Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton;
Senator Bernie Sanders (VT);
Wolf Blitzer (CNN);
Dana Bash (CNN); and
Errol Louis (NY1)
BLITZER: Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders, you can now move to your lecterns while I explain a few ground rules. As moderator, I'll guide the discussion, asking questions and follow-ups. You'll also get questions from Dana Bash and Errol Louis. You'll each have one minute and 15 seconds to answer questions, 30 seconds for follow- ups. Timing lights will signal when your time is up. Both candidates have agreed to these rules now. Opening statements, you'll each have two minutes.
Let's begin with Senator Sanders. [applause]
SANDERS: Wolf, thank you very much. CNN, thank you very much. Secretary Clinton, thank you very much.
When we began this campaign almost a year ago, we started off at 3 percent in the polls. We were about 70 points behind Secretary Clinton. In the last couple of weeks, there were two polls out there that had us ahead. [applause]
Of the last nine caucuses and primaries, we have won eight of them, many of them by landslide victories. [applause]
Over the last year, we have received almost 7 million individual campaign contributions, averaging — guess what — $27 apiece, more individual campaign contributions than any candidate in American history at this point in a campaign.
The reason that our campaign has done so well is because we're doing something very radical: We're telling the American people the truth. And the truth is that this country is not going to move forward in a significant way for working people unless we overturn this disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision...[applause]... and unless we have real campaign reform so that billionaires and super PACs cannot buy elections. [applause]
This campaign is also determined to end a rigged economy where the rich get richer and everybody else get poorer, and create an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent.
BLITZER: Secretary Clinton?
CLINTON: Well, first of all, it's great to be here in New York, and I am delighted to...[applause]... have this chance to discuss the issues that are important to our future. I was so honored to serve as a senator from New York for eight years...[applause]...and to work to provide opportunity for all of our citizens to make it possible that we could knock down the barriers that stand in the way of people getting ahead and staying ahead.
And during those eight years, we faced some difficult challenges together. We faced 9/11. We worked hard to rebuild New York. I was particularly concerned about our first responders and others who'd been affected in their health by what they had experienced. We worked hard to bring jobs from Buffalo to Albany and all parts of New York to give more hard-working people a chance to really make the most out of their own talents.
And we worked hard to really keep New York values at the center of who we are and what we do together. [applause]
And that is — that is exactly what I want to do as your president. We will celebrate our diversity. We will work together, bringing us back to being united, setting some big, bold, progressive goals for America. That's what I'm offering in this campaign, to build on the work, to build on the value that we share here in New York, to take those to Washington, and to knock down those barriers that in any way hold back not only individual Americans, bur our country from reaching our full potential. That is what my campaign is about. [applause]
BLITZER: Thank you, Secretary.
We are going to deal with many of the issues both of you just raised. I want to begin with a question that goes right to the heart of which one of you should be the Democratic presidential nominee.
Senator Sanders, in the last week, you've raised questions about Secretary Clinton's qualifications to be president. You said that something is clearly lacking in terms of her judgment and you accused her of having a credibility gap.
So let me ask you, do you believe that Secretary Clinton has the judgment to be president?
SANDERS: Well, I've known Secretary Clinton, how long, 25 years?
We worked together in the Senate. And I said that in response to the kind of attacks we were getting from the Clinton, uh, campaign. "Washington Post" headline says "Clinton Campaign says Sanders is Unqualified" and that's what the surrogates were saying.
Does Secretary Clinton have the experience and the intelligence to be a president?
Of course she does. [applause]
But I do question... [applause]...but I do question her judgment. I question a judgment which voted for the war in Iraq...[applause]...the worst foreign policy blunder in the history of this country, voted for virtually every disastrous trade agreement which cost us millions of decent-paying jobs. And I question her judgment about running super PACs which are collecting tens of millions of dollars from special interests, including $15 million from Wall Street.
I don't believe that that is...[applause]...the kind of judgment we need to be the kind of president we need.
BLITZER: Secretary Clinton?
CLINTON: Well, it is true that now that the spotlight is pretty bright here in New York, some things have been said and Senator Sanders did call me unqualified. I've been called a lot of things in my life. That was a first. [laughter]
And then he did say that... [applause]...he had to question my judgment. Well, the people of New York voted for me twice to be their senator from New York and...[applause]...and...[applause]...and President Obama trusted my judgment enough to ask me to be secretary of State for the United States. [applause]
So, look, we have disagreements on policy. There's no doubt about it. But if you go and read, which I hope all of you will before Tuesday, Senator Sanders' long interview with the "New York Daily News," talk about judgment and talk about the kinds of problems he had answering questions about even his core issue, breaking up the banks.
When asked, he could not explain how...[laughter]...that would be done and...[applause]...when asked...[applause]...when asked about a number of foreign policy issues, he could not answer about Afghanistan, about Israel, about counterterrorism, except to say if he'd had some paper in front of him, maybe he could.
I think you need to have the judgment on day one to be both president and commander-in-chief.
BLITZER: Senator... [applause]
SANDERS: And let's talk about judgment.
And let us talk about the worst foreign policy blunder in the modern history of this country... [applause]
I led the opposition to that war. Secretary Clinton voted for that. Well, let's talk about judgment. Let's talk about super PACs and 501(c)(4)s, money which is completely undisclosed.
Where does the money come from?
Do we really feel confident about a candidate saying that she's going to bring change in America when she is so dependent on big money interests?
I don't think so. [applause]
CLINTON: Well, let me...
SANDERS: We have...
CLINTON: ...let me just say...
CLINTON: ...let me...let me say...
BLITZER: Madam Secretary, let him finish.
SANDERS: Thirdly, we have got to understand that in America, we should be thinking big, not small. [applause]
BLITZER: Thank you.
SANDERS: We need to join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee health care to all people. So I...[applause]...my [inaudible].
BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.
CLINTON: Well, make — make no mistake about it, this is not just an attack on me, it's an attack on President Obama. President Obama...[booing]
You know, let me tell you why. You may not like the answer, but I'll tell you why. President Obama had a super PAC when he ran. President Obama took tens of millions of dollars from contributors. And President Obama was not at all influenced when he made the decision to pass and sign Dodd-Frank, the toughest regulations...[applause]...on Wall Street in many a year.
So this is — this is a phony — this is a phony attack that is designed to raise questions when there is no evidence or support, to undergird the continuation that he is putting forward in these attacks.
BLITZER: Thank, Secretary. We're going to continue on this, but I want Dana Bash to continue with the questioning.
BASH: Secretary Clint, the government announced yesterday that five of the biggest banks on Wall Street have failed to develop plans to dismantle themselves in the event of another financial crisis. This is the second time in two years those banks neglected to come up with credible plans. So, as president, would you call on regulators to start the process of breaking up these banks? Something that the law not only allows, but actually explicitly encourages?
CLINTON: Absolutely. You know, this is what I've saying for the past year. No bank is too big to fail, no executive too powerful to jail.
I have been talking about what we should be doing under Dodd-Frank. I'm glad that Senator Sanders is now joining in talking about Dodd-Frank, because Dodd-Frank sets forth the approach that needs to be taken. I believe, and I will appoint regulators who are tough enough and ready enough to break up any bank that fails the test under Dodd-Frank.
There are two sections there. If they fail either one, that they're a systemic risk, a grave risk to our economy, or if they fail the other, that their living wills, which is what you're referring to, is inadequate.
Let's look at what is at stake here. We can never let Wall Street wreck Main street again. I spoke out against Wall Street when I was a Senator from New York. I have been standing up and saying continuously we have the law. We've got to execute under it. So, you're right. I will move immediately to break up any financial institution, but I go further because I want the law to extend to those that are part of the shadow banking industry. The big insurance companies, the hedge funds, something that I have been arguing for now a long time...
BASH: ... Thank you, Secretary. Senator Sanders, you were recently asked what you would replace the big Wall Street banks with if you could break them up. You said, quote, "That's their decision."
Why would you trust the banks to restructure themselves?
SANDERS: First, Dana...
BASH: when you said the whole business model was fraudulent?
SANDERS: That's right. So, let's start off with the basic premise. A few days ago Goldman Sachs formally reached a settlement with the United States government for $5 billion dollars. What Goldman Sachs acknowledged was, essentially, that they were selling fraudulent packages of subprime mortgage loans.
Goldman Sachs was not the only bank, other banks, of course, did the same. Now, I don't need Dodd-Frank now to tell me that we have got to break up these banks, A, because they're based on fraudulent principles, and B, because when you have six financial institutions that have assets equivalent to 58% of the GFP of this country, they are just too big, too much concentration of wealth and power.
BASH: But, Senator...
SANDERS: The point is we have got to break them up so that they do not pose a systemic risk and so that we have a vibrant economy with a competitive financial system.
BASH: But Senator, you didn't answer the specific question which is not just about breaking up the banks, but why allow the banks to do it themselves?
SANDERS: Because I'm not sure that the government should say is you are too big to fail. You've got to be a certain size. And, then the banks themselves can figure out what they want to sell off. I don't know that it's appropriate that the Department of Treasury to be making those decisions. What we need is to make sure that they are safe. [applause]
CLINTON: Dana, you know — I love being in Brooklyn. [cheering and applause]
Dana, let me add here that there are two ways to at this under Dodd-Frank, which is after all the law we passed under President Obama, and I'm proud that Barney Frank, one of the authors, has endorsed me because what I have said continuously is, yes, sometimes the government may have to order certain actions. Sometime the government can permit the institution themselves to take those actions. That has to be the judgement of the regulators.
But, there's another element to this. I believe strongly that executives of any of these organizations should be financially penalized if there is a settlement. [applause]
They should have to pay up through compensation or bonuses because we have to go after not just the big giant institution, we have got to go after the people who are making the decisions in the institutions.
BASH: Thank you, Madam Secretary.
CLINTON: And hold them accountable as well. [applause]
BASH: Senator Sanders, you have consistently criticized Secretary Clinton for accepting money from Wall Street. Can you name one decision that she made as senator that shows that he favored banks because of the money she received?
SANDERS: Sure. Sure. The obvious decision is when the greed and recklessness and illegal behavior of wall street brought this country into the worst economic downturn since the Great Recession — the Great Depression of the '30s, when millions of people lost their jobs, and their homes, and their life savings, the obvious response to that is that you've got a bunch of fraudulent operators and that they have got to be broken up.
That was my view way back, and I introduced legislation to do that. Now, Secretary Clinton was busy giving speeches to Goldman Sachs for $225,000 a speech. [applause]
So the problem response — the proper response in my view is we should break them up. And that's what my legislation does.
CLINTON: Well, you can tell, Dana, he cannot come up with any example, because there is no example. [applause]
It is important — it's always important. It may be inconvenient, but it's always important to get the facts straight. I stood up against the behaviors of the banks when I was a senator.
I called them out on their mortgage behavior. I also was very willing to speak out against some of the special privileges they had under the tax code. When I went to the secretary of state office, the president — President Obama led the effort to pass the Dodd-Frank bill.
That is the law. Now, this is our ninth debate. In the prior eight debates, I have said, we have a law. You don't just say, we're upset about this. I'm upset about it. You don't just say, go break them up. You have a law, because we are a nation of laws.
BASH: Thank you, Madam Secretary.
CLINTON: So I support Dodd-Frank, but I have consistently said that's not enough. We've got to include the shadow banking sector.
BASH: Thank you. Senator Sanders. [applause]
SANDERS: Secretary Clinton called them out. Oh my goodness, they must have been really crushed by this. And was that before or after you received huge sums of money by giving speaking engagements? So they must have been very, very upset by what you did.
Look, here is the difference and here is the clear difference. These banks, in my view, have too much power. They have shown themselves to be fraudulent organizations endangering the well-being of our economy.
If elected president, I will break them up. We have got legislation to do that, end of discussion. [applause]
BASH: Secretary Clinton, if I may, Senator Sanders keeping bringing up the speeches that you gave to Goldman Sachs. So I'd like to ask you, so you've said that you don't want to release the transcripts, until everybody does it, but if there's nothing in those speeches that you think would change voters' minds, why not just release the transcripts and put this whole issue to bed? [applause]
CLINTON: You know, first of all — first of all, there isn't an issue. When I was in public service serving as the senator from New York, I did stand up to the banks. I did make it clear that their behavior would not be excused.
I'm the only one on this stage who did not vote to deregulate swaps and derivatives, as Senator Sanders did, which led to a lot of the problems that we had with Lehman Brothers.
Now, if you're going to look at the problems that actually caused the Great Recession, you've got to look at the whole picture. It was a giant insurance company, AIG. It was an investment bank, Lehman Brothers. It was mortgage companies like Countrywide.
I'm not saying that Senator Sanders did something untoward when he voted to deregulate swaps and derivatives...
BASH: Madam Secretary...
CLINTON: ... but the fact is he did.
And that contributed to the collapse of Lehman Brothers and started the cascade... [applause]
BASH: Senator Sanders, one second, please. Secretary Clinton, the question was about the transcripts of the speeches to Goldman Sachs. [applause]
Why not release them?
CLINTON: I have said, look, there are certain — there are certain expectations when you run for president. This is a new one. And I've said, if everybody agrees to do it — because there are speeches for money on the other side. I know that.
But I will tell you this, there is — there is a long-standing expectation that everybody running release their tax returns, and you can go — you can go to my website and see eight years of tax returns. And I've released 30 years of tax returns. And I think every candidate, including Senator Sanders and Donald Trump, should do the same. [applause]
BASH: Secretary Clinton, we're going to get to the tax returns later, but just to put a button on this, you're running now for the Democratic nomination.
BASH: And it is your Democratic opponent and many Democratic voters who want to see those transcripts. It's not about the Republicans...[crosstalk] [applause]
CLINTON: You know, let's set the same standard for everybody. When everybody does it, OK, I will do it, but let's set and expect the same standard on tax returns. Everybody does it, and then we move forward.
BLITZER: Thank you.
SANDERS: Well, let me respond. Secretary Clinton, you just heard her, everybody else does it, she'll do it. I will do it. [applause]
I am going to release all of the transcripts of the speeches that I gave on Wall Street behind closed doors, not for $225,000, not for $2,000, not for two cents. There were no speeches. [applause]
And second of all, of course we will release our taxes. Jane does our taxes. We've been a little bit busy lately. You'll excuse us. But we will...
SANDERS: We will get them out.
CLINTON: Well, you know, there are a lot of copy machines around.
BLITZER: Senator, when are you — when are you — you've been asked for weeks and weeks to release your tax returns.
SANDERS: Well, I think we got one that's coming out tomorrow.
BLITZER: Which one?
SANDERS: Last year's.
BLITZER: What about 2013, all the other ones?
SANDERS: You'll get them, yes. Yeah, look, I don't want to get anybody very excited. They are very boring tax returns. No big money from speeches, no major investments. Unfortunately — unfortunately, I remain one of the poorer members of the United States Senate. And that's what that will show. [applause]
BLITZER: So, Senator, just to be clear, tomorrow you will release the 2014 tax returns from you and your family?
BLITZER: And what about the earlier ones? What's the problem...
BLITZER: What's taking so long? Because you just have to go to the filing cabinet, make a copy, and release them. [applause]
SANDERS: Wolf, the answer is, you know, what we have always done in my family is, Jane does them. And she's been out on the campaign trail. We will get them out. We'll get them out very shortly. It's not a big deal.
BLITZER: Thank you. Senator, Senator, you've slammed companies like General Electric and Verizon for moving jobs outside of the United States. Yesterday, the CEO of Verizon called your views contemptable and said in your home state of Vermont Verizon has invested more than $16 million and pays millions of dollars a year to local businesses. He says you are, quote, "uninformed on this issue" and disconnected from reality. Given your obvious contempt for large American corporations, how would you as president of the United States be able to effectively promote American businesses around the world?
SANDERS: Well, for a start, I would tell the gentleman who's the CEO at Verizon to start negotiating with the Communication Workers of America. [applause]
And this is — this is a perfect example, Wolf, of the kind of corporate greed which is destroying the middle class of this country. This gentleman makes $18 million a year in salary. That's his — that's his compensation. This gentleman is now negotiating to take away health care benefits of Verizon workers, outsource call center jobs to the Philippines, and — and trying to create a situation where workers will lose their jobs. He is not investing in the way he should in inner cities in America. [applause]
BLITZER: All right. Senator, but the question was, the question was, given your contempt for large American corporations, as president, how would you be able to promote American business around the world?
SANDERS: First of all, the word contempt is not right. There are some great businesses who treat their workers and the environment with respect. [applause]
Verizon happens not to be one of them. [applause]
And what we need to do is to tell this guy Immelt, who's the head of General Electric, he doesn't like me, well, that's fine. He has outsourced hundreds of thousands of decent-paying jobs throughout the world...[applause]...cut his workforce here substantially and in a given year, by the way, it turns out that both Verizon and General Electric, in a given year, pay nothing in federal income tax despite making billions in profits. [booing]
BLITZER: But Senator, experts say that no matter the means to bring back these jobs to the United States, prices of goods for consumers in the United States would go up, which would disproportionately impact the poor and middle class.
So how do you bring back these jobs to the United States without affecting the cost of goods to America's middle class and poor?
SANDERS: Well, for a start, we're going to raise the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour. [applause]
And number two, while it is true we may end up paying a few cents more for a hamburger in McDonald's, at the end of the day, what this economy desperately needs is to rebuild our manufacturing sector with good-paying jobs. [applause]
We cannot continue to sustain the loss of millions of decent-paying jobs that we have seen over the last 20, 30 years, based on trade agreements of which Secretary Clinton has voted for almost every one of those. That has got to change.
BLITZER: Thank you.
Secretary...[laughter]...Secretary Clinton? [applause]
CLINTON: Well, first of all, I do have a very comprehensive plan to create more jobs and I think that has to be at the center of our economic approach. And so I think it is important that we do more on manufacturing. I went to Syracuse and laid out a $10 billion plan that would, I believe, really jump-start advanced manufacturing.
I have seen the results of what can happen when we have the government cooperating with business. And that's exactly what I will do.
When I was secretary of State, I helped to lead the way to increased exports of American good around the world, which supports tens of thousands of jobs.
So I think you've got to go at this with a sense of how to accomplish the goal we are setting — more good jobs with rising incomes for people everywhere from inner cities to rural areas to every distressed community in America. And that's exactly what my plan would bring about.
I think we have a pretty good record if we look at what happened...
CLINTON: ...in the 1990s, we got 23 million new jobs and incomes went up for everybody.
BLITZER: Thank you.
CLINTON: Let's do that again in America.
BLITZER: Senator, how do you...
SANDERS: I'm going to respond...
BLITZER: I'll have you respond in a moment. [applause]
SANDERS: Well, look...
BLITZER: Secretary Clinton... [crosstalk]
You will respond in a moment, but I have to follow-up with Secretary Clinton.
You stood on the stage with Governor Cuomo in support of new legislation to raise New York's minimum wage to $15 an hour. But you do not support raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
As president...[applause]...if a Democratic Congress put a $15 minimum wage bill on your desk, would you sign it?
CLINTON: Well, of course I would. And I have supported...[applause]...I have supported the fight for 15. I am proud to have the endorsement of most of the unions that have led the fight for 15. I was proud to stand on the stage with Governor Cuomo, with SEIU and others who have been leading this battle and I will work as hard as I can to raise the minimum wage. I always have. I supported that when I was in the Senate.
SANDERS: Well, look...
CLINTON: But what I have also said is that we've got to be smart about it, just the way Governor Cuomo was here in New York. If you look at it, we moved more quickly to $15 in New York City, more deliberately toward $12, $12.50 upstate then to $15. That is exactly my position. It's a model for the nation and that's what I will do as president.
BLITZER: Thank you.
CLINTON: Go as quickly as...[crosstalk]...to get to $15. [applause]
SANDERS: I am sure a lot of people are very surprised to learn that you supported raising the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour. [applause]
CLINTON: You know, wait a minute...
CLINTON: ...wait a minute.
CLINTON: ...wait, wait...
SANDERS: That's just not accurate. Well...
CLINTON: Come on, I have stood on the debate stage...
SANDERS: ...well and I...
CLINTON: ...with Senator Sanders eight...[crosstalk]...times.
SANDERS: Excuse me.
CLINTON: I have said the...
CLINTON: Exact same thing.
BLITZER: Secretary, Senator, please.
CLINTON: If we can...[crosstalk]...raise it to $15 in New York...[crosstalk]...or Los Angeles or Seattle...
BLITZER: Secretary, the viewers...
CLINTON: ...let's do it.
BLITZER: If you're both screaming at each other, the viewers won't be able to hear either of you.
BLITZER: So please...
SANDERS: I will...
BLITZER: ...don't talk over each other.
SANDERS: I believe I was...[crosstalk]
BLITZER: Go ahead.
All right? When this campaign began, I said that we got to end the starvation minimum wage of $7.25, raise it to $15. Secretary Clinton said let's raise it to $12. There's a difference. And, by the way, what has happened is history has outpaced Secretary Clinton, because all over this country, people are standing up and they're saying $12 is not good enough, we need $15 an hour.
CLINTON: OK. [applause]
BLITZER: Go ahead, Secretary. Secretary?
SANDERS: And suddenly...
BLITZER: Secretary, go ahead.
SANDERS: To suddenly...
CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you very much.
SANDERS: To suddenly announce now that you're for $15, I don't think is quite accurate.
BLITZER: All right. Secretary?
CLINTON: All right. I have said from the very beginning that I supported the fight for $15. I supported those on the front lines of the fight for — it happens to be true. I also — I supported the $15 effort in L.A. I supported in Seattle. I supported it for the fast food workers in New York.
The minimum wage at the national level right now is $7.25, right? We want to raise it higher than it ever has been, but we also have to recognize some states and some cities will go higher, and I support that. I have taken my cue from the Democrats in the Senate, led by Senator Patty Murray and others, like my good friend Kirsten Gillibrand, who has said we will set a national level of $12 and then urge any place that can go above it to go above it.
Going from $7.25 to $12 is a huge difference. Thirty-five million people will get a raise. One in four working mothers will get a raise. I want to get something done. And I think setting the goal to get to $12 is the way to go, encouraging others to get to $15. But, of course, if we have a Democratic Congress, we will go to $15. [applause]
BLITZER: Senator, go ahead.
SANDERS: Well, I think the secretary has confused a lot of people. I don't know how you're there for the fight for $15 when you say you want a $12-an-hour national minimum wage. [applause]
Now, in fact — in fact, there is an effort, Patty Murray has introduced legislation for $12 minimum wage. That's good. I introduced legislation for $15 an hour minimum wage which is better. [applause]
And ultimately what we have got to determine is after massive transfer of wealth from the middle class to the top 0.1 percent, when millions of our people are working longer hours for low wages...
BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.
SANDERS: I think we have got to be clear, not equivocate, $15 in minimum wage in 50 states in this country as soon as possible.
BLITZER: Thank you. [applause]
We're going to turn to another critically important issue right now, guns in America. Secretary Clinton, you've said that Vermont, Senator Sanders' home state, has, quote, "the highest per capita number of guns that end up committing crimes in New York." But only 1.2 percent of the guns recovered in New York in 2014 were from Vermont. Are you seriously blaming Vermont, and implicitly Senator Sanders, for New York's gun violence?
CLINTON: No, of course not. Of course not. This is — this is a serious difference between us. [laughter]
And what I want to start by saying — it's not a laughing matter — 90 people on average a day are killed or commit suicide or die in accidents from guns, 33,000 people a year. I take it really seriously, because I have spent more time than I care to remember being with people who have lost their loved ones.
So, yes, we have a problem in America. We need a president who will stand up against the gun lobby. We need a president who will fight for commonsense gun safety reforms. [applause]
And what we have here is a big difference. Senator Sanders voted against the Brady Bill five times. He voted for the most important NRA priority, namely giving immunity from liability to gun-makers and dealers, something that is at the root of a lot of the problems that we are facing.
Then he doubled down on that in the New York Daily News interview, when asked whether he would support the Sandy Hook parents suing to try to do something to rein in the advertising of the AR-15, which is advertised to young people as being a combat weapon, killing on the battlefield. He said they didn't deserve their day in court.
I could not disagree more.
And, finally, this is the only industry in America, the only one. [applause]
That has this kind of special protection. We hear a lot from Senator Sanders about the greed and recklessness of Wall Street, and I agree. We've got to hold Wall Street accountable...
BLITZER: ...Thank you...
CLINTON: ...Well, what about the greed and recklessness of gun manufacturers and dealers in America? [cheering and applause]
SANDERS: Well, the only problem is, Wolf, she didn't answer your question.
You asked her whether she thought that Vermont was responsible. You asked her whether she thought that Vermont was responsible for a lot of the gun violence. You made the point what she said was totally absurd.
BLITZER: I asked her, are you seriously blaming Vermont and implicitly Senator Sanders for New York's gun violence. She said no. But, go ahead.
SANDERS: Then why did she put out that statement?
CLINTON: I put it out...
SANDERS: ...Excuse me, I think I'm responding now.
BLITZER: Please, go ahead sir.
SANDERS: A statement that was refuted by the governor of the state of Vermont, who was a supporter of hers, who said, yeah, in campaigns people tend to exaggerate.
Here is the fact on guns. Let's talk about guns. That horrible, horrible Sandy Hook — what's the word we want to use, murder, assault, slaughter, unspeakable act.
Back in 1988, I ran for the United States Congress one seat in the state of Vermont. I probably lost that election, which I lost by three points, because I was the only candidate running who said, you know what? We should ban assault weapons, not seen them sold or distributed in the United States of America.
I've got a D-minus voting record from the NRA. [applause]
And, in fact, because I come from a state which has virtually no gun control, I believe that I am the best qualified candidate to bring back together that consensus that is desperately needed in this country. [applause]
BLITZER: Thank you, Senator. Thank you. [cheering]
Secretary Clinton, I want you to respond to that, but why did you put out that statement blaming Vermont and its gun policy for some of the death of — by guns in New York?
CLINTON: Well, the facts are that most of the guns that end up committing crimes in New York come from out of state. They come from the states that don't have kind of serious efforts to control guns that we do in New York.
But let me say this — in 1988, as we've heard on every debate occasion, Senator Sanders did run for the Congress and he lost. He came back in 1990 and he won, and during that campaign he made a commitment to the NRA that he would be against waiting periods.
And, in fact, in his own book, he talks about his 1990 campaign, and here's what he said. He clearly was helped by the NRA, because they ran ads against his opponent. So, then he went to the Congress, where he has been a largely very reliable supporter of the NRA. Voting — he kept his word to the NRA, he voted against the Brady Bill five times because it had waiting periods in it.
Thankfully, enough people finally voted for it to keep guns out of the hands of who should not have them. [applause]
BLITZER: Senator, I want you to respond, but I also want you to respond to this. You recently said you do not think crime victims should be able to sue gun makers for damages. The daughter of the Sandy Hook Elementary School who was killed back in the 2012 mass shooting, says you owe her and families an apology. Do you?
SANDERS: What we need to do is to do everything that we can to make certain that guns do not fall into the hands of people who do not have them.
Now, I voted against this gun liability law because I was concerned that in rural areas all over this country, if a gun shop owner sells a weapon legally to somebody, and that person then goes out and kills somebody, I don't believe it is appropriate that that gun shop owner who just sold a legal weapon to be held accountable and be sued.
But, what I do believe is when gun shop owners and others knowingly are selling weapons to people who should not have them — somebody walks in.
They want thousands of rounds of ammunition, or they want a whole lot of guns, yes, that gun shop owner or that gun manufacturer should be held liable.
BLITZER: So, Senator, do you owe the Sandy Hook families an apology?
SANDERS: No, I don't think I owe them an apology. They are in court today, and actually they won a preliminary decision today. They have the right to sue, and I support them and anyone else who wants the right to sue.
CLINTON: Well, I believe that the law that Senator Sanders voted for that I voted against, giving this special protection to gun manufacturers and to dealers, is an absolute abdication of responsibility on the part of those who voted for it.
This is a — this is a unique gift given to only one industry in the world by the United States Congress, as Senator Murphy from Connecticut said, we have tougher standards holding toy gun manufacturers and sellers to account than we do for real guns.
And the point that Senator Sanders keeps making about how he wouldn't want a mom and pop store — that was not the point of this. And if he can point to any, any incident where that happened, I would love to hear about it.
What was really going on, I'll tell you, because it has a lot to do with New York City. New York City was on the brink of being able to hold manufacturers and dealers accountable through a very carefully crafted legal strategy.
BLITZER: Thank you.
CLINTON: The NRA came to their supporters in the Congress and said, stop it, stop it now, and Senator Sanders joined those who did.
BLITZER: Thank you, Secretary.
Senator, go ahead.
SANDERS: Let me just reiterate — just reiterate so there is no confusion, decades ago, before it was popular, in a rural state with no gun control, Bernie Sanders said, let's ban assault weapons, not see them distributed in the United States of America.
BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.
Let's turn it over to Errol Lewis, of New York 1 Time Warner Cable News.
LOUIS: Secretary Clinton, the 1994 crime bill that you supported added 100,000 police officers across the country and banned certain assault weapons. It also imposed tougher prison sentences and eliminated federal funding for inmate education.
Looking at the bill as a whole, do you believe it was a net positive or do you think it was a mistake?
CLINTON: Well, I think that it had some positive aspects to it. And you mentioned some of them. The Violence Against Women Act, which has been a very important piece of legislation, in my opinion. [applause]
And it also did some things which were to provide more opportunities for young people. So if we were to have the balance sheet on one side, there are some positive actions and changes.
On the other side, there were decisions that were made that now we must revisit and we have to correct. I think that sentences got much too long. The original idea was not that we would increase sentences for non-violent low-level offenders, but once the federal government did what it did, states piled on.
So we have a problem. And the very first speech I gave in this campaign was about what I will do to reform the criminal justice system and end the over-mass incarceration.
So I think that if all of us go and look back at where we were, Senator Sanders voted for the crime bill, and he says the same thing, there were some good things, and things that we have to change and learn from.
So that's how I see it. And I think we ought to be putting our attention on forging a consensus to make the changes that will divert more people from the criminal justice system to start.
LOUIS: Thank you, Secretary.
CLINTON: To tackle systemic racism and divert people in the beginning.
LOUIS: Now earlier this year, a South Carolina voter told your daughter Chelsea, quote, "I think a lot of African-Americans want to hear, you know what, we made a mistake." Chelsea said she has heard you apologize, but went on to say that if the voter hadn't heard it then, quote, "it's clearly insufficient."
Do you regret your advocacy for the crime bill?
CLINTON: Well, look, I supported the crime bill. My husband has apologized. He was the president who actually signed it, Senator Sanders...
LOUIS: But what about you, Senator?
CLINTON: ... voted for it. I'm sorry for the consequences that were unintended and that have had a very unfortunate impact on people's lives.
I've seen the results of what has happened in families and in communities.
That's why I chose to make my very first speech a year ago on this issue, Errol, because I want to focus the attention of our country and to make the changes we need to make. And I also want people...[applause]...especially I want — I want white people — I want white people to recognize that there is systemic racism. It's also in employment, it's in housing, but it is in the criminal justice system, as well. [applause]
LOUIS: Senator Sanders, earlier this week at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, you called out President Clinton for defending Secretary Clinton's use of the term super-predator back in the '90s when she supported the crime bill. Why did you call him out?
SANDERS: Because it was a racist term, and everybody knew it was a racist term. [applause]
Look, much of what Secretary Clinton said was right. We had a crime bill. I voted for it. It had the Violence Against Women Act in it. When as mayor of Burlington, we worked very hard to try to eliminate domestic violence. This took us a good step forward. We're talking about the weapon that killed the children in Sandy Hook. This banned assault weapons, not insignificant.
But where we are today is we have a broken criminal justice system. We have more people in jail than any other country on Earth. And in my view, what we have got to do is rethink the system from the bottom on up. And that means, for a start — and we don't talk about this. The media doesn't talk about it — you got 51 percent of African-American kids today who graduated high school who are unemployed or underemployed. You know what I think? Maybe we invest in jobs and education for those kids, not jails and incarceration. [applause]
And I'll tell you what else. And I'll tell you what else I think. And that is, we have got — and this is the difference between the secretary and myself as I understand it. We have got to have the guts to rethink the so-called war on drugs. Too many lives...
BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.
SANDERS: Too many lives have been destroyed because people possessed marijuana, millions over a 30-year period. And that is why I believe we should take marijuana out of the federal Controlled Substance Act. [applause]
LOUIS: Thank you. Thank you. Let's — let's get Secretary Clinton's response.
CLINTON: Well, look, I think that, as Senator Sanders said about what I said, I will say about what he said. I think that we recognize that we have a set of problems that we cannot ignore and we must address. And that is why I have been promoting for my entire adult life, I think, the idea of investing early in kids, early childhood education, universal pre-K, like what Mayor de Blasio brought to New York. We have got to help more kids get off to a good start. That's why I want a good teacher in a good school for every child, regardless of the ZIP Code that child lives in...
LOUIS: Thank you. Thank you, Secretary Clinton. [applause]
CLINTON: ... and to be really focused on how we build ladders of opportunity and tear down these barriers that stand in the way of people getting ahead.
LOUIS: Your time's up, Secretary Clinton.
Senator Sanders, I have a question for you related to this. So you've said that by the end of your first term as president, the U.S. will no longer lead the world in mass incarceration. To fulfill that promise, you'd have to release roughly half a million prisoners. How are you going to do that, since the vast majority of American prisoners are not under federal jurisdiction?
SANDERS: We're going to work with state governments all over this country. And you know what? In a very divided Congress, and a very divided politics in America, actually the one area where there is some common ground is conservatives understand that it's insane to be spending $80 billion a year locking up 2.2 million people.
With federal and presidential leadership, we will work with state governments to make sure that people are released from jail under strong supervision, that they get the kind of job training and education they need so they can return to their communities. On this one, Errol, actually I think you're going to see progressive and conservative support. We can do it, if we're prepared to be bold.
BLITZER: Thank you, Senator. Thank you, Secretary. We have to take a quick commercial break. We have a lot more questions for Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
Let's turn to another critically important issue.
Senator, Secretary, the issue of energy and the environment.
Secretary Clinton, Senator Sanders has said you are in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry. You say you're sick and tired of him lying about your record.
What are his lies?
CLINTON: Well, let me start by saying we need to talk about this issue and we should talk about it in terms of the extraordinary threats that climate change pose to our country and our world. And that's why for the last many years, both in the Senate and as secretary of State, it's been a big part of my commitment to see what could be done.
But there has never been any doubt that when I was a senator, I tried — I joined with others to try to get rid of the subsidies for big oil. And I have proposed that again, because that's what I think needs to be done as we transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.
And everyone who's looked at this independently, "The Washington Post" and others, who give us both hard times when called for on facts, have said that this is absolutely an incorrect false charge.
So, we both have relatively small amounts of contributions from people who work for fossil fuel companies. Best we can tell from the reports that are done.
But, that is not being supported by big oil, and I think it's important to distinguish that. And, let's talk about what each of us has proposed to try to combat greenhouse gas emissions and put us on the fastest track possible to clean energy.
BLITZER: Thank you. We're going to get to that to, but I want you to respond, Senator.
SANDERS: It is one thing, as the Secretary indicated, to talk about workers. I'm sure I have contributions, you have contributions from workers in every industry in the country. But, as I understand it, 43 lobbyists for the fossil fuel industry maxed out, gave the maximum amount of money to Secretary Clinton's campaign. [applause]
Now, that's not saying — and, then some people say, well, given the hundreds of millions of dollars she raises it's a small amount. That's true. But, that does not mean to say that the lobbyists thought she was a pretty good bet on this issue.
Now, what I think is when we look at climate change now, we have got to realize that this is a global environmental crisis of unprecedented urgency. [cheering and applause]
And, it is not good enough. You know, if we, God forbid, were attacked tomorrow the whole country would rise up and say we got an enemy out there and we got to do something about it. That was what 9/11 was about.
We have an enemy out there, and that enemy is going to cause drought and floods and extreme weather disturbances. There's going to be international conflict. [applause] I am proud, Wolf, that I have introduced the most comprehensive climate change legislation...
BLITZER: .... Thank you...
SANDERS: ... Including a tax on carbon. Something I don't believe Secretary Clinton supports. [cheering and applause]
BLITZER: Secretary Clinton, go ahead and respond.
CLINTON: Well, let's talk about the global environmental crisis. Starting in 2009 as your Secretary of State, I worked with President Obama to bring China and India to the table for the very first time, to get a commitment out of them that they would begin to address their own greenhouse gas emissions. [applause]
I continued to work on that throughout the four years as Secretary of State, and I was very proud that President Obama and America led the way to the agreement that was finally reached in Paris with 195 nations committing to take steps to actually make a difference in climate change. [applause]
And, I was surprised and disappointed when Senator Sanders attacked the agreement, said it was not enough, it didn't go far enough. You know, at some point putting together 195 countries, I know a little bit about that, was a major accomplishment...
BLITZER: ... Thank you...[cheering and applause]
CLINTON: ... And, our President led the effort to protect our world and he deserve our appreciation, not our criticism...
BLITZER: ... Go ahead, Senator...
SANDERS: ... Let's talk about that. When you were Secretary of State, you also worked hard to expand fracking to countries all over the world. [cheering]
The issue here — of course the agreement is a step forward, but you know agreements and I know agreements, there's a lot of paper there. We've got to get beyond paper right now.
We have got to lead the world in transforming our energy system, not tomorrow, but yesterday. [applause] And, what that means, Wolf, it means having the guts to take on the fossil fuel industry. Now, I am on board legislation that says, you know what, we ain't going to excavate for fossil fuel on public land. That's not Secretary Clinton's position.
BLITZER: Thank you.
SANDERS: Let us support a tax on carbon...
BLITZER: ... Secretary Clinton...
SANDERS: ... Not Secretary Clinton's position.
BLITZER: ... Go ahead and respond. [applause]
CLINTON: Well, I'm a little bewildered about how to respond when you have an agreement which gives you the framework to actually take the action that would have only come about because under the Obama administration in the face of implacable hostility from the Republicans in Congress, President Obama moved forward on gas mileage, he moved forward on the clean power plant. He has moved forward on so many of the fronts that he could given the executive actions that he was able to take. [applause]
And, you know, I am getting a little bit — I'm getting a little bit concerned here because, you know, I really believe that the President has done an incredible job against great odds and deserves to be supported. [cheering and applause]
Now, it's easy — it's easy to diagnose the problem. It's harder to do something about the problem. And... [applause]
BLITZER: Thank you, Secretary. We'll continue on this. Errol — Errol Louis, go ahead with your question.
SANDERS: Wolf. Wolf.
BLITZER: We're going to continue on this. Errol, go ahead.
LOUIS: OK. Secretary Clinton, as secretary of state, you also pioneered a program to promote fracking around the world, as you described. Fracking, of course, a way of extracting natural gas. Now as a candidate for president, you say that by the time you're done with all your rules and regulations, fracking will be restricted in many places around the country. Why have you changed your view on fracking?
CLINTON: No, well, I don't think I've changed my view on what we need to do to go from where we are, where the world is heavily dependent on coal and oil, but principally coal, to where we need to be, which is clean renewable energy, and one of the bridge fuels is natural gas.
And so for both economic and environmental and strategic reasons, it was American policy to try to help countries get out from under the constant use of coal, building coal plants all the time, also to get out from under, especially if they were in Europe, the pressure from Russia, which has been incredibly intense. So we did say natural gas is a bridge. We want to cross that bridge as quickly as possible, because in order to deal with climate change, we have got to move as rapidly as we can.
That's why I've set big goals. I want to see us deploy a half a billion more solar panels by the end of my first term and enough clean energy to provide electricity to every home in America within 10 years. [applause]
So I have big, bold goals, but I know in order to get from where we are, where the world is still burning way too much coal, where the world is still too intimidated by countries and providers like Russia, we have got to make a very firm but decisive move in the direction of clean energy.
LOUIS: Thank you, Secretary. All right, Senator?
SANDERS: All right, here is — here is a real difference. This is a difference between understanding that we have a crisis of historical consequence here, and incrementalism and those little steps are not enough. [applause]
Not right now. Not on climate change. Now, the truth is, as secretary of state, Secretary Clinton actively supported fracking technology around the world. Second of all, right now, we have got to tell the fossil fuel industry that their short-term profits are not more important than the future of this planet. [applause]
And that means — and I would ask you to respond. Are you in favor of a tax on carbon so that we can transit away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy at the level and speed we need to do? [applause]
CLINTON: You know, I have laid out a set of actions that build on what President Obama was able to accomplish, building on the clean power plan, which is currently under attack by fossil fuels and the right in the Supreme Court, which is one of the reasons why we need to get the Supreme Court justice that President Obama has nominated to be confirmed so that we can actually continue to make progress.
I don't take a back seat to your legislation that you've introduced that you haven't been able to get passed. I want to do what we can do to actually make progress in dealing with the crisis. That's exactly what I have proposed.
LOUIS: OK, thank you, Secretary Clinton.
CLINTON: And my approach I think is going to get us there faster without tying us up into political knots with a Congress that still would not support what you are proposing.
LOUIS: Senator Sanders, you've said that climate change is the greatest change to our nation's security.
SANDERS: Secretary Clinton did not answer one simple question.
LOUIS: Excuse me, Senator, Senator, Senator, Senator, Senator...
SANDERS: Are you for a tax on carbon or not?
LOUIS: I have a question for you. You've said that climate change is the greatest threat to our nation's security. You've called for a nationwide ban on fracking. You've also called for phasing out all nuclear power in the U.S. But wouldn't those proposals drive the country back to coal and oil, and actually undermine your fight against global warming?
SANDERS: No, they wouldn't. Look, here's where we are. Let me reiterate. We have a global crisis. Pope Francis reminded us that we are on a suicide course. Our legislation understands, Errol, that there will be economic dislocation. It is absolutely true. There will be some people who lose their job. And we build into our legislation an enormous amount of money to protect those workers. It is not their fault that fossil fuels are destroying our climate.
But we have got to stand up and say right now, as we would if we were attacked by some military force, we have got to move urgently and boldly.
What does that mean?
LOUIS: Senator — senator, jobs...jobs are one thing, but with less than 6 percent of all U.S. energy coming from solar, wind and geothermal, and 20 percent of U.S. power coming from nuclear, if you phase out all of that, how do you make up that deficit?
SANDERS: Well, you don't it all out tomorrow. And you certainly don't phase nuclear out tomorrow. But this is what you do do. [applause]
What you do do is say that we are going to have a massive program — and I had introduced — introduced legislation for 10 million solar rooftops. We can put probably millions of people to work retrofitting and weatherizing buildings all over this country. [cheering]
Saving — rebuilding our rail system. [applause]
Our mass transit system. [applause]
If we approach this, Errol, as if we were literally at a war — you know, in 1941, under Franklin Delano Roosevelt, we moved within three years, within three more years to rebuild our economy to defeat Nazism and Japanese imperialism. That is exactly the kind of approach we need right now.
BLITZER: Thank you. [applause]
SANDERS: Lead the world.
BLITZER: Thank you, Senator. [applause]
Let's turn to another critically important issue...[applause]...the issue of national security and foreign policy.
Secretary Clinton, President Obama says the worst mistake in office that he made over these past seven and a half years was not preparing for Libya after Moammar Qadafi was removed. You were his secretary of State.
Aren't you also responsible for that?
CLINTON: Well, let me say I think we did a great deal to help the Libyan people after Qadafi's demise. And here's what we did.
We helped them hold two successful elections, something that is not easy, which they did very well because they had a pent up desire to try to chart their own future after 42 years of dictatorship.
I was very proud of that.
We got rid of the chemical weapons stockpile that Qadafi had, getting it out of Libya, getting it away from militias or terrorist groups.
We also worked to help them set up their government. We sent a lot of American experts there. We offered to help them secure their borders, to train a new military.
They, at the end, when it came to security issues, Wolf, did not want troops from any other country, not just us, European or other countries, in Libya.
And so we were caught in a very difficult position. They could not provide security on their own, which we could see and we told them that, but they didn't want to have others helping to provide that security.
And the result has been a clash between different parts of the country, terrorists taking up some locations in the country.
And we can't walk away from that. We need to be working with European and Arab partners...
BLITZER: Thank you.
CLINTON: ...with the United Nations in order to continue to try to support them.
The Libyan people deserve a chance at democracy and self- government. And I, as president, will keep trying to give that to them
BLITZER: Senator, go ahead.
SANDERS: According to "The New York Times."...[applause]...for President Obama, this was a pretty tough call, like a 51-49 call, do you overthrow Qadafi, who, of course, was a horrific dictator?
"The New York Times" told us it was Secretary Clinton who led the effect for that regime change. And this is the same type of mentality that supported the war in Iraq. [applause]
Look...[applause]...Qadafi, Saddam Hussein are brutal, brutal murdering thugs. No debate about that.
But what we have got to do and what the president was saying is we didn't think thoroughly about what happens the day after you get rid of these dictators.
Regime change often has unintended consequences in Iraq and in Libya right now, where ISIS has a very dangerous foothold. And I think if you studied the whole history of...
SANDERS: ...American involvement in regime change, you see that quite often.
BLITZER: Secretary, we're going to let you respond. [applause]
CLINTON: Yes, well, I...[applause]...I...[applause]...I — I would just point out that there was a vote in the Senate as to whether or not the United States should support the efforts by the Libyan people to protect themselves against the threats, the genocidal threats coming from Gadhafi, and whether we should go to the United Nations to seek Security Council support.
Senator sanders voted for that, and that's exactly what we did.
CLINTON: We went to the United Nations — yes, he did. We went to the United Nations Security Council. We got support from the Security Council. And we then supported the efforts of our European and Arab allies and partners.
This was a request made to our government by the Europeans and by the Arabs because of their great fear of what chaos in Syria would do to them. And if you want to know what chaos does, not just to the people inside but the people on the borders, look at Syria.
Nobody stood up to Assad and removed him, and we have had a far greater disaster in Syria than we are currently dealing with right now in Libya. [applause]
BLITZER: Senator, go ahead.
SANDERS: Secretary Clinton made this charge in previous debates and just repeating it doesn't make it truer. What you are talking about is what I think was what they call the unanimous consent, you know what that is, where basically, do we support Libya moving to democracy?
Well, you know what, I surely have always supported Libya moving to democracy. But please do not confuse that with your active effort for regime change without contemplating what happened the day after. Totally different issue.
CLINTON: Well, that isn't...
SANDERS: Second of all — second of all, if I might, in terms of Syria, in terms of Syria...
BLITZER: Senator, let her respond to that, then we'll get to that.
Go ahead, Secretary.
CLINTON: There was also in that a reference to the Security Council, and I know you're not shy when you oppose something, Senator. So, yes, it was unanimous. That's exactly right, including you.
And what we did was to try to provide support for our European and Arab allies and partners. The decision was the president's. Did I do the due diligence? Did I talk to everybody I could talk to? Did I visit every capital and then report back to the president? Yes, I did. That's what a secretary of state does.
But at the end of the day, those are the decisions that are made by the president to in any way use American military power. And the president made that decision. And, yes, we did try without success because of the Libyans' obstruction to our efforts, but we did try and we will continue to try to help the Libyan people.
BLITZER: Thank you, Secretary.
Go ahead, Senator.
SANDERS: If you listen, you know — two points. Number one, yes, 100-0 in the Senate voted for democracy in Libya and I would vote for that again. But that is very different from getting actively involved to overthrow and bring about regime change without fully understanding what the consequence of that regime change would be.
Second of all, I know you keep referring to Barack Obama all night here, but you in Syria, you in Syria talked about a no-fly zone, which the president certainly does not support, nor do I support because, A, it will cost an enormous sum of money, second of all, it runs the risk of getting us sucked into perpetual warfare in that region.
Thirdly, when we talk about Syria right now, no debate, like Gadhafi, like Saddam Hussein, Assad is another brutal murdering dictator, but right now our fight is to destroy ISIS first, and to get rid of Assad second.
CLINTON: Well, I think Senator Sanders has just reinforced my point. Yes, when I was secretary of state I did urge, along with the Department of Defense and the CIA that we seek out, vet, and train, and arm Syrian opposition figures so that they could defend themselves against Assad.
The president said no. Now, that's how it works. People who work for the president make recommendations and then the president makes the decision. So I think it's only fair to look at where we are in Syria today.
And, yes, I do still support a no-fly zone because I think we need to put in safe havens for those poor Syrians who are fleeing both Assad and ISIS and have some place that they can be safe.
BLITZER: Staying on national security, Dana Bash has a question.
BASH: Senator Sanders, in 1997, you said this about NATO, you said, quote: "It is not the time to continue wasting tens of billions of dollars helping to defend Europe, let alone assuming more than our share of any cost associated with expanding NATO."
Do you still feel that way?
SANDERS: Well, what I believe, if my memory is correct here, we spend about 75 percent of the entire cost of the military aspect of NATO. Given the fact that France has a very good health care system and free public education, college education for their people, the U.K. has a good National Health Service and they also provide fairly reasonable higher education, you know what, yeah, I do believe that the countries of Europe should pick up more of the burden for their defense. Yes, I do. [applause]
BASH: And just following up, Senator Sanders, Donald Trump also argues that NATO is unfair economically to the U.S. because America pays a disproportionate share. So how is what you say about NATO and your proposal different than his?
SANDERS: Well, you got to ask — you got to ask Trump. All I can tell you is, with a huge deficit, with 47 million people living in poverty, with our inner cities collapsing, yeah, I do think countries like Germany and U.K. and France and European countries whose economy, or at least its standard of living and health care and education, they're doing pretty well.
So I would not be embarrassed as president of the United States to stay to our European allies, you know what, the United States of America cannot just support your economies. You got to put up your own fair share of the defense burden. Nothing wrong with that. [applause]
BASH: Secretary Clinton?
CLINTON: I support our continuing involvement in NATO. And it is important to ask for our NATO allies to pay more of the cost. There is a requirement that they should be doing so, and I believe that needs to be enforced.
But there's a larger question here. NATO has been the most successful military alliance in probably human history. It has bound together across the Atlantic countries that are democracies, that have many of the same values and interests, and now we need to modernize it and move it into the 21st century to serve as that head of our defense operations in Europe when it comes to terrorism and other threats that we face. So...
BASH: But, Madam Secretary...
CLINTON: ... yes, of course they should be paying more, but that doesn't mean if they don't we leave, because I don't think that's in America's interests.
BASH: That's going to be part of my — my question to you is, to that point, there are 28 countries in the alliance, and the United States gives more money to NATO's budget than 21 of those countries combined. If they don't agree to pay more, as you suggested, then what would you do as commander-in-chief?
CLINTON: I will stay in NATO. I will stay in NATO, and we will continue to look for missions and other kinds of programs that they will support. Remember, NATO was with us in Afghanistan. Most of the member countries also lost soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan. They came to our rallying defense after 9/11. That meant a lot.
And, yes, we have to work out the financial aspects of it, but let's not forget what's really happening. With Russia being more aggressive, making all kinds of intimidating moves toward the Baltic countries, we've seen what they've done in Eastern Ukraine, we know how they want to rewrite the map of Europe, it is not in our interests. Think of how much it would cost if Russia's aggression were not deterred because NATO was there on the front lines making it clear they could not move forward. [applause]
BLITZER: Thank you, Secretary.
Senator, let's talk about the U.S. relationship with Israel. Senator Sanders, you maintained that Israel's response in Gaza in 2014 was, quote, "disproportionate and led to the unnecessary loss of innocent life." [applause]
What do you say to those who believe that Israel has a right to defend itself as it sees fit?
SANDERS: Well, as somebody who spent many months of my life when I was a kid in Israel, who has family in Israel, of course Israel has a right not only to defend themselves, but to live in peace and security without fear of terrorist attack. That is not a debate. [applause]
But — but what you just read, yeah, I do believe that. Israel was subjected to terrorist attacks, has every right in the world to destroy terrorism. But we had in the Gaza area — not a very large area — some 10,000 civilians who were wounded and some 1,500 who were killed.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Free Palestine!
SANDERS: Now, if you're asking not just me, but countries all over the world was that a disproportionate attack, the answer is that I believe it was, and let me say something else. [cheering and applause]
And, let me say something else. As somebody who is 100% pro-Israel, in the long run — and this is not going to be easy, God only knows, but in the long run if we are ever going to bring peace to that region which has seen so much hatred and so much war, we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity. [cheering and applause]
So what is not to say — to say that right now in Gaza, right now in Gaza unemployment is s somewhere around 40%. You got a log of that area continues, it hasn't been built, decimated, houses decimated health care decimated, schools decimated. I believe the United States and the rest of the world have got to work together to help the Palestinian people.
That does not make me anti-Israel. That paves the way, I think...
BLITZER: ... Thank you, Senator...
SANDERS: ...to an approach that works in the Middle East. [cheering and applause]
BLITZER: Thank you. Secretary Clinton, do you agree with Senator Sanders that Israel overreacts to Palestinians attacks, and that in order for there to be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel must, quote, end its disproportionate responses?
CLINTON: I negotiated the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in November of 2012. I did it in concert with... [applause]
President Abbas of the Palestinian authority based in Ramallah, I did it with the then Muslim Brotherhood President, Morsi, based in Cairo, working closely with Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli cabinet. I can tell you right now I have been there with Israeli officials going back more than 25 years that they do not seek this kind of attacks. They do not invite the rockets raining down on their towns and villages. [applause]
They do not believe that there should be a constant incitement by Hamas aided and abetted by Iran against Israel. And, so when it came time after they had taken the incoming rockets, taken the assaults and ambushes on their soldiers and they called and told me, I was in Cambodia, that they were getting ready to have to invade Gaza again because they couldn't find anybody to talk to tell them to stop it, I flew all night, I got there, I negotiated that.
So, I don't know how you run a country when you are under constant threat, terrorist tact, rockets coming at you. You have a right to defend yourself. [applause]
That does not mean — that does not mean that you don't take appropriate precautions. And, I understand that there's always second guessing anytime there is a war. It also does not mean that we should not continue to do everything we can to try to reach a two-state solution, which would give the Palestinians the rights and...
BLITZER: ... Thank you...
CLINTON: ... just let me finish. The rights and the autonomy that they deserve. And, let me say this, if Yasser Arafat had agreed with my husband at Camp David in the Late 1990s to the offer then Prime Minister Barat put on the table, we would have had a Palestinian state for 15 years. [cheering and applause]
BLITZER: Thank you, Senator, go ahead — go ahead, Senator.
SANDERS: I don't think that anybody would suggest that Israel invites and welcomes missiles flying into their country. That is not the issue.
And, you evaded the answer. You evaded the question. The question is not does Israel have a right to respond, nor does Israel have a right to go after terrorists and destroy terrorism. That's not the debate. Was their response disproportionate?
I believe that it was, you have not answered that. [cheering]
CLINTON: I will certainly be willing to answer it. I think I did answer it by saying that of course there have to be precautions taken but even the most independent analyst will say the way that Hamas places its weapons, the way that it often has its fighters in civilian garb, it is terrible.
I'm not saying it's anything other than terrible. It would be great — remember, Israel left Gaza. They took out all the Israelis. They turned the keys over to the Palestinian people.
And what happened? Hamas took over Gaza.
So instead of having a thriving economy with the kind of opportunities that the children of the Palestinians deserve, we have a terrorist haven that is getting more and more rockets shipped in from Iran and elsewhere.
BLITZER: Thank you, Secretary.
SANDERS: I read Secretary Clinton's statement speech before AIPAC. I heard virtually no discussion at all about the needs of the Palestinian people. Almost none in that speech. [applause]
So here is the issue: of course Israel has a right to defend itself, but long term there will never be peace in that region unless the United States plays a role, an even-handed role trying to bring people together and recognizing the serious problems that exist among the Palestinian people.
That is what I believe the world wants to us do and that's the kind of leadership that we have got to exercise.
CLINTON: Well, if I — I want to add, you know, again describing the problem is a lot easier than trying to solve it. And I have been involved, both as first lady with my husband's efforts, as a senator supporting the efforts that even the Bush administration was undertaking, and as secretary of state for President Obama, I'm the person who held the last three meetings between the president of the Palestinian Authority and the prime minister of Israel.
There were only four of us in the room, Netanyahu, Abbas, George Mitchell, and me. Three long meetings. And I was absolutely focused on what was fair and right for the Palestinians.
I was absolutely focused on what we needed to do to make sure that the Palestinian people had the right to self-government. And I believe that as president I will be able to continue to make progress and get an agreement that will be fair both to the Israelis and the Palestinians without ever, ever undermining Israel's security. [applause]
BLITZER: A final word, Senator, go ahead.
SANDERS: There comes a time — there comes a time when if we pursue justice and peace, we are going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time. [applause]
CLINTON: ... you know, I have spoken about and written at some length the very candid conversations I've had with him and other Israeli leaders. Nobody is saying that any individual leader is always right, but it is a difficult position.
If you are from whatever perspective trying to seek peace, trying to create the conditions for peace when there is a terrorist group embedded in Gaza that does not want to see you exist, that is a very difficult challenge.
BLITZER: Senator, go ahead.
SANDERS: You gave a major speech to AIPAC, which obviously deals with the Middle East crisis, and you barely mentioned the Palestinians. And I think, again, it is a complicated issue and God knows for decades presidents, including President Clinton and others, Jimmy Carter and others have tried to do the right thing.
All that I am saying is we cannot continue to be one-sided. There are two sides to the issue.
BLITZER: Thank you, Senator. Thank you, Secretary.
We have to take another quick, quick break. But much more on the CNN Democratic presidential debate live from Brooklyn, New York. That is coming up right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to the CNN presidential debate. We're here in Brooklyn. Secretary, Senator, both of you talk about major reforms to college tuition, health care, and Social Security, all of which will take significant changes from Congress, currently controlled by Republicans.
Senator Sanders, you're promising health care and free college for all, and those plans would be met with both political and practical challenges. The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says your initiatives would cost up to $28 trillion and, even after massive tax increases, that would add as much as $15 trillion to the national debt. How is this fiscally responsible?
SANDERS: Well, first of all, I disagree with that study. There are many economists who come up with very, very different numbers.
For example, we are the only country, major country on Earth, that does not guarantee health care to all people, and yet we end up spending almost three times what the British do, 50 percent more than the French. My proposal, a Medicare-for-all, single-payer program, will save...[applause]...will save middle-class families many thousands of dollars a year in their health care costs. Public colleges and universities tuition free? Damn right. That is exactly what we should be doing. [applause]
And I'd pay for that — I'd pay for that by telling Wall Street that, yeah, we are going to have a tax on Wall Street speculation, which will bring in more than enough money to provide free tuition at public colleges and universities and lower the outrageous level of student debt.
Wolf, we have seen in the last 30 years a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class to the top 0.1 percent. The establishment does not like this idea, but, yes, I am determined to transfer that money back to the working families of this country. [applause]
BLITZER: Thank you, Senator. Secretary, go ahead and respond.
CLINTON: Well, again — again, I absolutely agree with the diagnosis, the diagnosis that we've got to do much more to finish the work of getting universal health care coverage, something that I've worked on for 25 years. Before there was something called Obamacare, there was something called Hillarycare. And we're now at 90 percent of coverage; I'm going to get us to 100 percent.
And with respect to college, I think we have to make college affordable. We are pricing out middle-class, working, and poor families. There's no doubt about that.
But I do think when you make proposals and you're running for president, you should be held accountable for whether or not the numbers add up and whether or not the plans...[applause]...are actually going to work. And just very briefly, on health care, most of the people who have analyzed what Senator Sanders put out — remember, he had a plan for about, I don't know, 18, 20 years. He changed in the middle of this campaign. He put out another plan. People have been analyzing the new plan. And there is no doubt by those who have analyzed it, progressive economists, health economists, and the like, that it would pose an incredible burden, not just on the budget, but on individuals. In fact, the Washington Post called it a train-wreck for the poor. A working woman on Medicaid who already has health insurance would be expected to pay about $2,300.
The same for free college. The free college offer — you know, my late father said, if somebody promises you something for free, read the fine print. You read the fine print, and here's what it says.
BLITZER: Thank you, Secretary.
CLINTON: The fine print says this, that it will — the federal government will cover two-thirds of the cost and require the states, even those led by Republican governors...
BLITZER: Senator, go ahead. Thank you.
CLINTON: ... to carry out what the remaining one-third of the cost.
SANDERS: I know what Secretary Clinton is saying.
BLITZER: Secretary please.
SANDERS: We are not a country that has the courage to stand up to big money and do what has to be done for the working families of the country. [applause]
Secretary Clinton will have to explain to the people of our country how it could be that every other major country on Earth manages to guarantee health care to all of their people, spending significantly less per capita than we can.
I live 50 miles away from Canada, you know? It's not some kind of communist authoritarian country. They're doing OK. They got a health care system that guarantees health care to all people. We can do the same.
In terms of public colleges and universities, please don't tell me that we cannot do what many other countries around the world are doing. Kids should not be punished and leave school deeply in debt, for what crime? For trying to get an education.
BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.
SANDERS: So, yes, we are going to pay for it...
BLITZER: Secretary Clinton — Secretary Clinton, go ahead.
CLINTON: We have — we have a difference of opinion. We both want to get to universal health care coverage. I did stand up to the special interests and the powerful forces, the health insurance companies and the drug companies. [applause]
And perhaps that's why I am so much in favor of supporting President Obama's signature accomplishment with the Affordable Care Act, because I know how hard it was to get that passed, even with a Democratic Congress. So rather than letting the Republicans repeal it or rather starting all over again, trying to throw the country into another really contentious debate, let's make the Affordable Care Act work for everybody...
BLITZER: Thank you, Secretary.
CLINTON: ... let's get to 100 percent coverage, let's get the cost down, and let's guarantee health care.
BLITZER: Secretary, let's talk about Social Security, another critically important issue. Senator Sanders has challenged you to give a clear answer when it comes to extending the life of Social Security and expanding benefits. Are you prepared to lift the cap on taxable income, which currently stands at $118,500? Yes or no, would you lift the cap?
CLINTON: I have said repeatedly, Wolf, I am going to make the wealthy pay into Social Security to extend the Social Security Trust Fund. That is one way. If that is the way that we pursue, I will follow that.
But there are other ways. We should be looking at taxing passive income by wealthy people. We should be looking at taxing all of their investment.
But here's the real issue, because I — I've heard this, I've seen the reports of it. I have said from the very beginning, we are going to protect Social Security. I was one of the leaders in the fight against Bush when he was trying to privatize Social Security.
But we also, in addition to extending the Trust Fund, which I am absolutely determined to do, we've got to help people who are not being taken care of now. And because Social Security started in the 1930s, a lot of women have been left out and left behind.
And it's time that we provide more benefits for widows, divorcees, for caregivers, for women who deserve more from the Social Security...
BLITZER: Thank you, Secretary.
CLINTON: ...system and that will be my highest priority.
Go ahead, Senator. [applause]
SANDERS: An interesting comment, but you didn't answer the question.
CLINTON: I did. If that's the way we're...
SANDERS: No, you didn't. My legi...
CLINTON: ...yes, I did.
SANDERS: Can I answer...
CLINTON: I did answer the...
SANDERS: ...may I please...
CLINTON: Well, don't — don't put words...
SANDERS: ...can I have... [crosstalk]
CLINTON: ...into my mouth and say something...
SANDERS: ...do I not?
CLINTON: ...that's not accurate.
BLITZER: Go ahead, Senator.
SANDERS: All right. Essentially what you described is my legislation, which includes [inaudible]... [applause]
Now, we've got — here is the issue. Your answer has been the same year after year. In fact, the idea that I'm bringing forth, I have to admit it, you know, it wasn't my idea. It was Barack Obama's idea in 2008, the exact same idea. [applause]
He called for lifting the cap, which is now higher — it's at 118 — and starting at 250 and going on up. If you do that, you're going to extend the life of Social Security for 58 years. You will significantly expand benefits by 1,300 bucks a year for seniors and disabled vets under $16,000 a year.
What's wrong with that?
Are you prepared to support it?
CLINTON: I have supported it. You know, we are in vigorous agreement here, Senator.
SANDERS: You have sup...
CLINTON: I think it's important...[applause]...to point out that...[applause]...you know, we're — we're having a discussion about the best way to raise money from wealthy people to extend the Social Security Trust Fund. Think about what the other side wants to do. They're calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme. They still want to privatize it.
In fact, their whole idea is to turn over the Social Security Trust Fund to Wall Street, something you and I would never let happen.
SANDERS: All right, so...
CLINTON: So, yes, we both want to make sure... [applause]
SANDERS: Look, Wolf...
CLINTON: ...Social Security [inaudible]...
SANDERS: ...I am very glad that...
CLINTON: ...and well-funded...
SANDERS: I am very glad to...
BLITZER: Thank you, Secretary.
BLITZER: Senator, go ahead.
SANDERS: ...campaign of challenging, if I hear you correctly, Madam Secretary, you are now coming out finally in favor of lifting the cap on taxable income...[applause]...and extending and expanding Social Security. If that is the case, welcome on board. I'm glad you're here. [applause]
BLITZER: Thank you.
Errol — Errol Louis, go ahead. [applause]
CLINTON: We are going...[applause]...we are... [applause]...we are going...
CLINTON: I — as he said, I've said the same thing for years. I didn't say anything different tonight. We are going to extend the Social Security Trust Fund. There is still something called Congress. Now, I happen to support Democrats and I want to get Democrats to take back the majority in the United States Senate...
CLINTON: ...so a lot of — a lot of what we're talking about can actually be implemented...
BLITZER: Errol, hold on a second.
CLINTON: ...when I am president.
BLITZER: Go ahead.
Hold on, Errol...
SANDERS: ...I'm still...
BLITZER: ...Errol. Hold on.
SANDERS: I've got to admit...
BLITZER: Go ahead, Senator.
SANDERS: ...maybe I'm a little bit confused.
Are you or are you not supporting legislation to lift the cap on taxable income and expand Social Security for 58 years and increase benefits...
CLINTON: I am...
SANDERS: ...yes or no?
CLINTON: I have said yes, we are going to pick the best way or combination...
SANDERS: Oh, you — ah. [applause] [booing]
CLINTON: ...or combination of ways...[booing]...you know...[booing]...it — it's all — it's always a little bit, uh, challenging because, you know, if Senator Sanders doesn't agree with how you are approaching something, then you are a member of the establishment.
Well, let me say then...
SANDERS: Well, look... [applause]
CLINTON: ...let me say this... [applause]...we are going to extend the Social Security Trust Fund. We've got some good ideas to do it. Let's get a Congress elected...
BLITZER: Thank you.
CLINTON: ...that will actually agree...
BLITZER: Well, thank you...
CLINTON: ...with us in doing it.
BLITZER: Errol, go ahead.
LOUIS: OK, Secretary Clinton, I've got a question for you from a reader...
SANDERS: Let me interject here.
LOUIS: ...of the "New York Daily News."
SANDERS: Yes, Secretary Clinton...[crosstalk]...you are a member of the establishment.
LOUIS: ...this was a reader...
LOUIS: ...of "The Daily News" who sent us a...[cheering]...a question for you.
Just a second, Senator.
Hannah Green wants to know your position, Secretary Clinton, regarding President Obama's nomination of Merrick Gaarland to the Supreme m Court. President Obama said earlier this week that he would not withdraw the nomination, even after the presidential election. If elected, would you ask the president to withdraw the nomination?
CLINTON: I am not going to contradict the president's strategy on this. And I'm not going to engage in hypotheticals. I fully support the president. [applause]
And I believe that the president — the president is on the right side of both the Constitution and history. And the Senate needs to immediately begin to respond. So I'm going to support the president. When I am president, I will take stock of where we are and move from there.
LOUIS: Senator Sanders.
SANDERS: Well, there is no question. I mean, it really is an outrage. And it just continues, the seven-and-a-half years of unbelievable obstructionism we have seen from these right-wing Republicans.
I mean, a third-grader in America understands the president of the United States has the right to nominate individuals to the U.S. Supreme Court. Apparently everybody understands that except the Republicans in Congress.
LOUIS: So, Senator Sanders, would you ask him to withdraw the nomination?
SANDERS: Yes, but here is the point, and obviously i will strongly support that nomination as a member of the Senate. But, if elected president, I would ask the president to withdraw that nomination because I think — I think this.
I think that we need a Supreme Court justice who will make it crystal clear, and this nominee has not yet done that, crystal clear that he or she will vote to overturn Citizens United and make sure that American democracy is not undermined. [applause]
CLINTON: You know, there is no doubt that the only people that I would ever appoint to the Supreme Court are people who believe that Roe V. Wade is settled law and Citizens United needs to be overturned.
And I want to say something about this since we're talking about the Supreme Court and what's at stake. We've had eight debates before, this is our ninth. We've not had one question about a woman's right to make her own decisions about reproductive health care, not one question. [applause]
And in the meantime we have states, governors doing everything they can to restrict women's rights. We have a presidential candidate by the name of Donald Trump saying that women should be punished. And we are never asked about this.
And to be complete in my concern, Senator Sanders says with respect to Trump it was a distraction. I don't think it's a distraction. It goes to the heart of who we are as women, our rights, our autonomy, our ability to make our own decisions, and we need to be talking about that and defending Planned Parenthood from these outrageous attacks.
BASH: Senator Sanders, your response.
SANDERS: You're looking at a senator and former congressman who proudly has a 100 percent pro-choice voting record, who will take on those Republican governors who are trying to restrict a woman's right to choose, who will take on those governors right now who are discriminating outrageously against the LGBT community, who comes from a state which led the effort for gay marriage in this country, proudly so. [applause]
BASH: Thank you, Senator.
SANDERS: Who not only thinks we are not going to — not defund Planned Parenthood, we've got to expand funding for Planned Parenthood. [applause]
BASH: Senator Sanders, you've spoken a lot tonight about your votes in Congress. You have been in Congress for over a quarter of the century, and there as an independent, not a Democrat.
Now you're seeking the Democratic nomination, but Secretary Clinton has suggested that she's not even sure you are a Democrat. Are you?
SANDERS: Well, why would I be running for the Democratic nomination to be president of the United States? [applause]
But here is a good point. You know, in virtually all of the general election match-up polls between Trump and Secretary Clinton and Trump and Bernie Sanders, in almost all of those polls, I do better than Secretary Clinton both in the CNN poll I was 20 points ahead of Trump.
I think Secretary Clinton was 12 points. And you know why? Because in fact a whole lot of people — this may be a shock to the secretary, but there a whole lot of independents in this country. [applause]
BASH: Senator Sanders...
SANDERS: And we are not going to win the White House based on just long-term Democratic votes. We have got to reach out to independents and I think I am well qualified to do that.
BASH: Senator Sanders. [applause]
SANDERS: I am in this race as a Democrat. I have raised millions of dollars for my colleagues in the United States Senate to help them get elected. I will do everything I can to open the Democratic party to the young people who are flocking into our political campaign. [cheering]
BASH: On that very subject, on that very subject, Secretary Clinton mentions electing a Democratic congress several times. She says that she raised $15 million for the Democratic party in the first three months of this year. You don't appear to have raised any money for the party. Yesterday you did announce that you will help three members of Congress who have endorsed you. Why aren't you doing more to help the party you say you want to lead?
SANDERS: The truth is, and you can speak to my colleagues, we have raised millions of dollars to the DSCC. I have written letter that have raised, if I may use the word, huge amount of money so that's just not accurate.
But, I will also say, and this is important and maybe the Secretary disagrees with me, but I am proud that millions of young people who previously were not involved in the political process are now coming into it, and I do believe, I do believe that we have got to open the door of the Democratic party to those people. [applause]
And, I think the future of the Democratic party is not simply by raising money from wealthy campaign contributors. I think that the way we are doing it in this campaign...
BASH: ... Thank you Senator.
SANDERS: $27 a contribution...
BASH: ... Senator, your time is up...
SANDERS: not being dependent on Wall Street, or big money, that is the future of the Democratic Party that I want to see. [cheering and applause]
BASH: Thank you, Senator Sanders. Secretary Clinton.
CLINTON: Let us talk about where we are in this race. I've gotten more votes than anybody running. 9.6 million at the last count. [cheering and applause]
That is 2.3 million more than Senator Sanders. [applause]
And it is 1.4 million more than Donald Trump. [cheering and applause]
I think you have to look at the facts. And, the facts are that I'm putting together a very broad-based, inclusive coalition from the South to the North, from the East to the West, with African-American, Latinos, women, union households, working people and I am very proud of the campaign we are running. It is a campaign that will not only capture the Democratic nomination, but a campaign that will defeat whoever the Republican end up nominating. [cheering and applause]
BASH: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Senator Sanders. [cheering and applause]
CLINTON: And, I want to say — I also want to say that I do — I do think it is absolutely critical and incredible that we have so many young people involved in the political process. I applaud all of those who are applauding you, Senator Sanders. We're happy that they are supporting you, that they are passionately committed to you and to the issues.
But, let me also say it's going to be important that we unify the Democratic party when the nomination process has been completed...
BASH: ... Secretary Clinton, thank you.
CLINTON: And, I know something about that...
BASH: ... Secretary Clinton...
CLINTON: Thank you so much. Because, when I went to the very end of the 2008 campaign with then Senator Obama...
BASH: ...Secretary Clinton, you're out of time...
CLINTON: ... We did unify the party, and we did elect a Democratic president...
BASH: ...Senator Sanders, on that note....
SANDERS: ... Let me, if I may just briefly say something...
BASH: ... Senator Sanders, I want to ask you a question about this, and you can incorporate that into your response. Three months now between now and the Democratic convention. Your campaign manager says that you will absolutely take the fight to the floor if neither you nor Secretary Clinton clinches the nomination with pledged delegates alone. [applause]
Do you vow to take this fight to Philadelphia no matter what?
SANDERS: I think we're going to win this nomination to tell you the truth. [cheering]
Look, let me acknowledge what is absolutely true. Secretary Clinton cleaned our clock in the Deep South. No question about it. We got murdered there. That is the most conservative part of this great country. That's the fact.
But you know what? We're out of the Deep South now. And we're moving up. We got here. We're going to California. We got a number of large states there. And having won seven out of the last eight caucuses and primaries, having a level of excitement and energy among working people and low-income people doing better against Donald Trump and the other Republicans in poll after poll than Secretary Clinton is, yeah, I believe that we're going to win this nomination, and I believe we're going to obliterate Donald Trump or whoever the Republican candidate is. [applause]
CLINTON: Now, let me say this...
BLITZER: Secretary Clinton, go ahead.
CLINTON: I think it's — I think it's important for people out there watching this tonight to know that I also have a considerable lead in pledged delegates. And my lead in pledged delegates is actually wider than Barack Obama's lead was over me.
And in addition to winning states in the Deep South, we won Florida, Texas, Arizona, Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina, Missouri. [applause]
And so I think where we stand today is that we are in this campaign very confident and optimistic, but it all comes down to reaching every single voter. I'm not taking anything for granted or any voter or any place.
So I'm going to work my heart out here in New York until the polls close on Tuesday. I'm going to work in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware and Maryland, all the way through California. And when we end up with the number of delegates we need, we will unite the party and have a unified convention...
BLITZER: Senator, go ahead.
CLINTON: ... that we'll go onto the general election with.
SANDERS: The reason — the reason why in virtually every contest we are winning by very strong margins younger people — and I'm not just talking about very young. You know, the older you get, the younger young gets — 45 or younger — is I think people are sensing that establishment politics and dependence on Wall Street and big money interest is really never going to address the crises that we face. [applause]
And people understand, you can't take money from powerful special interests into your PAC and then really expect the American people to believe you're going to stand up to these powerful special interests. So I am very proud of the fact that we have brought millions of new people into the political process...
BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.
SANDERS: ... many of whom previously had given up.
BLITZER: Thank you, Senator, very much. The candidates, they will make their final pitches to New York voters right after this. [applause]
BLITZER: Welcome back to the CNN presidential debate. It's time for the candidates' closing statements. Each candidate will have two minutes. Senator Sanders, you're first.
SANDERS: I grew up in Brooklyn, New York...[applause]...the son of an immigrant who came to this country from Poland at the age of 17 without a nickel in his pocket, never made a whole lot of money, but was a very proud American, because this country gave him and my mom the opportunity to send their kids to college.
I believe that this country has enormous potential if we have the guts to take on the big money interests who dominate our economic and political life. And I disagree with Secretary Clinton in the belief that you can get money from Wall Street, that you can get money for a super PAC from powerful special interests, and then at the end of the day do what has to be done for the working families of this country. I just don't accept that.
What I believe is that this country, if we stand together and not let the Trumps of the world divide us up, can guarantee health care to all people as a right, can have paid family and medical leave, can make public colleges and universities tuition-free, can lead the world in transforming our energy system and combatting climate change, can break up the large financial institutions, can demand that the wealthiest people in this country start paying their fair share of taxes.
And we can do that when millions of people stand up, fight back, and create a government that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent. [applause]
That is what the political revolution is about. That is what this campaign is about. And with your help, we're going to win here in New York. Thank you. Thank you. [applause]
BLITZER: Secretary Clinton? Secretary Clinton?
CLINTON: Thank you. I am very grateful for the fact that the people of New York gave me the great honor of serving as your senator. You took a chance on me in 2000, and then you re-elected me with one of the biggest margins we've had in our state in 2006. During those years, we worked closely together. I tried to have your back, and time and time again, you had mine.
We took on the challenges of 9/11 together. We got the money to rebuild New York. We came to the aid of our brave first responders, construction workers, and others who endangered their own health by helping to save lives and search for survivors. [applause]
We worked to create jobs — despite the disastrous policies of George W. Bush — across New York. And we stood up time and time again against all kinds of vested powerful interests.
I'm asking for your support again in the primary on Tuesday to continue that work together, to take what we did in New York and to take those New York values to the White House, and put them to work on behalf of all of our people, to knock down the barriers that stand in the way.
You know, of course we have economic barriers. I've been fighting against those trying to even the odds most of my adult life. But we also have racial barriers, gender barriers, homophobic barriers, disability barriers. [applause]
We have a lot of barriers that stand in the way of people being treated as they should and having the chance to live up to their own God-given potential.
So I am humbly asking for your support on Tuesday. I'll work my heart out for you again. And together, we won't just make promises we can't keep. We'll deliver results that will improve the lives of the people in New York and in America. [applause]
That's what we'll do together. Thank you, New York. [applause]
BLITZER: Thank you, Secretary. Thank you very much, Senator.
I want to thank the candidates for a really terrific debate. Thanks also to Dana Bash and Errol Louis, as well as NY1, the Democratic National Committee, and everyone here at the Duggal Greenhouse at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.