Howard Schultz takes questions at CNN town hall

By Veronica Rocha and Brian Ries, CNN

Updated 12:27 a.m. ET, February 13, 2019
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10:59 p.m. ET, February 12, 2019

Schultz on what the tax rate should be for the wealthiest Americans: "I don’t know what the number is"

From CNN's Greg Krieg

How much would Howard Schultz raise tax on the wealth?

Don’t ask Howard Schultz.

Asked on tonight first by a member of the audience -- and then by moderator Poppy Harlow, repeatedly -- about the rate he believed the richest Americans should pay, Schultz demurred.

“The headline is here,” Schultz insisted, “I should be paying more taxes. And people who make this kind of revenue, and are of means, should pay more taxes.”

Pressed by Harlow for some kind of detail -- a hike of 2% or 10% or 20%? -- he said: “I don’t what the number is.”

Schultz was clear, though, on what he didn’t like: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s suggested 70% rate on the highest earners, calling it “punitive.”

“I don’t know what the number is,” Schultz said again later, “but what I’m suggesting is that I should be paying higher taxes and I think people across the country are willing to pay higher taxes.”

The problem with any raise to any rates, he added, was that Americans had lost their faith in government and elected leaders to put the new revenue to good use. Which brought Schultz back to an earlier point: the Green New Deal, another program he does not support.

He also criticized President Trump’s corporate tax cuts, which took the rate down to 21%, saying it “never should have happened.”

Watch the moment:

10:53 p.m. ET, February 12, 2019

Will Schultz sell his Starbucks stocks if he becomes president? He won't say.

Pressed tonight on whether he would sell off his Starbucks shares if he becomes president, Howard Schultz wouldn't commit.

Instead, the billionaire former CEO said he would "do nothing whatsoever to have any conflict of interest between my investments overall or my interests in the company that I love because I will put the role and responsibility and the accountability for results first if I run for president and I'm fortunate enough to win."

Schultz insisted he wasn't trying to avoid the question.

"I think there's multiple ways to do this. No, no, I'm not evading the question. There's multiple ways to do this, set up a blind trust, do lots of things to remove any conflict of interest," he said.

10:40 p.m. ET, February 12, 2019

Schultz says the Green New Deal is "not realistic," "immoral"

From CNN's Dan Merica

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said Tuesday that the Green New Deal, a sweeping climate change and economic overhaul plan proposed by Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, is “not realistic" and "immoral."

The comment puts Schultz, who is thinking about running for president as an independent in 2020, at odds with a host of Democratic candidates who said they would support the plan despite its sweeping impacts.

Schultz suggested during the CNN town hall that while those proposing the plans were not “disingenuous,” they were rolling out the plan because it sounds good.

“Let’s be sensible about what we are suggesting,” he said. “Let’s not just throw things against the wall because it’s a good slogan or a good press release.”

Schultz also suggested that the plan was unaffordable:

“I think it is immoral to suggest that we can tally up 20, 30, 40, 50 trillion in debt to solve a problem that can be solved In a different way."

Watch more below:

10:30 p.m. ET, February 12, 2019

Schultz pledges to release his taxes — if he actually chooses to run for president

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, speaking at CNN's town hall tonight, promised to release his taxes -- if he decides to run for president.

"Well, I'm not yet decided to run for president, but if I decide to run for president, I 100% will release my taxes and be completely transparent," he said.

Schultz then took a jab at President Trump for failing to follow through on his campaign promise to release his taxes.

"Yeah, but I think President trump, unfortunately, has a habit of not being truthful," he said.

Schultz then rose his hand and vowed to release his taxes.

10:31 p.m. ET, February 12, 2019

Schultz asked anyone who thinks the government is doing well to raise their hand. Nobody did.

Howard Schultz had a question for the audience: Does anyone think that the United States government is doing well for you and your family, or for the country and the American people?

"Raise your hand if you think the government is doing well for you," he demanded.

No one did. 

"That is why I'm here!" Schultz proclaimed. "And I've got good news for you. We can fix it! We can fix it! But we can't fix it under a broken system where the far left and the far right are more engaged every single day and more interested in self-preservation, self-interests, and not representing you."

10:24 p.m. ET, February 12, 2019

Why Howard Schultz thinks he's qualified to be president

A town hall attendee asked Howard Shultz why the former Starbucks CEO is qualified to be president.

Here's how he responded:

"I think my qualifications is my life experience. I grew up in public housing in Brooklyn, New York, in the projects. When I was 7 years old, my father came home from work, injured on the job, lost his health insurance, lost workman's compensation, and we were destitute as a family. I lived through the shame and the understanding of what it means to be in fear of no health insurance and no money. I took that experience and it provided me a lens of how I would see the world and how I would try to build my company."

He added that the US has "lost a sense of leadership in both parties" and "lost a sense of understanding about the values and the conscience of the country."

"The reason I'm here tonight and the reason I've stepped up is because I'm concerned about your children, my children, my grandchildren, and the future of the country," Schultz said. "I know we can do better than this."

10:40 p.m. ET, February 12, 2019

Schultz says he's considering a presidential run because he's worried about the American people

Howard Schultz said he considering running for president because he's concerned for the American people -- though he doesn't you to compare him to Trump.

"I think his record and what he has accomplished within the Oval Office speaks for itself. I'm here today and speaking publicly about thinking about running for president because of my concern for the American people and my love of the country. I think we can be doing so much better than we are," Schultz said.

He continued: "I think we look at the country today, it's very fragile, our standing in the world, and what I think what's missing right now is a deep sense of leadership that the more than people are longing for and deserve, a sense of character, a sense of morality, a level of civility."

Schultz acknowledged that his business experience "is not qualifications to run for president, but it is what I've learned along the way."

Watch the moment:

10:03 p.m. ET, February 12, 2019

Howard Schultz takes stage at CNN town hall

The event just started, and you can watch it live in the video player above or on CNN.

10:00 p.m. ET, February 12, 2019

He plans to tell his students what he heard tonight from Schultz

Darius Benton, a communications professor at University of Houston Downtown, said he's attending Howard Schultz's town hall with an open mind.

"I just like to stay aware," Benton said, adding that he's interested in learning about Schultz's platform. "Is this going to be good or bad?"

Benton is looking for Schultz's responses on two key issues: education and race relations.

Armed with information about Schultz, Benton said he plans to return to class and tell his students what he learned about the former Starbucks CEO.