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Democratic Debate live updates: MSNBC/Washington Post host

With impeachment at center stage, Democrats debated their visions to replace Trump.

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NBC News' live blog tracked the fifth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential election cycle, co-hosted by MSNBC and The Washington Post.

With the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump taking center stage,the 2020 candidates clashed over their visions to replace him. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg escaped unscathed after it was expected he'd draw heavy fire as the newly minted front-runner, while former Vice President Joe Biden stumbled with gaffes on women, marijuana and race.

Catch up quickly via our analysis and fact checks, and get a look at who came out swinging via our attack tracker. Or, see how the night unfolded below.

Live Blog

Trump campaign responds after heavy focus on the president

Kayleigh McEnany, the national press secretary for President Donald Trump's re-election campaign, noted how much of the night revolved around the current occupant of the White House and the ongoing impeachment inquiry. 

"Tonight, 2020 Democrats were short on solutions and heavy on their unhealthy obsession with taking down President Trump via an illegitimate coup," McEnany said in a statement. "They know they cannot beat President Trump’s record-breaking economy, landmark criminal justice reform, falling health care costs, and historic trade deals, so they are set to defeat him in the halls of Congress rather than at the ballot box."

Buttigieg, newly minted front-runner, escapes fifth debate unscathed

Buttigieg had a target on his back and no one really even tried to hit it.

The mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is at number one with a bullet in polls this week, including the gold-standard poll of all-important Iowa, so everyone expected he would bear the brunt of attacks in Wednesday night’s Democratic presidential debate, sponsored by MSNBC and The Washington Post.

Instead, the other candidates let Buttigieg off the hook over the nearly two-and-a-half hour debate.

Read about how Buttigieg ended the debate largely unscathed.

Yang says he’d consider pardoning Trump

Andrew Yang said he does not think Trump should be facing criminal charges and would consider pardoning Trump if he were in fact prosecuted.

"We do not want to be a country that gets in the pattern of jailing past leaders," Yang said, adding that "there's a reason why Ford pardoned Nixon."

"I'd actually go a step further and say not just, hey, it's up to my [Attorney General]. I would say that the country needs to start solving the problems on the ground and move forward."

"Would you consider a pardon then?" NBC News asked.

"I would," Yang said.

Kamala Harris: 'Lot of evidence' on grounds for impeachment

New Hampshire voters react to debate

NBC News' New Hampshire team checked in with voters from around the state throughout and at the conclusion of tonight’s debate. Here are some highlights and impressions from those text conversations.

Shared views among multiple voters:

  • Memorable moments: Gabbard/Buttigieg exchange, Booker suggesting Biden was high when he said he wouldn't support marijuana legalization, Buttigieg saying there’s over 100 years of Washington experience and look where it’s gotten us, Harris/Booker/Biden on black support
  • Candidates who struggled: Gabbard, Biden, Harris
  • Candidates who stood out: Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Booker, Warren
  • Topics: happy that voting rights/voter suppression was discussed, surprised by lack of confrontation over Buttigieg given his recent polling surges

Marianne Williamson chimes in

Atlanta mayor defends Biden after Harris criticism

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a top Biden supporter, said the clash between Harris and Biden was being blown up too much.

She said it was clear he meant the first black woman in the Senate, not the only black woman.

Fact check: Do most Democrats oppose 'Medicare for All'?

"The fact is that right now the vast majority of Democrats do not support 'Medicare for All.' It couldn’t pass the United States Senate right now with Democrats. It couldn't pass the House," Biden claimed on Wednesday.

The veracity of this one may depend on whether Biden is talking about lawmakers or registered members of the party surveyed about their views. In a poll released earlier Wednesday, 77 percent of Democrats polled by the Kaiser Family Foundation said they supported Medicare for All. A Gallup poll last year saw 65 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters supported a government-run health care system. 

But Biden is correct to note that support among legislators is decidedly lower. Currently, Democrats control the House but haven't passed a Medicare for All bill. A Medicare for All bill would definitely not pass the current Senate, which is controlled by Republicans. 

Fact check: Gabbard claims Buttigieg would send troops to Mexico

The two veterans on the stage — Gabbard and Buttigieg — sparred over the South Bend mayor’s recent comments on troops in Mexico. Gabbard said that the mayor had made a “careless statement about how you, as president, would be willing to send our troops to Mexico to fight the cartels.”

Buttigieg said his remarks were taken out of context.

"I was talking about U.S.-Mexico cooperation. We’ve been doing security cooperation with Mexico for years, with law enforcement cooperation and military cooperation that could continue to be developed with training relationships, for example. Do you seriously think anybody on this stage is proposing invading Mexico?" he said.

Gabbard retorted: “That’s not what I said!”

Here's what the mayor actually said at California event recently, according to The Sacramento Bee, responding to a question related to gang and drug violence.

"There is a scenario where we could have security cooperation," Buttigieg said, adding, “I’d only order American troops into conflict if American lives were on the line and if it was necessary to meet treaty obligations.”