CNN hosts 5 Democratic town halls

By Veronica Rocha, Dan Merica and Gregory Krieg, CNN

Updated 12:44 a.m. ET, April 23, 2019
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8:01 p.m. ET, April 22, 2019

Klobuchar: “Climate change isn’t happening 100 years from now. It’s happening right now.”

From CNN's Dan Merica

Sen. Amy Klobuchar argued on Monday that the Green New Deal is not just an issue for urban voters along the coasts, but an issue that directly impacts rural voters.

Klobuchar supports the Green New Deal and said on Monday that the legislation provides needed goals to the political and economic community in the United States.

But when asked by a student who grew up in a rural community why her neighbors should believe in the Green New Deal, Klobuchar bluntly said: “I say look at what’s in front of you.”

“Climate change isn’t happening 100 years from now,” Klobuchar said. “It’s happening right now.”

“For too long we’ve been talking about it on more of a coastal issue, which is true,” she said. “But let’s talk about the middle of the country where we need to political support. And I personally think someone from the heartland could do a good job of that.”

Klobuchar said a future racked by climate change in the heartland would include floods in Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri and fires in California, Colorado and Arizona.

“Guess what, it’s you guys, not me,” Klobuchar said who would inherit the issues around climate change. “It’s my daughter and you guys that are going to be inheriting this Earth and that’s why we need you on the front line, all right?”

8:10 p.m. ET, April 22, 2019

Here's why Klobuchar says she's so passionate about substance abuse issues

Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar explained why she's made substance abuse issues a priority in her political career.

"So in my case, when I was growing up my dad had a big drinking problem," she said.

Her 91-year-old father, who was a distinguished journalist, struggled with alcohol abuse, Klobuchar said.

She described how she and her sister "talked about how it had hurt my life and my sister's life, how we would wait for him to come home all the time, how we would vanish sometimes and be gone, and what it meant to be growing up with that."

Klobuchar said her father's life changed for the better because the government pushed her father into treatment.

She then explained why it motivates her:

"So if you asked to understand what motivates me sometimes and why I can believe in tough love and why I believe you have to set expectations and standards for yourself and the people around you and why I believe that everyone has that same right to have that life that my dad eventually had, it's because of my own life experience, and I think it's so important as you guys think about if you want to go into public service to have people come from all kinds of different backgrounds," she said.

Klobuchar has written extensively about her father's alcoholism, including in her 2015 memoir and in a 2010 profile with Elle magazine.

"He had two DWIs when I was in junior high and it was on the front page of the paper," she told Elle. "Some kid used a key and carved drunk on my locker."

She also recalled that after she watched her father struggle to put a diaper on her younger sister, a young Klobuchar wrote this note to her mother: "I think something's rong (sic). Can you please check when you get home? I didn't want to hurt his feels."

8:08 p.m. ET, April 22, 2019

Klobuchar apologizes for defending pizza in school lunches

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Sen. Amy Klobuchar apologized -- again -- on Monday for defending frozen pizza's place in school cafeterias.

The decision to send a letter in 2010 to the USDA pushing back against a federal rule change that threatened tomato sauce makers, Klobuchar explained, was part of an effort to help business in her home state.

"We were in the middle of the (economic) downturn, and it was a little more, I would say, complex in terms of the language," she told the student who asked about it, "but it's a fair criticism."

Klobuchar, who told the New York Times in 2014 that she regretted sending the letter, insisted that she was committed to students' health.

"I think that nutrition is paramount to this country, and that's why way before I was running for president I said that was a mistake," she said. "So let's talk about the bigger issue which is nutrition, and that is that we need to have healthier foods in kids' lunches."

7:53 p.m. ET, April 22, 2019

Klobuchar says Betsy DeVos should go for trying to defund special education and the Special Olympics

Democratic presidential hopeful Amy Klobuchar says she thinks Education Secretary Betsy DeVos "shouldn't be in her job."

She went on to say that as senator she "strongly opposed" DeVos.

Klobuchar criticized DeVos for trying "to defund special education" and also trying "to get rid of the Special Olympics funding."

Some background: In March, DeVos spent three days defending her plan to eliminate Special Olympics funding from next year's budget.

But President Donald Trump, publicly undermined her position, and told reporters that he had "overridden" the proposed cut — though this is the third year in a row that DeVos had included it in her annual funding request to Congress.

7:33 p.m. ET, April 22, 2019

Klobuchar questions politicians promising free college: "I have to… tell you the truth"

From CNN's Dan Merica

Sen. Amy Klobuchar told an audience of college students on Monday that she wants to combat the price of a college education, but suggested that those politicians promising free college tuition and college debt forgiveness – including a number of her 2020 Democratic opponents – are not being honest.

“I wish I could staple a free college diploma under every one of your chairs. I do. Don’t look. It’s not there,” she told the audience in New Hampshire. “I wish I could do that, but I have to be straight with you and tell you the truth.”

Klobuchar’s comments draw a stark divide between the Minnesota Democrat and candidates like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who on Monday rolled out a plan to eliminate the student loan debts of tens of millions of Americans and make all public colleges tuition-free.

When a student asked Klobuchar why he should vote for her despite the fact she does not want to forgive his student loans, the senator responded, “Because I actually want to get something done when it comes to student loans.”

College tuition is one of most frequent topics of conversation as Democratic town halls on the 2020 campaign trail. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders supported tuition free college during his 2016 run and has pushed the same plan in his repeat bid.

Klobuchar said that she would, instead, allow graduates to refinance their student loan debt, expand Pell Grant programs and bring back a Democratic plan to make community college free.

“Everything that I have proposed to you,” Klobuchar said, “I have found ways to pay for it that I think makes sense that we can actually get done.”

7:28 p.m. ET, April 22, 2019

Klobuchar: "There is racism in our criminal justice system"

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a former prosecutor, acknowledged Monday night that the there is "racism in our criminal justice system."

Asked what she would do to reform it, Klobuchar said she wanted to replicate some of the steps -- like running old convictions through the Innocence Project -- she took during her time as a district attorney in Minnesota.

"There is racism in our criminal justice system," she told an audience in New Hampshire, "and we must pledge to fix it."

Klobuchar also pushed for taking recent legislation further, saying the First Step Act -- which addressed some nonviolent drug sentences -- was just that, a start down the road to a broader review of those past convictions.

She also touted her plans for a clemency board, which would work outside the current system, to look into potential pardons.

7:29 p.m. ET, April 22, 2019

Klobuchar non-committal on impeaching Trump: "I’m not going to predispose things"

From CNN's Dan Merica

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar was noncommittal about whether President Donald Trump should be impeached for what is detailed in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, telling an audience in New Hampshire that she doesn’t want to “predispose things.”

Klobuchar also pushed the decision on impeaching Trump to her colleagues in the House, noting that it is their decision.

“The impeachment proceedings are up to the House. They’re going to have to make that decision. I am in the Senate,” Klobuchar said, adding that she “believe(s) very strongly that President Trump should be held accountable.”

Klobuchar added: “I believe, first of all, we need to have hearings in both the House and the Senate and not just with Attorney General Barr. We need to bring Director Mueller before the United States Senate because otherwise we are never going to get to the bottom of it.”

Klobuchar’s comments come days after Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro came out in favor of beginning impeachment hearings.

Klobuchar made clear she believed that is a decision for the House to make and declined to say whether she believed the President should be impeached.

“I believe I’m the jury here, so I’m not going to predispose things,” she said. “I’m not going to say whether it is or isn’t.”

7:04 p.m. ET, April 22, 2019

NOW: Amy Klobuchar takes the stage at CNN town hall

Sen. Amy Klobuchar just took the stage for her town hall.

Watch it live in the video player above (refresh this page if you don't see it).

10:13 p.m. ET, April 22, 2019

In the Green Room with Amy Klobuchar

Democratic presidential hopeful Amy Klobuchar just chatted with CNN and answered a few questions before tonight's town hall.

We asked her five simple questions so voters can get to know her better.

Here's what she said:

CNN: What's one thing about you that surprises people?

Klobuchar: "I think people are surprised to know I once rode my bicycle 1,200 miles in 11 days from Minneapolis to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, going against the wind and uphill with my dad."

CNN: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Klobuchar: "Be yourself and pursue what you want. When I was first running for office, I was thinking of running for this job, it was called county attorney in Minnesota, because I liked getting involved in the justice system. But some people said, 'Oh no, if you do that job, it will be bad. Something bad will happen in that job. Too many bad things can happen. You should run for secretary of state, instead then you're statewide.' And I said, 'No I want to run for what I want to do.' I ran for that and look -- I ended up in the US Senate."

CNN: What’s your favorite movie and why?

Klobuchar: "My favorite movie, OK, this is where my daughter gets the cringe factor. It is Sound of Music and I love Sound of Music because I loved all the songs. When I was young, I would sing them all with the music. I think I would sing every one today, which I won't do right now."

CNN: What was the last book you read?

Klobuchar: "The last book that I read ... is Jimmy Carter's last book."

CNN: What three issues do we have to deal with right now?

Klobuchar: "We have to deal with one: climate change. We have to with two: immigration reform and we have to deal with three, I would say on most people's mind, is getting the economy to work for everyone."