CNN Democratic debate night 1

By Veronica Rocha, Meg Wagner and Amanda Wills, CNN

Updated 9:42 p.m. ET, July 31, 2019
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10:21 p.m. ET, July 30, 2019

Marianne Williamson: Up to $500 billion in reparations is "a debt that is owed"

From CNN's Fredreka Schouten and Veronica Rocha

Gabriella Demczuk for CNN
Gabriella Demczuk for CNN

Author Marianne Williamson earned applause and cheers when she mounted a defense of her plan to offer $200 billion to $500 billion in reparations to the descendants of enslaved Africans in this country – one of several instances of the spiritual teacher drawing audience support tonight.

“We need to recognize when it comes to the economic gap between black and whites in America, it does come from a great injustice that has never been dealt with,” said Williamson, the only candidate on the stage to offer a specific financial proposal on reparations.

The other candidates support a bill to study the issue.

Asked why she was qualified to determine the amount of financial assistance, Williamson said she did the math. Had freed slaves been granted a promised 40 acres and a mule after the Civil War, that would be worth “trillions” to their descendants today, she said.

She called $200 billion to $500 billion “politically feasible.”

“Many Americans realize,” she said, “there is an injustice that continues to form a toxicity underneath the surface.”

She said the money is not financial assistance — it's "a debt that is owed."

Watch the moment:

"It is time for us to simply realize that this country will not heal. All that a country is a collection of people. People heal when there's deep truth telling. We need to recognize when it comes to the economic gap between blacks and whites in America, it does come from a great injustice that has never been dealt with. That great injustice has had to do with the fact that there was 250 years of slavery, followed by another 100 years of domestic terrorism."
10:10 p.m. ET, July 30, 2019

The candidates are talking about trade deals. Here are the details on NAFTA.

From CNN's Katie Lobosco

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, in discussing trade, slammed trade deals like "the new NAFTA 2.0."

"Look at the new NAFTA 2.0. What's the central future?" she asked "They've become a way for a giant multinationals to change the regulatory environments so they can suck more profits out for themselves and to leave the American people behind."

Here's what you need to know about NAFTA: The North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect in 1994, eliminating most tariffs on goods traded between the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The deal was sold as a way to make it easier for American farmers and businesses to sell their produce and goods across the northern and southern borders. But union groups and other critics say it ended up destroying more jobs than it created. Economists have reached different conclusions about the impact, but a Congressional Research Service report published in 2017 said the net overall effect on the US economy has been "relatively modest."

But NAFTA was politically controversial from the start and ultimately won more votes from Republicans than Democrats. Joe Biden, then still a senator for Delaware, voted for the deal, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, then a congressman, voted against it.

NAFTA remains a political punching bag: It is blamed for destroying US jobs and hurting American manufacturing. President Trump has called it "the worst trade deal ever" and spearheaded a new deal between the three countries, known as the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA. 

More about USMCA — or, as Warren called it, "NAFTA 2.0": The agreement adds a brand-new chapter on digital trade. The new agreement would also change the way cars and trucks are manufactured, requiring more of a vehicle's parts to be made in the United States and by workers earning at least $16 an hour in order to remain free from tariffs. Democratic critics say the USMCA doesn't do enough to protect workers' rights or set higher environmental standards. Meanwhile, staunch free-traders argue the car manufacturing requirements are too restrictive. 

The deal needs to be approved by Congress before going into effect, but some Democrats have said they want to see some changes, particularly to labor standards, to before voting in favor of adoption.

10:14 p.m. ET, July 30, 2019

Here's what you need to know about the Trans-Pacific Partnership

From CNN's Katie Lobosco

John Delaney just said he's the only Democrat running who supports Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal negotiated under former President Barack Obama. 

"Most of the people running for president want to build economic walls to free trade and beat up on President Obama. I'm the only one running that actually supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership," he said.

Here's what you need to know about the deal: The Trans-Pacific Partnership, known as TPP, was negotiated under the Obama administration. It would have eliminated trade barriers between the United States and 11 other countries, including Japan, Australia, New Zealand, as well as some South American countries like Peru and Chile – with the goal of creating an alliance to counter Chinese economic influence. 

It has critics: The agreement drew criticism from some Democrats, including Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who argued it was written behind closed doors with input from corporations and could end up forcing American workers to compete with low-wage labor around the world.

President Trump isn't a fan either: He repeatedly said during his election campaign that it would send American jobs overseas, and as one of his first acts as President, he withdrew the United States from the agreement. The 11 other countries went ahead with the deal, now called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. It went into effect in January 2019.  

Instead, Trump has decided to take on China alone: He’s imposed tariffs on more than $250 billion of Chinese goods while his administration negotiates with Beijing, attempting to reach a comprehensive trade agreement that would address what it says are unfair trade practices by the Chinese.

Watch the moment:

9:59 p.m. ET, July 30, 2019

Buttigieg: "As an urban mayor serving a diverse community, the racial divide lives within me"

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Mayor Pete Buttigieg has been criticized for his handling of racial issues in his home city of South Bend.

Buttigieg was asked tonight how he would convince African Americans that he should be the Democratic nominee.

Here's how he responded:

"As an urban mayor serving a diverse community, the racial divide lives within me. I'm not saying that I became mayor and racism or crime or poverty ended on my watch. But in our city, we have come together repeatedly to tackle challenges like the fact that far too many people were not getting the help they needed in their housing and so we directed it to a historically underinvested African-American neighborhood. Right now in the wake of a police involved shooting, our community is moving from hurting to healing by making sure that the community can participate in things like revising the use of force policy, and making sure there are community voices on the board of safety that handles police matters. I proposed a 'Douglass Plan' to tackle this nationally because mayors have hit the limits of what you can do unless there's national action. Systemic racism has hit every part of American life, from housing to health to home ownership. If you walk into an emergency room and you are black, your reports of pain will be taken less seriously. If you apply for a job and you are black, you are less likely to be called just because of the name on the resume."

Watch the moment:

9:57 p.m. ET, July 30, 2019

No breakout moments yet for the candidates who need them most

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

At least half the debate stage walked into the Fox Theatre tonight bordering on desperate for a breakout showing.

But with time running down, it doesn’t seem like any of them have struck a resounding chord.

The moderate gang of former congressman John Delaney, former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper and Rep. Tim Ryan clearly made a bet that they would make their mark by attacking Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. They’ve succeeded in stirring up a few hot exchanges, but they’ve almost blended into one voice – making the same arguments and, more often than not, failing to land a memorable blow. If anything, they’ve handed the progressives a platform to make their case against some familiar criticism in real time.

And then there’s former congressman Beto O’Rourke. He’s been more assertive than he was during the first round of debates in Miami, but once again, the Texan has drifted in and out of an often hot debate.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar has made her points, but like O’Rourke, she has not conjured a moment that people will be talking about tomorrow. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, too, has performed as expected: mostly arguing that his political success in Montana shows he can win in GOP territory. But he also has spent much of the night on the periphery.

9:50 p.m. ET, July 30, 2019

Fact check: Warren says US law allows for family separations. She's right.

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Sen. Elizabeth Warren said the current US law allows the President to separate migrant children from their parents at the border. 

Facts first: This is true. 

Last year, the Trump administration implemented its controversial “zero tolerance” policy, using a section of US law to criminally prosecute all adults at the southern border, therefore leading to the separation of thousands of families, given that children can’t be held in federal jail with adults. The policy — and the section of the code at the center of it — have become a flashpoint in the immigration debate. 

Democratic candidates remain divided over the law, referred to as Section 1325, with some wanting to instead make crossing the border illegally a civil offense, instead of a criminal offense. Warren is in favor of decriminalizing border crossings. 

“So the problem is that right now the criminalization statute is what gives Donald Trump the ability to take children away from their parents. It's what gives him the ability to lock up people at our borders. We need to continue to have border security and we can do that, but what we can't do is not live our values,” Warren said.

12:22 a.m. ET, July 31, 2019

Marianne Williamson: The Flint water crisis is "part of the dark underbelly of American society"

Paul Sancya/AP
Paul Sancya/AP

Democratic presidential hopeful Marianne Williamson described why she thinks the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, hasn't been properly addressed yet.

She said it's all about racism and bigotry:

"We have an administration that has gutted the Clean Water Act. We have communities particularly communities of color and disadvantaged communities all over this country who are suffering from environmental injustice. I assure you I lived in Grosse Point, what happened in Flint would not have happened in Grosse Point, this is part of the dark underbelly of American society, the racism, the bigotry, and the entire conversation that we're having here tonight, if you think any of this wonkiness is going to deal with this dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this President is bringing up in this country, then I'm afraid that the Democrats are going to see some very dark days," Williamson said.

She continued: "We need to say it like it is, it's bigger than Flint. It's all over this country. It's particularly people of color. It's particularly people who do not have the money to fight back, and if the Democrats don't start saying it, why would those people feel they're there for us, and if those people don't feel it, they won't vote for us and Donald Trump will win."

Watch the moment:

10:08 p.m. ET, July 30, 2019

Fact check: Sanders says half of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. That data is hard to pin down.

From CNN's Donna Borak 

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said “half of the American people are living paycheck to paycheck.”  

Facts FirstIt’s unclear what data Sanders is referring to here. However, one authoritative source shows he’s overestimating this figure slightly.  

National data on the paycheck-to-paycheck experience is hard to pin down, but a recent report from the Federal Reserve indicates that roughly 40% of Americans would have trouble covering an emergency expense of $400.  

A relatively small and unexpected expense like a busted car or replacing a dishwasher can be a problem for many families without “adequate savings,” according to the report. 

When faced with an emergency expense of $400, 61% of Americans in 2018 say they could cover it either by using cash, savings, or a credit card paid off in the next billing period.  

However, the remaining four out of 10 Americans would have much more difficulty covering the expense. And another 12% said they would be unable to pay their current month’s bills if an unexpected $400 expense came up. 

9:47 p.m. ET, July 30, 2019

Elizabeth Warren just gave her clearest answer yet on her electability

Analysis from CNN's MJ Lee

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

This is the clearest – and most explicit – electability answer I’ve heard Elizabeth Warren give all year.

The electability argument that’s been raised against her – and that I’ve heard from voters – goes like this: Some Democratic voters like Warren’s ideas for big sweeping change. But some of those very Democrats worry that *others* will think those ideas are too extreme to be winnable. So maybe it’s too risky to support Warren, even if she’s the candidate they like most.

It’s the “I’m worried other people won’t support the candidate I like” concern.

Here’s how Warren tackled that tonight:

She began with: "I know how to fight, and I know how to win,” citing her battles against the Wall Street industry and former Sen. Scott Brown.

"I get it -- there is a lot at stake and people are scared,” she said. "But we can’t choose a candidate we don’t believe in just because we’re too scared to do anything else."

And the key line: "We can’t ask people to vote for somebody we don’t believe in." It was Warren’s way of saying: Vote for the person you want to vote for, not the person you think probably has best chance of winning.

Watch the moment: