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Tuesday’s debate put tensions between Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders on display. Now what?

Fractures between the two friends took center stage Tuesday in Des Moines, Iowa, where Sanders again denied saying a woman could not be elected president

SHARE Tuesday’s debate put tensions between Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders on display. Now what?

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., left and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., talk Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020, after a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register in Des Moines, Iowa. Candidate businessman Tom Steyer looks on.

Patrick Semansky, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — There was one question sure to come up during the Democratic debate Tuesday, an issue Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren had been preparing to address for days. Did Sanders tell Warren that a woman cannot be elected president?

Fractures between the two friends and progressives took center stage Tuesday in Des Moines, Iowa. An informal agreement between the senators to avoid attacks on each others’ campaigns appeared to have broken down after CNN broke a story on Monday that Sanders had told Warren more than a year ago that a woman could not be elected president.

“In 2018 you told her that you did not believe that a woman could win the election. Why did you say that?,” Abby Phillip, a moderator from CNN, asked Sanders of a comment he allegedly made to Warren that December.

It was a question both Warren and Sanders knew would come up during the debate.

“Well, as a matter of fact, I didn’t say it,” Sanders replied. At the conclusion of his statement, Phillip asked him again.

Sanders denied it again. And then Phillip gave Warren an opportunity to respond.

“Senator Warren, what did you think when Senator Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?,” Phillip asked the senator from Massachusetts.

“I disagreed. Bernie is my friend and I am not here to try and fight with Bernie,” Warren responded. Warren went on to point out that only the women on the stage were undefeated in their respective political races.

“Can a woman beat Donald Trump?,” Warren asked, setting up the answer to her own question. “Look at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have lost 10 elections. The only people on this stage who have won every election they’ve been in are the women.”

Tensions between the New England colleagues went public this weekend after a leaked script for Sanders volunteers attacked Warren, telling potential voters that she is supported by wealthy, educated voters who would vote Democrat anyway, and that she would bring “no new bases into the Democratic Party,” Politico reported.

The talking points were removed by the Sanders campaign for being “sloppily worded,” reported Politico, citing a campaign official. The talking points were given to Sanders campaign teams on Friday and pulled on Sunday.

Fissures between the campaigns grew deeper Monday after four unnamed sources told CNN that Sanders had privately told Warren in December 2018 that he did not think a woman could win a presidential election. Sanders denied the the accusation on Monday, just as he did twice at the debate Tuesday evening.

“It is ludicrous to believe that at the same meeting where Elizabeth Warren told me she was going to run for president, I would tell her that a woman couldn’t win,” he said in a statement to CNN Monday.

The two Senators had also agreed to not attack each other’s campaigns, according to a New York Magazine story from June which cites “multiple senior Democrats briefed on the conversation.”

At the end of Tuesday’s debate, the senators appeared to remain at odds. As they prepared to leave the stage, Warren walked toward Sanders and was met with the Vermont senator’s outstretched right hand. Warren passed, instead opting for a short discussion with Sanders.

The debate was the final opportunity for the Democratic presidential candidates to distinguish themselves amongst their peers on an Iowa stage before caucusgoers nominate one of the party’s 12 remaining candidates at the state’s Feb. 3 caucus.

It was still unclear Wednesday whether relations between the two candidates would improve when they returned to Washington, D.C., for President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to forward articles of impeachment to the Senate on Wednesday.

The Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump could begin as soon as Friday, Jan. 24, the New York Times reported.

The trial would pull Democratic candidates for president Sens. Warren, Sanders, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Michael Bennet of Colorado off the campaign trail.