Donald Trump reportedly advised conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh not to apologise to Democratic 2020 contender Pete Buttigieg after saying America is not ready for a gay president kissing his husband on the world stage, prompting the candidate to mock Trump over his affair with porn star Stormy Daniels.
The president is touring the western swing states of Nevada, California and Arizona this week with one eye on November but caused offence to the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco overnight by suggesting both are suffering from widespread drug addiction and homelessness.
Trump is meanwhile also facing criticism for pardoning 11 white collar criminals – including ex-Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, whom he once fired from The Celebrity Apprentice over a Harry Potter controversy – a decision that provoked fresh concern about the president exceeding the powers of his office and moved former acting solicitor general Neal Katyal to reassure the public: “The law will find a way to catch up with him.”
Meanwhile, sparring between Mike Bloomberg and the leading Democratic candidates erupted hours before Wednesday night's debate, previewing what's expected to be a tense night as the billionaire businessman meets his rivals onstage for the first time.
Both Bernie Sanders' and Joe Biden's campaigns took aim at Mr Bloomberg, the former raising questions about the 78-year-old's health and the latter pointing out reversals in Mr Bloomberg's stances on key issues.
The attacks underscore how seriously Democrats are taking the former New York mayor's campaign, now that he's rocketed to double-digit support in national polls and qualified for the next two debates.
Mr Bloomberg, who formally registered as a Democrat in 2018, has faced relatively little national scrutiny in his surprisingly swift rise from nonpartisan megadonor to top-tier presidential contender.
On CNN Wednesday morning, Mr Sanders' national press secretary Briahna Joy Gray tried to rebut questions surrounding the Vermont senator's health by pointing to Mr Bloomberg, who she said had also "suffered heart attacks in the past".
Mr Sanders suffered a heart attack last fall and released letters from doctors attesting to his health. But Mr Bloomberg has never suffered a heart attack; he released a doctors' letter last year that said he did undergo coronary stent surgery in 2000.
Ms Gray later walked back her statement, saying on Twitter that she "misspoke" about Mr Bloomberg's health.
Separately, the Biden campaign took on Mr Bloomberg over ads the former mayor is running that feature shots of him working closely with former President Barack Obama.
The Biden campaign posted a video to Twitter highlighting past comments Mr Bloomberg made criticising Mr Obama on health care and climate change and accusing him of failing to address racism during his term. The video also includes a clip of Mr Bloomberg declaring "I'm a friend of Donald Trump's, he's a New York icon."
Additional reporting by Associated Press. Please allow a moment for our liveblog to load