2020 Election
  • Politics
  • 2020 Election

Here’s Everything the Candidates Said at Wednesday’s 2020 Democratic Presidential Debate

106 minute read

Americans had their very first chance to see a group of 2020 Democratic hopefuls face off Wednesday night as 10 candidates stood on stage together in Miami during the first presidential debate of the long election cycle. A second group of candidates will debate Thursday night, including front-runner Joe Biden.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the only candidate on stage polling in double digits, faced off against Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and a host of other fired-up candidates who debated issues including healthcare, immigration, abortion rights, gun control and the economy during the event hosted by NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo.

Here is a transcript of their remarks:

HOLT: Good evening, everyone. I’m Lester Holt, and welcome to the first Democratic debate to the 2020 race for president.

GUTHRIE: Hi, I’m Savannah Guthrie. And tonight, it’s our first chance to see these candidates go head to head on stage together.

GUTHRIE: We’ll be joined in our questioning time by our colleagues, Jose Diaz-Balart, Chuck Todd, and Rachel Maddow.

HOLT: Voters are trying to nail down where the candidates stand on the issues, what sets them apart, and which of these presidential hopefuls has what it takes.

GUTHRIE: Well, now it’s time to find out.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, round one. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. Former Housing Secretary Julian Castro. New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio. Former Maryland Congressman John Delaney. Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. Washington Governor Jay Inslee. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke. Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan. And Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

From NBC News, “Decision 2020,” the Democratic candidates debate, live from the Adrienne Arsht Performing Arts Center in Miami, Florida.

HOLT: And good evening again, everyone. Welcome to the candidates and to our audience here in Miami here in the Arts Center and all across the country. Tonight we’re going to take on many of the most pressing issues of the moment, including immigration, the situation unfolding at our border, and the treatment of migrant children.

GUTHRIE: And we’re going to talk about the tensions with Iran, climate change, and of course, we’ll talk about the economy, those kitchen table issues so many Americans face every day.

DIAZ-BALART: And some quick rules of the road. Before we begin, 20 candidates qualified for this first debate. We’ll hear from 10 tonight and 10 more tomorrow. The breakdown for each was selected at random. The candidates will have 60 seconds to answer and 30 seconds for any follow-ups.

HOLT: Because of this large field, not every person will be able to comment on every topic, but over the course of the next two hours, we will hear from everyone. We’d also like to ask the audience to keep the reactions to a minimum. We are not going to be shy about making sure the candidates stick to time tonight.

Elizabeth Warren gets the first question — on the economy

GUTHRIE: All right. So with that business out of the way, we want to get to it. And we’ll start this evening with Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Senator, good evening to you.

WARREN: Thank you. Good to be here.

GUTHRIE: You have many plans — free college, free child care, government health care, cancellation of student debt, new taxes, new regulations, the breakup of major corporations. But this comes at a time when 71 percent of Americans say the economy is doing well, including 60 percent of Democrats. What do you say to those who worry this kind of significant change could be risky to the economy?

WARREN: So I think of it this way. Who is this economy really working for? It’s doing great for a thinner and thinner slice at the top. It’s doing great for giant drug companies. It’s just not doing great for people who are trying to get a prescription filled.

It’s doing great for people who want to invest in private prisons, just not for the African-Americans and Latinos whose families are torn apart, whose lives are destroyed, and whose communities are ruined.

It’s doing great for giant oil companies that want to drill everywhere, just not for the rest of us who are watching climate change bear down upon us.

When you’ve got a government, when you’ve got an economy that does great for those with money and isn’t doing great for everyone else, that is corruption, pure and simple. We need to call it out. We need to attack it head on. And we need to make structural change in our government, in our economy, and in our country.

Sen. Klobuchar is asked if her rivals’ programs are akin to a “magic genie”

GUTHRIE: Senator Klobuchar, you’ve called programs like free college something you might do if you were, quote, “a magic genie.” To be blunt, are the government programs and benefits that some of your rivals are offering giving your voters, people, a false sense of what’s actually achievable?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, first, the economy. We know that not everyone is sharing in this prosperity. And Donald Trump just sits in the White House and gloats about what’s going on, when you have so many people that are having trouble affording college and having trouble affording their premiums.

So I do get concerned about paying for college for rich kids. I do. But I think my plan is a good one. And my plan would be to, first of all, make community college free and make sure that everyone else besides that top percentile gets help with their education.

My own dad and my sister got their first degrees with community college. There’s many paths to success, as well as certifications.

Secondly, I’d used Pell grants. I’d double them from $6,000 to $12,000 a year and expand it to the number of families that get covered, to families that make up to $100,000.

And then the third thing I would do is make it easier for students to pay off their student loans. Because I can tell you this: If billionaires can pay off their yachts, students should be able to pay off their student loans.

GUTHRIE: That’s time, thank you.

Beto O’Rourke weighs in on the top tax rate for high earners

GUTHRIE: Congressman O’Rourke, what we’ve just been discussing and talking about is how much fundamental change to the economy is desirable and how much is actually doable. In that vein, some Democrats want a marginal individual tax rate of 70 percent on the very highest earners, those making more than $10 million a year. Would you support that? And if not, what would your top individual rate be?

O’ROURKE: This economy has got to work for everyone. And right now, we know that it isn’t. And it’s going to take all of us coming together to make sure that it does.


O’ROURKE: Right now, we have a system that favors those who can pay for access and outcomes. That’s how you explain an economy that is rigged to corporations and to the very wealthiest. A $2 trillion tax cut that favored corporations while they were sitting on record piles of cash and the very wealthiest in this country at a time of historic wealth inequality.

A new democracy that is revived because we’ve returned power to the people, no PACs, no gerrymandering, automatic and same-day voter registration to bring in more voters, and a new Voting Rights Act to get rid of the barriers that are in place now…

GUTHRIE: Congressman O’Rourke…

O’ROURKE: That’s how we each have a voice in our democracy and make this economy work for everybody.

GUTHRIE: Congressman, that’s time, sir.

I’ll give you 10 seconds to answer if you want to answer the direct question. Would you support a 70 percent individual marginal tax rate? Yes, no, or pass?

O’ROURKE: I would support a tax rate and a tax code that is fair to everyone. Tax capital at the same right…

GUTHRIE: Seventy percent?

O’ROURKE: … that you — you tax ordinary income. Take that corporate tax rate up to 28 percent. You would generate the revenues…

GUTHRIE: OK, that’s time.

O’ROURKE: … you need to pay for the programs we’re talking about.

GUTHRIE: That’s time. Thank you.

Sen. Booker on whether he would support breaking up large tech companies — and Warren’s response

GUTHRIE: Senator Booker, there is a debate in this party right now about the role of corporations, as you know. Senator Warren in particular put out a plan to break up tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Google. You’ve said we should not, quote, “be running around pointing at companies and breaking them up without any kind of process.” Why do you disagree?

BOOKER: I don’t think I disagree. I think we have a serious problem in our country with corporate consolidation. And you see the evidence of that in how dignity is being stripped from labor, and we have people that work full-time jobs and still can’t make a living wage.

We see that because consumer prices are being raised by pharmaceutical companies that often have monopolistic holds on drugs. And you see that by just the fact that this is actually an economy that’s hurting small businesses and not allowing them to compete.

One of the most aggressive bills in the Senate to deal with corporate consolidation is mine about corporate consolidation in the ag sector. So I feel very strongly about the need to check the corporate consolidation and let the free market work.

And I’ll tell you this. I live in a low-income black and brown community. I see every single day that this economy is not working for average Americans. The indicators that are being used, from GDP to Wall Street’s rankings, is not helping people in my community. It is about time that we have an economy that works for everybody, not just the wealthiest in our nation.

GUTHRIE: But quickly, Senator Booker, you did say that you didn’t think it was right to name names, to name companies and single them out, as Senator Warren has. Briefly, why is that?

BOOKER: Well, again, I will single out companies like Halliburton or Amazon that pay nothing in taxes and our need to change that. And when it comes to antitrust law, what I will do is, number one, appoint judges that will enforce it, number two, have a DOJ and a Federal Trade Commission that will go through the processes necessary to check this kind of corporate concentration.

At the end of the day, we have too much of a problem with corporate power growing. We see that with everything from Citizens United and the way they’re trying to influence Washington. It’s about time that we have a president that fights for the people in this country…

GUTHRIE: That’s time, sir.

BOOKER: We need to have someone that’s a champion for them.

GUTHRIE: Thank you, Senator. Senator Warren, I mentioned you … Are you picking winners and losers?

WARREN: So the way I understand this, it’s there is way too much consolidation now in giant industries in this country. That hurts workers. It hurts small businesses. It hurts independent farmers. It hurts our economy overall. And it helps constrict real innovation and growth in this economy. Now, look, we’ve had the laws out there for a long time to be able to fight back. What’s been missing is courage, courage in Washington to take on the giants. That’s part of the corruption in this system.

It has been far too long that the monopolies have been making the campaign contributions, have been funding the super PACs, have been out there making sure that their influence is heard and felt in every single decision that gets made in Washington. Where I want to start this is I want to return government to the people, and that means calling out the names of the monopolists and saying I have the courage to go after them.

GUTHRIE: Thank you.

Castro and Rep. Gabbard address the gender pay gap

HOLT: Secretary Castro, the next question is for you. Democrats have been talking about the pay gap for decades. What would you do to ensure that women are paid fairly in this country?

CASTRO: Thank you very much for that question, Lester. You know, I grew up with a mother who raised my brother, Joaquin, and me as a single parent. And I know what it’s like to struggle. I know what it’s like to rent a home and to worry about whether you’re going to be able to pay the rent at the first of the month and to see a mom work very, very hard and know that moms across this country are getting paid less simply because they’re women.

I would do several things, starting with something we should have done a long time ago, which is to pass the Equal Rights Amendment finally in this country.

And also pursue legislation so that women are paid equal pay for equal work in this country. It’s past time that we did that.

And, you know, we have to do this. If we want to be the most prosperous nation in the 21st century, we need to make sure that women are paid what they deserve.

HOLT: All right, thank you. I want to put the same question to Congresswoman Gabbard. Your thoughts on equal pay?

GABBARD: First of all, let’s recognize the situation we’re in, that the American people deserve a president who will put your interests ahead of the rich and powerful. That’s not what we have right now.

I enlisted in the Army National Guard after the Al Qaida terror attacks on 9/11 so I could go after those who had attacked us on that day. I still serve as a major. I served over 16 years, deployed twice to the Middle East, and in Congress served on the Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Affairs for over six years.

I know the importance of our national security, as well as the terribly high cost of war. And for too long, our leaders have failed us, taking us from one regime change war to the next, leading us into a new cold war and arms race, costing us trillions of our hard-earned taxpayer dollars and countless lives.

This insanity must end. As president, I will take your hard-earned taxpayer dollars and instead invest those dollars into serving your needs, things like health care, a green economy, good-paying jobs, protecting our environment, and so much more.

Mayor de Blasio, Rep. Delaney and Gov. Inslee on income inequality

DIAZ-BALART: Mayor De Blasio, good evening. You’re the mayor of the biggest city in the United States, but it’s also one of the cities in the country with the greatest gap between the wealthy and the poor. How would you address income inequality?

DE BLASIO: Well, we’ve been addressing income inequality in New York City by raising wages, by raising benefits, by putting money back in the hands of working people, $15 minimum wage, paid sick days, pre-K for all, things that are making a huge difference in working people’s lives.

But let me tell you, what we’re hearing here already in the first round of questions is that battle for the heart and soul of our party. I want to make it clear. This is supposed to be the party of working people. Yes, we’re supposed to be for a 70 percent tax rate on the wealthy. Yes, we’re supposed to be for free college, free public college, for our young people. We are supposed to break up big corporations when they’re not serving our democracy.

This Democratic Party has to be strong and bold and progressive. And in New York, we’ve proven that we can do something very different, we can put money back in the hands of working people. And let me tell you, every time you talk about investing in people and their communities, you hear folks say there’s not enough money. What I say to them every single time is, there’s plenty of money in this world, there’s plenty of money in this country. It’s just in the wrong hands. Democrats have to fix that. (APPLAUSE)

DIAZ-BALART: Congressman Delaney, do you agree?

DELANEY: I think we have to do real things to help American workers and the American people. Right? This is the issue that all of us hear on the campaign trail. We need to make sure everyone has a living wage. And I’ve called for a doubling of the earned income tax credit, raising the minimum wage, and creating paid family leave. That will create a situation where people actually have a living wage. That gets right to workers.

Then we’ve got to fix our public education system. It’s not delivering the results our kids needs, nor is college and post high school career and technical training programs doing that.

You know, I’m very different than everyone else here on the stage. Prior to being in Congress, I was an entrepreneur. I started two businesses. I created thousands of jobs. I spent my whole career helping small- to mid-sized businesses all over the country, 5,000 of them I supported. The Obama administration gave me an award for lending to disadvantaged communities.

I know how to create jobs. We need a short-term strategy which is to put money in the pockets of workers with the earned income tax credit, raising the minimum wage, and creating family leave, and then we need to have a long-term strategy to make sure this country is competitive and we’re creating jobs everywhere in this country.

DIAZ-BALART: Thank you. Governor Inslee, how would you address income inequality?

INSLEE: Well, I’m a little bit surprised. I think plans are great, but I’m a governor. And we’ve got to realize the people who brought us the weekend, unions, need — are going to bring us a long overdue raise in America.

And I’m proud of standing up for unions. I’ve got a plan to reinvigorate collective bargaining so we can increase wages finally. I marched with the SEIU folks. It is not right that the CEO of McDonald’s makes 2,100 times more than the people slinging cash at McDonald’s.

And the next thing I’ll do is put people to work in the jobs of the present and the future. Look it, Donald Trump is simply wrong. He says wind turbines cause cancer. We know they cause jobs. And we know that we can put millions of people to work in the clean energy jobs of the future.

Carpenters, IBEW members, machinists, we’re doing it in my state today. And then we can do what America always does: lead the world and invent the future and put people to work. That’s what we’re going to do…

Rep. Ryan and Sen. Warren on whether manufacturing jobs can ever come back

DIAZ-BALART: So, Congressman Ryan, President Trump, and you just referred to him, promise of manufacturing jobs were all coming back to places like your home state of Ohio. Can you make that same promise?

RYAN: Yes, I believe you can, but, first, let’s say the president came, he said don’t sell your house to people in Youngstown, Ohio. And then his administration just in the last two years, we lost $4,000 — 4,000 jobs at a General Motors facility. That rippled throughout our community. General Motors got a tax cut. General Motors got a bailout. And then they have the audacity to move a new car that they’re going to produce to Mexico.

I’ve had family members that have to unbolt a machine from the factory floor, put it in a box, and ship it to China. My area where I come from in northeast Ohio, this issue we’re talking about here, it’s been going on 40 years. This is not a new phenomenon in the United States of America.

The bottom 60 percent haven’t seen a raise since 1980. Meanwhile, the top 1 percent control 90 percent of the wealth. We need an industrial policy saying we’re going to dominate building electric vehicles, there’s going to be 30 million made in the next 10 years. I want half of them made in the United States. I want to dominate the solar industry…

DIAZ-BALART: Thank you.

RYAN: … and manufacture those here in the United States.

DIAZ-BALART: Senator Warren, are they coming back? Are these jobs coming back?

WARREN: So we’ve had an industrial policy in the United States for decades now, and it’s basically been let giant corporations do whatever they want to do. Giant corporations have exactly one loyalty, and that is to profits. And if they can save a nickel by moving a job to Mexico or to Asia or to Canada, they’re going to do it.

So here’s what I propose for an industrial policy. Start with a place where there’s a real need. There’s going to be a worldwide need for green technology, ways to clean up the air, ways to clean up the water. And we can be the ones to provide that. We need to go tenfold in our research and development on green energy going forward.

And then we need to say any corporation can come and use that research. They can make all kinds of products from it, but they have to be manufactured right here in the United States of America.

And then we have to double down and sell it around the world. There’s a $23 trillion market coming for green products. We should be the leaders and the owners, and we should have that 1.2 million manufacturing jobs here in America.

DIAZ-BALART: Thank you.

WARREN: We can do this.

Candidates face off about their healthcare plans (with a show of hands)

HOLT: All right. We’re going to turn to the issue of health care right now and really try to understand where there may or may not be daylight between you. Many people watching at home have health insurance coverage through their employer. Who here would abolish their private health insurance in favor of a government-run plan? Just a show of hands, start off with.

All right, well, Senator Klobuchar, let me put the question to you. You’re one of the Democrats who wants to keep private insurance in addition to a government health care plan. Why is an incremental approach in your view better than a sweeping overhaul?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I think it’s a bold approach. It’s something that Barack Obama wanted to do when we were working on the Affordable Care Act. And that is a public option.

I am just simply concerned about kicking half of America off of their health insurance in four years, which is exactly what this bill says. So let me go on beyond that.

There is a much bigger issue in addition to that, and that is pharmaceuticals. The president literally went on TV, on Fox, and said that people’s heads would spin when they see how much he would bring down pharmaceutical prices. Instead, 2,500 drugs have gone up in double-digits since he came into office. Instead, he gave $100 billion in giveaways to the pharma companies.

For the rest of us, for the rest of America, that’s what we call at home all foam and no beer. We got nothing out of it.

And so my proposal is to do something about pharma, to take them on, to allow negotiation under Medicare, to bring in less expensive drugs from other countries. And pharma thinks they own Washington? Well, they don’t own me.

HOLT: Your time is up. Thank you.

Senator Warren, you signed on to Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for all plan. It would put essentially everybody on Medicare and then eliminate private plans that offer similar coverage. Is that the plan or path that you would pursue as president?

WARREN: So, yes. I’m with Bernie on Medicare for all. And let me tell you why.

I spent a big chunk of my life studying why families go broke. And one of the number-one reasons is the cost of health care, medical bills. And that’s not just for people who don’t have insurance. It’s for people who have insurance.

Look at the business model of an insurance company. It’s to bring in as many dollars as they can in premiums and to pay out as few dollars as possible for your health care. That leaves families with rising premiums, rising copays, and fighting with insurance companies to try to get the health care that their doctors say that they and their children need. Medicare for all solves that problem.

And I understand. There are a lot of politicians who say, oh, it’s just not possible, we just can’t do it, have a lot of political reasons for this. What they’re really telling you is they just won’t fight for it. Well, health care is a basic human right, and I will fight for basic human rights…

HOLT: Congressman O’Rourke, when you ran for Senate, you also praised a bill that would replace private insurance. This year, you’re saying you’re no longer sure. Can you explain why?

O’ROURKE: My goal is to ensure that every American is well enough to live to their full potential because they have health care. In Laredo, Texas, I met a young man, 27 years old, told me that he’d been to a doctor once in his life. And on that visit, he was told he had diabetes, he was told he had glaucoma, and he was told untreated — because he doesn’t have health care — he’ll be dead before the age of 40.

So getting to guaranteed, high-quality, universal health care as quickly and surely as possible has to be our goal. The ability to afford your prescriptions and go to a primary care provider, to be — the ability to see a mental health care provider. In Texas, the single largest provider of mental health care services is the county jail system today.

And health care also has to mean that every woman can make her own decisions about her own body and has access to the care that makes that possible.

Our plan says that if you’re uninsured, we enroll you in Medicare. If you’re insufficiently insured, you can’t afford your premiums, we enroll you in Medicare. But if you’re a member of a union that negotiated for a health care plan that you like because it works for you and your family, you’re able to keep it.

HOLT: Your time is up.

O’ROURKE: We preserve choice by making sure everybody has care.

HOLT: Your time is up, Congressman, but I do want to ask a follow-up on this. Just to be very clear — I’ll give you 10 seconds — would you replace private insurance?

O’ROURKE: No. I think the choice is fundamental to our ability to get everybody cared for…

DE BLASIO: Wait, wait, wait. Congressman O’Rourke, Congressman O’Rourke, private insurance is not working for tens of millions of Americans when you talk about the co-pays, the deductibles, the premiums, the out of pocket expenses. It’s not working. How can you defend a system that’s not working?

O’ROURKE: That’s right. So for those for whom it’s not working, they can choose Medicare. For the…

DE BLASIO: Congressman…

O’ROURKE: … who I listen to…

DE BLASIO: … you’ve got to start by acknowledging the system is not working for people.

O’ROURKE: … they’re able to keep them.

DE BLASIO: Why are you defending private insurance to begin with?

DELANEY: … 100 million Americans say they like their private health insurance, by the way. It should be noted that 100 million Americans — I mean, I think we should be the party that keeps what’s working and fixes what’s broken.

I mean, doesn’t that make sense? I mean, we should give everyone in this country health care as a basic human right for free, full stop. But we should also give them the option to buy private insurance. Why do we have to stand for taking away something from people?

And also it’s bad policy. If you go to every hospital in this country and you ask them one question, which is how would it have been for you last year if every one of your bills were paid at the Medicare rate? Every single hospital administrator said they would close.

And the Medicare for all bill requires payments to stay at current Medicare rates. So to some extent, we’re supporting a bill that will have every hospital closing. I mean, my dad was a union electrician, right?

I actually grew up in a working-class family. He loved the health care that the IBEW gave him. And I just always think about my dad in anything I would do from a policy perspective. He’d look at me and he’d say, good job, John, for getting health care for every American. But why are you taking my health care away?

HOLT: I’ve let this — I’ve let this play out a little bit because I’m fascinated to hear the daylight between you. Congresswoman Gabbard, why don’t you weigh in here?

GABBARD: I think we’re talking about this in the wrong way. You’re talking about one bill over another bill. Really, what we’re talking about is our objective, making sure that every single sick American in this country is able to get the health care that they need.

I believe Medicare for all is the way to do that. I also think that employers will recognize how much money will be saved by supporting a Medicare for all program, a program that will reduce the administrative costs, reduce the bureaucratic costs, and make sure that everyone gets that quality health care that they need.

I also think that…

HOLT: Senator…

GABBARD: … if you — if you look at other countries in the world who have universal health care, every one of them has some form of a role of private insurance, so I think that’s what we’ve got to look at, taking the best of these ideas, but making sure unequivocally that no sick American goes without getting the care that they need, regardless of how much or little money they have in their pocket.

HOLT: Congresswoman, Congresswoman, thanks.

HOLT: Let me turn to Senator Booker on this. Senator Booker, explain to me where you are. This is hugely important to people. So tell us where you are.

BOOKER: I absolutely will. First of all, we’re talking about this as a health care issue, but in communities like mine, low-income communities, it’s an education issue, because kids who don’t have health care are not going to succeed in school. It is an issue for jobs and employment, because people who do not have good health care do not succeed at work. It’s even a retirement issue, because in my community, African-Americans have a lower life expectancy because of poorer health care.

And so where I stand is very clear. Health care — it’s not just a human right, it should be an American right. And I believe the best way to get there is Medicare for all.

But I have an urgency about this. When I am president of the United States, I’m not going to wait. We have to do the things immediately that are going to provide better care. And on this debate, I’m sorry. There are too many people profiteering off of the pain of people in America, from pharmaceutical companies to insurers.

Literally, the overhead for insurance that they charge is 15 percent, while Medicare’s overhead is only at 2 percent. We can do this better. And every single day, I will be fighting to give people more access and more affordable costs until we get to my goal…

HOLT: Your time is up, Senator.

BOOKER: … which is every American having health care.

HOLT: Time is up, Senator. I want to…

HOLT: I want to move back, if I can, to Congresswoman Gabbard…

WARREN: … point, though, and that is that the insurance companies last year alone sucked $23 billion in profits out of the health care system, $23 billion. And that doesn’t count the money that was paid to executives, the money that was spent lobbying Washington.

We have a giant industry that wants our health care system to stay the way it is, because it’s not working for families, but it’s sure as heck working for them.

WARREN: It’s time for us to make families come first.

Sen. Klobuchar hits back at Gov. Inslee over abortion comments

INSLEE: It should not be an option in the United States of America for any insurance company to deny a woman coverage for their exercise of their right of choice.

And I am the only candidate here who has passed a law protecting a woman’s right of reproductive health in health insurance, and I’m the only candidate who has passed a public option. And I respect everybody’s goals and plans here, but we do have one candidate that’s actually advanced the ball. And we’ve got to have access for everyone. I’ve done it as a public option.

HOLT: Your time…

HOLT: Senator Klobuchar, I want to get you…

(UNKNOWN): That’s a false claim.

HOLT: I am fascinated by this. Senator — Senator Klobuchar?

KLOBUCHAR: I just want to say, there’s three women up here that have fought pretty hard for a woman’s right to choose. I’ll start with that.

And then I just want to make very clear, I think we share the goal of universal health care. And the idea I put out there, the public option, which the governor was just talking about, this idea is that you use Medicare or Medicaid without any insurance companies involved, you can do it either way. And the estimates are 13 million people would see a reduction in their premiums, 12 more million people would get covered.

So I think it is a beginning and the way you start and the way you move to universal health care.

Castro and Sen. Warren also speak out on abortion

HOLT: Secretary Castro, this one is for you. All of you on stage support a woman’s right to an abortion. You all support some version of a government health care option. Would your plan cover abortion, Mr. Secretary?

CASTRO: Yes, it would. I don’t believe only in reproductive freedom, I believe in reproductive justice.

And, you know, what that means is that just because a woman — or let’s also not forget someone in the trans community, a trans female, is poor, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the right to exercise that right to choose. And so I absolutely would cover the right to have an abortion.

More than that, everybody in this crowd and watching at home knows that in our country today, a person’s right to choose is under assault in places like Missouri, in Alabama, in Georgia. I would appoint judges to the federal bench that understand the precedent of Roe v. Wade and will respect it…

… and in addition to that, make sure that we fight hard as we transition our health care system to one where everybody can get and exercise that right.

HOLT: Senator Warren, would you put limits on — any limits on abortion?

WARREN: I would make certain that every woman has access to the full range of reproductive health care services, and that includes birth control, it includes abortion, it includes everything for a woman.

And I want to add on that. It’s not enough for us to expect the courts to protect us. Forty-seven years ago, Roe v. Wade was decided, and we’ve all looked to the courts all that time, as state after state has undermined Roe, has put in exceptions, has come right up to the edge of taking away protections…

HOLT: Your time is up, Senator.

WARREN: We now have an America where most people support Roe v. Wade. We need to make that a federal law.

Sen. Booker and O’Rourke on the opioid crisis

DIAZ-BALART: Lester, thank you. Senator Booker, I want to kind of come back on a discussion we were having about health and the opioid crisis. You represent a state where 14 of the 20 largest pharmaceutical companies are based. Should pharmaceutical companies that manufacture these drugs be held criminally liable for what they do?

BOOKER: They should absolutely be held criminally liable, because they are liable and responsible. This is one of the reasons why well before I was running for president I said I would not take contributions from pharma companies, not take contributions from corporate PACs, or pharma executives, because they are part of this problem.

And this opioid addiction in our country, we in cities like mine have been seeing how we’ve tried to arrest our way out of addiction for too long. It is time that we have a national urgency to deal with this problem and make the solutions that are working to actually be the law of our land and make the pharmaceutical companies that are responsible help to pay for that.

DIAZ-BALART: Congressman O’Rourke, how would you deal with it?

O’ROURKE: Tonight in this country, you have 2.3 million of our fellow Americans behind bars. It’s the largest prison population on the face of the planet. Many are there for nonviolent drug crimes, including possession of marijuana, at a time that more than half the states have legalized it or decriminalized it.

And yet despite what Purdue Pharma has done, their connection to the opioid crisis and the overdose deaths that we’re seeing throughout this country, they’ve been able to act with complete impunity and pay no consequences, not a single night in jail.

Unless there’s accountability and justice, this crisis will continue. In my administration, we will hold them to account. We will make sure that they pay a price, and we will help those who’ve been victims of this malfeasance in this country get them treatment and long-term care.

HOLT: I know immigration is on a lot of your minds here.

And I want to talk about it. We’re going to talk about it in a moment. We need to take a break. We’ll be back with more from Miami after this.

Castro and other candidates on how they would address undocumented immigrants

DIAZ-BALART: We want to turn to an issue that has been in the news, especially this week. There are undocumented children being held alone in detention, even as close as Homestead, Florida, right here, less than 30 miles from where we are tonight. Fathers and mothers and children are dying while trying to enter the United States of America.

We saw that image today that broke our hearts, and they had names. Oscar Martinez and his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria, died trying to cross the river to ask for asylum in this country. Last month, more than 130,000 migrants were apprehended at the southern border.

Secretary Castro, if you were president today, hoy, what would you specifically do?

CASTRO: Thank you very much, Jose. I’m very proud that in April I became the first candidate to put forward a comprehensive immigration plan. And we saw those images…

… watching that image of Oscar and his daughter, Valeria, is heartbreaking. It should also piss us all off.

If I were president today — and it should spur us to action. If I were president today, I would sign an executive order that would get rid of Trump’s zero-tolerance policy, the remain in Mexico policy, and the metering policy — this metering policy is basically what prompted Oscar and Valeria to make that risky swim across the river. They had been playing games with people who are coming and trying to seek asylum at our ports of entry. Oscar and Valeria went to a port of entry, and then they were denied the ability to make an asylum claim, so they got frustrated and they tried to cross the river, and they died because of that.

DIAZ-BALART: On day one. Sorry, I’m just going to ask…

CASTRO: On day one, I would do that executive order that would address metering. And then I would follow that up in my first 100 days with immigration reform that would honor asylum claims, that would put undocumented immigrants, as long as they haven’t committed a serious crime, on a pathway to citizenship.

And then we’d get to the root cause of the issue, which is we need a Marshall Plan for Honduras and Guatemala and El Salvador so that people can find safety and opportunity at home instead of coming to the United States to seek it.

DIAZ-BALART: Senator Booker, what would you do on day one? And this is a situation that the next president will inherit.

DIAZ-BALART: Senator Booker, what would you do on day one? And this is a situation that the next president will inherit.

BOOKER: Yes. (SPEAKING IN SPANISH) On day one, I will make sure that, number one, we end the ICE policies and the Customs and Border Policies that are violating the human rights. When people come to this country, they do not leave their human rights at the border.

Number two…I will make sure that we reinstate DACA, that we reinstate pathways to citizenship for DACA recipients, and to make sure that people that are here on temporary protective status can stay and remain here.

And then, finally, we need to make sure that we address the issues that made Oscar and Valeria come in the first place, by making major investments in the Northern Triangle, not like this president is doing, by ripping away the resources we need to actually solve this problem. We cannot surrender our values and think that we’re going to get border security. We actually will lose security and our values. We must fight for both.

CASTRO: … if I might — if I might, very briefly, and this is an important point. You know, my plan — and I’m glad to see that Senator Booker, Senator Warren, and Governor Inslee agree with me on this. My plan also includes getting rid of Section 1325 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, to go back to the way we used to treat this when somebody comes across the border, not to criminalize desperation, to treat that as a civil violation.

And here’s why it’s important. We see all of this horrendous family separation. They use that law, Section 1325, to justify under the law separating little children from their families.

(UNKNOWN): Thank you.

(UNKNOWN): Jose…

CASTRO: And so I want to challenge every single candidate on this stage to support the repeal of Section 1325.

DIAZ-BALART: Thirty seconds.

BOOKER: As my friend here said, I agree with him on that issue, but folks should understand that the separation of children from families doesn’t just go on at our border. It happens in our communities, as ICE are ripping away parents from their American children, spouses and the like, and are creating fear in cities all across this country where parents are afraid to even drop their kids off to school or go to work. We must end those policies, as well.

DE BLASIO: We have to change the discussion about in this country…


DE BLASIO: … because look at the bottom line here. Those tragic — that tragic photo of those — that parent, that child — and I’m saying this as a father. Every American should feel that in their heart, every American should say that is not America, those are not our values.

But we have to get under the skin of why we have this crisis in our system, because we’re not being honest about the division that’s been fomented in this country. The way that American citizens have been told that immigrants somehow created their misery and their pain and their challenges, for all the American citizens out there who feel you’re falling behind or feel the American dream is not working for you, the immigrants didn’t do that to you.

The big corporations did that to you. The 1 percent did that to you. We need to be the party of working people, and that includes a party of immigrants. But first we have to tell working people in America who are hurting that we’re going to be on their side every single time against those big corporations who created this mess to begin with. And remind people we’re all in this together.

If we don’t change that debate, that politics that’s holding us back, we won’t get all these reforms people are talking about. That’s what we need to do as Democrats.

DIAZ-BALART: If I could, I’m sorry. (SPEAKING IN SPANISH) What would you do, Congressman, day one at the White House??

O’ROURKE: (SPEAKING IN SPANISH) We would not turn back Valeria and her father, Oscar. We would accept them into this country and follow our own asylum laws. We would not build walls. We would not put kids in cages. In fact, we would spare no expense to reunite the families that have been separated already…

O’ROURKE: … and we would not criminally prosecute any family who is fleeing violence and persecution…

CASTRO: … repeal of Section 1325.

O’ROURKE: We would make sure…

DIAZ-BALART: Secretary, let him finish. And I will give you…

DIAZ-BALART: But let him finish. Let him finish.

O’ROURKE: We would not detain any family fleeing violence, in fact, fleeing the deadliest countries on the face of the planet today. We would implement a family case management program so they could be cared for in the community at a fraction of the cost. And then we would rewrite our immigration laws in our own image, free Dreamers forever from any fear of deportation by making them U.S. citizens here in this country, invest in solutions in Central America, work with regional stakeholders so there’s no reason to make that 2,000 mile journey to this country.

DIAZ-BALART: Thank you.

Secretary, I’ll give you 30 seconds.

CASTRO: Let’s be very clear. The reason that they’re separating these little children from their families is that they’re using Section 1325 of that act which criminalizes coming across the border to incarcerate the parents and then separate them. Some of us on this stage have called to end that section, to terminate it. Some, like Congressman O’Rourke, have not. And I want to challenge all of the candidate to do that.

CASTRO: I just think it’s a mistake, Beto. I think it’s a mistake. And I think that — that if you truly want to change the system, that we’ve got to repeal that section. If not…

DIAZ-BALART: Thank you.

CASTRO: … then it might as well be the same policy.

O’ROURKE: Let me respond to this very briefly. As a member of a Congress, I helped to introduce legislation that would ensure that we don’t criminalize those who are seeking asylum and refuge in this country.

CASTRO: I’m not talking about — I’m not talking about the ones that are seeking asylum.

O’ROURKE: If you’re fleeing — if you’re fleeing desperation, then I want to make sure…

CASTRO: I’m talking about — I’m talking about everybody else.

O’ROURKE: … I want to make sure you are treated with respect.

CASTRO: I’m still talking about everybody else.

O’ROURKE: But you’re looking at just one small part of this. I’m talking about a comprehensive rewrite of our immigration laws.

CASTRO: That’s not true.

O’ROURKE: And if you do that, I don’t think it’s asking too much for people to follow our laws when they come to this country.

CASTRO: That’s actually not true. I’m talking about millions of folks — a lot of folks that are coming are not seeking asylum. A lot of them are undocumented immigrants, right? And you said recently that the reason you didn’t want to repeal Section 1325 was because you were concerned about human trafficking and drug trafficking.

But let me tell you what: Section 18, title 18 of the U.S. code, title 21 and title 22, already cover human trafficking.

CASTRO: I think that you should do your homework on this issue. If you did your homework on this issue, you would know that we should repeal this section.

DIAZ-BALART: This is an issue that we should and could be talking about for a long time, and we will for a long time.

DELANEY: Can we talk about the conditions about why people are coming here?

DIAZ-BALART: Let’s — Lester — Lester — I’m sorry, Savannah — I know, it’s just — we could go on.

DELANEY: But rather than talk about specific provisions, we really have to talk about why these people are coming to our country…

GUTHRIE: You’ll get your chance.

DELANEY: … and what we’re going to do to actually make a difference in these countries.

GUTHRIE: Congressman, you’ll get your chance. Let’s continue the discussion. Senator Klobuchar…


GUTHRIE: Let’s talk about what Secretary Castro just said. He wants to no longer have it be a crime to illegally cross the border. Do you support that? Do you think it should be a civil offense only? And if so, do you worry about potentially incentivizing people to come here?

KLOBUCHAR: Immigrants, they do not diminish America. They are America. And I am happy to look at his proposal. But I do think you want to make sure that you have provisions in place that allow you to go after traffickers and allow you to go after people who are violating the law.

What I really think we need to step back and talk about is the economic imperative here. And that is that 70 of our Fortune 500 companies are headed by people that came from other countries. Twenty-five percent of our U.S. Nobel laureates were born in other countries.

We have a situation right now where we need workers in our fields and in our factories. We need them to start small businesses. We need their ideas.

And this president has literally gone backwards at a time when our economy needs immigrants. And so my proposal is to look at that 2013 bill that passed the Senate with Republican support, to upgrade that bill, to make it as good as possible and get it done. It brings the doubt down by $158 billion.

GUTHRIE: Senator…

KLOBUCHAR: It gives a path for citizenship for citizen — for people who can become citizens. And it will be so much better for our economy in America.

GUTHRIE: Senator, that’s time. Thank you.

Congressman Ryan, same question. Should it be a crime to illegally cross the border? Or should it be a civil offense only?

RYAN: Well, I agree with Secretary Castro. I think there are other provisions in the law that will allow you to prosecute people for coming over here if they’re dealing drugs and other things. That’s already established in the law. So there’s no need to repeat it.

And I think it’s abhorrent — we’re talking about this father who got killed with his daughter, and the issues here — the way these kids are being treated. If you go to Guantanamo Bay, there are terrorists that are held that get better health care than those kids that have tried to cross the border in the United States. That needs to stop.

And I think the president should immediately ask doctors and nurses to go immediately down to the border and start taking care of these kids. What kind of country are we running here where we have a president of the United States who’s so focused on hate and fear and division? And what has happened now, the end result is now we’ve got kids literally laying in their own snot, with three-week-old diapers that haven’t been changed.

We’ve got to tell this president that is not a sign of strength, Mr. President. That is a sign of weakness.

GUTHRIE: Senator Booker — a lot of people — they asked the question, if you’re president on day one, what will you do with the fact that you will have families here? There’s been a lot of talk about what you’ll do in the first 100 days about legislation. What will you actually do with these families? How will you care for them? Will they be detained or will they not be?

BOOKER: Well, this is a related and brief point, because what we’re talking — what Secretary Castro and I are talking about is that we have the power to better deal with this problem through the civil process than the criminal process.

I have been to some of the largest private prisons, which are repugnant to me that people are profiting off incarceration, and their immigration lockups. Our country has made so many mistakes by criminalizing things, whether it’s immigration, whether it’s mental illness, whether it’s addiction. We know that this is not the way to deal with problems. There is a humane way that affirms human rights and human dignity and actually solves this problem.

Donald Trump isn’t solving this problem. We’ve seen under his leadership a surge at our border. We solve this problem by making investments in the Northern Triangle to stop the reasons why people are being driven here in the first place, and we make sure we use our resources to provide health care to affirm the values and human dignity of the people that come here, because we cannot sacrifice our values, our ideals as a nation for border security. We can have both by doing this the right way.

GUTHRIE: All right, Senator, thank you. Let me go to Governor Inslee on this. What would you do on day one? Same question I just asked Cory Booker. I have yet to hear an answer from anyone on this stage.

INSLEE: There is no reason…

GUTHRIE: What will you do with the families that will be here?

INSLEE: There is no reason for the detention and separation of these children. They should be released, pending their hearings, and they should have a hearing and the law should be followed. That’s what should happen.

And we should do what we’re doing in Washington state. I’m proud that we’ve passed a law that prevents local law enforcement from being turned into mini-ICE agents.

I’m proud to have been the first governor to stand up against Donald Trump’s heinous Muslim ban. I’m proud to be a person who’s not only talked about Dreamers, but being one of the first to make sure that they get a college education, so that they can realize their dreams. These are some of the most inspirational people in our state.

And I’ll leave you with this thought, if you want to know what I think. Donald Trump the other day tried to threaten me — he thought it was a threat — to tell me that he would send refugees into Washington state if we passed a law that I passed. And I told him that’s not a threat at all. We welcome refugees into our state. We recognize diversity as a strength. This is how we’ve built America. That tradition is going to continue if I’m president of the United States.

HOLT: We’re going to switch to another topic now. We’ve got a lot to get to. Let’s…

DELANEY: My grandfather was actually separated from his family when he came to this country.

Candidates on Iran and whether they would renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal

HOLT: We’re going to — we’re going to talk about Iran right now, because we’re working against the clock. Tankers have been attacked. A U.S. drone has been shot down. There have been disturbing threats issued by both the U.S. and Iranian leadership.

I’d like if you can, just for a moment, to put aside how you think we may have gotten here, but what I want to know is, how do you dial it back? So a show of hands. Who as president would sign on to the 2015 nuclear deal as it was originally negotiated? That’s every — well, Senator Booker, why not?

BOOKER: May I address that? First and foremost, it was a mistake to pull out of that deal. And one of the reasons why we’re seeing this hostility now is because Donald Trump is marching us to a far more dangerous situation. Literally, he took us out of a deal that gave us transparency into their nuclear program and pushed back a nuclear breakout 10, 20 years. And now we see Iran threatening to go further and who are pulled — being pulled further and further into this crisis.

We need to renegotiate and get back into a deal, but I’m not going to have a primary platform to say unilaterally I’m going to rejoin that deal. Because when I’m president of the United States, I’m going to do the best I can to secure this country and that region and make sure that if I have an opportunity to leverage a better deal, I’m going to do it.

HOLT: All right, Senator Klobuchar, I’d like to ask you to answer that question, because you’ve said — you’ve said you would negotiate yourself back into the Iranian agreement. Can you argue that that nuclear pact as it was ratified was a good deal?

(UNKNOWN): Yes, it was.

KLOBUCHAR: It was imperfect, but it was a good deal for that moment. I would have worked to get longer sunset periods, and that’s something we could negotiate, to get back in the deal. But the point is, Donald Trump told us when he got out of it that he was going to give us a better deal. Those were his words. And now we are a month away from the Iranians, who claim now that they’re going blow the caps on enriching uranium. And the Iranians have told us this. And so that’s where we are now. He has made us less safe than we were when he became president.

So what I would do is negotiate us back into that agreement, is stand with our allies, and not give unlimited leverage to China and Russia, which is what he has done. And then, finally, I would make sure that if there is any possibility of a conflict — and we’re having this debate in Congress right now — that he comes to Congress for an authorization of military force. I would do that. And this president is literally every single day 10 minutes away from going to war, one tweet away from going to war. And I don’t think we should conduct…

HOLT: All right, your time is up.

KLOBUCHAR: … foreign policy in our bathrobe at 5:00 in the morning, which is what he does.

HOLT: Congresswoman Gabbard, Congresswoman Gabbard, you’ve said you would sign back on to the 2015 deal. Would you — would you insist, though, that it address Iran’s support for Hezbollah?

GABBARD: Let’s deal with the situation where we are, where this president and his chickenhawk cabinet have led us to the brink of war with Iran.

I served in the war in Iraq at the height of the war in 2005, a war that took over 4,000 of my brothers and sisters in uniforms’ lives. The American people need to understand that this war with Iran would be far more devastating, far more costly than anything that we ever saw in Iraq. It would take many more lives. It would exacerbate the refugee crisis.

And it wouldn’t be just contained within Iran. This would turn into a regional war. This is why it’s so important that every one of us, every single American, stand up and say no war with Iran. We need to get back into the Iran nuclear agreement, and we need to negotiate how we can improve it.

It was an imperfect deal. There are issues, like their missile development, that needs to be addressed. We can do both simultaneously to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and preventing us from going to war.

HOLT: Your time is up. And this is a very quick follow-up. But what would your red line be that would — for military action against Iran?

GABBARD: Look, obviously, if there was an attack against the American — our troops, then there would have to be a response. But my point is — and it’s important for us to recognize this — is Donald Trump and his cabinet, Mike Pompeo, John Bolton, and others — are creating a situation that just a spark would light off a war with Iran, which is incredibly dangerous. That’s why we need to de-escalate tensions. Trump needs to get back into the Iran nuclear deal and swallow his pride, put the American people first.

DE BLASIO: Hey, but wait a minute…

GUTHRIE: … we will have much more — Mayor De Blasio, we’ll have more. The commercial is coming, when we’ll continue our questioning next with Chuck Todd, Rachel Maddow. Stick around. We’ll have a lot more with some very anxious candidates, just ahead.

NBC encounters some technical difficulties

HOLT: And welcome back, everyone, to the first Democratic presidential debate from the Arsht Center in Miami.

GUTHRIE: And as we continue the questioning, time to get more members of our team in the mix.

DIAZ-BALART: So right now, let’s turn it over to Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow. Take it away.

MADDOW: All right. We’re going to start by recapping the rules. Twenty candidates qualified for this first Democratic debate. We’re going to hear from 10 tonight, 10 more tomorrow. The breakdown for each night was selected at random. Now, the candidates will have 60 seconds to answer, 30 seconds for a follow-up if necessary, and we will be ruthless, if necessary.

TODD: We can do that. By the way, hi, Rachel.

MADDOW: Hi, Chuck.

TODD: How are you doing?


TODD: And we’ve got a lot of ground to cover. We’re going to be talking about guns and climate here up top. A whole lot more in this hour. Obviously, because of the size of the field, not every person will be able to weigh in on everything, but over the course of this next hour, we will hear from everyone, I promise, everybody.

TODD: And to begin with, we’re going to go with guns, and, Senator Warren, I want to start with you. We are less than 50 miles from Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed in a school shooting last year and where there has been significant activism on gun violence ever since. Many of you are calling for a restoration of an assault weapons ban, but even if implemented, there will still be hundreds of millions of guns in this country. Should there be a role for the federal government?

(UNKNOWN): Their mikes are on.

TODD: Everybody’s mikes are on. I think we have a — I heard that, too. That’s OK. I think we had a little mike issue in the back.

MADDOW: Control room, we’ve got.

TODD: We had the — I think we heard — yeah, we have the audience audio. All right.

So the question is simply this. We’re from — I apologize you guys didn’t get to hear this, the first part of the question. Obviously, we’re not far from Parkland, Florida. Gun activism has become a big part of high school life up there in Broward County.

Many of you are calling for tighter gun restrictions. Some of you are calling for the restoration of the assault weapons ban. But even if it’s put in place, there are still going to be perhaps hundreds of millions of guns still on the streets. Is there a role for the federal government in order to — to play in order to get these guns off the streets?

MADDOW: What’s happening?

TODD: We are hearing our colleague’s audio. If the control room could turn off the mikes…

TODD: Yeah, if the control room could turn off the mikes of our previous moderators, we will…

MADDOW: You know, we’ve prepared for everything.

TODD: Guess what, guys? We are going to take a quick break. We’re going to get this technical situation fixed. We will be right back.

TODD: We believe we have the technical difficulties fixed.

MADDOW: Never say that.

TODD: Never say never. But we will march forward here and I will lean forward here a little bit.

Candidates on gun control

Senator Warren, we’re going to get to the gun question here. In Parkland, Florida, it’s just north of here in Broward County. As you know, it has created a lot of teenage activism on the gun issue. It has inspired a lot of you to come out with more robust plans to deal with guns, including assault weapons ban, but even if you’re able to implement that, what do you do about the hundreds of millions of guns already out there? And does the federal government have to play a role in dealing with it?

WARREN: So, in this period of time that I have been running for president, I’ve had more than 100 town halls. I’ve taken more than 2,000 unfiltered questions. And the single hardest questions I’ve gotten, I got one from a little boy and I got one from a little girl, and that is to say, when you’re president, how are you going to keep us safe?

That’s our responsibility as adults. Seven children will die today from gun violence, children and teenagers. And they won’t just die in mass shootings. They’ll die on sidewalks, they’ll die in playgrounds, they’ll die in people’s backyards.

Gun violence is a national health emergency in this country. And we need to treat it like that.

So what can we do? We can do the things that are sensible. We can do the universal background checks. We can ban the weapons of war. But we can also double down on the research and find out what really works, where it is that we can make the differences at the margins that will keep our children safe. We need to treat this like the virus that’s killing our children.

TODD: OK, thank you, Senator Warren. You didn’t address — do you think the federal government needs to go and figure out a way to get the guns that are already out there?

WARREN: What I think we need to do is we need to treat it like a serious research problem, which we have not done. You know, guns in the hands of a collector who’s had them for decades, who’s never fired them, who takes safety seriously, that’s very different from guns that are sold and turned over quickly.

We can’t treat this as an across-the-board problem. We have to treat it like a public health emergency. That means bring data to bear and it means make real change in this country, whether it’s politically popular or not.

TODD: Thank you, Senator. Senator Booker, you have a program…

WARREN: We need to fight for our children.

TODD: Senator Booker, you have a federal government buyback program in your plan. How is that going to work?

BOOKER: Well, first of all, I want to say, my colleague and I both have been hearing this on the campaign trail. But what’s even worse is I hear gunshots in my neighborhood. I think I’m the only one — I hope I’m the only one on this panel here that had seven people shot in their neighborhood just last week. Someone I knew, Shahad Smith, was killed with an assault rifle at the top of my block last year.

For millions of Americans, this is not a policy issue. This is an urgency. And for those that have not been directly affected, they’re tired of living in country where their kids go to school to learn about reading, writing, and arithmetic, and how to deal with an active shooter in their school.

This is something that I’m tired of. And I’m tired of hearing people all, they have to offer is thoughts and prayers.

In my faith, people say faith without works is dead. So we will find a way. But the reason we have a problem right now is we’ve let the corporate gun lobby frame this debate. It is time that we have bold actions and a bold agenda. I will get that done as president of the United States because this is not about policy. This is personal.

TODD: Thank you, Senator Booker.

MADDOW: Secretary Castro, I’d like to talk to you about something that Senator Booker just mentioned there, the idea of active shooter drills in schools, as school shootings seem like an almost everyday or every week occurrence now. They don’t make a complete news cycle anymore, no matter the death toll.

As parents are so afraid as their kids go off to school that their kids will be caught up in something like this, next to nothing has changed in federal law that might affect the prevalence of school shootings. Is this a problem that is going to continue to get worse over our lifetimes? Or is there something that you would do as president that you really think would turn it around?

CASTRO: You know, Rachel, I am the dad of a 10-year-old girl, Carina, who’s here tonight. And the worst thing is knowing that your child might be worried about what could happen at school, a place that’s supposed to be safe.

The answer to your question is no. We don’t have to accept that. And I believe that, on January 20, 2021, at 12:01 p.m., we’re going to have a Democratic president, a Democratic House, and a Democratic Senate.

And the activists of Parkland, folks from Moms Demand who have risen up across the United States and inspired so many people…

… you know, we may not have seen yet legislative action, but we’re getting closer. The House took a vote. In the Senate, the question often is, if the decision is between 60 votes, a filibuster, or passing commonsense gun reform, I’m going to choose commonsense gun reform. So I believe that we’re going to be able to get that done in 2021.

TODD: Secretary Castro, thank you.

RYAN: Rachel, I have something to add to this briefly, because…

MADDOW: We’ll give you — it’ll be 30 seconds for a follow-up on that question — on that answer from Secretary Castro. Congressman Ryan?

RYAN: You’re talking about in the schools. These kids are traumatized. I support all the gun reforms here. We need to start dealing with the trauma that our kids have. We need trauma-based care in every school. We need social and emotional learning in every school.

Ninety percent of the shooters who do school shootings come from the school they’re in, and 73 percent of them feel shamed, traumatized, or bullied. We need to make sure that these kids feel connected to the school. That means a mental health counselor in every single school in the United States. We need to start playing offense. If our kids are so traumatized that they’re getting a gun and going into our schools, we’re doing something wrong, too, and we need reform around trauma-based care.

MADDOW: Thank you, Congressman Ryan.

TODD: Congressman O’Rourke, you’re a Texan who’s campaigned — you campaigned all over the state in 2018 in the most conservative parts there. What do you tell a gun owner who may agree with you on everything else, OK, but says, you know what, the Democrats, if I vote for them in there, they’re going to take my gun away, and even though I agree with you on all these other issues — how do you have that conversation?

O’ROURKE: Here’s how we have that conversation in Texas. I shared with them what I learned from those students who survived the Santa Fe high school shooting, a young student named Bree. Her friend, Marcel, who survived another shooting, the mother of a victim who lost her life, Rhonda Hart, they talked about universal background checks, where you close every loophole. We know that they save lives.

We talked about ending the sales of assault weapons into our communities. Those weapons of war were designed to kill people as effectively and as efficiently as possible. They should belong on the battlefield and not in our communities.

Red flag laws, so if someone poses a danger to themselves or to someone else, they’re stopped before it’s too late. And what I found in each one of those 254 counties is that Democrats and independents and Republicans, gun-owners and non-gun-owners alike, agreed.

But this effort must be led by the young people that you referenced at the beginning of this issue. Those students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas led the charge here in Florida, and they’ve been able to change those laws. They’re making our democracy work, ensuring that our values and our interests and our priorities are reflected in the laws that we pass.

TODD: Thank you, Congressman O’Rourke.

Hang on. Let me give 30 seconds, Senator Klobuchar, the iron range. I’m curious. Gun confiscation, right? If the government is buying back, how do you not have that conversation?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, that’s not confiscation. You could give them the offer to buy back their gun.

But I’ll say this. I look at these proposals and I say, does this hurt my Uncle Dick and his deer stand, coming from a proud hunting and fishing state? These proposals don’t do that.

When I was a prosecutor, I supported the assault weapons ban. When I was in the Senate, I saw those moms from Sandy Hook come and try to advocate for change, and we all failed. And then now these Parkland kids from Florida, they started literally a national shift.

You know why? It’s just like with gay marriage. When kids talked to their parents and their grandparents, they say I don’t understand why we can’t put these sensible things in place, they listen. And if we get bested by a bunch of 17-year-olds…

TODD: All right, Senator, thank you.

KLOBUCHAR: … it’s the best thing that ever happened. We need to get…

TODD: Senator, thank you. Senator, thank you.

MADDOW: Senator Booker, let me go to you on another matter actually.

TODD: We’ve got to…

Candidates on whether they could get their Supreme Court nominees confirmed

MADDOW: Senator Mitch McConnell says that his most consequential achievement as Senate majority leader was preventing President Obama from filling a Supreme Court seat. Having served with Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, do you believe they would confirm your court nominees?

BOOKER: I’m going to use 20 of my seconds just to say there’s one thing we don’t all agree with when it comes to guns, and I think it’s common sense, and over 70 percent of Americans agree with me. If you need a license to drive a car, you should need a license to buy and own a firearm.

And not everybody in this field agrees with that. But in states like Connecticut that did that, they saw 40 percent drops in gun violence and 15 percent drops in suicides. We need to start having bold agendas on guns.

When it comes to the Supreme Court, very clearly, we — I agree with my friend, Secretary Castro. We are going to get to 50 votes in the Senate. This is a team sport. Whoever is our nominee needs to campaign in places like South Carolina, because we can elect Jamie Harrison. They need to campaign in places like Iowa, because we can win a Senate seat there.

This is about getting us back to having 50 votes in the Senate and more so that we cannot only balance the Supreme Court, but start to pass an aggressive agenda that, frankly, isn’t so aggressive, because most of America agrees with the policy objectives of our party.

MADDOW: Mayor De Blasio…

DELANEY: Rachel, we have to actually…

MADDOW: Congressman Delaney, you’ll have some time in a moment on this issue.

DELANEY: This issue is related…

MADDOW: Congressman Delaney, I’ll give you some time in a moment. Mayor De Blasio, as an executive in the largest city in this country, you are used to saying what you want to have happen and having it happen. If you nominate a Supreme Court nominee as president of the United States and Mitch McConnell is still Senate majority leader, what makes you believe that he would allow you to make a nominee?

DE BLASIO: Rachel, I am chief executive of the nation’s largest city, and I also wanted to just say something quick on the gun issue and come to your question.

Look, I run the largest police force in America, too, and if we’re going to stop these shootings, we want to get these guns off the street, we have to have a very different relationship between our police and our community.

I also want to say there’s something that sets me apart from all my colleagues running in this race, and that is, for the last 21 years, I have been raising a black son in America. And I have had to have very, very serious talks with my son, Dante, about how to protect himself on the streets of our city and all over this country, including how to deal with the fact that he has to take special caution because there have been too many tragedies between our young men and our police, too, as we saw recently in Indiana.

So we need to have a different conversation in this country about guns, but also a different conversation about policing that brings policing community together. We’ve done that in New York City and we’ve driven down crime while we’ve done it.

But to your question about Mitch McConnell, there is a political solution that we have to come to grips with. If the Democratic Party would stop acting like the party of the elites and be the party of working people again, and go into states, including red states, to convince people we’re on their side, we can put pressure on their senators to actually have to vote for the nominees that are put forward…

MADDOW: That’s time.

Sen. Warren and others on how they would deal with Mitch McConnell

TODD: Senator Warren — I’m going to get you — I will get you 30 seconds, I promise. Let me get — let me get this question. We’re trying. I know you guys — we’ve got other issues we’re trying to get to, including a big one coming up in a minute. But, Senator Warren, I want to continue on the Mitch McConnell thing, because you have a lot of ambitious plans.


TODD: You have a plan for that. OK. We talked about the Supreme Court. Do you have a plan to deal with Mitch McConnell if you don’t beat him in the Senate, if he’s still sitting there as the Senate majority leader? It’s very plausible you be elected president with a Republican Senate. Do you have a plan to deal with Mitch McConnell?


We are democracy. And the way a democracy is supposed to work is the will of the people matters. Now, we have for far too long have had a Congress in Washington that has just completely dismissed what people care about across this country.

They have made this country work much better than for those who can make giant contributions, made it work better for those who hire armies of lobbyists and lawyers, and not made it work for the people.

Well, here’s how I see this happening. Number one, sure, I want to see us get a Democratic majority in the Senate. But short of a Democratic majority in the Senate, you better understand the fight still goes on. It starts in the White House, and it means that everybody we energize in 2020 stays on the frontlines come January 2021. We have to push from the outside, have leadership from the inside, and make this Congress reflect the will of the people.

TODD: I’m going to get to — I’m going to get a couple of you in here.

I’m going to get a couple of you in here. Thirty seconds, Congressman Delaney, you seem to believe you can do everything in a bipartisan manner. Mitch McConnell doesn’t operate that way. He operates differently. Why do you think he is going to conform to your style?

DELANEY: I think we need to get things done. That’s why I believe we need to operate in a bipartisan manner.

Listen, I will sign into law bills that come to the White House that are passed on a party-line basis, absolutely. But all the big transformative things we’ve ever done in this country’s history have happened when huge majorities of the American people get behind them, which is why we need real solutions, not impossible promises.

We need to put forth ideas that work, whether it’s on health care, creating universal health care so that every American gets health care, but not running on making private insurance illegal.

The gun issue is related. The gun safety issue is related, because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been with folks in Western Maryland, and they’ve said to me, you know, Democrats don’t do anything for us, Republicans don’t do anything for us. You fight all the time, so they vote on that single issue.


DELANEY: If we become the party of getting things done for the American people, with real solutions and not impossible promises, we’ll be able to get all these things done.

TODD: I promised…

TODD: Senator Booker, 30 seconds. You — how do you deal with Mitch? You’ve been in the Senate. You can’t get bills on the floor right now with Mitch McConnell. Presidents can’t do it. Is President Booker going to get his bills on the floor with Senator McConnell?

BOOKER: You know, when I got to the United States Senate, going back to what De Blasio said, as an African-American man in an African-American-dominated community, I knew one of the biggest issue was criminal justice reform, from police accountability to dealing with the fact that we have a nation that has more African-Americans under criminal supervision than all the slaves in 1850.

And when I got to the Senate, people told me we could not get a comprehensive criminal justice reform bill done. As my colleagues in the Senate know, I fought on that bill from the day I got to the Senate, built coalitions across the aisle, and today we passed the First Step Act.

It’s not as far as I want to go, but thousands of people will be liberated. I have gotten — I have taken on tough problems people said we cannot achieve, and I’ve been able to get things accomplished.

TODD: Thank you, Senator Booker. Rachel has got the next question.

Gov. Inslee and other candidates on climate change

MADDOW: We are going to — hold on. Governor, you’re going to be happy with where we go.

TODD: Just give us a second.

MADDOW: Governor Inslee, the next question is to you. You got me?

INSLEE: Rachel.

MADDOW: You have staked your candidacy on the issue of climate change. It is first, second, and third priority for you. You’ve said it’s all the issues. Let’s get specific. We’re here in Miami, which is already experiencing serious flooding on sunny days as a result of sea level rise. Parts of Miami Beach and the Keys could be underwater in our lifetimes. Does your plan save Miami?

INSLEE: Yes, first by taking away the filibuster from Mitch McConnell, to start with. We have to do that.

Look it, look it, we are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change, and we are the last that can do something it. Our towns are burning. Our fields are flooding. Miami is inundated.

And we have to understand, this is a climate crisis, an emergency (OFF-MIKE) this is our last chance in the administration, next one, to do something about it. And we need to do what I’ve done in my state. We’ve passed a 100 percent clean electrical grid bill. We now have a vision statement. And my plan has been called the gold standard of putting people to work.

But the most important thing on this, in the biggest decision for the American public is, who is going to make this the first priority? And I am the candidate and the only one who’s saying this has to be the top priority of the United States, the organizing principle to mobilize the United States, so that we can do what we’ve always done, lead the world and invent the future and put 8 million people to work. That’s what we’re going to do.

MADDOW: Governor Inslee, thank you.

TODD: Congressman O’Rourke, you also put out a big climate change plan from your campaign. You want some big changes in a pretty short period of time, including switching to renewable energy, pushing to replace gas-powered cars in favor of electric ones.

What’s your message to a voter who supports the overall goal of what you’re trying to do, but suddenly feels as if government’s telling them how to live and ordering them how to live? What is that balance like?

O’ROURKE: I think you’ve got to bring everybody in to the decisions and the solutions to the challenges that we face. That’s why we’re traveling everywhere, listening to everyone.

We were in Pacific Junction, a town that had never meaningly flooded before, just up against the Missouri River in Iowa. And every home in that community had flooded. There were farms just outside of Pacific Junction that were effectively lakes, those farmers already underwater in debt, their markets closed to them by a trade war under this administration, and now they don’t know what to do.

We in our administration are going fund resiliency in those communities, in Miami, in Houston, Texas, those places that are on the front lines of climate change today. We’re going to mobilize $5 trillion in this economy over the next 10 years. We’re going to free ourselves from a dependence on fossil fuels, and we’re going to put farmers and ranchers in the driver’s seat, renewable and sustainable agriculture, to make sure that we capture more carbon out of the air and keep more of it in the soil, paying farmers for the environmental services that they want to provide.

If all of us does all that we can, then we’re going to be able to keep this planet from warming another 2 degrees Celsius, and ensure that we match what this country can do and live up to our promise and our potential.

TODD: Thirty seconds, Secretary Castro, does — who pays for the mitigation to — to climate, whether it’s building sea walls, for people that are perhaps living in places that they shouldn’t be living? Is this a federal government issue that needs to do that? Do they have to move these people? What do you do about that, where maybe they’re building a place someplace that isn’t safe? Who pays to build that house? And how much should the government be bailing them out?

CASTRO: Well, I don’t think that that represents the vast majority of the issue. In fact, you know, my first visit after I announced my candidacy wasn’t to Iowa or New Hampshire. It was to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Because people should know that if I’m elected president, everybody will count. And, you know, I’m one of the few candidates in this race with executive experience, with a track record of getting things done. When I was mayor of San Antonio, we moved our local public utility, we began to shift it from coal-fired plants to solar and other renewables, and also created more than 800 jobs doing that.

And when I was HUD secretary, we worked on the National Disaster Resilience Competition to invest in communities that were trying to rebuild from natural disasters in a sustainable way. That’s the way that we’re going to help make sure that we’re all safer in the years to come and that we combat climate change.

TODD: Thank you.

CASTRO: And if I’m elected president, the first thing that I would do, like Senator Klobuchar also has said, is sign an executive order recommitting us to the Paris Climate Accord so that we lead again…

TODD: All right. Congressman Ryan, I got a full question for you here, which is simply this. There are — a lot of the climate plans include pricing carbon, taxing carbon in some way. This type of proposal has been tried in a few places, whether it’s Washington state where voters voted it down, you’ve had the Yellow Vest Movement, we had in Australia one party get rejected out of fear of the cost of climate change sort of being put on the backs of the consumer. If pricing carbon is just politically impossible, how do we pay for climate mitigation?

RYAN: Well, there is a variety of different ways to pay. We talked about different ways of raising revenue. And I think we’ve got to build our way out of this and grow our way out of this.

But let me just talk real quick to the previous question about real politics. We could talk about climate, we could talk about guns, we could talk about all of these issues that we all care about.

We have a perception problem with the Democratic Party. We are not connecting to the working class people in the very states that I represent in Ohio, in the industrial Midwest. We’ve lost all connection. We have got to change the center of gravity of the Democratic Party from being coastal and elital — elitist and Ivy League, which is the perception, to somebody from the forgotten communities that have been left behind for the last 30 years, to get those workers back on our side so we can say we’re going to build electric vehicles, we’re going to build solar panels.

But if you want to beat Mitch McConnell, this better be a working-class party. If you want to go into Kentucky and take his rear end out, and if you want to take Lindsey Graham out, you’ve got to have a blue collar party that can go into the textile communities in South Carolina. So all I’m saying here…

TODD: Thank you, Congressman Ryan.

RYAN: All I’m saying here…

TODD: Thank you, Congressman Ryan.

CASTRO: So, Chuck, Chuck…

RYAN: All I’m saying is here, if we don’t address that fundamental problem with our connection to workers — white, black, brown, gay, straight — working-class people…

TODD: Thank you, Congressman.

RYAN: … none of this is going to get done, Chuck.

TODD: Thank you very much.

(UNKNOWN): Chuck…

TODD: I want to you — we’re going to keep moving. Congressman Delaney, I’m going to get to you…

DELANEY: This is — I introduced the only bipartisan carbon tax bill…

TODD: Thirty seconds — all right, 30 seconds, go.

DELANEY: This is really important. All the economists agree that a carbon pricing mechanism works. You just have to do it right. You can’t put a price on carbon, raise energy prices, and not give the money back to the American people.

My proposal, which is put a price on carbon, give a dividend back to the American people. It goes out one pocket, back in the other.

TODD: Thank you, Congressman.

DELANEY: I can get that passed my first year as president with a coalition of every Democrat in the Congress and the Republicans who live in coastal states.

TODD: Thank you. Congressman, thank you.

DELANEY: Because Republicans in Florida, they actually care about this issue.

TODD: OK. Thank you very much.

DELANEY: This has got to be our way forward if we’re actually serious about this issue.

Candidates on LGBTQ rights and civil rights

Congresswoman Gabbard, we’re going to move here. One of the first things you did after launching your campaign was to issue an apology to the LGBT community about your past stances and statements on gay rights. After the Trump administration’s rollbacks of civil rights protections for many in that community, why should voters in that community or voters that care about this issue in general trust you now?

GABBARD: Let me say that there is no one in our government at any level who has the right to tell any American who they should be allowed to love or who they should be allowed to marry.

My record in Congress for over six years shows my commitment to fighting for LGBTQ equality. I serve on the Equality Caucus and recently voted for passage of the Equality Act.

Maybe many people in this country can relate to the fact that I grew up in a socially conservative home, held views when I was very young that I no longer hold today.

I’ve served with LGBTQ servicemembers, both in training and deployed downrange. I know that they would give their life for me and I would give my life for them. It is this commitment that I’ll carry through as president of the United States, recognizing that there are still people who are facing discrimination in the workplace, still people who are unable to find a home for their families. It is this kind of discrimination that we need to address.

BOOKER: But it’s not enough.

TODD: Thank you, Congresswoman Gabbard.

BOOKER: It’s not enough. If I can add to this, it’s very important.

TODD: Thirty seconds, Senator.

BOOKER: It’s not enough. Look, civil rights is someplace to begin, but in the African American civil rights community, another place to focus on was to stop the lynching of African-Americans.

We do not talk enough about trans Americans, especially African-American trans Americans…

… and the incredibly high rates of murder right now. We don’t talk enough about how many children, about 30 percent of LGBTQ kids, who do not go to school because of fear. It’s not enough just to be on the Equality Act. I’m an original co-sponsor. We need to have a president that will fight to protect LGBTQ Americans every single day from violence in America.

MADDOW: Senator Klobuchar, let me put this to you. On the issue of civil rights, for decades — on the civil rights and demographics, honestly, and politics, for decades, the Democratic Party has counted on African-American voter turnout as step one to winning elections on a national level. Democrats are counting on the Latino community now and in the future in the same way. What have you done for black and Latino voters that should enthuse them about going to the polls for you if you’re your party’s nominee?

KLOBUCHAR: My life and my career and my work in the Senate has been about economic opportunity. And to me, this means better childcare for everyone in this country. And when you want an economy that works, you need to have retirement that works, you need to have public schools that work. And you also need to make sure that those communities are able to get those jobs of the future, the STEM jobs.

In fact, Donald Trump, one of the first bills that he signed of the 34 he signed where I was the lead Democrat — OK, that’s a first up here — was one that was about that, making sure minority community members could share in those jobs.

So to me, this is about a few things. It’s about an African-American woman that goes to a hospital in New Orleans, says her hands are swollen, and then doctor ignores her and her baby dies. It’s about the fact that African-American women make 61 cents for every dollar a white man makes.

So in short, we need, one — and I will do this in my first 100 days as president — we will work to make sure everyone can vote at this table, everyone can vote in this country…

MADDOW: That’s time, Senator.

KLOBUCHAR: … and we will also go to the next step of criminal justice reform. Senator Booker and I worked on that First Step Act, but we should go to the second step act, which is to help all our communities across our country.

MADDOW: Senator, thank you very much. Thirty-second follow-up to you, Secretary Castro. This is a 70 percent Latino city here in Miami. You are the only Latino Democrat who is running here this year in the presidential race.

Is that enough of an answer, what Senator Klobuchar is describing there, an economic justice agenda? Is that enough to mobilize Latino voters to stand with the Democratic Party in a big way?

CASTRO: Well, I also think that we have to recognize racial and social justice. And, you know, I was in Charleston not too long ago, and I remembered that Dylann Roof went to the Mother Emanuel AME church, and he murdered nine people who were worshipping, and then he was apprehended by police without incident.

Well, but what about Eric Garner and Tamir Rice and Laquan McDonald and Sandra Bland and Pamela Turner and Antonio Arce? I’m proud that I’m the only candidate so far that has put forward legislation that would reform our policing system in America and make sure that no matter what the color of your skin is, that you’re treated the same, including Latinos who are mistreated too oftentimes by police.

MADDOW: Secretary Castro, thank you.

Candidates on their approach to foreign policy

TODD: Let me go over to Lester Holt, who’s got a question, I believe a viewer question.

HOLT: And I’m over here, Chuck. Thanks. We asked voters from across the country to submit their questions to the candidates. Let me read one now. This comes from John in New York who submitted this question.

He asks, does the United States have a responsibility to protect in the case of genocide or crimes against humanity? Do we have a responsibility to intervene to protect people threatened by their governments even when atrocities do not affect American core interests? I would like to direct that question to Congressman O’Rourke.

O’ROURKE: John, appreciate the question. The answer is yes, but that action should always be undertaken with allies and partners and friends. When the United States presents a united front, we have a much better chance of achieving our foreign policy aims and preventing the kind of genocide to which you refer, the kind of genocide that we saw in Rwanda, the kind of genocide we want to stop going forward.

But unfortunately, under this administration, President Trump has alienated our allies and our friends and our alliances. He’s diminished our standing in the world and he’s made us weaker as a country, less able to confront challenges, whether it’s Iran or North Korea or Vladimir Putin in Russia, who attacked and invaded our democracy in 2016, and who President Trump has offered another invitation to do the same.

He’s embraced strongmen and dictators at the expense of the great democracies. As president, I will make sure that we live our values in our foreign policy. I will ensure that we strengthen those alliances and partnerships and friendships and meet any challenge that we face together. That makes America stronger.

DE BLASIO: But what about the War Powers Act?

MADDOW: Congressman O’Rourke, thank you.

DE BLASIO: What about the War Powers Act being a part of that equation? With deep respect to the congressman, look, we’ve learned painful lessons as Americans that we’ve gone to war without congressional authorization.

And look, this is very personal for me. I know the cost of war. My dad served in the Pacific in World War II in the U.S. Army, Battle of Okinawa, had half his leg blown off, and he came home with scars, both physical and emotional, and he did not recover. He spiraled downward and he ultimately took his own life. And that battle didn’t kill him, but that war did.

And, look, even in the humanitarian crisis — and I think we should be ready, Congressman, to intervene, God forbid there is genocide — but not without congressional approval. Democrats and Republicans both in the Congress have not challenged presidents and have let them get away with running the military without that congressional approval. We learned a lesson in Vietnam we seem to have forgotten, that decisions have to be made by the United States Congress…

MADDOW: I’m going to pick up — I want to pick up this point, and I want to put this to Congressman Ryan. Today the Taliban claimed responsibility for killing two American servicemembers in Afghanistan. Leaders as disparate as President Obama and President Trump have both said that they want to end U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, but it isn’t over for America. Why isn’t it over? Why can’t presidents of very different parties and very different temperaments get us out of there? And how could you?

RYAN: I appreciate that question. So I’ve been in Congress 17 years. And 12 of those years I’ve sat on the Armed Services Committee, the Defense Appropriations Committee or the Armed Services Committee.

And the lesson that I’ve learned over the years is that you have to stay engaged in these situations. Nobody likes it. It’s long. It’s tedious. But right now, we have — so I would say we must be engaged in this. We must have our State Department engaged. We must have our military engaged to the extent they need to be.

But the reality of it is, this president doesn’t even have people appointed in the State Department to deal with these things, whether we’re talking about Central America, whether we’re talking about Iran, whether we’re talking about Afghanistan. We’ve got to be completely engaged.

And here’s why, because these flare-ups distract us from the real problems in the country. If we’re getting drones shot down for $130 million, because the president is distracted, that’s $130 million that we could be spending in places like Youngstown, Ohio, or Flint, Michigan, or rebuilding — or rebuilding…

MADDOW: Congresswoman Gabbard, I’m going to give you 30 seconds, actually, to jump off what he said. He described engagement as the problem.

GABBARD: Is that what you will tell — is that what you will tell the parents of those two soldiers who were just killed in Afghanistan? Well, we just have to be engaged? As a soldier, I will tell you, that answer is unacceptable.

We have to bring our troops home from Afghanistan. We are in a place in Afghanistan where we have lost so many lives. We’ve spent so much money. Money that’s coming out of every one of our pockets, money that should be going into communities here at home, meeting the needs of the people here at home.

We are no better off in Afghanistan today than we were when this war began. This is why it’s so important to have a president and commander-in-chief who knows the cost of war and who’s ready to do the job on day one. I am ready to do that job when I walk into the Oval Office.

TODD: Listen, I’m going to go down the line — I’m going to go down — I’m going to go down — I’m going to go down the line here. You know what, you felt — you felt like she was rebutting you. Get 30 seconds, go.

RYAN: Thank you. You’re a very good man. I appreciate that.

TODD: Fair enough. I hear what you’re saying. She invoked your name.

RYAN: I would just say, I don’t want to be engaged. I wish we were spending this money in places that I’ve represented that have been completely forgotten and we were rebuilding. But the reality of it is, if the United States isn’t engaged, the Taliban will grow. And they will have bigger, bolder terrorist acts. We have got to have some presence there…

GABBARD: The Taliban was there long before we came in. They’re going to be there long before we leave.

RYAN: And they were — yeah, exactly. Well, we were.

GABBARD: We cannot keep U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan thinking that we’re going to somehow squash this Taliban that’s been there, that every other country that’s tried has failed.

RYAN: I didn’t say — I didn’t say squash them. I didn’t say squash them. When we weren’t in there, they started flying planes into our buildings. So I’m just saying right now … we have an obligation…

GABBARD: The Taliban didn’t attack us on 9/11. Al Qaida did.

RYAN: Well, I — I understand…

GABBARD: Al Qaida attacked us on 9/11. That’s why I and so many other people joined the military, to go after Al Qaida, not the Taliban.

RYAN: I understand that. The Taliban…

TODD: Go ahead, Congressman. Finish up, 10 seconds.

RYAN: The Taliban was protecting those people who were plotting against us. All I’m saying is, if we want to go into elections, and we want to say that we’ve got to withdraw from the world, that’s what President Trump is saying. We can’t. I would love for us to.

GABBARD: You know who’s protecting Al Qaida right now? It’s Saudi Arabia.

Candidates on the biggest geopolitical threat to the U.S.

TODD: I want to go down the line here, finish up foreign policy. It’s a simple question. What is our — what is the biggest threat — what is — who is the geopolitical threat to the United States? Just give me a one-word answer, Congressman Delaney.

DELANEY: Could you repeat the question?

TODD: Greatest geopolitical threat to the United States right now. Congressman Delaney?

DELANEY: Well, the biggest geopolitical challenge is China. But the biggest geopolitical threat remains nuclear weapons.


DELANEY: Right, so those are — you know, those are different questions.

TODD: I got you. Totally get it. Go ahead. Governor Inslee?

INSLEE: The biggest threat to the security of the United States is Donald Trump. And there’s no question about it.

TODD: Congresswoman Gabbard?

GABBARD: The greatest…

TODD: Greatest geopolitical threat.

GABBARD: The greatest threat that we face is the fact that we’re in a greater risk of nuclear war today than ever before in history.

TODD: Senator Klobuchar?

KLOBUCHAR: Two threats, economic threat, China, but our major threat right now is what’s going in the Mideast with Iran, if we don’t get…

TODD: OK, try to keep it at one — slimmer than what we’ve been going here. One or two words.

O’ROURKE: Our existential threat is climate change. We have to confront it before it’s too late.

TODD: Senator Warren?

INSLEE: Climate change.

TODD: Yeah. Senator Booker?

BOOKER: Nuclear proliferation and climate change.

TODD: Secretary Castro?

CASTRO: China and climate change.

TODD: Congressman Ryan?

RYAN: China, without a question. They’re wiping us around the world economically.

TODD: And Mr. Mayor?

DE BLASIO: Russia, because they’re trying to undermine our democracy and they’ve been doing a pretty damn good job of it, and we need to stop them.

TODD: All right. Well, thank you for that wide variety of answers, and I mean that. No, I mean that in — that’s what this debate is about. This is the best part of a debate like this.

Whether they would pursue impeachment

Congressman O’Rourke, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report outlines multiple instances of potential criminal behavior by President Trump. House Speaker Pelosi has publicly and privately resisted any move toward impeachment in the House. If the House chooses not to impeach, as president, would you do anything to address the potential crimes that were outlined in Mr. Mueller’s report?

O’ROURKE: Yes, and I’ll tell you why.

TODD: How, by the way? If the answer is yes.

O’ROURKE: One of the most powerful pieces of art in the United States Capitol is the Trumbull painting of General George Washington resigning his commission to the Continental Congress, at the height of his power, submitting to the rule of law and the will of people. That has withstood the test of time for the last 243 years.

If we set another precedent now that a candidate who invited the participation of a foreign power, a president who sought to obstruct the investigation into the invasion of our democracy, if we allow him to get away with this with complete impunity, then we will have set a new standard, and that is that some people, because of the position of power and public trust that they hold, are above the law. And we cannot allow that to stand.

So we must begin impeachment now so that we have the facts and the truth and we follow them as far as they go and as high up as they reach and we save this democracy. And if we’ve not been able to do that in this year or the year that follows, and under my administration, our Department of Justice will pursue these facts and ensure that there are consequences, there is accountability, and there is justice. It’s the only way that we save this country.

TODD: Thank you, Congressman O’Rourke.

MADDOW: Congressman Delaney, because of the accountability issues that Congressman O’Rourke was just describing there and the real political landscape in which Nancy Pelosi is saying that impeachment will not be pursued in the House, it raises the prospect — and the Mueller Report raises the prospect that President Trump could be prosecuted for some of those potential crimes down the line. No U.S. president has ever been prosecuted for crimes after leaving office. Do you believe that President Trump could or should be the first?

DELANEY: I guess there’s always a first.

MADDOW: Should he be?

DELANEY: I don’t think anyone is above the law. I don’t think anyone is above the law, including a president. I support Speaker Pelosi’s decisions that she is making in the House of Representatives right now as speaker. I think she knows more about the decision as to whether to impeach the president than any of the 2020 candidates combined.

MADDOW: Conceded. On the issue of prosecution…

DELANEY: So — but I do think — I do think the — no one is above the law, and this president, who is lawless, should not be above the law. But I will tell you, Rachel, the one thing when you’re out doing as much campaigning as I’ve done, 400 events, all 99 counties in Iowa, this is not the number-one issue the American people ask us about.

It’s not. They want to know what we’re going to do for health care, how we’re going to lower pharmaceutical prices, how we’re going to build infrastructure, what we’re going to do to create jobs in their communities.

You know, last year in our country, 80 percent of the money for start-up businesses went to 50 counties in this country.

There’s over 3,000 counties in this country. That’s what they care about. They care about what’s going on in the public schools. They care about what’s going on with jobs in their communities, with their pay, with their health care, with infrastructure. These are the issues, these kind of kitchen-table, pocket-book issues…

MADDOW: Understood.

DELANEY: … are actually what most Americans care about. They never ask about the Mueller Report.

MADDOW: Congressman, thank you. Your time is up.

DELANEY: They never ask about it. They want to know how we’re going to solve these problems.

MADDOW: Your time’s…

TODD: Here’s the thing. I still — Senator…

KLOBUCHAR: … but if we let the Republicans run our elections and if do not do something about Russian interference in the election and we let Mitch McConnell stop all the backup paper ballots, then we’re not going to get what we want to do.

TODD: I’ve got to sneak in — we blew through a break, which was good news, to give you more time, so I got to sneak one in now. More of this debate. It’s picking up here. It continues right after this.

Their closing statements

HOLT: We are back from Miami, and it’s time now for closing statements. Each candidate has 45 seconds. We want to begin with former Congressman Delaney.

DELANEY: Closing now?

HOLT: Closing, 45 seconds. We could make — we could go on.

DELANEY: Together we are on a mission. We’re on a mission to find the America that’s been lost, lost through infighting, lost through inaction. We’re so much better than this. We’re a country that used to do things. We saved the world. We created the American dream for millions of people like myself, the grandson of immigrants, the son of a union electrician who went on to become a successful business leader and create thousands of jobs.

But we did these things with real solutions, not with impossible promises. And those are the roots that we have to get back to. I’m running for president to solve these problems, to build infrastructure, to fix our broken health care system, to invest in communities that have been left behind, to improve public education.

HOLT: Your…

DELANEY: I just don’t want to be your president to be your president.

HOLT: Congressman, your 45 seconds is over.

DELANEY: I want to be your president to do the job.

HOLT: Thank you, sir.

DELANEY: This is not about me. This is about getting America working again.

HOLT: Thank you.

GUTHRIE: Mayor De Blasio. Mayor, your closing statement.

DE BLASIO: It matters. It matters in this fight for the heart and soul of our party that we nominate a candidate who has seen the face of poverty and didn’t just talk about it, but gave people $15 minimum wage.

It matters that we nominate a candidate who saw the destruction wrought by a broken health care system and gave people universal health care. It matters that we choose someone who saw the wasted potential of our children denied pre-K and gave it to every single one of them for free.

These things really matter. And these are the things that I’ve done in New York and I want to do the same for this whole country, because putting working people first, it matters. We need to be that party again. Let’s work together. With your help, we can put working people first again in America.

GUTHRIE: Thank you, Mayor De Blasio. Right on time.

DIAZ-BALART: Governor Inslee, 45 seconds.

INSLEE: (OFF-MIKE) grandchildren, we love them all. And when I was thinking about whether to run for president, I made a decision. I decided that on my last day on Earth, I wanted to look them in the eye and tell them I did everything humanly possible to protect them from the ravages of the climate crisis.

And I know to a moral certainty, if we do not have the next president who commits to this as the top priority, it won’t get done. And I am the only candidate — frankly, I’m surprised. I’m the only candidate who’s made this commitment to make it the top priority.

If you join me in that recognition of how important this is, we can have a unified national mission. We can save ourselves. We can save our children. We can save our grandchildren. And we can save literally the life on this planet. This is our moment.

DIAZ-BALART: Governor, thank you.

TODD: Congressman Ryan, your 45 seconds.

RYAN: There’s nothing worse than not being heard. Nothing worse than not being seen. And I know that because I’ve represented for 17 years in Congress a forgotten community.

They’ve tried to divide us, who’s white, who’s black, who’s gay, who’s straight, who’s a man, who’s a woman. And they ran away with all the gold because they divided the working class. It’s time for us to come together.

I don’t know how you feel, but I’m ready to play some offense. I come from the middle of industrial America, but these problems are all over our country. There’s a tent city in L.A. There’s homeless people and people around our country who can’t afford a home. It’s time for us to get back on track. The teacher in Texas, the nurse in New Hampshire, the waitress in Wisconsin, all of us coming together, playing offense with an agenda that lifts everybody up.

TODD: Thank you, Congressman.

RYAN: I will only promise you one thing. When I walk into that Oval Office every morning, you will not be forgotten.

TODD: Thank you, Congressman.

RYAN: Your voice will be heard. Thank you.

MADDOW: Congresswoman Gabbard, you have 45 seconds for your closing.

GABBARD: Our nation was founded on the principles of service above self, people who fled kings, who literally prospered on the backs and the sacrifices of people, coming here to this country, instead putting in place a government that is of, by, and for the people.

But that’s not what we have. Instead, we have a government that is of, by, and for the rich and powerful. This must end. As president, our White House — our White House will be a beacon of light, providing hope and opportunity, ushering in a new century where every single person will be able to get the health care they need, where we will have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink, where we will have good-paying jobs and a new green economy. Join me in ushering in this new century with peace, prosperity, opportunity, and justice for all.

MADDOW: Congresswoman, thank you.

HOLT: Secretary Castro, you have 45 seconds, sir.

CASTRO: Me llamo Julian Castro, y estoy postolando por presidente de los Estados Unidos.

The very fact that I can say that tonight shows the progress that we have made in this country. Like many of you, I know the promise of America. My grandmother came here when she was 7 years old as an immigrant from Mexico, and just two generations later, one of her grandsons is serving in the United States Congress and the other one is running for president of the United States.

If I’m elected president, I will work hard every single day so that you and your family can get good health care, your child can get a good education, and that you can have good job opportunities, whether you live in a big city or a small town. And on January 20, 2021, we’ll say adios to Donald Trump.

GUTHRIE: Senator Klobuchar, the floor is yours.

KLOBUCHAR: Three things to know about me. First, I listen to people and that’s how I get things done. That is my focus. I have a track record of passing over 100 bills where I’m the lead Democrat. And that is because I listened and I acted. And I think that’s important in a president. Everything else just melts away.

Secondly, I’m someone that can win and beat Donald trump. I have won every place, every race, and every time. I have won in the reddest of districts, ones that Donald Trump won by over 20 points. I can win in states like Wisconsin and Iowa and in Michigan.

And finally, yeah, I am not the establishment party candidate. I’ve got respect, but I’m not that person. I am the one that doesn’t have a political machine, that doesn’t come from money. And I don’t make all the promises that everyone up here makes.

But I can promise you this. I am going to govern with integrity. I’m going to (OFF-MIKE) I’m going to govern for you.

GUTHRIE: Thank you, Senator.


BOOKER: Gracias. Fifty years ago this month, my family moved into the town I grew up in because after being denied a house because of the color of their skin, it was activists, mostly white activists, that stood up and fought for them. That’s the best of who we are as America and why when I got out of law school, I moved into the inner city of Newark to fight as a tenant lawyer for other people’s rights.

I’ve taken on bullies and beat them. I’ve taken on tough fights and we’ve won. And we win those fights not by showing the worst of who we are, by rising to who’s best.

Donald Trump wants us to fight him on his turf and his terms. We will beat him, I will beat him by calling this country to a sense of common purpose again. This is a referendum on him and getting rid of him, but it’s also a referendum on us, who we are, and who we must be to each other.

It’s time we win this election. And the way I’ll govern is by showing the best of who we are because that’s what this country needs and deserves.

DIAZ-BALART: Senator, thank you.

TODD: Congressman O’Rourke, 45 seconds.

O’ROURKE: Our daughter, Molly, turned 11 this week. I’m on this stage for her, for children across this country, including some her same age who’ve been separated from their parents and are sleeping on concrete floors under aluminum blankets tonight.

If we’re going to be there for them, if we’re going to confront the challenges that we face, we can’t return to the same old approach. We’re going to need a new kind of politics, one directed by the urgency of the next generation, those climate activists, who are fighting not just for their future but for everyone’s, those students marching not just for their lives but for all of ours.

We’ll need a movement like the one that we led in Texas. It renewed our democracy by bringing everyone in and writing nobody off. That’s how we beat Donald Trump. That’s how we bring this great country together again. Join us. This is our moment. And the generations that follow are counting on us to meet it.

TODD: Thank you, Congressman.

MADDOW: Senator Warren, you have 45 seconds for the final, final statement of the evening.

WARREN: Thank you. It’s a great honor to be here. Never in a million years did I think I would stand on a stage like this. I was born and raised in Oklahoma. I have three older brothers. They all joined the military.

I had a dream growing up. And my dream was to be a public school teacher. By the time I graduated from high school, my family — my family didn’t have the money for a college application, much less a chance for me to go to college.

But I got my chance. It was a $50 a semester commuter college. That was a little slice of government that created some opportunity for a girl. And it opened my life.

I am in this fight because I believe that we can make our government, we can make our economy, we can make our country work not just for those at the top. We can make it work for everyone. And I promise you this: I will fight for you as hard as I fight for my own family.

GUTHRIE: We would like to thank all of the candidates who participated with us tonight. And that will do it for night one of this two-night event. And guess what? We’ve got 10 more candidates tomorrow night.

HOLT: We certainly hope you will join us then. But for now, that concludes our coverage of this first Democratic debate from Miami. For Savannah, Jose, Chuck, and Rachel, I’m Lester Holt. Have a good night, everyone.

More Must-Reads From TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com