Return to Transcripts main page

CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Town Hall Meeting with Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Presidential Candidate. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired June 2, 2019 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[20:00:00]

JIM SCIUTTO, HOST: Very good evening to you from the CNN Center in Atlanta. Welcome to CNN's Democratic presidential town hall event. I'm Jim Sciutto. Of course, we've heard from tonight from Congressman Seth Molton and Tim Ryan. Now it is Congressman Eric Swalwell's turn.

The California Democrat, he kicked off his run near Parkland, Florida. Why is that? Because he vowed to make gun control a central focus of his campaign. That, of course, an issue very much in the news this weekend.

The 38-year-old Swalwell would be the youngest president ever elected in this country. And tonight, he's going to be taking questions from Democrats and independents who say that they plan to participate in the Democratic primaries and caucuses coming up next year.

Please give a warm welcome to Congressman Eric Swalwell.

(APPLAUSE)

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hi, sir. How are you?

SCIUTTO: Good to have you...

SWALWELL: How are you doing?

Thank you. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Congressman, thanks for joining us tonight.

SWALWELL: Of course. Of course. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Of course we had news this weekend of yet another shooting in America, Virginia Beach. 12 killed. Four people still injured, recovering from their injuries, the deadliest in the country in the year 2019. You're of course wearing a ribbon tonight which commemorates, intended to draw attention to gun violence.

And you also said that you were interestingly recording a video about gun violence as this news broke.

SWALWELL: I was. SCIUTTO: I want to ask you this because folks in the audience here, they have heard politicians talk about gun violence before. Why are you the person who is actually going to make a difference as president?

SWALWELL: Well, thank you, Jim, for convening this. Thank you, CNN. Thank you to the people of Atlanta. For me, it's a very personal issue when it comes to gun violence. And I first just want to say my heart breaks, as I know all of yours does, for the victims in Virginia.

When you look at those pictures, right? Black, white, young, old, it looks like America. For me, it's personal because I worked as a prosecutor in Oakland, and I saw shootings in the streets. From a father who is sending my son to school for his first day tomorrow at preschool, and my wife and I, we worry about whether he's going to come home.

But also, I went to congress when Sandy Hook happened. That was my coming to congress moment. And I just happened to believe we love our kids more than we

love our guns. And that we can do something.

(APPLAUSE)

SCIUTTO: We do want to stay on the issue of guns. A lot of folks in the audience have been very interested in this. We'll start with Jason Poe. He has a question on that topic. He works as an environmental specialist for the General Services Administration -- Jason.

JASON POE, ENVIRONMENTAL SPECIAL, GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION: Hello. How is it going? Good evening. Happy to be here participating in some democracy tonight.

My question is about the gun debate. So do you think that you can win in places like the south and Midwest, leading your campaign on the gun question? And what do you tell those constituents in those areas that you aren't out to, quote, take their guns?

SWALWELL: Thank you, Jason. I tell them keep your pistols, keep your rifles, keep your shotguns, but we can ban and buy back the most dangerous weapons. And there's a new gun safety majority in America, and it's time that we lean in and negotiate up.

So here's what we can do -- and again, I'm informed by this as working as a prosecutor. I have seen the shootings in our communities. I've seen the fear that parents have for their kids. But I've also gotten frustrated in congress.

When I went to congress, Sandy hook happened. Then there was nothing. Then Charleston. Nothing. San Bernardino. Nothing. Orlando, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs. Nothing, nothing, nothing.

There is this ritual: grief, anger, moments of silence as an alibi for doing nothing. Tonight, I brought as my guest Tamar Manasa (ph) from the south side of Chicago. She's doing something. Block by block, she's bringing people together so that the kids can have education and hope where there's no hope. We need a lot more Tamaras (ph) across the America to invest in every community, not just the ones that have school shootings and have church shootings.

But something happened after Parkland that inspired me that I could do something and lead on this issue. Out of unimaginable grief, the students and the parents

picked themselves up and they organized, and they marched, and you told them you had their back. And they beat 17 NRA-endorsed members of congress. We did that.

So as president -- as president, I'm not going to negotiate down anymore. I'm going to negotiate up.

So, yes, we'll pass background checks. We already did that in the House. I'll come here to Georgia, you'll get sick and tired of me because I'm going to help you elect a senator so we can pass it in the senate.

I'm the only candidate calling for a ban and buyback on every single assault weapon. But I also believe that's investing in jobs and education block by block.

But here's the question we face: I was in Philadelphia a couple weeks ago talking to a trauma counselor named Scott Charles. He's said he's counseled thousands of

gun violence victims at Temple Hospital in Philly. And I said, Mr. Charles, what is one thing you

would do if you could do anything to save more lives? He said I already know the answer to that. We're working on it right now. We're trying to put block by block different tourniquets at the Chinese walk-up restaurants, at the liquor stores, so we can suppress the wounds faster and people can live longer.

It wasn't a failure of imagination to do something bigger, he just thinks there's a failure of courage in Washington to do so.

So the question is, do we want to stop the bleeding, or do we want to stop the shootings? I'm running for president to stop the shootings.

(APPLAUSE)

SCIUTTO: If I can, because, of course, you mentioned your plan for a mandatory buyback of assault weapons, weapons of war, as you call them. You told my colleague Jake Tapper that you'd be willing to support criminal prosecution of people who don't follow if that -- that requirement, if it were to become law.

So under President Swalwell, you are saying that some Americans would, indeed, have to give up their guns?

SWALWELL: Yeah, and I'm proposing something that Australia did in the '90s. And they haven't had a serious shooting since the dozens of people who were lost then.

New Zealand -- New Zealand was still mourning their dead and they passed an assault weapons ban. So, my ban would buy back assault weapons. There's about 15 million of them. If you want to still possess them and not sell them back, you can keep them at a hunting club or shooting range. I just don't think they belong at our churches, our theaters, you know, at our shopping centers, at our concerts anymore.

SCIUTTO: And people would go to jail if they didn't bring...

SWALWELL: We're not going to send cops, you know, house to house, but like any other contraband if you have it and you're not supposed to, yeah, you would go to jail.

SCIUTTO: OK, let's go back to the audience now. Let's bring in the Irene Camara. She's the assistant secretary with the NAACP here in Atlanta -- Irene.

IRENE CAMARA, ASSISTANT SECRETARY NAACP: Yes. Good evening, Representative Swalwell.

Given all of the references in the Mueller report regarding the obstruction done by the White House, what is your line in the sand regarding the impeachment of

Trump?

SWALWELL: Thank you, Irene, for the work you do in this historic city for civil rights.

(APPLAUSE)

SWALWELL: The way I approach this as a prosecutor is that the rule of law is everything in America. It's the key ingredient. Without it, we lose free speech, free press, free markets, freedom to dream.

We have a lawless president. First things first, I think we should move immediately to impeach the attorney general and Secretary Mnuchin. They're front door obstructors.

I'm on the Judiciary Committee as well. And on the Judiciary Committee, I'm the only candidate in this race who would actually have to prosecute this case. So, when I would go to court, I would make sure my subpoenas were ready, my pencils sharpened, my exhibits ready to be displayed.

We have to get ready for impeachment with this president. And here's why, and I think about it the way I'm raising my 2-year-old right now and our 7-month-old. We're during the 1, 2, 3 method. You count to three when your son is bad, take a toy away. If you don't, he's going to get worse. With this president he has to see consequences. He's a really bad kid.

But the other thing, Irene, the other thing is that the other part of this is, I think of my daughter who is looking at how I discipline my son and if I do nothing, the standard of conduct is lower. So future presidents will look at doing nothing as lowering the standard of conduct.

Let's impeach Barr and Mnuchin and let's get ready for impeachment of this president because he's put us in no other position.

SCIUTTO: OK. You say -- you say let's get ready for impeachment, but you have not come out publicly to say that the congress should begin impeachment proceedings. A short time ago, your colleague, Tim Ryan, made news on CNN saying that he now is joining the call of, I believe it's now 11 Democratic candidates in 2020. 76 percent of democrats in the

latest CNN poll, they support impeaching the president. Will you take that step? And if not, why not when you have virtually 8 in 10 Democrats supporting that move?

SWALWELL: I don't think anyone is going to question my vigor in holding this president accountable. You know, I think the work that we did in the first two years when our democracy was under attack when I was on the intelligence committee, wanted people

to care so we could get a majority to put this balance of power on abuses of power.

But, again, as someone who really respects the rule of law, I want us to get it right, because we only get one shot. But, again, that's where we're headed. I want to be backed into it showing that we've exhausted every other remedy, and have the American people with us. I think that's where we are right now. I'm ready to try this case.

Again, I think you have to make an example out of Mnuchin and Barr first, though. You can't let them off the hook.

SCIUTTO: All right, let's go back...

(APPLAUSE)

SWALWELL: We'll go back to the audience. I want to bring in Melissa L'Abate. She's a homemaker and is planning to re-enter the workforce soon -- Melissa.

MELISSA L'ABATE, GEORGIA VOTER: Thank you. And thank you for being here. The current administration has left us wide open to hostile foreign attacks, meaning cyberattacks and even cyberterrorism, threatening our security. In your first 100 days, what will you do to fight back at Russia's success in weakening America, other Democratic institutions, and key alliances such as NATO? And, obviously, this includes other foreign countries such as China.

SWALWELL: Well, thank you for your question. Thanks for caring about our democracy.

People get sick and tired around the country when they hear pundits in Washington saying that anyone outside Washington doesn't care about what the Russians

did. I know you care about what they did to our democracy. So day one, I will stand up to Vladimir Putin. I will put back in place sanctions until the behavior changes.

I will go on a global affirmation tour. So I'm going to take the oath and catch a plane. I'm going to go around the world to assure allies we're still with them. I'm going to assemble the best and brightest cyberwarriors in our country. I think there are a lot

of people who want to serve the federal government, but they don't necessarily want to do a lifetime

of service. And so we can have like a cybersecurity national guard to defend against what the Russians are doing.

But your real question, I think, goes to how can we defeat Russia and other threats in the world when we've alienated ourselves? And when I look at foreign policy today, I look at it the same way a parent looks at their child on the playground. And the last couple of years, your kid has gone from hanging out with the honor roll crew, the Brits and the French and the Australians, to today, we roll with the detention crew -- the Russians, the North Koreans, the Saudis.

And what it costs us is we've ripped up treaties. We've pulled ourselves out of the Paris Climate Accord, and we can't necessarily count on NATO, because the president diminishes their role.

I'm going to help us get our friends back. I've been on the intelligence committtee. I've with foreign leaders. I've gone to war zones. I know the cost of not having friends. And I know the benefit to our country. We'll spend less on defense when we get them back.

SCIUTTO: Everybody, congressman, stay with us. Everybody stay with us. We're going to be right back with more from Congressman Eric Swalwell.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: A very warm welcome back to you. CNN democratic presidential townhall. We're live with Congressman Eric Swalwell of California.

So Congressman Swalwell, you and I have talked about this a few times. You were born in Iowa, conservative upbringing. Both your parents are Republicans, as well as two of your brothers. What's -- what's thanksgiving dinner like in the Swalwell house?

SWALWELL: Well, I don't even know if they're watching tonight. They may be watching a different news network. That's why sometimes I have to go on there just so they can see me on TV.

But, you know what, my parents, they are Reagan Republicans. They want taxes low. They want us to be strong in the world. And I think I can appeal to a lot of people like that when you talk about what this $1.6 trillion tax cut has done to our deficit, what our strength in the world is when we draw ourselves closer to Russia who Ronald Reagan worked to defeat during the Cold War rather than our traditional allies.

My wife was also -- she's from Indiana. I was educated in the south. I'm elected in a diverse part of California. I can add states in the general election.

SCIUTTO: OK. Let's go back to the audience now. We're joined now by Jeff Todd. He works for the Georgia Department of Public Health. Jeff, what's on your mind today?

JEFF TODD, GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HELATH: Good evening. You have spoken about your family being police officers.

SWALWELL: Yeah.

TODD: And my question is, how would you address these incidents we're seeing of overt aggression, hostility and bigotry by certain police officers that are tarnishing the reputation of those who serve honorably as well as build the trust of these communities who are experiencing it?

SWALWELL: Thank you for your question.

First -- and thank you to any law enforcement officer, you know, who is serving. I know, as the brother of two police officers and the son of a police officer, the sacrifice that they make. And I think about their safety every day and I tell them my proposals on gun violence are in part to make them safe.

But I also recognize the experience in America, especially for young black men and the fear they have of police because of abuses against that community. And I have a perspective I think that can reverse that, working with others to reverse that.

First, here's what I would do. Here's what we can do as a country. When it comes to community oriented police grants, cops grants, I would only allow those grants to be dispersed to communities if their officers wear body cameras, this is for their

safety and community accountability.

Second, I would only give those grants out if the departments looked like the communities they patrol. I think that's really, really important.

I am just, you know, convinced that we have to address racial injustice in this country. I saw it on the front lines as a prosecutor. I still see it today. That also means sentencing reform and decriminalizing marijuana and investing block by block in communities that are too often forgotten. They don't need a crime bill, they need a hope bill.

SCIUTTO: Let's go to Taylor Manhart. She's a veterinary assistant -- Taylor.

SWALWELL: Hi, Taylor.

TAYLOR MANHART, VETERINARY ASSISTANT: Hi, congressman. How are you? Thanks for being here.

I, as well as many other Americans, believe health care is a right and not a privilege. Do you support Medicare for all? And if not, what are your plans to combat the outrageous rising costs of health care and prescription drugs so that Americans like myself can live without fear of not being able to receive the health care that they need?

SWALWELL: Thank you, Taylor, for your question.

Just by a show of hands, who else agrees with Taylor that prescription drugs cost so much and health care is eating up your paycheck? You expressed a real life concern that's only getting worse.

I support Medicare for anyone who wants it. And I'm of a -- and part of the reason I'm running for congress -- running for president now, ran for congress, was

because I see that these health care costs keep going up and up and up. And that the costs of prescription drugs for our 2-year-old keep going up and up and up. We stand in line. We see the anxiety it brings to other families.

So, here's what we can do. We can have a health care guarantee. If you're sick, you're seen; if you're seen, you don't go broke. To me, that's a public option, a government responsibility to have a wider plan that's affordable, accessible and protects against pre-existing conditions.

I don't want any more GoFundMe plans. We should not have a GoFundMe plan health care in the United States of America.

But as president, I want to challenge us to think beyond just coverage. What we do best as Americans is find the unfindable, solve the unsolvable and cure the incurable. Instead of putting $1.6 trillion towards the wealthiest in the last tax cut, imagine if we invested a fraction of that in genomics research, in data sharing, and targeted therapies, and using innovation as a way to bring down the cost, innovation as a way to extend the quality of life and innovation as a way to create a lot of new jobs not in Washington but across the country.

I see this issue. And again, I want us to look forward on it and bring cures in our lifetime and a health care guarantee for every person.

SCIUTTO: OK. Forgive me here, because your position on Medicare for all might confuse some members of the audience, because it sounds like you're trying to have it both ways. You're for Medicare for all, which as it's written now, eliminates private health insurance, including employee insurance. And I'm sure a lot of folks in the audience have or union plans, a lot of union members have.

How can you support a plan that eliminates those things and say at the same time you're not get rid of them.

SWALWELL: I think people should have choice. The Medicare for all bill that's been written, I think I agree with 90 percent of it. I don't agree with the part that ultimately would get to a point where we don't have have private health insurance.

A lot of people who are on a union, they like their union plan. If you like that plan, you should be able to keep that plan. I think engrained in our DNA is choice. People want to have choices, but they also expect the government should offer an affordable plan if their employer is not providing it.

SCIUTTO: So you'd negotiate a different Medicare for all proposal, in effect, to make it an option, a public option?

SWALWELL: Yes. And in my plan we'd be able to negotiate for prescription drug costs, not just for the VA but also for a Medicare for anyone plan, have prescription drugs imported if they're safe and you can hold the manufacturers responsible, and put the Department of Justice back to work to prosecute any anti-competitive practices that are bringing up the cost of prescription drugs.

SCIUTTO: All right. Our next question is with Courtenay Taylor. She's a multimedia marketing strategist. Courtenay, tell us what's on your mind tonight.

COURTENAY TAYLOR, MULTIMEDIA MARKETING STRATEGIST: Thanks for being here.

SWALWELL: Of course. Thanks.

TAYLOR: So, you have strongly opposed the president's views on immigration. Seven children have now died as a result of the humanitarian crisis at our southern border and too many families are still separated. Why isn't congress doing more to ensure the health and safety of immigrants in U.S. custody and more specifically, what is your role as a member of the House in finding a solution?

And then as the nominee, how will you help reach bipartisanship on immigration reform?

SWALWELL: Thank you, Courtenay, for your question.

It is a humanitarian -- it is a humanitarian crisis. And in congress, we are working right now to pass the DREAM Act. That is one piece of what we can do to bring a certain fate for people who came here with their parents.

We -- I'm a co-sponsor of comprehensive immigration reform.

But the real challenge here, what's so frustrating, and I went to the San Diego sector a couple weeks ago, and a young border patrol agent showed me around. And in a room half the size of this, I saw dozens of people and young kids crammed in there with no showers, no beds. They're wearing these space blankets. And what frustrates me is the person who is leading our country, on this issue, he doesn't know those people. He doesn't know why they came here. He

brings us showmanship when we need leadership.

He goes and points at a wall and says that people that don't look like us are causing all of our problems. I would bring leadership. Leadership means you don't go to the border, you go beyond it. You understand that when a mother leaves Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, goes a 1,000-plus miles without food, without water, without much clothing and knowing that you may be separated, she must believe that that is better than where she's leaving.

I would put forth...

(APPLAUSE)

SWALWELL: ...leadership to me, Courtenay, is having a Marshal Plan in that region, convening the presidents of Mexico and South American countries, and all of us investing in security and economic opportunities so people can stay where they want to stay and put the resources also on the border in the short term.

I'll bring leadership, no more showmanship.

SCIUTTO: All right. Please stick around. Stick around all of you. We're going to be right back with more. The Democratic presidential town hall. Congressman Eric Swalwell.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: Welcome back, everyone. We are live in Atlanta for a CNN presidential town hall with Congressman Eric Swalwell of California.

Let's start now with Amber Dos-Hunter. She's currently a candidate Georgia state representative in district 65.

SWALWELL: Good for you.

AMBER DOS-HUNTER, CANDIDATE FOR STATE REPRESENTATIVE, GEORGIA: Hi. How are you?

Prisons and jails are currently crowded with black and brown people who have lengthy sentences for minor marijuana charges. What is your stance on decriminalizing minor nonviolent marijuana offenses and releasing those incarcerated back into society?

SWALWELL: Yeah, thank you for your question. Thank you for running. I really mean it. Thank you for running.

No more private prisons. No more private prisons in the United States of America. If you took the entire prison population in America today, it would be five times larger the city of Atlanta. That's wrong. That's because we have over-criminalized drugs when it should be a health care crisis.

And I'll tell you, I have a family member who has struggled with addiction. And the last place for that person to go was jail. The best place to go was to resources in the community because we had a place whether it was a fire station, at a school, at a church or a nonprofit that could help serve this person.

That's the way to address this issue.

On marijuana, yes, of course, I support decriminalizing marijuana, descheduling it so that we can use it for medical purposes, so that you can bank it, so you can get tax deductions for it, and to expunge the records of anyone who had a marijuana conviction in the past.

(APPLAUSE)

SCIUTTO: Related topic, because as you know, fellow candidate for 2020, Bernie Sanders, he has publicly stated that he would support restoring voting rights to felons currently serving in prison. That's a position you say you oppose.

So tell us, tell the audience, under what circumstances would you restore voting rights to convicted felons?

SWALWELL: First, we should send fewer people to prison. People who commit nonviolent crimes, people who commit non-serious, nonsexual crimes, we should find ways to get them retraining, find them a way to have the dignity of work so they don't even become felons who can't vote.

Second, immediately restore every person's right to vote once they serve their time.

But, no, I do not believe that the Boston marathon bomber or the last person I prosecuted who shot a 17-year-old a week before he was to graduate in Oakland -- Detayon Franklin (ph) is the victim's name -- a week before he was to graduate in Oakland, California, I don't think the person who shot him who is still serving time and took his life should be able to vote

right now.

(APPLAUSE)

SCIUTTO: Back to the audience now. Our next question from Karen Atkins-Hastings. She is a former public school counselor, currently teaches English as a second language -- Karen.

KAREN ATKINS-HASTINGS, TEACHER: Hello, congressman.

SWALWELL: Hi, Karen.

ATKINS-HASTINGS: As senior citizens, my husband and I have already faced the issue of deciding whether to pursue treatment of a medical condition or pay for prescription drugs we can't afford. Friends have suggested the option of turning to Canadian

pharmacies to fill our prescriptions. Why can't American pharmaceutical companies sell medicines as cheaply as Canada? And what would you do to ensure that this happens?

SWALWELL: Kraen, I appreciate your question. I know your struggle. And I'll share with you an insulin vial that I carry around with me for the last three months.

Someone came up to me in California, one of my constituents, and gave me this vial and he said, I can't afford to give this to you. It costs about $15 a day. But unless you carry it and know how much it means to me, you're not going to be able to fight for people like me. I think about that every single day.

Here's what we can do, negotiate and have more competitive pricing when it comes to Medicare for prescription drugs. Second, allow the importation of prescription drugs to bring down the cost that way -- if they are safe and you can hold the manufacturer liable.

But I also believe that investing in basic research, investing in our public research universities and find cures that are affordable for everyone, not just wealthy persons. Again, this has to be about addressing the need today but having a candidate who believes in what

technology and innovation can do tomorrow.

It's really important to me. I want to be the cures candidate. And I know that at the end of the day, that's a way to bring down what you spend when you go to CVS and you're at the checkout counter.

SCIUTTO: So, congressman, I wonder if that issue is an opportunity to make nice at the Swalwell thanksgiving table, as we talked before.

SWALWELL: My parents are feeling it, too.

SCIUTTO: A lot of republicans in the family. Because as you know, President Trump has made controlling drug prices also an issue. He says he wants to address it.

SWALWELL: I've heard him talk about it.

SCIUTTO: Yeah, but is there an issue where you can find common ground on addressing it?

SWALWELL: Yeah, I believe on this issue, especially, that prescription drugs, Republican or Democrat, it hits you. The problem, though, right now in Washington, and being there for the last seven years -- you know, the Hamilton son "The Room Where it Happens?" I'm in the room where it doesn't happen. Nothing happens. It's the outside spending, you know, it's the corporate spending. It's the super PACs, it keeps people from coming together on issues where you, me, all of us have already reached consensus.

SCIUTTO: So, you'd work with President Trump on it, if there was common ground?

SWALWELL: Absolutely, yes.

SCIUTTO: Let's go back to the audience. Tiffany Moore-Springer. She's an attorney here in Atlanta -- Tiffany.

TIFFANY MOORE-SPRINGER, ATTORNEY: Good evening, congressman.

SWALWELL: Hi, Tiffany.

MOORE-SPRINGER: It is no secret that many Americans are saddled with crippling student loan debt. There are candidates who wish to offer a free college education to prospective students; however, what plans, if any, do you have to provide relief or assistance to Americans who have completed their education, but cannot afford their student loan payments under the current repayment options, because -- in spite of their high levels of education?

SWALWELL: Tiffany, thank you.

The way I see it is that the lessons and memories of college should last a lifetime, the debt should not. But that's the real for too many people in America, including me. I'm paying off just under $100,000 in student loan debt. My wife still married me. She knew before. Don't feel sorry for her.

But every month, every month I click that link and I know 40 million other Americans do, too. And it's deferring the dreams of our generation -- buying our first home, starting a family. It's like a first date conversation now for young people what your student loan debt is. I'm serious, like that's now on Tinder, I think. Taking a good idea and starting a business. We're deferring those dreams.

So, here's what we can do, a college bargain, if you do work study all four years through, you learn and you earn, and then you come out and you take your first job and do volunteer service hours for communities and people that need it, it's debt-free education. College should work for you if you work for college in America. And for the 40 million people with student loan debt, we can do two things immediately: bring the interest rate down to zero. Government should not make a single penny.

And speaking of bipartisanship, I'll give them credit, Rodney Davis, Republican from Illinois. I've been working with him on this bill. It would allow employers to contribute tax-free to their employees' student loan debt. I would sign that into law.

(APPLAUSE)

SCIUTTO: Again, on that issue, so debt-free education, but not free college education, because again, some of your fellow contenders for 2020 on the Democratic side

have come out for it. You're not for it. Tell us why.

SWALWELL: I'm for free community college for the first two years. I believe that -- you still want to be able to show you're working for it. Again, you show that you work for it, do work study, pay down what the tuition is and then if you do volunteer service hours, that creates a whole new service generation and I think that would be respected among people who are going to to college or never went to college. And I think we need the community service again and just bring community and people together. That's one way to do it.

SCIUTTO: All right. Thank you, congressman.

We're going to be right back with more from CNN's Democratic presidential town hall. Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: Big welcome back to CNN Democratic presidential town hall with Congressman Eric Swalwell of California.

I think a question on a lot of voters' minds, because a lot of folks have Democratic and Republican voters in their family, as do you.

What is going to be your approach to winning over voters who supported Donald Trump in 2016?

SWALWELL: Yes. Well, it's -- I know why you work hard and what you expect it to add up to. I'm not going to dismiss someone who just wanted higher wages, lower health care costs and a brighter future.

I'm going to be in Alabama in two weeks. I'm going to the places that I think have been neglected in the past. But I will dismiss, put me on that debate stage, and you can do that, ericswalwell.com, but put me on that debate stage, make me nominee, and I will dismiss the person who has utterly failed to deliver for so many people who were counting on him.

SCIUTTO: You said earlier that if you were the nominee, you would put into place states that were not previously in play for Democratic presidential candidates. Which states?

SWALWELL: Indiana. We won Indiana in 2008. Iowa, I was born there. I feel comfortable there.

But I went to Alabama a bunch during the midterms. And people there like when you show up. And they don't see us as the enemies of each other that the president wants us to be. So, we just got to show up more.

SCIUTTO: All right.

SWALWELL: Yes.

SCIUTTO: We want to go back to the audience now.

(APPLAUSE)

SWALWELL: And Georgia. We're going to win Georgia.

SCIUTTO: Tina Sarkar is with us tonight. She's an attorney and a consultant.

Tina?

SWALWELL: Hi, Tina.

TINA SARKAR, ATTORNEY AND CONSULTANT: Good evening, Congressman.

Women's reproductive rights are under attack in this country, as my home state of Georgia and other states around the country try to undermine Roe v. Wade. How will you ensure that a woman's right to autonomy over her own body and access to care is not determined by the state in which she lives?

(APPLAUSE) SWALWELL: Well, first, my wife and I really deeply believe that it's her body, her choice. And that should be for every woman in America.

(APPLAUSE)

SWALWELL: Here's what I'll do as president. As president, I would only appoint justices who upheld the law, including the precedent that is Roe v. Wade.

But I don't want us to aim so low that we just protect what so many women, generations ago, marched and worked really hard to make sure was there. I want us to repeal the Hyde Amendment that says that only a woman with private health care insurance can make that decision.

(APPLAUSE)

SWALWELL: But I also -- I also want to tell every young man in America today, you have a duty and a responsibility right now to link arms with young women in America and make sure that we're all in this, to make sure that a woman has a right to choose. It's her decision. The government is never a part of that right.

That's a responsibility that young men have, too, right now. So find young women, march with them.

(APPLAUSE)

SCIUTTO: On that topic, as folks here in Atlanta know very well, it's now become an economic issue because you have companies particularly in film and television, a lot of films and television shows shot in the Atlanta area. But you have Netflix, Disney, NBC Universal, Warner Media which owns CNN. They've all warned they may halt business here if that law goes into effect.

I wonder, do you support that kind of economic boycott?

SWALWELL: Yes, if that law goes into effect, I absolutely do. And CNN may have to move. There's a lot of young women who work at CNN who will be affected.

(APPLAUSE)

SCIUTTO: A lot of women in the audience tonight.

We're going to go back to the audience here. Next question from Kuniki Lockett. He's an intellectual property attorney.

Kuniki?

SWALWELL: Hi.

KUNIKI LOCKETT, INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ATTORNEY: Good evening, Representative.

Many economists suggest that by as early as 2020, independent contractors and workers in the giga economy will represent up to 40 percent of the U.S. workforce. Many are advocating that we make federal employment benefits like disability and unemployment insurance, flexible spending accounts, health insurance and workers' comp insurance portable and tied to the individual rather than the business.

Also, some billion-dollar corporations are proposing rules where they pay independent contractors and freelancers 90 days after they submit an invoice. Can you imagine being paid in September for work you did last week?

SWALWELL: Yes.

LOCKETT: How do we update federal labor laws to protect the rights of these workers, and how do we make employment benefits portable?

(APPLAUSE)

SWALWELL: Elect a president who understands the future of work.

But thank you for your question.

This is something that so many workers are experiencing right now, which is that their employers are changing the nature of their employee contract. And that that means they don't have health care protections. They don't have retirement security. They don't have other benefits.

And again, put a young president in the White House, experienced in Congress but a young president in the White House who sees this change in the economy and you'll have a voice for the future of work. So, yes, I believe that first and foremost having health care for all will protect independent contractors to make sure they don't have to worry about where they'll get their health care. Second and foremost, I also believe that employers have a responsibility, if you don't provide a pension to your employees to provide some retirement security.

Retirement security in America used to be a three-legged stool. There was Social Security, there's an employer provided pension, and there was personal savings. Social Security is about to go insolvent by 2033. Fewer and fewer employers provide pensions and personal savings, two-thirds of us have less than $1,000.

I support a guaranteed savings account. Where if you don't provide a pension to your employees, like in the case you just described, employers contribute 1 percent, government contributes 1 percent and employees put in 1 percent. So, you have more retirement security in addition to making sure that we protect Social Security, raise the cap there so that it is solvent beyond 2033.

(APPLAUSE)

SCIUTTO: All right. Our next question comes from Jessica Weinstein. She's a clinical social worker. She's also a volunteer for Pivot Blue. It's a grassroots organization for women here in Metro Atlanta.

Jessica?

SWALWELL: Thanks, Jessica.

JESSICA WEINSTEIN, CLINICAL SOCIAL WORKER: Hi, Congressman Swalwell.

The Anti-Defamation League reports near record levels of anti-Semitism in Georgia, as well as the U.S. What will you do to address anti- Semitism, as well as other hate crimes?

SWALWELL: Yes. I will denounce anti-Semitism, even if an anti-Semite praised me. That seems like something really easy to ask, but we can't even get that from the president of the United States. Leadership starts at the top. So, denouncing anti-Semitism, firmly speaking out against it.

Second and foremost, I will put at the Department of Justice a division to counter the extreme violent white nationalism in America.

(APPLAUSE)

SWALWELL: Put FBI agents and prosecutors on the path.

(APPLAUSE)

SWALWELL: Also, it comes and it starts with education. So, funding through the Department of Education, programs in our schools so our students at the earliest of age - ages learn to be more tolerant, more inclusive and recognize that the beautiful thing about this country is that we all come from different places.

So, my case tonight to you on that issue is put a young father in the White House, experienced in Congress, connected to the way that you live and the reasons that you work hard.

We fight insurance companies in my house. We pay expensive prescription drugs. We worry about our kids' safety when we send them to school, and we pay my student loan debts.

Put a young, experienced president in the White House and you'll have a voice on all of those issues that matter to you, too. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

SCIUTTO: Don't go anywhere, anyone. We're going to be right back with more from CNN's presidential town hall with Congressman Eric Swalwell.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: A warm welcome back to everyone. We are live in Atlanta with Democratic presidential candidate, Congressman Eric Swalwell, still with us tonight. We're going to go back to the audience.

We're going to bring in Alicia Scarborough. She's the founder of a management consulting company. We should also note, she's chief of staff to a member of the Georgia House of Representatives.

Alicia?

ALICIA SCARBOROUGH, FOUNDER OF A MANAGEMENT CONSULTING COMPANY: Hi. Thank you for being here tonight.

SWALWELL: Thank you.

SCARBOROUGH: You talked generally about immigration reform.

SWALWELL: Yes.

SCARBOROUGH: But I'd like to know specifically, with children being separated from their parents and now the sixth deceased, reported deceased child in ICE custody, as president, what will you -- how will you ensure that this atrocity never happens again?

SWALWELL: I'll bring leadership rather than showmanship. We'll never have a separation policy. We'll devote resources to the border so you can adjudicate refugee cases immediately.

For the 12 million Americans who are living in the shadows and just working hard and want to contribute to our economy and be a part of this great American tapestry, we'll give them a pathway to citizenship. We'll past the Dream Act so that young people can have a certain fate.

Yes, of course, we'll have security on our border, but we're the country that has its symbol as the Statue of Liberty. We're not going to have a border wall. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

SCIUTTO: This is a story, of course, CNN has covered very closely. There are now a record 80,000 people in custody of U.S. immigration authorities. That's, of course, a record.

A report found just the facilities overflowing. One border facility meant to hold 129 people has got 900 people.

SWALWELL: Yes.

SCIUTTO: I've spoken on our broadcast to the chief of the Customs and Border Patrol, she told me, listen, we want more resources from Congress to handle the problem today.

SWALWELL: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Why hasn't that help come yet?

SWALWELL: Well, we don't have a leader who can do that. I mean, this leader, look, he's negotiating a trade deal with Mexico and then, all of a sudden, throws immigration in the mix and blows up the trade deal.

I mean, that's what we have right now in Washington. We have a corrupt childish president, a corrupt childish president. We should be real about that.

(APPLAUSE)

SWALWELL: Leadership can change that, but it doesn't matter how much we spend on the wall that he wants to build, if people don't believe that they're safe in their own countries, they're going to keep coming here. That's why we have to look at.

SCIUTTO: But -- I'm (ph) talking about spending money on a wall. I'm talking about spending money on detention facilities, for instance, so children can be taken care, so you don't have, you know, nine times as many people in a facility that's meant to be there.

SWALWELL: If the president came to us and said I want to address the humanitarian issues in, only that, he's going to get as much support as he needs. But again, he always mixes in his own childish vanity projects like this wall. And as long as he's going to do that, it's only going to make the audience worse.

SCIUTTO: OK. Let's go back to the audience.

Amy Peskin, she's a music teacher.

SWALWELL: Hi, Amy.

SCIUTTO: Amy?

AMY PESKIN, MUSIC TEACHER: Hi.

SWALWELL: Hi, Amy.

PESKIN: OK, just nervous.

What regulations would you support to prevent another president and/or campaign from breaking so many norms as the current one has? I think it needs to be codified at this point.

SWALWELL: On the first day of my presidency, I will tell the attorney general to get rid of the policy that a president cannot be indicted.

(APPLAUSE)

SWALWELL: Also, I have written legislation that would make it a crime if you benefit from a gift from a foreign national. Right now, the Emoluments Clause says you can't do it, but there's no penalty for it. There has to be a penalty for it.

I'll tell you, my earliest memory as a child in western Iowa, my dad was a police chief, and I remember him and my mom talking one day about my dad getting fired. And I was scared because I didn't know what it meant.

I later learned that as the police chief, he had come to this town, he put a boys and girls club in, he'd started a Mothers Against Drunk Driving chapter. DUI arrests went from like four the year he got there, and like 40 the next year. Not just because they developed a drinking problem, he just enforced the law.

It all came to a head at the county fair when my dad got a call from the fire chief saying, chief, I got a mayor and a council member parked in the fire lane and they won't move. What do you want me to do? My dad said, you got to treat them like everyone else. Ticket and tow them.

At the next council meeting, the mayor in an open meeting told my dad if you don't reverse those tickets, I'm going to fire you.

My dad held firm. He got fired. We packed up our little family. We moved out west.

So whether you're the mayor of a small town in Algona, Iowa, or the president of the United States, as far as I'm concerned, no one is above the law.

(APPLAUSE)

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you, 2016, of course, we're well aware, you worked on as part of the Intelligence Committee about Russian interference in the election. Should folks here be confident that the results of the 2020 election will be sound and not interfered with? Even down to the vote counts, free from Russian interference.

(APPLAUSE)

SWALWELL: Folks -- folks here, especially in a city where leaders like John Lewis marched to make sure that we have that right to vote, they have to do what Dr. King called upon us to do. March on the ballot boxes. Overwhelm it so much that you can't deny the result.

Because here's what Republicans want us to do: they want us -- a way of suppression is to not do anything on election security and have us worried about whether the vote will be counted. That's a tactic of theirs.

We're in a better position than we were two years ago because we can actually now fund election security, where they took $350 million and brought it to zero. We're not going to let that happen again. But the best thing we can do is just overwhelm the ballot box.

(APPLAUSE)

SCIUTTO: Our thanks to Congressman Eric Swalwell.

Our thanks as well to the studio audience. You've been great to be here the whole afternoon, asking very thoughtful questions of the presidential candidates tonight.

"THE REDEMPTION PROJECT" with my colleague, Van Jones, starts right now.

[21:00:00]