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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11:43 p.m. ET, April 22, 2019

Buttigieg says incarcerated felons should not be allowed to vote

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg said he doesn't think people who are incarcerated should be allowed to vote.

"No," he said. "I do believe that when you are, when you have served your sentence, then part of being restored to society is that you are part of the political life of this nation again and one of the things that needs to be restored is your right to vote."

He went on to say losing the right to vote is part of the punishment when someone is convicted of a crime.

"You lose your freedom and I think during that freedom it does not make sense to have an exception for it the right to vote," Buttigieg said.

Earlier tonight, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, speaking at his town hall, was asked if sex offenders, the Boston marathon bomber, terrorists and murderers should have the right to vote. He said he thinks everyone should have the right to vote.

"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," Sanders said.

11:45 p.m. ET, April 22, 2019

Why Pete Buttigieg isn't ready to get on board with Elizabeth Warren's student debt relief plan

From CNN's Greg Krieg

"I still want to do some math around it," the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, told CNN's Anderson Cooper.

Buttigieg said he found the proposal "pretty appealing," but suggested that any major movement on the issue should follow similarly large scale changes to how Americans are taxed.

"I'm not as certain I'm comfortable with people of that high an income participating" in Warren's debt forgiveness plan," he said, "until we have completed the transition to a more progressive tax code."

As CNN's MJ Lee and Katie Lobosco reported earlier today, Warren's new plan would forgive $50,000 in student loans for Americans in households earning less than $100,000 a year.

According to analysis provided by her campaign, that would provide immediate relief to more than 95% of the 45 million Americans with student debt.

The Massachusetts Democrat and 2020 contender is also calling for a drastic increase in federal spending on higher education that would make tuition and fees free for all students at two- and four-year public colleges and expand grants for lower-income and minority students to cover costs like housing, food, books and child care.

The campaign estimates that the plan would cost $1.25 trillion over 10 years.

11:30 p.m. ET, April 22, 2019

Here's what Buttigieg plans to do about immigration reform

Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, says he believes there should be a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

"The reality is we can't have comprehensive immigration reform that works unless it addresses the status for those 11 some million undocumented immigrants. So what we need make sure there's a pathway to citizenship for them, too," he said.

Buttigieg then outlined what he said would be in a comprehensive immigration plan, which includes:

  • A pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in US. 
  • "A level of protection for dreamers."
  • "A set of reforms to clear up the bureaucracy and the back logs in the lawful immigration system ..."
  • "And reasonable measures on border security."

Buttigieg continued: "It's just that we don't have the leadership in Washington to do it. And I'm afraid one of the reasons is we have got a White House that's computed it's better off politically that Americans continue to be divided around it for short-term political gain and that has got to end with a new president."

12:23 a.m. ET, April 23, 2019

Buttigieg explains the lack of a policy section on his website: "I’ve been pretty clear where I stand"

From CNN's Dan Merica

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg defended his campaign website not having a policy section, arguing that he believes policy is important, but Democrats need to do a better job of not drowning voters in “minutia.”

Buttigieg’s meteoric rise has found his campaign apparatus playing catch up, and one area where that is clear is policy rollout, especially when compared to candidates like Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

“I’ve been pretty clear where I stand on major issues,” Buttigieg said, nodding to the fact that he has talked at length about getting to Medicare for All and reforming democracy.

The mayor also said his campaign will roll out a tool “shortly that will make it possible to just enter a key word and see, visualize, pull all the video on what I’ve said about that particular issue.”

“We’ll continue to roll out specific policy proposals, too,” he said. “But I also think it’s important we don’t drown people in minutia before we’ve vindicated the values that animate our policies. We go right to the policy proposals and we expect people to be able to figure out what our values must be from that.”

He added: “I expect it will be very easy to tell where I stand on every policy issues of our time. But I’m going to take time to lay that out, rather than competing strictly on the theoretical elements of the proposals themselves.”

Pressed by CNN’s Anderson Cooper on the fact that it’s hard to compare his policy proposals to others because of the lack of a policy page, Buttigieg said, “We’re in the second week of my campaign being official and we’ll continue building our website accordingly, too.”

11:04 p.m. ET, April 22, 2019

Pete Buttigieg's town hall starts now. Here's what you need to know.

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, officially launched his Democratic presidential race last week and was largely unknown over a month ago.

Buttigieg, who served as a naval officer in Afghanistan, would be the youngest and first married gay president if elected. He would also be the first candidate to go from the mayor's office to the presidency.

He's taking the stage now. Here's what we know about him:

  • Buttigieg oversees a city: He's been mayor of South Bend since January 2012. In December, however, Buttigieg announced he would not seek a third term.
  • He's the fastest-rising Democratic candidate: A series of polls show Buttigieg's popularity rising among voters, a far cry from when he was receiving less than 1% of support in some polls months ago. 
  • What he thinks about President Trump: He cast Trump as a backward-looking politician who has looked to use fear as a way to gain power.
  • How to pronounce Buttigieg's name: Buttigieg can be pronounced "boot-edge-edge," "buddha-judge," "boot-a-judge" or "boo-tuh-judge." Buttigieg's father, Joseph, emigrated to the United States from Malta. Buttigieg roughly translates to "lord of the poultry."
  • His 2020 platform: The mayor has called for sweeping Democratic reforms on voting and in the judicial system, called climate change "a life and death issue for our generation" and said he wants to make sure every American has access to Medicare.

You can watch Mayor Buttigieg's town hall in the video player above.

11:05 p.m. ET, April 22, 2019

In the Green Room with Pete Buttigieg


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

We asked him six simple questions so voters can get to know him better.

Here's what he said:

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

Buttigieg: "I think people are pretty surprised that I like to speak to a big crowd because I'm pretty laid back and low key in person, but politics is about engaging different kinds of groups. I enjoy everything from the living room to the giant speech."

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

Buttigieg: "I think the best advice I have received has come from people who have encouraged me to just be true to what I care about most, and you need to pay attention to how you're being shaped, even by the decisions that you make as you grow and go through different experiences."

CNN: What’s your favorite movie and why?

Buttigieg: "I don't have a single favorite movie. From a filmmaking perspective, I think it's pretty hard to beat The Godfather and also Gangs of New York. I got a weakness from Sci-Fi, especially provocative Sci-Fi that makes you think. And I think Contact and more recently Arrival are two amazing movies that I could watch over and over again."

CNN: What was the last book you read?

Buttigieg: "I just finished a book about John le Carré, a great spy novelist, but he also wrote a memoir called The Pigeon Tunnel about all the stories of things he's experienced over the years. It's really good reading and it's always fun to read a little bit something different from my day-to-day political-related nourishment."

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

Buttigieg: "I think we have got to deal with the condition of our democracy — the way that we make decisions and the way that it gets warped by everything that has money in politics ... the way things get drawn. Very, very concerned about climate and how that's going to effect opportunities for my generation for as long as I live. And I think we've got to deal with unfairness and inequality in our economic system today."

CNN: Name one thing that makes you different than all the other 2020 Democratic candidates.

Buttigieg: "Well I am definitely the only left-handed, Episcopalian, Maltese-American gay war veteran in the race, so I got that going for me."

11:02 p.m. ET, April 22, 2019

Kamala Harris is open to allowing currently incarcerated people to vote

From CNN's Dan Merica

Sen. Kamala Harris said that she is open to allowing currently incarcerated people to vote, giving a noncommittal answer to something Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said he supported during his CNN town hall earlier on Monday.

“People who are convicted, in prison, like the Boston marathon bomber, on death row, people who are convicted of sexual assault, they should be able to vote,” asked CNN’s Don Lemon.

Harris replied, “I think we should have that conversation.”

Harris’ answer was vague and left open the possibility that she could eventually not support the plan.

“I agree that the right to vote is one of the very important components of citizenship. And it is something that people should not be stripped of needlessly, which is why I have long been an advocate of making sure people formally incarcerated are not denied the right to vote,” Harris said. “In some states, they’re permanently deprived of the right to vote.”

Sanders said Monday that 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.”

11:00 p.m. ET, April 22, 2019

Harris touts her DA efforts to protect sex workers

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Sen. Kamala Harris on Monday touted her efforts to protect sex workers during her time as the district attorney in San Francisco, specifically noting her calls to shut down a website used to advertise adult services.

Discussing Backpage, a since-shuttered site some sex workers defended as a means of keeping them off the streets, Harris insisted its closure -- which she pushed for -- protected minors from sex traffickers.

"As it relates to women who are being trafficked, I was one of the leaders in the country with many others in saying that Backpage needed to be put out of business because they were in the business of basically allowing the trafficking," Harris said, "in particular of underage girls."

Harris, who has said sex work should be decriminalized, focused her answer on the disparity in police and prosecutorial treatment of sex workers and those profiting off of and often abusing them.

"When I was district attorney of San Francisco, I instituted a number of policies that were focused on women and children and how they were treated, frankly, with bias in the criminal justice system," Harris said, "where they were criminalized without really looking at the real offender and so often that case was the pimps and Johns, so women were arrested as being prostitutes."

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.