquiry into President Trump is now front and center in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary even when, of course, there are other things on the agenda. That's what NPR's Asma Khalid found when several candidates appeared at a labor conference this week in Los Angeles.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Onstage yesterday, Joe Biden told workers that if he's elected, they'll never have a more union-friendly president in the White House. He promised a $15 minimum wage.


JOE BIDEN: Let's get something straight. Wall Street did not build America. Middle class built America, and unions built the middle class - period.

KHALID: But after Biden walked offstage and into a gaggle of reporters, he had a different message. He began with a statement.


BIDEN: We got to get something straight. All this talk of the president about corruption comes from the most corrupt president we've had in modern history. He's the definition of corruption.

KHALID: It was a raucous press scene. Reporters shouted over one another to ask questions about impeachment and Biden's son Hunter. When Biden was asked if his son's sheer presence on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while he was vice president was a conflict of interest, he responded with this.


BIDEN: There's been no indication of any conflict of interest from Ukraine or anywhere else - period. I'm not going to respond to that. Let's focus on the problem. Focus on this man - what he's doing that no president has ever done - no president.

KHALID: He jabbed his finger at a reporter as he explained himself. You can tell Biden is exhausted with answering these questions, but it's in the atmosphere. Polling shows that President Trump's false accusations against Biden and his son are beginning to percolate down to some voters. There are some who now believe Trump's false story about Joe Biden pressuring Ukrainian officials to keep them from investigating his son.

But Democratic candidates don't want to go there. They don't want to talk about whether or not it was appropriate for Hunter Biden to be doing what he was doing, even if it was legal. Yesterday, California Senator Kamala Harris refused to take the bait.


KAMALA HARRIS: Leave Joe Biden alone. That's exactly what Donald Trump wants. The fact is that he has been in cahoots with the head of a foreign government to manipulate the outcome of, yet again, another election of president of the United States.

KHALID: And Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, as she is prone to do, talked about the economy and inequality. When asked by reporters, she insisted Trump should be impeached. But at a campaign rally on Thursday night in San Diego, she really didn't talk about impeachment, and she never even mentioned Ukraine or China.

Still, where she is silent, some of her supporters are not. Anna Schulz was at Warren's rally Thursday night with her roommate. She says the entire situation with Biden just makes her more committed to Warren.

ANNA SCHULZ: It makes me feel proud of Elizabeth Warren that she's really taking a stand against moneyed interests in the election because even if what Biden's son was doing in Ukraine is legal, it seems, to me, shady.

KHALID: Back in the ballroom at the labor summit in Los Angeles, other voters were more forgiving. Barb Foster said she's torn between Biden, Warren and Harris. She likes them all. The 57-year-old from Illinois said all this Ukraine drama does not change her mind one bit about Biden and his electability. She thinks Trump is a, quote, "idiot who's got to go," but she's not sure that this hyperfocus on impeachment is what Democrats need to do.

BARB FOSTER: There are other things way more important than the impeachment. Yes, they should keep it upfront. But what's more important - like, some of these shootings and stuff. That's more important.

KHALID: And far from Washington, D.C. That's something you hear from Democrats quite a bit. They say Trump needs to be held accountable and impeached, but they want to talk more about their day-to-day lives, health care and wages and less about the man in the White House.

Asma Khalid, NPR News, Los Angeles.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.
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