CNN hosts 5 Democratic town halls

By Veronica Rocha, Dan Merica and Gregory Krieg, CNN
12:44 a.m. ET, April 23, 2019
10:58 p.m. ET, April 22, 2019

Harris: US "not prepared" for cyber war, which "will be a war without blood"

From CNN's Dan Merica

Sen. Kamala Harris said Monday that the United States is not prepared for cyber war, telling an audience in New Hampshire that she would make preparing for cyber war “one of my number one issues.”

“This will be a war without blood. And we are not prepared,” Harris said at her CNN town hall. “And we must be. But we cannot be in denial and this President of the United States is in utter denial about the realities.”

Harris called cyber war a “new form of war” where the United States – particularly the United States’ infrastructure – is “vulnerable.”

“We have got to pay greater attention,” Harris said.

The prospect of cyber intrusions into 2020 campaigns is front of mind for many Democrats, given the way hacked material played a role in Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss.

Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez wrote to the Republican National Committee on Monday, asking Republicans to refrain from engaging in the "weaponization of stolen private data in our electoral process." Meanwhile, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro announced on Monday that their respective campaigns would not use hacked material during their 2020 runs.

10:32 p.m. ET, April 22, 2019

Kamala Harris on Trump: "I believe Congress should take the steps towards impeachment"

From CNN's Dan Merica

Sen. Kamala Harris said Monday that she supports Congress moving toward impeachment, a step further than the California Democrat has gone in the past on whether President Donald Trump should be impeached.

Harris’ comment comes amid a growing debate among Democrats over whether House should impeach the President in the wake of the release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian intervention in the 2016 election and Trump’s efforts to obstruct the investigation.

"I think we have very good reason to believe that there is an investigation that has been conducted which has produced evidence that tells us that this president and his administration engaged in obstruction of justice,” Harris said. “I believe Congress should take the steps towards impeachment.”

Harris added: “I believe that we need to get rid of this President. That’s why I’m running to become president of the United States. That is part of the premise, obviously, of my plan.”

What the others say: For months, Democrats have not made impeachment a premier issue in their pitch to voters. But Mueller’s report has upped the ante, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro calling for impeachment proceedings to begin.

Warren first announced her support of impeachment proceedings last week. But she said during her hour-long CNN town hall on Monday that if anyone else did what Trump did, according to the Mueller report, “they would be arrested and put in jail.”

“He serves the whole thing up to the United States Congress and says in effect, if there’s going to be any accountability, that accountability has to come from the Congress,” Warren said of Mueller. “And the tool that we are given for that accountability is the impeachment process. This is not about politics; this is about principle.”

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar took a more wait-and-see approach to the issue, declining to go as far as Warren, Castro or Harris.

“Here is my concern: At the end of the day, what is most important to me is to see that Donald Trump is not re-elected President and I intend to do everything I can to make sure that that doesn’t happen,” Sanders said.

Klobuchar told the audience in New Hampshire that she doesn’t want to “predispose things.” The senator 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.”

10:15 p.m. ET, April 22, 2019

Harris promises swift executive action if Congress doesn't pass gun control legislation

From CNN's Kyung Lah

Sen. Kamala Harris pledged that, if elected President, she would take executive action enacting sweeping gun control measures if Congress fails to send comprehensive legislation to her desk in her first 100 days.

"Upon being elected I will give the United States Congress 100 days to get their act together and have the courage to pass reasonable gun safety laws," she said. "And if they fail to do it, then I will take executive action."

In a fact sheet outlining the proposals that the campaign plans to unveil publicly tomorrow, Harris says, "Enough. We're not waiting any longer."

The pledge by Harris to act unilaterally by executive action sharpens her repeated calls on the campaign trail, blasting Congress for failing to act on gun violence, especially mass shootings.

Read more.

10:04 p.m. ET, April 22, 2019

Kamala Harris is up now. Here's where she stands on key issues.

In announcing her run for president, California Sen. Kamala Harris said the time has come to fight against what she views as the injustices of the past two years of the Trump presidency.

The Democratic lawmaker has accused the President of stoking racist and xenophobic rhetoric, while aligning his administration with white supremacists at home, and cozying up to dictators abroad. Harris has argued that the middle class has been ignored.

Harris said she's running for president to lift voices and "bring our voices together."

As she takes the stage in New Hampshire, here's where Harris stands on key issues:

  • On gun control: She made impassioned calls for banning assault weapons and universal background checks.
  • On Medicare for All: Harris is open to multiple paths to Medicare-for-all and also cosponsored Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' bill, which would phase out for-profit insurers.
  • On possibility of reparations for the descendants of slaves: Harris told a radio station recently that he idea of reparations should be considered in the face of economic inequality.
  • On an all-woman ticket: Harris has embraced the idea of choosing a female vice president to create an all-woman ticket in her quest for the White House.

You can watch her town hall live in the video player above.

10:01 p.m. ET, April 22, 2019

Bernie Sanders calls Netanyahu's government "racist"

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Sen. Bernie Sanders called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing government "racist" on Monday night, pointing to its treatment of Palestinians.

"I am 100% pro-Israel," Sanders said. "They have every right in the world to exist and to exist in peace and security and not be subjected the terrorist attacks, but the United States needs to deal not just with Israel, but with the Palestinian people as well."

Sanders has been a fierce critic of Netanyahu and American foreign policy in the region, which includes massive financial support for Israel.

"I just believe that the United States should deal with the Middle East on a level-playing-field basis," Sanders said, referring to the stalled peace process. "In other words, the goal must be to try to bring people together and not just support one country, which is now run by a right wing, dare I say, racist government."

"As a young man about your age, I spent a number of months in Israel," he continued, discussing his time volunteering on a kibbutz in the 1960s. "I have family in Israel. I am not anti-Israel but the fact of the matter is that Netanyahu is a right wing politician who I think is treating the Palestinian people extremely unfairly."

Sanders, who is Jewish, has repeatedly come to the defense of Rep. Ilhan Omar, who has questioned American politicians' close relations with Israel and pro-Israel American lobbyists. Omar's comments, which have included the use of anti-Semitic tropes, have set off fierce criticism from both Republicans and Democrats. Sanders last week denied that Omar was anti-Semitic herself, but also said that the freshman congresswoman, one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, "has got to do maybe a better job in speaking to the Jewish community."

9:48 p.m. ET, April 22, 2019

Bernie Sanders says he worries focus on impeachment would benefit Trump

From CNN's Dan Merica

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders argued Monday that the best way to oust President Donald Trump was by defeating him at the ballot box in 2020, not impeaching him before then.

The answer was notably different to the one Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren gave just minutes earlier, when she delivered a lengthy answer in favor of impeaching the President.

“Here is my concern: At the end of the day, what is most important to me is to see that Donald Trump is not re-elected President and I intend to do everything I can to make sure that that doesn’t happen,” Sanders said.

He added: “But if for the next year all the Congress is talking about is 'Trump, Trump, Trump,' and 'Mueller, Mueller, Mueller' and we’re not talking about health care and raising the minimum wage to a living wage and we’re not talking about climate change and sexism and racism and homophobia and the issues that concern ordinary Americans, I worry that works to Trump’s advantage.”

While most voters at Democratic town halls don’t ask about impeachment, the issue has risen to national prominence following the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and the fact that Warren and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro have backed impeachment proceedings.

“I think there has to be a thorough investigation,” he said. “The House Democrats will do it. I’d appreciate if my Republican colleagues in the Senate had the guts to do it as well, but I won’t hold my breath. I want to see that we’ll see where it goes but right now, you know, that’s it.”

9:37 p.m. ET, April 22, 2019

Bernie Sanders: I've changed... on foreign policy

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Bernie Sanders talks a lot on the campaign trail about the consistency of his positions over decades in political life.

But on Monday night, the Vermont senator conceded that past criticism of his foreign policy ideas -- or the lack thereof -- were fair and that he's been working to develop a more comprehensive worldview.

"I was rightfully criticized the last time around because I didn't pay as much attention as I might," Sanders said.

"The economy issues, whether people have health care and whether they have decent paying jobs and deal with climate change is enormously important, but we have to look at the United States's role in the world as well."

That brought him to the subject of Yemen and the recent passage -- and subsequent presidential veto -- of the War Powers Act, a bipartisan effort led by Sanders in partnership with GOP Utah Sen. Mike Lee.

"Probably a few years ago, I would not have been as involved as I have recently been in demanding and helping in the Senate to pass a resolution to get the United States out of the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen," Sanders said.

"Sadly, tragically, Trump vetoed it. But to answer your question," Sanders added, he had been thinking "more about foreign policy issues than I previously did."

11:35 p.m. ET, April 22, 2019

Sanders says the right to vote should be extended "even for terrible people"

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said he thinks everyone should have the right to vote -- even the Boston marathon bomber.

"This is a democracy and we have got to expand that democracy and I believe every single person does have the right to vote," he said

Asked if sex offenders, the Boston marathon bomber, terrorists and murderers should have the right to vote, Sanders said, "Yes, even for terrible people, because once you start chipping away and you say, 'Well, that guy committed a terrible crime, not going to let him vote. Well, that person did that. Not going to let that person vote,' you're running down a slippery slope."

He went on to say:

"So I believe people commit crimes and they paid the price and they have the right to vote. I believe even if they're in jail they're paying their price to society but that should not take away their inherent American right to participate in our democracy."

9:02 p.m. ET, April 22, 2019

Bernie Sanders is up now. Here's where he stands on key issues.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is taking the stage in New Hampshire now, gained strong grassroots support during his 2016 anti-establishment bid for president. We expect to see the some of the progressive stances in his campaign this time around. 

Here's where he stands on a few key issues:

  • Health care: Sanders introduce a new Medicare for All proposal that would cover more long-term care services. He wants to create a federal universal health insurance program that would cover medically necessary services, prescription drugs, dental and vision services. Premiums, deductibles and co-pays would disappear, except for a potential $200 co-pay for brand-name drugs.
  • Taxes and wealth inequality: He wants raise taxes on people making more than $250,000 to  extend the health of Social Security by 52 years. He also wants to expand the federal estate tax on the wealthiest 0.2% of Americans, imposing a top rate of 77% on estates worth more than $1 billion.
  • Education: Free college was one of Sanders' most recognized talking points in the 2016 campaign. One proposal would provide states with $47 billion per year to cover two-thirds of the cost of tuition for students at public colleges and universities.
  • Climate change: Sanders, along with several other candidates for President in 2020, is a cosponsor of the Green New Deal proposal, a loose framework for a sweeping climate change and economic overhaul. 
  • Foreign policy: Last year, he won bipartisan support in calling for an end to military support for the Saudi-led offensive in Yemen.

You can watch his town hall in the video player above.