August 30th, 2015
10:12 AM ET

Sen Bernie Sanders on gun control: "I do not accept the fact that I have been weak on this issue. In fact, I have been strong on this issue"

Today on CNN’s State of the Union, 2016 Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), joined anchor, Jake Tapper.

For more information, see http://cnnpressroom.blogs.cnn.com/. Also, text highlights and a transcript of the discussion are below.

MANDATORY CREDIT: CNN’s “State of the Union”

VIDEO HIGHLIGHT

Sen. Bernie Sanders State of the Union: Full interview

TEXT HIGHLIGHTS

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on gun control: “I do not accept the fact that I have been weak on this issue.  In fact, I have been strong on this issue.  And, in fact, coming from a rural state which has almost no gun control, I think I can get beyond the noise and all of these arguments and people shouting at each other and come up with real, constructive gun control legislation which, most significantly, gets guns out of the hands of people who should not have them.”

Sanders on Hillary Clinton taking on billionaires: “I believe that, when you have so few banks with so much power, you have to not only reestablish Glass-Steagall, but you have got to break them up.  That is not Hillary Clinton's position.  I believe that our trade policies, NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China, have been a disaster.  I am helping to lead the effort against the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  That is not Hillary Clinton's position.  I believe, along with Pope Francis and almost all scientists, that climate change is threatening this planet in horrendous ways, and that we have to be aggressive in transforming our energy system away from fossil fuel, and defeat, and defeat the Keystone pipeline.  That is not Hillary Clinton's position.  I believe that, as opposed to my Republican colleagues who want to cut Social Security, I believe we should expand Social Security by lifting the cap on taxable income.  That's not Hillary Clinton's position.  I believe that we have got to raise the minimum wage over a period of several years to $15 an hour - not Hillary Clinton's position.  I voted against the war in Iraq.  Hillary Clinton voted for it.”

Sanders on the DNC restricting the number of debates: “I think that that is dead wrong, and I have let the leadership of the Democrats know that.  Again, I think this country benefits - all people benefits - democracy benefits when we have debates.  And I want to see more of them.”

Sanders on the “Black Lives Matter” rhetoric: “…this is what I think.  Obviously, it is an outrage that this police officer was basically assassinated.  Other police officers have been killed.  I worked with police officers when I was mayor of the city of Burlington.  They have a very, very difficult job.  And we need to make sure that we have the best-trained, best-paid police departments in the world.  And, as president, I would help bring that about, community policing and so forth.  On the other hand, what we also have to understand, it is not acceptable in this country when unarmed black people get dragged out of cars or get shot.  That is happening too often.”

FULL TRANSCRIPT

THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: A brand-new poll showing the insurgent in the Democratic race for president, independent Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont, making serious gains on Hillary Clinton in Iowa.

The Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll shows Clinton dropping below 50 percent for the first time this year, coming in at 37 percent to Sanders' 30.  And Sanders has swayed a third of Clinton supporters to come over to his side.  The poll also looked at Republicans and found Donald Trump on top again, with 23 percent of Iowans favoring him, another outsider candidate, Dr. Ben Carson, number two with a bullet at 18 percent, Ted Cruz and Scott Walker coming in at 8 percent each, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio at 6 percent each.

It all adds up to a very interesting, unpredictable race, with nontraditional, non-establishment candidates gaining steam and drawing crowds.

So, let's get right to the man of the hour, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who joins us.  Thanks so much for being with us, Senator.  Really appreciate it.  I have to start by asking you about this new poll which shows you winning over Clinton supporters.  You're at 30 percent.  She's at 37.  You said earlier this week that the same old, same old cannot win, as we heard in the open.  Is Hillary Clinton the same old, same old?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, this is what I can tell you, Jake.  Not only in Iowa, not only in New Hampshire, but all over this country, we're generating enormous enthusiasm.  People do not understand why the middle class of this country is collapsing at the same time as almost all of the new income and wealth is going to the top 1 percent.

People do not like the idea that, as a result of Citizens United, our campaign finance system has become corrupt and politicians are dependent upon super PACs and billionaires for money.  People want us to deal with climate change, make college affordable.  Those are the issues I have been talking about.  Those are the issues that are generating enormous enthusiasm from one end of this country to the other.

TAPPER:  You also talk about taking on the billionaire class.  And you have said to Hillary Clinton you're not sure whether or not she will take on the billionaire class.  Give us some specifics where you think you would and she might not.

SANDERS:  I think that the business model of Wall Street is fraud.  And I think these guys drove us into the worst economic downturn into the modern history of America.  I think they're at it again.  I believe that, when you have so few banks with so much power, you have to not only reestablish Glass-Steagall, but you have got to break them up.  That is not Hillary Clinton's position.  I believe that our trade policies, NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China, have been a disaster.  I am helping to lead the effort against the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  That is not Hillary Clinton's position.

I believe, along with Pope Francis and almost all scientists, that climate change is threatening this planet in horrendous ways, and that we have to be aggressive in transforming our energy system away from fossil fuel, and defeat, and defeat the Keystone pipeline.  That is not Hillary Clinton's position.  I believe that, as opposed to my Republican colleagues who want to cut Social Security, I believe we should expand Social Security by lifting the cap on taxable income.  That's not Hillary Clinton's position.

I believe that we have got to raise the minimum wage over a period of several years to $15 an hour - not Hillary Clinton's position.  I voted against the war in Iraq.  Hillary Clinton voted for it.

TAPPER:  So, that's a very ambitious agenda you just outlined there.  You said this week that the biggest mistake President Obama made was thinking he could negotiate with Speaker Boehner and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.

How can you get this very ambitious agenda through, which includes, you didn't mention, an estate tax on those who inherit more than $3.5 million, a trillion dollars spent on infrastructure - how are you going to do that without dealing with Congress?

SANDERS:  And that infrastructure program, Jake, would create some 13 million jobs.  I will tell you how.  I have a lot of - a lot of respect for Barack Obama.  He is a friend of mine.  The biggest mistake I believe that he made - and I disagree with him on a number of policy issues, but his biggest political mistake is, after his brilliant 2008 political campaign, when he rallied millions of people to stand up and fight back, basically, what he said after he was elected:  Well, I will take it from here.  I will negotiate with Boehner and Mitch McConnell and Republicans.

Two points. First of all, these guys never had any intention of seriously negotiating.  I think the president has caught onto that.  But, second of all, the powers that be in Washington, Wall Street, the huge campaign donors, the Koch brothers, are so powerful, that the only way we bring about real change in this country which represents the needs of the middle class and working families is when millions of people stand up and say, enough is enough, they are organized.

And that is what I'm talking about when I speak about a political revolution.  No president, not Bernie Sanders or anybody else, can do it unless millions of people say, you know what?  This country belongs to all of us.  Our government must represent all of us, and not just a handful of billionaires.  It can't be done within the Beltway itself.  We need a mass movement, and that's what we are trying to create, and are succeeding in creating right now.

TAPPER:  I want to ask you about a story unfolding in the news right now.  A deputy sheriff was gunned down at a gas station in Texas.  Police have charged an African-American man with his murder, saying the officer was targeted because he was wearing his law enforcement uniform.  Take a listen to what the sheriff had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RON HICKMAN, HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS, SHERIFF:  This rhetoric has gotten out of control.  We have heard black lives matter, all lives matter.  Well, cops' lives matter, too.  So why don't we just drop the qualifier and just say lives matter and take that to the bank?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER:  What do you think of that, Senator Sanders?  Is the sheriff right?

SANDERS:  Well, I think...

TAPPER:  Has the rhetoric gotten too hot?

SANDERS:  Well, this is what I think.  Obviously, it is an outrage that this police officer was basically assassinated.  Other police officers have been killed.  I worked with police officers when I was mayor of the city of Burlington.  They have a very, very difficult job.  And we need to make sure that we have the best-trained, best-paid police departments in the world.  And, as president, I would help bring that about, community policing and so forth.

On the other hand, what we also have to understand, it is not acceptable in this country when unarmed black people get dragged out of cars or get shot.  That is happening too often.  So, in my view, we need major reforms of our criminal justice system, which, by the way, Jake, means that our police officers are better paid, are better trained, and we end this absurdity in America of having more people in jail than any other major country on earth, including China.

So, criminal justice reform, criminal justice reform is a big issue for me, and making sure that we have the best police departments throughout this country is something we have got to make happen.

TAPPER:  Another horrific news story took place in Roanoke, Virginia, Wednesday morning, with the shooting of those two individuals with the local news station.

SANDERS:  Terrible.

TAPPER:  Your Democratic rivals have been arguing that, when it comes to guns, you are out of step with liberal and progressive primary voters on the issue of gun control.  A surrogate for Hillary Clinton, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, he went to New Hampshire and said that your gun votes had been driven by - quote - "political expediency," and that this is a dividing line between you and Hillary Clinton.  Your response?

SANDERS:  Well, let me tell you, I have, as I understand it, a lifetime voting record from the NRA of D-minus.  D-minus.  I voted very strongly for instant background checks.  I want to see them made stronger, probably the most important thing that we can do.

Number two, I voted in a state, by the way, Jake, which has almost no gun control, not an easy vote - I voted against the NRA, and I voted to ban certain types of semiautomatic weapons.  I voted to eliminate this gun show loophole which allows people to purchase guns without a background check.  And, by the way, in addition to that, what I believe is, we need to do a lot, lot better job in terms of mental health in this country.

People call my office, they call offices all over this country, and say, you know, my brother, my husband, I'm really worried about what he might do to himself or other people.  We do not have the capability of treating those folks.  When people have mental health issues, when they're a threat to others or themselves, they should be able to get counseling immediately.  That is not the case right now.

So, I do not accept the fact that I have been weak on this issue.  In fact, I have been strong on this issue.  And, in fact, coming from a rural state which has almost no gun control, I think I can get beyond the noise and all of these arguments and people shouting at each other and come up with real, constructive gun control legislation which, most significantly, gets guns out of the hands of people who should not have them.

TAPPER:  Governor Martin O'Malley tore into the Democratic National Committee on Friday, as you know, accusing the party of rigging the debate process to favor Hillary Clinton.  Do you agree with Governor O'Malley?

SANDERS:  I think rigging is a strong word.  I think that, at a time when so many of our people have given up on the political process, when 80 percent of young people did not vote in the last election, 63 percent of all Americans did not vote, I think debates are a good thing.  I love debates.  Done it all my life.

So, I would like to see more debates.  I would like to see groups representing working people have a debate to talk about why the rich get richer and everybody else gets poorer.  I think environmentalists deserve a debate, so we can talk about how we move aggressively to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel.  I think young people deserve a debate, in terms of my idea and other ideas about how we make college education in this country in public colleges and universities tuition-free, how we deal with student debt...

TAPPER:  Right, but...

SANDERS: ...how we deal with tax reform in this country, making the rich pay their fair...

TAPPER:  But, Senator Sanders, the DNC...

SANDERS:  Yes.

TAPPER:  The DNC, as you know, is saying that if you or Governor O'Malley participate in any nonsanctioned debate, then you don't get to participate in the official ones.  They are restricting the number of debates.

SANDERS:  And I think - and I think that that is dead wrong, and I have let the leadership of the Democrats know that.  Again, I think this country benefits - all people benefits - democracy benefits when we have debates.  And I want to see more of them.

TAPPER:  I know you have not been a particular fan of Donald Trump or his campaign rhetoric.  He has called recently, however, for raising taxes on those who run hedge funds.  Is that an issue where you two agree?

SANDERS:  Absolutely.  But, even more importantly, look, let's be clear.  We have a situation where major corporations in this country make billions of dollars in profit.  They stash their money in the Cayman Islands.  They don't pay a nickel in taxes.  I am funding my plan to make public colleges and universities tuition-free by a tax on Wall Street speculation.  When you have hedge fund managers, as Warren Buffett reminds us, paying an effective tax rate lower than firemen or police officers, that's got to change.

The rich are getting richer.  They're going to have to start paying their fair share of taxes, as do major corporations.

TAPPER:  Senator Bernie Sanders, congratulations on all the success you're having on the campaign trail.  We hope to talk to you soon.

SANDERS:  Thank you very much.

###END INTERVIEW###

 


Topics: CNN • Jake Tapper • State of the Union
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