Bernie Sanders

Interview with Erin Burnett of CNN

March 29, 2016

BURNETT: And now, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders is here with me in Milwaukee. Thank you so much, Senator. I appreciate your being with me.

SANDERS: Great to be with you.

BURNETT: This is a crucial state. You just heard Hillary Clinton say your campaigns are talking to each other about another debate. You've asked for one. Of course, as you're aware, earlier today, a Clinton campaign spokesman said your requests for debates are a quote/unquote, "publicity stunt." Do you think she's serious about debating you?

SANDERS: I certainly hope so. Look, there are huge issues facing this country. Our middle class disappearing. Grotesque levels of income and wealth inequality. A campaign finance system that is corrupt and a broken criminal justice system. And in New York State, there are additional problems. So I would hope that we would have a good debate. My understanding is she would like to do it in Brooklyn. I was born in Brooklyn. Let's do it!

BURNETT: Game on for Brooklyn.

SANDERS: Game on.

BURNETT: The other big news, of course, you heard at the top of the program, you saw the video today from a Trump rally. But of course, Donald Trump's campaign manager charged with simple battery for an altercation with a reporter recently. Moments ago, he just defended that campaign manager. He said, "I know it would be easy for to discard people. I don't discard people." Should Trump fire Corey Lewandowski?

SANDERS: Well, let's see what happens in the legal process. He's been charged, and we don't find people guilty until you go through a process. But my campaign manager does not assault female journalists, let me just say that.

BURNETT: You know, John Kasich came out and said he would if this had happened to him. He would go ahead and fire his campaign manager.


BURNETT: If the roles were reversed, were you?

SANDERS: Well, let me just say this. Let me just say this. What has concerned me very much about Donald Trump is the edginess of calls to violence around his campaigns. What I found absolutely shocking, not only this campaign manager's action. But he was prepared - or at least indicated that he was prepared -- to pay the legal fees for somebody who quite openly sucker-punched somebody - right, knocked them down. And when you say you're going to pay the legal fees for someone who commits a gross act of violence, what you're really telling your supporters is that violence is okay.

But Erin, to me, all of that stuff is interesting political stuff. But what we are trying to focus on in this campaign are the issues that impact the American people. Which, frankly, is why I think our campaign is doing so well. One of the key issues that we are dealing with is a rigged economy in which millions of people today are working longer hours for lower wages. A broken trade system right here in Wisconsin. Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost because companies shut down here, moved to Mexico, moved to China. We need a trade policy that works for workers, not just the CEOs of large corporations.

BURNETT: Now, you're obviously making this case here in Wisconsin. You have the landslide wins on Saturday, right, in three crucial states.


BURNETT: Now you're here in Wisconsin. It's huge, right? You've got 86 delegates --

SANDERS: Absolutely.

BURNETT: -- 96 (ph) if you count the ones up for grabs. Are you going to win Wisconsin? Are you confident?

SANDERS: I'm never into speculation. I will tell you that the night of the election, all right? I'll tell you exactly what the results are. But it's silly to be talking about it. All I can say is we're going to work very, very hard. We have a lot of volunteers here in the state. We're going to be knocking on doors, we're going to be making phone calls. And our message about the need to create an economy that works for all people is in fact resonating here in Wisconsin. And I think you're going to see us do very well.

BURNETT: So, one of the arguments you're making on that front, right, is free college.

SANDERS: No, no, no -

BURNETT: -- free public university -

SANDERS: You see, every time I'm on a show, somebody says free college. It is free tuition at public colleges and universities.

BURNETT: OK, so on that front, though -- because it is important how you word it, your plan -- we have a federalist (ph) system. You would be chipping in money to the states, and they would then have the decision to make.


BURNETT: Hillary Clinton says that's just not going to happen in a state like Wisconsin.


BURNETT: Let me just play what she said, basically about you this afternoon. Here she is.

[begin video clip]

HILLARY CLINTON: His plan depends upon governors like your governor -- [audience boos] -- putting in a lot of money. Now, I've got to tell you, having followed from afar -- [audience laughter] -- the wrecking ball that Scott Walker has used against higher education, I don't think it's all that realistic to say, well, you'll get free college as long as Scott Walker chips in about, you know -- yeah, about $300 million.

[end video clip]

BURNETT: I mean, Scott Walker turned down half a billion dollars in Obamacare.

SANDERS: OK, let me just say the danger - let me just say this. Number one, in the year 2016, we have got to recognize that a college degree is pretty much the equivalent of what a high school degree was 50 years ago. The world has changed. The economy has changed. We need to have the best educated work force in the world. Young people should not be denied the opportunity because they don't have the money. Or they should not have to leave school $50,000, $100,000 in debt. So we do believe, I do believe very strongly in making public colleges and universities tuition-tree.

Now, what Secretary Clinton said is that Scott Walker may not go along with that. Well, you know what happens to the state of Wisconsin if he does not? California will, Vermont will, states all over this country will, and young, bright people will be leaving Wisconsin. And I think the people of Wisconsin will tell Scott Walker, you know what? This will be a disaster for the future of our state. Because when kids leave, sometimes they don't come back.

So I think the idea is sound. It is paid for, Erin, by a tax on Wall Street's speculation. When Wall Street's illegal behavior destroyed our economy, middle class bailed them out. It is now time for them to help the middle class.

BURNETT: What about, though, the issue on terms of the pure pay force, right? During the midst of the financial crisis when people said, let Bank of America go under. Let them go under. They don't deserve to survive, you know? You're not just talking about tens of thousands of people that would have worked for that bank, but also the millions of Americans that have -- own shares of that bank and their 401(k), their IRA. [inaudible] millions of Americans own stocks now. Middle class Americans who could end up paying for them.

SANDERS: No, no, the vast majority of that speculation tax will be paid by upper-income people. And that's the way we've designed it.

But at the end of the day, look, this campaign is not your typical campaign. It's not your Hillary Clinton campaign. We are thinking bigger and bolder.

Now, you tell me, if Germany can provide in fact free college education, Scandinavia can do it, other countries around the world can do it, why can't we do it? Why can't we have the best educated work force in the world, which we're going to need if our economy is to survive?

And let me also add this. In the last 30 years, there has been a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class to the top one-tenth of one percent. I know you don't talk about it too much in the media, but that is the fact. We're talking about trillions of dollars. So yes, I am running for president, and am telling the top one-tenth of one percent they're going to have to pay more in taxes.

BURNETT: And just a question, let me take a step back about the whole idea. You say you want the best educated work force. When you look at the top-ranked countries, you're looking at places like Canada, like South Korea, like Japan. All of them require people to pay in most instances about what people pay here for public education.

SANDERS: Listen, trust me. People are going to be paying for Harvard and Yale and all kinds of private schools. The way I see it, Erin, is that right now, and for the last hundred years, we have had public education which says that no matter what your income is, right? You're rich or poor, you can go from the first grade to the 12th grade for free. We take it for granted. All I am saying is that in the year 2016, with a radically changing economy, where young people need more education, let's extend that concept beyond the 12th grade through public colleges and universities.

BURNETT: All right. Senator Sanders is staying with me. We're going to have much more in our exclusive conversation in just a moment in the wake of the terror attacks in Brussels. We're going to talk about that and the fight against ISIS. And we're also going to be counting down, of course, to the town hall for the GOP. Trump, Cruz, Kasich, less than an hour from now right across town here in Wisconsin

We'll be right back.

[commercial break]

BURNETT: Welcome back. We are live tonight in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where in less than an hour, the three remaining Republican presidential candidates will be going before voters at our town hall across town here and make their case. And of course, right now, I'm talking exclusively to Senator Bernie Sanders, who is also come campaigning here in this must-win state up against Hillary Clinton.

Senator, let's continue our conversation. The open primary here in Wisconsin is important. That means people can switch over. They can vote for whomever they would like, Democrats, Republicans. We've seen this across the country, people choosing between you and and Donald Trump. Some union workers, we understand here, are deeply considering whether they should vote for you or Donald Trump. Do you think they're crazy? What do you say to people who are making that choice?

SANDERS: Well, I think we'll get the vast majority of the union workers. Trump will get some, but I think we'll get a lot more. I think what's going on, Erin, is there is a lot of anger in this country. For your average guy, he is asking why he has to work longer hours for lower wages. Why he's really worried or she is worried, mother really about the future of their children. And yet, almost all income and wealth is going to the top 1 percent. People are angry.

What Trump is doing is taking that anger and saying, it's the fault of the Mexicans or it's the fault of the Muslims. We've got to scapegoat people. Well, beating up on Mexicans who make eight bucks an hour is not going to deal with the real issues facing --

BURNETT: Are you, though, blaming rich people for it?

SANDERS: It's not rich people, no. We are blaming a economic system right now where factually almost all the income and wealth is going to the top 1 percent. Where you have billionaires and large corporations that are not paying their fair share of taxes; there are some major corporations make billions a year in taxes, stash their money in the Cayman Islands, don't pay a nickel in taxes.

And what I want to do is take that money, do away with that loophole, invest it in rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. We can create 13 million jobs over a five-year period with a trillion-dollar investment. That's roads, bridges, water systems, waste water plants. It's not a question of blaming, it's a question of understanding the reality. It is a rigged economy. People on the top are doing phenomenally well; everybody else is doing worse. We've got to change that.

BURNETT: Susan Sarandon is a supporter of yours, as you know. The actress, she said, "Some people feel Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately if he gets in." Is Donald Trump more likely to bring about a revolution in this country -- and you've been having revolutionary talk. I know not of the violent sort, but in terms of making changes in this country. Is he more likely to accomplish that --

SANDERS: Well, I'm not sure -- I heard that. I didn't really see here Susan's context -- Susan's comment within a broader context. I think Trump will be a disaster for this country. I think the idea of insulting women and veterans and African-Americans and Mexicans and Muslims is precisely what this country does not need and does not want.

Look, in every poll that I've seen, including a CNN poll, we were 20 points ahead of Trump. I do not believe Trump is going to become president of the United States.

BURNETT: You do win in those head-to-heads, of course, in the polling. We spoke to some female Donald Trump supporters yesterday in Arizona. It was a fascinating conversation about why they do believe in Donald Trump, why they support him. Here's what one of them had to say.

[begin video clip]

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What you see is what you get with this man. And that is what I want. I like transparency. I like to know what I can expect. And I feel that he will deliver what he says. And there's just no secrecy.

[end video clip]

BURNETT: Do you understand his appeal to women?

SANDERS: I do. Well, it's not only -- no, I don't understand his appeal to women. I don't think he's particularly popular with women in general. You can't go around insulting women everyday and expect to gain support.

But I understand where that woman is coming from. Look, people are sick and tired of establishment politicians. Politicians say one thing, they do another thing. You know, the Congress has a favorability rating of 15 percent or something. And Trump is, of course, very blunt and straightforward.

But you've got to look at what he is saying. Does that woman really believe the billionaire class should receive hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks over a 10-year period? I doubt it. Does she not think that we should raise the minimum wage? Trump does not. Does she really think we should insult Muslims all over the world? I don't think she does think that.

So, I think the appeal of Trump is his bluntness, is his straightforwardness. And by the way, this guy is a good entertainer. He has done a very good job manipulating the media. He is a professional at that. And he has been successful doing it.

BURNETT: So, let me talk about Muslims and the issues that he has brought up on that. I was in Brussels last week. I spoke to a young man, and it was 10 to 15 people who have gone to Syria to fight with ISIS. I spoke to the brother of the Paris attacker - of one of the Paris attackers a few months ago in Brussels. He told me he knows many young men who are in Syria training to fight with ISIS. And they're coming back now.

And yet, you can still, without a visa, get on a plane in Brussels and fly to the United States. How do you prevent these young men who say their ultimate goal is to attack the United States from coming here without racially profiling, as Donald Trump suggested?

SANDERS: You do everything that you can. And that means you have information, and we have -- that's what intelligence services are all over the world. And you share that information. And if people are going to Syria, if they're going to training camps, they're not going to come -- or if they come back into Brussels or they come into the United States, they're going to be arrested in five minutes. We have zero tolerance for people who are going to hurt Americans or people anyplace else in the world.

BURNETT: But intelligence services haven't been coordinating. When people -- I know people in Brussels who said my son - one of - the bomber here, they said, my son is in Syria. And authorities didn't care. So if they don't know the names who's there, they don't know who's coming back.

SANDERS: But Brooke (sic), look. No one is saying -- first of all, let's look at the broader issue. Number one in Iraq right now, ISIS on the defensive. They have lost about 40 percent of the territory they controlled. And I believe that if we're smart, if we do a good job in training the Iraqi army, and the Muslim nations, they can be destroyed in a year or two. That certainly is the goal.

And second of all, we've got to do everything that with can. No one has any magical solutions. But we do have to improve our intelligence capabilities. We do have to make sure that federal, state and local law enforcement is much better coordinated in preventing these types of attacks.

BURNETT: Before we go, federal officials, as you know, this week say they've unlocked the iPhone of one of the shooters in San Bernardino. Now, they had been suing Apple to force Apple to do just that. They figured out how to do it themselves.

I know you've said you're fearful of Big Brother in America. But this is a terrorist's phone. Is it a good thing the FBI broke into it?

SANDERS: Look, I think that clearly, we need to get all of the information that we can to stop terrorism. But at the same time, we have to be mindful that in a free society, you do not want the government, I suspect, into your telephone. Would I be correct in saying that?

BURNETT: Mm-hmm.

SANDERS: So, what the correct balance is what we have to determine. But I am concerned about civil liberties --

BURNETT: Even protecting someone's phone that massacred Americans?

SANDERS: No, not protecting -- that's the balance. Of course, you're going to go after people who are killing Americans. That goes without saying. But it is one thing to go after a terrorist; it is another thing to have millions of people being -- having their e-mails or their websites surveyed when the vast majority of them have nothing to do with terrorism. So how you balance in a free society, the civil liberties and the constitutional rights of our people, while on the other hand, going after terrorists. That is the balance that we've got to establish.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Senator Sanders, thank you very much for your time. Nice talking to you tonight.

SANDERS: Nice to see you.

Bernie Sanders, Interview with Erin Burnett of CNN Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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