CNN hosts town halls with Biden, Warren, Yang and Steyer

By Jessica Estepa, CNN

Updated 7:25 p.m. ET, February 6, 2020
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12:22 a.m. ET, February 6, 2020

Steyer: Not giving every American a chance to succeed is “deeply wrong” 

From CNN's Kate Sullivan


Tom Steyer on Wednesday stressed the importance of giving every American a chance to succeed when asked about combating discrimination against people with disabilities. 

“Mr. Steyer, I am a bilateral deaf student that wears cochlear implants in order to hear. My question for you is how will you end the negative stigma and discrimination against people like me that suffer from disabilities?” a high school student at the CNN town hall asked.

The billionaire businessman responded, “Probably the biggest thing that I believe in is the idea that we're in it together, that we succeed together, and that looking down or not investing and giving a chance to anybody who’s an American is something that to me is deeply wrong.”

Steyer pointed to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which outlaws discrimination and guarantees a free appropriate public education to all children with disabilities. Steyer said the federal government doesn’t fully pay what it says it will to fund the cost of education of individuals with disabilities. 

He said it's partly a policy question -- one of getting proper funding for education and allowing people to succeed -- “but beyond that there is a question here about attitude that goes towards people with disabilities, people of different race, people with a different sexual orientation, or however we want to cut the American pie.”

Steyer said President Donald Trump’s “attitude in terms of immigration is a straight-up racist attack on people based on ethnicity and race. I believe that what he does is separate people on all of those measures to try and succeed politically. And I think that every single one of those instances is deeply wrong.”

12:02 a.m. ET, February 6, 2020

Steyer hits Buttigieg as he attempts to explain poor showing in Iowa

From CNN's Dan Merica

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

Tom Steyer sought to explain his poor showing in Iowa – despite spending $17 million on ads in the state – by arguing he got into the race late and hitting the person currently leading in the state, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

“Look, I got in late to this race. I was the last person to get in Iowa. I'm going to compete everywhere, we are going to work hard everywhere,” Steyer said. “We're now going towards the states where we're going to build the kind of diverse coalition that is going to win not only the nomination but is going to beat Mr. Trump in November.”

Then Steyer turned to polls that show he has a strong base of support in Nevada and South Carolina, the third and fourth states in the nominating process that are far more diverse than Iowa and New Hampshire.

“I can put together the kind of diverse coalition that we need to have to beat Trump. And that's something if you look at the people who are running for president, there are people who are struggling to do that, like Pete Buttigieg,” Steyer said. “We can't beat Trump unless the diverse elements, including black and brown communities, come out and show up for Democrats.”

Steyer again hit Buttigieg in response to the next question about his business record.

In response, Steyer argued that business experience is an asset against Trump and named Buttigieg as someone who doesn’t have that needed business experience.

“He failed as a businessman, and he's a terrible steward of the American economy for the American people,” Steyer said of Trump. “Whoever the Democrat is going to have to take him down, you can't have a couple years in business like Pete Buttigieg.”

When CNN’s Dana Bash noted that Steyer brought up Buttigieg twice, the businessman said he had “three decades of private sector experience” that "you’re not going to be able to get by with a couple of years at McKinsey.”

Buttigieg works for the national consulting firm for three years.

11:15 p.m. ET, February 5, 2020

Steyer on impeachment: "It is never wrong to stand up for what’s right"

From CNN's Eric Bradner

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

Businessman Tom Steyer said he was not worried his push to impeach Donald Trump -- which culminated in Trump’s acquittal by the Senate on Wednesday -- would boost the President in his reelection bid. 

“It is never wrong to stand up for what’s right,” Steyer said in a CNN town hall Wednesday night in New Hampshire. 

Steyer spent tens of millions of his own dollars on his “Need to Impeach” push starting in October 2017, gathering 8.5 million petition signatures. 

“What we’ve seen here is something shameful in American history,” he said. “Today, we’ve seen Republicans not do their duty by the Constitution.” 

11:13 p.m. ET, February 5, 2020

Yang on school shootings: "We have a real boy to men problem in this country"

From CNN's Dan Merica

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

Andrew Yang, asked about passing gun legislation on Wednesday night in New Hampshire, spoke at length about raising boys, saying the country “has to face facts” that the overwhelmingly majority of school shooters are men.

“There's a whole string of causes that contribute to gun violence in our community,” Yang said. “We have a real boy to men problem in this country.”

Yang then pivoted to his own family. He has two sons, including a 7-year-old son, Christopher, who is autistic.

 “As the father of an autistic son, I know if you have the wrong boy in the wrong school, very bad things can happen, generally just to that boy and his family,” Yang said. “But sometimes something that's external in the community and too many schools don't have appropriate resources for kids who are neurologically struggling and get pushed to the side, particularly boys who are in this position.”

Yang laid out other goals to take on guns, including technological advancements that make only one person able to fire a weapon and having an “evergreen buyback” so that anyone who wants to sell back their gun can do so.

Yang’s focus on the need to address issues with raising young boys is a unique take on a key Democratic issue – the desire to regulate the sale of guns – and is part of a host of distinctive policy focuses from the businessman-turned-candidate.

11:36 p.m. ET, February 5, 2020

Yang defends the electoral college

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

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

Andrew Yang used a question about money in politics to sell his "democracy dollars" proposal and defend the electoral college, a system that a number of leading Democratic primary contenders have said they want to scrap.

Yang has called for reforms to the process, but again on Wednesday night described any effort to replace it, like with a national popular vote, as unrealistic and in defiance of the framers' will.

"Candidates who say we should abolish the electoral college – one, it would require literally like a dozen states to shoot themselves in the foot and say they don’t want that kind of power anymore, which is a non-starter," Yang said. "But two, it would end up disadvantaging rural areas because you would just campaign in major media markets and that’s not what the framers of the Constitution intended."

Channeling one of the most popular arguments in favor of the electoral college, he asked: "Do you want presidential candidates just going to New York, LA, Boston and San Francisco and ignoring everyplace else?"

Critics of the current system, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, argue that it is archaic and undemocratic, while noting -- in a nod to Democrats still angry over the 2000 and 2016 elections -- that two of the last five elections have been won by the (Republican) candidate who received fewer votes nationwide.

Instead, Yang wants to target changes to the influence of big dollars in the campaign process and impose other reforms to make voting easier and, in his opinion, more reflective of voters' preferences.

"We should have ranked-choice voting in this country, so that people can actually vote the way they want and not be worried about ‘wasting their vote;’ we should have Election Day be a national holiday; we should automatically register new voters to make it easier for people to vote, instead of having these obstacles," he said.

10:46 p.m. ET, February 5, 2020

Why hasn’t Trump tweeted about Yang? 'He knows I'm better at the internet than he is,' he says

From CNN's Dan Merica

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

Andrew Yang thinks he knows why President Donald Trump hasn’t tweeted about him yet.

“You know who is already figured out I'm his toughest match up? Donald Trump. I'm the only candidate in the field he hasn't tweeted a word about,” Yang said on Wednesday. “He knows I'm better at the internet than he is.”

He added: “And number two, his most potent attacks are that you are a corrupt politician and none of this stuff works on me.”

While Trump has tweeted about a host of presidential candidates, he has not tweeted about Yang.

The answer came in response to a question about why Yang believes he is the best prepared to debate Trump.

“As more Democrats realize that I'm the candidate that is best situated to defeat him soundly in the general election, the stronger this campaign will grow and the more likely I become the nominee,” Yang said.

Yang, with 92% of precincts reporting, only won 1% of support in Iowa. And national polls of the Democratic primary find the businessman and upstart candidate in the low single digits.

Watch the moment:

10:20 p.m. ET, February 5, 2020

Yang slams Iowa chaos to tout New Hampshire primary

From CNN's Dan Merica

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

Andrew Yang slammed the chaos in Iowa on Wednesday, touting the fact that the New Hampshire primary is expected to be smoother as the Iowa Democratic Party still works to get results out.

“I see you're wearing a math pin. Did you offer some help with math to the Democrats in Iowa this past week?” CNN’s Don Lemon asked. Yang often wears a “MATH” lapel pin, which stands for Make America Think Harder.

Yang jumped on the question.

“Gosh,” Yang said. “One reason I'm pumped to be here in New Hampshire is you are going to vote February 11. And when we find out the results February 11.”

The Iowa Democratic Party is still working to fully report the results from Monday night’s caucuses. A string of issues have arisen during the reporting process, putting a spotlight on deficiencies on the Iowa caucus process and raising the possibility that the state will lose its status as the first state in the nominating process.

Yang, with 92% of the precincts reporting, garnered just 1% of support during the caucuses, an underwhelming result to many of his supporters.

Yang sought to explain away the result by comparing himself to Bill Clinton, who finished second in New Hampshire but dubbed himself the “Comeback Kid” before eventually winning the Democratic nomination.

“Bill Clinton got 3% in 1992. He went on to do great here in New Hampshire and become president for two terms,” Yang said. “We hope we can follow in his footsteps.”

Left unsaid: Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin ran for president that year and largely made the Iowa caucuses irrelevant because he won handily.

10:13 p.m. ET, February 5, 2020

Warren says US embassy should be moved based on negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians

From CNN's Dan Merica

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

Elizabeth Warren did not say whether, as president, she would reverse President Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. Instead, the Massachusetts senator argued that where the United States puts its embassy should be up to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

“We need to encourage both Israel and the Palestinians to negotiate with each other,” Warren said. “The United States should not be putting a thumb on the scale, should not be saying in these negotiations, we stand only with one party.”

Warren took on the Trump administration’s ties to the Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu and argued that a two-state solution should dictate where the United States puts its embassy.

“The embassy is what they should be negotiating,” she said, referring to the Israelis and Palestinians. “They should be negotiating what constitutes the capital. That’s really my point, that’s what the parties should decide.”

She added: “The parties should negotiate whether or not the capital is in Jerusalem, where the capital is, and then the United States should move its embassy to be in the capital of each of the two states in a two-state solution.” 

9:54 p.m. ET, February 5, 2020

Warren: New immigration policy requires a "path to citizenship"

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

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

Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday night made clear that creating a "path to citizenship" for undocumented immigrants will be a central piece of her immigration agenda if she wins in November.

"I want to put the people who are here to stay – remember, these are our neighbors, these are people you nay work with, these are people who may be cleaning the room that you stay in tonight – those people should be on a path to citizenship," Warren said.

"It needs to be fair, it needs to be managed, but it needs to be a path to citizenship," she added, before turning to the more controversial question of what public goods those families and individuals should have access to before they attain legal status.

"If people are on a path to citizenship," Warren added, "they should have health care and their children should get an education because that is how we build an America that works for everyone."