In a Democratic debate that featured several viral moments, including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders going out of his way to remind viewers that he is white, one of the most controversial statements came from businessman Andrew Yang. In his opening statement, the Democratic candidate blasted his fellow party members for “being obsessed over impeachment.”
The day before Thursday’s Democratic debate in Los Angeles, the House of Representatives made Donald Trump only the third president in United States history to be impeached. And though he later claimed that being tarred with impeachment “doesn’t feel like anything,” people close to the president reportedly described him as “shellshocked” after the House vote against him.
But following the debate, Yang spoke to a reporter for NBC News and went a step further, saying that if he were president and Trump were facing criminal charges, he would consider handing him a pardon.
“We do not want to be a country that gets in the pattern of jailing past leaders,” Yang said. “The country needs to start solving the problems on the ground and move forward.”
Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent blasted Yang on Friday for what he feels is the former entrepreneur’s “bad debate answer” about the impeachment of Trump. By dismissing efforts to impeach the president as “obsession,” Yang “trivializes the extraordinary gravity of Trump’s wrongdoing,” while also minimizing the efforts of Congressional Democrats to hold Trump to account for his alleged wrongdoing, Sargent wrote.
But Yang’s claim that he would “consider” a pardon for Trump also appears striking in light of the fact that a close associate of jailed 2016 Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort now works for his campaign.
Tad Devine became best-known as the chief strategist for Bernie Sanders during the Vermont senator’s 2016 run in the Democratic primary against Hillary Clinton. But prior to working for Sanders, Devine was “making gobs of money to secure the election of one of the world’s most corrupt political figures,” according to a Washington Post report.
Devine allegedly worked alongside Manafort to elect Viktor Yanukovich, the pro-Russian Ukrainian political strongman who was finally overthrown in a 2014 popular uprising. In June of that year, as he was in talks to work with Sanders’ planned presidential run, Devine was also negotiating with Manafort to help bring Yanukovich’s political organization back to power — for a fee of “$10,000/day, including travel days,” according to The Washington Post.
Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign did not rehire Devine’s firm, Devine, Mulvey, and Longabaugh. The company joined the Yang campaign in October, per a Twitter post from Washington Post reporter Robert Costa.