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Democratic Debate: Mike Bloomberg Slams Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren Hammers Both

Dem Debate
JIM LO SCALZO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Mike Bloomberg threw his first punch early in Tuesday’s Democratic Debate in Charleston, S.C., taking aim at Bernie Sanders over recent reports that Russian hackers are trying to assist his campaign for the presidency.

Bloomberg, the billionaire owner of Bloomberg News and former New York City mayor, responded to Sanders’ opening remarks about economic equality by referencing Russian president Vladimir Putin and asserting: “That’s why Russia is helping you get elected so you’ll lose to (Trump).” To which Sanders (I-Vt) responded: “Oooh Mr. Bloomberg.”

Sanders assured viewers that he would take a strong stand against Russian meddling in U.S. elections. “I’m going to tell Mr. Putin — trust me you’re not going to interfere in any more American elections,” he said at the latest face-off of seven Democratic presidential hopefuls, held at Charleston’s Gaillard Center.

Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also focused on Sanders, asserting “I would make a better president” than Sanders. She cited her work after the 2008 financial crisis to investigate the large banks at the heart of the mortgage meltdown crisis, and she zeroed in on the reputation of Sanders and his supporters for playing rough.

“I dug in and did the work and then Bernie’s team trashed me for it,” she said.

Warren also revisited her criticism of Bloomberg from last week’s Democratic debate in Nevada for his use of non-disclosure agreements in settlements with female employees of Bloomberg News and other ventures. She asserted that Bloomberg in one incident suggested that a pregnant female employee should “kill it” — something that Bloomberg vehemently denied. “I never said it, period. End of story. I never said it,” Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg noted that last week he agreed to her demand that he release women from existing NDAs, allowing them to speak freely about their experiences. “We did what she asked,” he said, adding that his company has vowed to no longer use NDAs in settlements. “We probably changed the corporate landscape across America,” he said.

“If there is nothing to hide, then sign a blanket release,” Warren said. “Let those women speak out.”

The debate devolved into shouting matches between the seven participants. “You spoke over time and I’m going to talk,” former Vice President Joe Biden said in exasperation at his struggle to get a word in. Biden also declared that he will win Saturday’s primary in South Carolina.

Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Ind., managed to get in a plug soliciting small donors to go to his website.

Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) jumped in to scold her fellow debaters: “If we spend the next four months tearing our party apart, we’re going to watch Donald Trump spend the next four years tearing our country apart.”

Warren again went after Bloomberg on the issue of housing, saying that Bloomberg blamed the 2008 housing crisis on “blacks and Latinos.”

“In fact I was out there fighting…to make sure people never get cheated again on their mortgages,” Warren summed up.

Bloomberg pushed back on those claims, then went on to joke that he won the last debate, though that comment drew a muted response from the crowd in attendance.

Buttigieg later went after Sanders for the latter’s praise of literacy programs instituted by the Fidel Castro regime in Cuba as well as Sanders’ plan to eliminate private health insurance.

CBS News is hosting the debate in partnership with the Congressional Black Caucus Institute. “CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell and “CBS This Morning” anchor Gayle King are moderators.

Voters in South Carolina will go to the polls Saturday in the latest contest for the Democratic Presidential nomination. The candidates will then face off in the so-called Super Tuesday elections, in which multiple states — including California, Minnesota, and Colorado among several others — will also cast their vote for the nomination.