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National Govt & Politics

    President Donald Trump urged the new leader of Ukraine this summer to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, a person familiar with the matter said. Democrats condemned what they saw as a clear effort to damage a political rival, now at the heart of an explosive whistleblower complaint against Trump. It was the latest revelation in an escalating controversy that has created a showdown between congressional Democrats and the Trump administration, which has refused to turn over the formal complaint by a national security official or even describe its contents. Trump defended himself Friday against the intelligence official's complaint, angrily declaring it came from a 'partisan whistleblower,' though he also said he didn't know who had made it. The complaint was based on a series of events, one of which was a July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, according to a two people familiar with the matter. The people were not authorized to discuss the issue by name and were granted anonymity. Trump, in that call, urged Zelenskiy to probe the activities of potential Democratic rival Biden's son Hunter, who worked for a Ukrainian gas company, according to one of the people, who was briefed on the call. Trump did not raise the issue of U.S. aid to Ukraine, indicating there was not an explicit quid pro quo, according to the person. Biden reacted strongly late Friday, saying that if the reports are true, 'then there is truly no bottom to President Trump's willingness to abuse his power and abase our country.' He said Trump should release the transcript of his July phone conversation with Zelenskiy 'so that the American people can judge for themselves.' The government's intelligence inspector general has described the whistleblower's Aug. 12 complaint as 'serious' and 'urgent.' But Trump dismissed it all Friday, insisting 'it's nothing.' He scolded reporters for asking about it and said it was 'just another political hack job.' 'I have conversations with many leaders. It's always appropriate. Always appropriate,' Trump said. 'At the highest level always appropriate. And anything I do, I fight for this country.' Trump, who took questions in the Oval Office alongside Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whom he was hosting for a state visit, was asked if he knew if the whistleblower's complaint centered on his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Zelenskiy. The president responded, 'I really don't know,' but he continued to insist any phone call he made with a head of state was 'perfectly fine and respectful.' Trump was asked Friday if he brought up Biden in the call with Zelenskiy, and he answered, 'It doesn't matter what I discussed.' But then he used the moment to urge the media 'to look into' Biden's background with Ukraine. There has yet to be any evidence of any wrongdoing by Biden or his son regarding Ukraine. Trump and Zelenskiy are to meet on the sidelines of the United Nations next week. The Wall Street Journal first reported that Trump pressed Zelenskiy about Biden. The standoff with Congress raises fresh questions about the extent to which Trump's appointees are protecting the Republican president from oversight and, specifically, whether his new acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, is working with the Justice Department to shield the president. Democrats say the administration is legally required to give Congress access to the whistleblower's complaint, and Rep. Adam Schiff of California has said he will go to court in an effort to get it if necessary. The intelligence community's inspector general said the matter involves the 'most significant' responsibilities of intelligence leadership. House Democrats also are fighting the administration for access to witnesses and documents in impeachment probes. In the whistleblower case, lawmakers are looking into whether Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani traveled to Ukraine to pressure the government to aid the president's reelection effort by investigating the activities of Biden's son. During a rambling interview Thursday on CNN, Giuliani was asked whether he had asked Ukraine to look into Biden. He initially said, 'No, actually I didn't,' but seconds later he said, 'Of course I did.' Giuliani has spent months trying to drum up potentially damaging evidence about Biden's ties to Ukraine. He told CNN that Trump was unaware of his actions. 'I did what I did on my own,' he said. 'I told him about it afterward. Still later, Giuliani tweeted, 'A President telling a Pres-elect of a well known corrupt country he better investigate corruption that affects US is doing his job.' Democrats have contended that Trump, in the aftermath of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, may have asked for foreign assistance in his upcoming reelection bid. Trump further stoked those concerns earlier this year in an interview when he suggested he would be open to receiving foreign help. The inspector general appeared before the House intelligence committee behind closed doors Thursday but declined, under administration orders, to reveal to members the substance of the complaint. Schiff, a California Democrat, said Trump's attack on the whistleblower was disturbing and raised concerns that it would have a chilling effect on other potential exposers of wrongdoing. He also said it was 'deeply disturbing' that the White House appeared to know more about the complaint than its intended recipient -- Congress. The information 'deserves a thorough investigation,' Schiff said. 'Come hell or high water, that's what we're going to do.' Among the materials Democrats have sought is a transcript of Trump's July 25 call with Zelenskiy. The call took place one day after Mueller's faltering testimony to Congress effectively ended the threat his probe posed to the White House. A readout of the call released from the Ukrainian government said Trump believed Kyiv could complete corruptions investigations that have hampered relations between the two nations but did not get into specifics. Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who in May called for a probe of Giuliani's effort in Ukraine, said in an interview on Friday it's 'outrageous' the president has been sending his political operative to talk to Ukraine's new president. Murphy tweeted that during his own visit it was clear to him that Ukraine officials were 'worried about the consequences of ignoring Giuliani's demands.' The senator tweeted that he told Zelenskiy during their August visit it was 'best to ignore requests from Trump's campaign operatives. He agreed.' House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump faces 'serious repercussions' if reports about the complaint are accurate. She said it raises 'grave, urgent concerns for our national security.' Letters to Congress from the inspector general make clear that Maguire consulted with the Justice Department in deciding not to transmit the complaint to Congress in a further departure from standard procedure. It's unclear whether the White House was also involved, Schiff said. Maguire has refused to discuss details of the whistleblower complaint, but he has been subpoenaed by the House panel and is expected to testify publicly next Thursday. Maguire and the inspector general, Michael Atkinson, also are expected next week at the Senate intelligence committee. Atkinson wrote in letters that Schiff released that he and Maguire had hit an 'impasse' over the acting director's decision not to share the complaint with Congress. Atkinson said he was told by the legal counsel for the intelligence director that the complaint did not actually meet the definition of an 'urgent concern.' And he said the Justice Department said it did not fall under the director's jurisdiction because it did not involve an intelligence professional. Atkinson said he disagreed with that Justice Department view. The complaint 'not only falls under DNI's jurisdiction,' Atkinson wrote, 'but relates to one of the most significant and important of DNI's responsibilities to the American people.' ___ Associated Press writers Deb Riechmann, Eric Tucker, Alan Fram and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden on Friday decried reports that President Donald Trump urged the president of Ukraine to look into his son's business dealings there. Biden said in a statement that if the reports are true, 'Then there is truly no bottom to President Trump's willingness to abuse his power and abase our country.' The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate said Trump should release the transcript of his July phone conversation with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy 'so that the American people can judge for themselves.' Biden released the statement after news organizations reported Trump had urged Zelenskiy to probe the activities of Biden's son Hunter, who worked for a Ukrainian gas company. The Democratic front-runner's campaign later sent out a fundraising letter urging potential donors, 'Don't let the President get away with this gross abuse of power.' Trump said there was nothing inappropriate in his contacts with foreign leaders. At least two of Biden's rivals called on fellow Democrats in the House to push forward on impeachment of Trump. Despite multiple congressional investigations into the president, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has resisted calls for impeachment from many members of her caucus, arguing such a step would be divisive and could backfire against the party in 2020. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said that posture makes Congress complicit in Trump's outreach to Ukraine. 'A president is sitting in the Oval Office, right now, who continues to commit crimes,' Warren tweeted. 'He continues because he knows his Justice Department won't act and believes Congress won't either. Today's news confirmed he thinks he's above the law. If we do nothing, he'll be right.' Julián Castro, the former housing secretary, said Trump 'needs to be impeached. 'I love these House Democrats — my brother is one of them,' he added. 'But it's time for them to do something. It's time for them to act.' Castro's brother Joaquin represents Texas in the House. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker didn't call for impeachment but said the allegations were 'sobering and serious stuff' that should be 'rocking Washington right now.' He declined to call them treason. 'I want to see this investigated,' he said. 'What we know already, if it is true, constitutes at the very least serious misconduct.
  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged that he let down his supporters — and all Canadians of color — by appearing years ago in brownface and blackface. Yet the scandal's fallout may be limited in a country without the harsh and still-divisive racial history of the neighboring United States. 'I hurt people who in many cases consider me an ally,' Trudeau told a news conference Friday. 'I let a lot of people down.' Trudeau, 47, is seeking a second term as prime minister in an Oct. 21 election. His leading opponent, Andrew Scheer of the Conservative Party, has assailed him as 'not fit to govern' because of the revelations. But key figures in the prime minister's Liberal Party have stuck by him, including Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, who would be a favorite to replace Trudeau as Liberal leader if he lost the election. Many minority Canadians, increasingly active in politics and government, seem ready to forgive Trudeau. 'As I have gotten to know Justin, I know these photos do not represent the person he is now, and I know how much he regrets it,' Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan, a Sikh, said on Twitter. Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, predicted Trudeau would easily weather the scandal. 'Indeed, I think he is drawing some sympathy,' Wiseman said. 'This affair is a media bombshell that is bombing with the public ... The international media love this story because it goes against type.' Wiseman also disputed the assertion that Trudeau is a hypocrite when it comes to race and diversity, noting that his cabinet is the most diverse in Canadian history in terms of gender and ethnic background. Trudeau's brownface controversy has drawn some comparisons with developments earlier this year in the U.S., where Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam withstood intense pressure to resign after a racist picture surfaced from his 1984 medical school yearbook. Quentin Kidd, a political science professor at Virginia's Christopher Newport University, said the revelations were 'a shock and disappointment' to supporters of both Trudeau and Northam, whom they viewed as compassionate politicians. However, Kidd sees big differences in how the two politicians handled the situation. 'Trudeau has expressed genuine contrition and willingness to accept what he did as racist,' Kidd said. 'We haven't seen that from Ralph Northam.' Kidd also cited the divergent racial histories of the two countries. 'Canada has its issues dealing with racial inequities, but nothing like the American South. There's no legacy of slavery, of Jim Crow or huge gaps in wealth and poverty,' he said. 'Northam has to carry the baggage of that history, whereas Trudeau doesn't have to carry similar baggage.' According to recent census figures, Canada's population is about 73% white, compared with 77% in the U.S. Many of the nonwhites in Canada are from Asia. Only about 3.5 percent of the population is black. In Trudeau's multiethnic parliamentary district in Montreal, some residents questioned about the scandal offered a collective shrug. 'It was no big deal, it was a long time ago,' said Zahid Nassar, an immigrant from Pakistan. 'When we're young, we all do stupid things.' Nassar said he voted for Trudeau in 2015 and will likely do the same next month. If he does not, he said, it will be because he's worried about safety in his neighborhood. The brownface controversy surfaced Wednesday when Time magazine published a photo from a yearbook from the West Point Grey Academy, a private school in British Columbia where Trudeau worked as a teacher. It shows the then-29-year-old Trudeau at an 'Arabian Nights' party in 2001 wearing a turban and robe with dark makeup on his hands, face and neck. Trudeau said he was dressed as a character from 'Aladdin.' Trudeau said he also once darkened his face for a performance of a Harry Belafonte song during a talent show when he was in high school. In a third incident, a brief video surfaced of Trudeau in blackface. He said it was taken on a costume day while he was working as guide for a river rafting company. 'I have been forthright about the incidents that I remembered,' he said Friday. 'I did not realize at the time how much this hurt minority Canadians, racialized Canadians.' Sunny Khurana, who was photographed with Trudeau for the 2001 yearbook, said no one had a problem with Trudeau's get-up at the event. 'It was a costume party, Arabian nights, Aladdin,' said Khurana, a Sikh Indian who had two children at the school at the time. 'That's it. People dress up. It was a party. It was never meant to put down anybody.' In Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump was asked by a reporter about the Trudeau controversy. 'I was hoping I wouldn't be asked that question,' Trump replied. 'I'm surprised. And I was more surprised when I saw the number of times.' Trudeau later asked if his standing internationally is damaged. 'My focus is Canadians who face discrimination every day,' he replied. 'I'm going to work very hard to demonstrate as an individual and as a leader I will continue to stand against intolerance and racism.' Trudeau said he would call the leader of the opposition New Democrat party, Jagmeet Singh, and apologize for wearing brownface. Singh is also a Sikh. As for Trudeau's main election rival, his denunciation of the prime minister was undercut by comments he made shortly before the brownface photo surfaced. Scheer said he would stand by other Conservative candidates who had made racist or anti-gay comments in the past, as long as they apologized and took responsibility for those remarks. 'I accept the fact that people make mistakes in the past and can own up to that and accept that,' Scheer said. 'I believe many Canadians, most Canadians, recognize that people can say things in the past, when they're younger, at a different time in their life, that they would not say today.' ___ Crary reported from New York.
  • When Barack Obama marched into the 2007 Iowa steak fry flanked by 1,000 supporters, skeptical Iowans were put on notice that he could win the caucus. A dozen years later, a new generation of Democratic White House hopefuls are looking to pull off a repeat performance to turbocharge their campaigns. Saturday's steak fry is part parade, part organizing show of force — and quintessentially Iowa. It began as a fundraiser for Tom Harkin's first congressional bid, where the 53 attendees could buy a steak and a foil-wrapped baked potato for $2. Harkin is out of politics now, but the steak fry lives on as a fundraiser for the Polk County Democratic Party. This year, 11,000 people are expected to join in addition to 19 presidential candidates. Attendees can listen to bands, munch on 10,500 steaks or get food from food trucks, a vegan grill or a craft beer tent. There are even camping grounds, where supporters of former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke spent Friday night. The festival vibe has some Iowa activists calling the steak fry the 'Coachella of the Caucuses,' referring to the weekend-long music festival in California. Polk County Democratic Party Chair Sean Bagniewski said the event purposely has a 'modern twist.' 'That's the future of the party — it's gonna be more women in positions of leadership, it's gonna be more people of color, and it's going to be more young people,' he said. But what hasn't changed is the significance of the event for the presidential candidates. The steak fry comes as a number of candidates are reconfiguring their Iowa approach. California Sen. Kamala Harris this week announced she would focus more heavily on Iowa in hopes of finishing in the top three. Meanwhile flagging campaigns like that of O'Rourke and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar are campaigning beyond Iowa in an effort to broaden their national appeal. Bagniewski said that, like 2007, Democrats are looking for someone who can show they've got the organizational strength to win. 'Everyone wants to beat Donald Trump,' he said. 'Everyone has a top 5, but when you actually see that your candidate of choice has 1,000 people supporting them at the Steak Fry, it gives you more liberty to make that decision.' Over four decades, the event has seen plenty of rock-star moments. In 2014, the final year Harkin hosted the event, Hillary Clinton returned to Iowa for the first time since Obama beat her in the 2008 caucuses. She was welcome by a jubilant crowd chanting 'Hillary, Hillary,' as speculation about a second presidential campaign swirled. With a cheeky smile, she stretched her arms out to the audience of thousands, saying 'Well, hello Iowa. I'm back!' This year, a number of the candidates will kick off the festivities by hosting celebrations for their supporters beforehand, featuring everything from live bands to carnival-style games. Many are planning an Obama-esque march into the event — amping up the pressure on their teams to turn up big numbers to the event, as any flagging campaigns will be painfully obvious. Campaigns are bussing and flying supporters in from out of state to boost their numbers, and the Polk County Democratic Party says they've sold tickets to attendees from 48 states. Former Vice President Joe Biden is widely believed to have sold the most tickets to the event, with South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg not far behind him. The former Vice President will host what his team is calling 'Bidenfest' beforehand, featuring a bouncy castle, an ice cream truck and bands, and he'll be marching in with a fire truck and a marching band from a Waterloo-area Baptist church. California Sen. Kamala Harris will march into the event with striking McDonald's workers demanding a $15 an hour wage, as well as the Isiserettes, a local Des Moines drumline that appeared regularly at Obama events, including the 2007 steak fry and later his inauguration. But Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren are skipping the march into the event. Warren has come under growing criticism from some of her rivals and her staff has said she's looking at the Steak Fry as more of an opportunity to connect with potential new supporters, rather than organize those she has already won.
  • A federal judge said Friday that he was struggling with a request to more narrowly define what behavior justifies separating children from their parents at the border after complaints that the Trump administration has abused discretionary powers to split families under limited circumstances, like criminal history or questions about whether the adult is really the parent. The American Civil Liberties Union argued the government has been separating families over dubious allegations and minor transgressions including traffic offenses. In a court filing, it reported one parent was separated for having damaged property valued at $5, and a 1-year-old was taken away after an official criticized her father for letting her sleep with a wet diaper. Justice Department attorney Scott Stewart acknowledged some mistakes but said the government has a good system in place. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw called it a 'thorny issue' and didn't rule immediately on the ACLU's request to intervene during a two-hour hearing, which is unusually long for him. He said a parent convicted of assault with a deadly weapon may be 'the most loving, protective parent' and present no danger to the child, but is probably unfit to be held in a family immigration detention center. 'It's a unique context,' he said. The administration separated 955 children from their parents from June 26, 2018, when Sabraw halted the practice except in limited circumstances, to July 20, 2019. The government noted that it accounted for a tiny percentage of the more than 500,000 arrests and detentions of people who crossed the Mexican border in families during that time, suggesting restraint. A two-page memo issued a day after Sabraw's 2018 order by Kevin McAleenan, then Customs and Border Protection commissioner and now acting Homeland Security secretary, describes criteria for separating families, including a parent being convicted of a felony or 'violent misdemeanors,' having a communicable disease or presenting 'a danger to the child.' The Border Patrol's Rio Grande Valley sector in Texas, the busiest corridor for illegal crossings, separates families if a parent has been convicted of crimes including assault, battery, burglary, resisting arrest, hit-and-run and disorderly conduct, Lloyd Easterling, who oversees processing and prosecutions in the sector, said in a court filing last week. 'Simple thefts,' fraud, minor drug or traffic offenses and driving while intoxicated without an aggravating factor generally do not result in separation. Allegations of criminal histories or gang affiliations in another country are more challenging to prove, but biometric checks and photographic comparisons usually provide answers, Easterling said. The two sides argued over how widely to use rapid DNA tests on adults suspected of lying that they are parents of a child. The government says expanding use of the tests, which deliver results in about 90 minutes and have been tested along the Mexican border, would pose financial and logistical obstacles.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden on Friday decried reports that President Donald Trump urged the president of Ukraine to look into his son's business dealings there. Biden said in a statement that if the reports are true, 'Then there is truly no bottom to President Trump's willingness to abuse his power and abase our country.' The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate said Trump should release the transcript of his July phone conversation with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy 'so that the American people can judge for themselves.' Biden released the statement after news organizations reported Trump had urged Zelenskiy to probe the activities of Biden's son Hunter, who worked for a Ukrainian gas company. The Democratic front-runner's campaign later sent out a fundraising letter urging potential donors, 'Don't let the President get away with this gross abuse of power.' Trump said there was nothing inappropriate in his contacts with foreign leaders. At least two of Biden's rivals called on fellow Democrats in the House to push forward on impeachment of Trump. Despite multiple congressional investigations into the president, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has resisted calls for impeachment from many members of her caucus, arguing such a step would be divisive and could backfire against the party in 2020. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said that posture makes Congress complicit in Trump's outreach to Ukraine. 'A president is sitting in the Oval Office, right now, who continues to commit crimes,' Warren tweeted. 'He continues because he knows his Justice Department won't act and believes Congress won't either. Today's news confirmed he thinks he's above the law. If we do nothing, he'll be right.' Julián Castro, the former housing secretary, said Trump 'needs to be impeached. 'I love these House Democrats — my brother is one of them,' he added. 'But it's time for them to do something. It's time for them to act.' Castro's brother Joaquin represents Texas in the House. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker didn't call for impeachment but said the allegations were 'sobering and serious stuff' that should be 'rocking Washington right now.' He declined to call them treason. 'I want to see this investigated,' he said. 'What we know already, if it is true, constitutes at the very least serious misconduct.
  • The Latest on the U.S. response to attacks on the Saudi oil industry (all times local): 6:45 p.m. The Pentagon says the U.S. will deploy additional troops and military equipment to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to beef up security, as President Donald Trump has at least for now decided against any immediate military strike on Iran in response to the attack on the Saudi oil industry. Defense Secretary Mark Esper says this is a first step, and he is not ruling out additional moves down the road. He says it's a response to requests from the Saudis and the UAE to help improve their air and missile defenses. Esper and Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, say details of the deployments will be determined over the coming days. __ 1:20 p.m. President Donald Trump is signaling that he's not inclined to authorize an immediate military strike on Iran in response to the attacks on the Saudi oil industry, saying he believes showing restraint 'shows far more strength' and he wants to avoid an all-out war. Trump has laid out new sanctions on the Iranian central bank. Trump spoke just before he gathered his national security team at the White House to discuss how to respond to the weekend drone and missile attack on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. He left the door open a bit for a later military response, saying people thought he'd attack Iran 'within two seconds.' But he says he has 'plenty of time.
  • Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg said she's overwhelmed by the success of Friday's climate protests. But the 16-year-old who sparked the global movement said she was underwhelmed by the United States government's approach to climate change. Thunberg spoke with The Associated Press as the climate events were underway. Responses have been edited for length and clarity. DID YOU THINK YOU'D GET NUMBERS LIKE THIS WHEN YOU STARTED? It's just such a victory. I would never have predicted or believed that this was going to happen someday. And so fast, only in 15 months. I can't wait to see the official numbers come in. It will be magnificent. I think if enough people get together and stand up for this then that can have a huge difference, to put pressure on the people in power, to actually hold them accountable and to say you need to do something now. WHAT'S YOUR IMPRESSION OF THE POLITICAL SITUATION IN THE UNITED STATES AROUND CLIMATE CHANGE? It's a bit worse than in other countries. The arguments for continuing to not do anything and the empty words and promises and lies are the same. Some countries are more extreme than others but it's not much different. WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FROM THE UPCOMING CLIMATE ACTION SUMMIT? We must hope, but we must also be prepared for that nothing comes out of it. And then we need to continue no matter what. Giving up cannot be an option. Indeed, this is a great opportunity to do something and they (leaders) should take that. Otherwise they should feel ashamed. PEOPLE WHO DENY CLIMATE CHANGE HAVE ATTACKED YOU PERSONALLY. HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THAT? It's sad. You just have to ignore them because they are just desperately trying to remove the focus from the climate crisis to make it something about me as an individual rather than the crisis itself. When they do that, they don't have any arguments left.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says it's time to change the law to ensure a sitting president can be indicted for wrongdoing. Pelosi told NPR in an interview Friday that Congress will have to pass laws 'that will have clarity for future presidents.' The California Democrat said she has not changed her mind on pursuing impeachment of President Donald Trump. But her remarks offer new insight into what's to come in the aftermath of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Trump. The Mueller report said it did not indict Trump in part because of Justice Department guidelines against prosecuting a president while in office. Pelosi said that guidance is 'something cooked up by the president's lawyers.' She said a president should be indicted if they commit wrongdoing.
  • Elizabeth Warren has enjoyed a heady summer of massive crowds and endless selfie lines as she steadily climbs in Democratic presidential primary polls. With the apparent success comes a new reality: She's now a prime target for rivals and their supporters. Some of the offensives are direct, with Pete Buttigieg hammering her this week as 'evasive' on what a single-payer government health insurance system would mean for middle-class tax bills. Some Bernie Sanders supporters lashed out when the Working Families Party endorsed Warren over Sanders. Others are more circumspect, with Joe Biden's campaign beginning to question Warren's corporate legal work decades ago, suggesting it's at odds with her brand as a progressive champion for middle-class Americans. Together, it's a new dynamic that at once affirms Warren's strength and promises to test whether she can dispatch fellow progressive Bernie Sanders and ultimately challenge the more moderate Biden, who has maintained front-runner status since the spring. At least in the short term, it could shift some heat off of Biden, who as the consistent polling leader has drawn more frequent attacks and media scrutiny than the Massachusetts senator, but has thus far weathered the hits. For her part, Warren insists she won't go hard after her opponents, at least not yet, and her campaign has declined comment on the emerging onslaught. Some of her supporters, meanwhile, are leaning into the latest turn. 'Ironically, I think most attacks make her stronger, because they send a signal to Democratic voters that she's a threat and can win,' said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and top Warren supporter. 'That's a far cry from January.' Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who along with Kamala Harris is trying to join a top tier that now consists of Warren, Sanders and Biden, launched the most direct attacks this week, casting her as less-than-honest about how she'd pay for the 'Medicare for All' insurance overhaul. Buttigieg, like Biden, backs adding a government insurance plan to existing insurance markets without eliminating private insurance. Buttigieg told CNN that Warren has been 'extremely evasive' when asked about middle-class taxes that Sanders, the lead 'Medicare for All' advocate, has said would have to go up. Warren emphasizes that many if not most middle-class households would see their overall spending on health care go down, because they'd no longer have private premiums, deductibles and co-pays. But she avoids confirming that taxes would rise. 'Look, people are used to Washington politicians not giving straight answers to simple questions,' Buttigieg said in a remark striking at Warren's effort to frame herself as an outsider and reformer. Buttigieg's argument partially echoes a months-old Biden tactic. 'At least Bernie is being honest,' Biden would often say. He got more direct Friday in Iowa. 'Tell Elizabeth ... she's gonna raise people's taxes,' he said at a campaign stop in Cedar Rapids. 'What we are gonna do' if we end up in a recession, he added. Harris hasn't yet taken on Warren, but in a conference call with reporters this week, a top Harris aide took veiled swipes at the progressives. 'I think there are far more ideological, strict ideological candidates who I believe will contribute to the partisan rancor,' Lily Adams said. One of Biden's top supporters, meanwhile, has abandoned all subtlety. 'I like Elizabeth Warren. I like her a lot. Too bad she's a hypocrite,' Ed Rendell wrote in a Washington Post op-ed this month. He chided the senator for touting her refusal to hold traditional large-donor fundraisers when she's previously taken big donor money — most recently ahead of the 2018 midterms — and used her Senate campaign account to seed her presidential run. It's an argument related to one Biden and his aides make more quietly: that Warren is glossing over her time as a Republican who did legal work for the kinds of large corporations she now blasts. Biden has yet to make that case explicitly, perhaps aware of his own cozy history with credit-card companies in his home state of Delaware and Warren's previous criticism of it. But his aides noted ahead of the Sept. 12 Houston debate that he's released at least two decades of his tax returns, more than Warren, and they suggested she doesn't want scrutiny on her sources of income in the years before she established herself as a consumer champion. At a Houston fundraiser the day after debate, Biden quipped that some of his opponents used to be Republicans. Green said he welcomes Biden to make those claims openly. 'Elizabeth Warren's willingness to challenge corporate power is unquestioned,' Green said. 'He'd only help her emphasize her record.' Whatever the case, the shifting spotlight could help Biden in the short run. Since he entered the race in April, Biden, 76, has had to defend his long public record, deflect a stream of broadsides during debates and, in part because of his own verbal missteps, navigate questions about whether he's still up for the job — concerns the 70-year-old Warren hasn't faced. Biden's aides say candidates are ratcheting up their shots at Warren because previous attempts to derail Biden haven't yet worked. 'I think candidates have seen ... that attacking Joe Biden is not the way to advance yourself,' said Kate Bedingfield, a top Biden campaign official, after the Houston debate. Indeed, over the first three debates, Harris, Bill de Blasio, Eric Swallwell and Julian Castro blistered Biden on everything from his record on school desegregation and immigration to his fitness for office. Swallwell and de Blasio have since dropped out. Castro is mired near the bottom of the polls. Harris is struggling to establish herself as a top tier candidate. Now, if nothing else, candidates like Buttigieg who focus attention on Warren aren't spending energy on Biden. ___ Associated Press reporters Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, Alexandra Jaffe in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Juana Summers in Washington contributed. ---- Follow Barrow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BillBarrowAP .