CNN town hall with Biden, Bloomberg, Klobuchar and Warren

By Fernando Alfonso III and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 12:05 AM ET, Thu February 27, 2020
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8:47 p.m. ET, February 26, 2020

Biden connects with reverend whose wife was killed in Charleston shooting

From CNN's Dan Merica

Anthony Thompson
Anthony Thompson Edward M. PioRoda/CNN

Joe Biden emotionally reflected on the loss of his son Beau on Wednesday, connecting the death of his oldest son to brain cancer to the loss that Anthony Thompson experienced when his wife was killed in the 2015 Charleston church shooting.

The answer showcased Biden’s ability to connect with voters emotionally and the depth that he feels the loss of his son.

“I kind of know what it's like to lose family. And my heart goes out to you,” Biden said with tears in his eyes.

Biden recalled how he came back to Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the site of the shooting that killed nine people in 2015, the Sunday after the shooting “because I had just lost my son and I wanted some hope.”

“What you all did was astounding,” Biden said. “All of those who died, were killed by this white supremacist, they forgave him. They forgave him. The ultimate act of Christian charity. They forgave him.”

Biden’s life has been struck with tragedy repeatedly. Biden’s son died in 2015 and his wife and daughter were killed in a car accident in 1972.

“I don't know how you've dealt with it, reverend, but the way I've been able to deal with when my wife was killed and my daughter was killed and my son died, I've only been able to deal with it by realizing they're part of my being,” Biden said. “My son, beau, was my soul.”

Biden has said his late son urged him to run before his death.

“Every day I get up, I literally… I ask myself, I hope he's proud of me today,” Biden concluded.

Watch the exchange:

8:31 p.m. ET, February 26, 2020

Biden on Ash Wednesday: "It's kind of a Catholic thing"

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

Edward M. PioRoda/CNN
Edward M. PioRoda/CNN

Joe Biden and CNN’s Chris Cuomo took the stage with ashes on their foreheads in observance of the Christian holy day of Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. 

Biden walked onstage and pointed to his own forehead when he saw the ashes on Cuomo’s. 

“You know, when you come out here, the makeup artist put stuff on you, you know. I said, 'Don't fool with the ashes. My mother will come down from heaven and smite me,'” Biden said. 

“And I know your mom, and I know what she would do to you, too,” Biden said to Cuomo. “This was not a planned deal, but, you know, it's kind of a Catholic thing. Anyway”

Cuomo joked, “In the break, we'll bump heads and nobody will know.”

See the moment:

8:28 p.m. ET, February 26, 2020

Biden hits Sanders over past gun votes

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Edward M. PioRoda/CNN
Edward M. PioRoda/CNN

Bernie Sanders has been harshly critical of Joe Biden over his vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq.

On Wednesday night, Biden said Sanders should be held to similar account for his own votes against the Brady Bill and support for legislation that shields gun manufacturers from lawsuits.

Both men have since admitted they regretted their votes. 

“The idea here is,” Biden said, “what is the thing that motivates you to make your judgments?”

Sanders has “gone after every corporation in the world, which is -- I don't disagree on all of it with him, but I've not seen him go after the gun manufacturers,” Biden said. “And so here's the deal. What are you going to do about it now?”

Sanders is currently backs a bill that would reverse the current law and open up the firearm industry to lawsuits.  

Biden also accused Sanders of glossing over his record on the question of an assault weapons ban, saying that Sanders backed it in 1988, when he ran for and lost his first House race, then backed off the position when he won two years later.

Sanders supported the assault weapons ban, but enjoyed some NRA support in 1990 because of his opposition to the handgun bill.

Hear Former VP Biden's comments:

8:18 p.m. ET, February 26, 2020

Biden on coronavirus: "I just want the President to get on the same page as the scientists"

From CNN's Eric Bradner

Edward M. PioRoda/CNN
Edward M. PioRoda/CNN

Joe Biden faulted President Trump for cutting funding for the National Institutes of Health and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, contrasting the Obama administration’s ramped-up efforts against Ebola to the Trump administration’s handling of coronavirus. 

“We’ve got good scientists and I just want the President to get on the same page as the scientists,” Biden said. 

He said Trump should have pushed more aggressively for American scientists to be on the ground in China to study the outbreak and help prevent it from spreading. 

“We should be allowed to do that and they should want us to do that because we have genuine experts who know how to confront these things,” Biden said. 

Watch the moment:

8:01 p.m. ET, February 26, 2020

Joe Biden's town hall has now started


Former Vice President Joe Biden has taken the stage at a CNN town hall event in South Carolina, just three days before the state's primary.

8:10 p.m. ET, February 26, 2020

Bloomberg defends his Democratic bona fides

From CNN's Dan Merica

Edward M. PioRoda/CNN 
Edward M. PioRoda/CNN 

Mike Bloomberg -- who has identified as a Democrat, a Republican and an independent throughout his political career -- defended his Democratic credentials on Wednesday.

“I come from Massachusetts where there are no Republicans, so I was a Democrat there for sure. I moved to New York City, where there are no Republicans, so I was a Democrat there,” Bloomberg said. “It is true I ran as a Republican twice and an independent once because the Democratic Party wouldn't let me go out and get on the ballot.”

Bloomberg went on to say that he spoke in favor of Hillary Clinton at the 2016 Democratic National Convention and supported Barack Obama and Joe Biden both in 2008 and 2012.

“He says ‘No,’ " Bloomberg said of Biden, who he is now running against, “but I was there both times for them, thank you very much.”

Some Democrats, including former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, have used the fact that Bloomberg used to be a Republican against him.

See the moment:

8:05 p.m. ET, February 26, 2020

Bloomberg on China: "They don’t seem to want" democracy

From CNN's Eric Bradner

Edward M. PioRoda/CNN
Edward M. PioRoda/CNN

Michael Bloomberg stuck by his comment in Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate that Chinese leader Xi Jinping is not a dictator. 

“I think the question is, if your definition is a democracy where people vote and pick their leaders, that is not what China’s about and they don’t seem to want it. They like their system, and I think they’re wrong — I think they’d be better opening things up, having freedom of the press which they don’t have,” he said. 

“We should work as hard as we can to change that, but you’re not going to try to go to war and force them,” Bloomberg added. 

He said: “We should get used to the fact that China is going to keep growing and become stronger, and we have to figure out a ways to work with them while protecting our industries and protecting our country militarily.” 

Hear his response:

7:52 p.m. ET, February 26, 2020

Bloomberg points to record in New York when asked how he would bring party together  

From CNN's Eric Bradner

Edward M. Pioroda/CNN
Edward M. Pioroda/CNN

Michael Bloomberg touted his record as mayor of New York City, lobbying the state legislature to legalize same-sex marriage and improving schools there, when asked how he’d bring a divided Democratic Party together. 

“Pulling people together, making them feel that they’re part of the solution, is what management is all about,” Bloomberg said. 

He said he pushed Republican state senators to legalize same-sex marriage by encouraging them to consider what they’d want for their own children. 

“You wouldn’t want to say no. It’s your child,” he said. “You might not be thrilled about it, but in the end you want to give your child what that child wants.” 

He also said he shakes the hands of doormen when he enters buildings. 

“It’s just a ways of giving people recognition and respect,” he said. 


7:50 p.m. ET, February 26, 2020

Bloomberg: I will support any Democratic nominee — including Sanders

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Edward M. Pioroda/CNN
Edward M. Pioroda/CNN

Bernie Sanders has been a relentless critic of Michael Bloomberg, accusing him of trying to buy the nomination and railing against the former New York mayor as the embodiment of a rising oligarchy in America.

Still, Bloomberg said on Wednesday night he will support Sanders if he wins the primary. And spend to help him, despite signals from Sanders' campaign that they don't want his help.

"I always thought it's ridiculous to say I will support the candidate no matter who it is, because you might not agree with him," Bloomberg said. "That's how we got Donald Trump. The (Republican) party supported him no matter how bad he was. They shouldn't have done that."

But for Democrats, Bloomberg added, it was different.

"It's easy to make the commitment to support any of the Democratic candidates if they get the nomination," he said. "It's easy to do it because the alternative is Donald Trump, and that we don't want."

He also promised, again, to keep his campaign offices open after the primary, even if he loses it.

"Whoever is the nominee can use those," Bloomberg said. 

Asked how much he would spend to help the eventual winner, Bloomberg didn't offer a specific figure.

"I haven't thought about that," he said, "because I plan to be the nominee obviously." 

See the moment: