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2020 candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren at the July Democratic presidential debate in Detroit. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Sen. Elizabeth Warren said in a statement Monday that her Democratic presidential rival Sen. Bernie Sanders told her during a December 2018 meeting that a woman could not win in 2020.

Why it matters: Warren issued the statement after facing backlash for not commenting on reports from anonymous sources that Sanders had made the comments. He denied making the claim.

Among the topics that came up [at the meeting] was what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate. I thought a woman could win; he disagreed."
— Excerpt from Warren's statement

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Alexi McCammond: Warren is doing Sanders a favor by releasing this statement and keeping her end of the unity pact — even after a report earlier this week revealed Sanders’ campaign volunteers were given a script that included criticism of her.

  • Let's not forget the internal division Sanders and his supporters caused within the Democratic Party during the 2016 election. Any signs of that happening again in this race could frustrate party leaders and lead to even more division.

Of note: Polls show roughly a third of Sanders' supporters say Warren is their second choice, and vice-versa. They are largely competing for the same universe of voters, and the Iowa caucuses will give us a clearer picture of who’s building the larger coalition.

What he's saying: Sanders and his campaign previously denied he'd ever made such a statement:

"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. It's sad that, three weeks before the Iowa caucus and a year after that private conversation, staff who weren't in the room are lying about what happened. What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could. Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course! After all, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes in 2016."

What she's saying: In her statement, Warren said that the issue emerged as she and Sanders met for over two hours "to discuss the 2020 election, our past work together and our shared goals."

  • She said she had no interest in discussing her private meeting with Sanders "any further because Bernie and I have far more in common than on our differences on punditry."
"We have been friends and allies in this fight for long time, and I have no doubt we will continue to work together to defeat Donald Trump and put our government on the side of the people."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Alabama trying to use COVID relief funds to expand prisons

Inside the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Ala., in 2018. Photo: Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images

Alabama state lawmakers are trying to funnel up to $400 million of the state's American Rescue Plan funds to pay for a $1.3 billion plan to build and renovate prisons across the state, the Associated Press reports.

Why it matters: Diverting dollars from the COVID-relief package, passed in March, is prompting criticism over misuse.

2 hours ago - World

Jake Sullivan discussed human rights and Yemen with Saudi crown prince

MBS in 2018. Photo: Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed efforts to end the war in Yemen, the de-escalation of regional tensions with Iran, and Saudi Arabia's human rights record in their meeting on Monday, a senior U.S. official told Axios.

Why it matters: This was Sullivan's first trip to the Middle East since taking up his post in January, and he was the most senior visitor to the kingdom so far from the Biden administration, which has kept the crown prince at arm's length over his roles in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the war in Yemen.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Top Pentagon officials contradict Biden on Afghanistan advice

Photo: Carolone Brehman/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Top military leaders confirmed in a Senate hearing Tuesday they recommended earlier this year that the U.S. keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, and that they believed withdrawing those forces would lead to the collapse of the Afghan military.

Why it matters: Biden denied last month that his top military advisers wanted troops to remain in Afghanistan, telling ABC's George Stephanopoulos: "No one said that to me that I can recall."

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