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Town Hall with Pete Buttigieg (D) Presidential Candidate. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 18, 2020 - 21:00   ET




BURNETT: And welcome back to CNN's Town Hall event. We are live from the theater at Sahara, Las Vegas. I'm Erin Burnett.

We are just four days away from the Nevada caucuses, a crucial contest for Democrats in the crowded 2020 primary campaign. The candidates are making one more final pitch to Nevadans, including the undecided voters right here in our audience tonight.

Now, you just heard from Senator Bernie Sanders. We're going to keep it going now with one of his top competitors for the nomination, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg.




BURNETT: Nice to see you. Thank you.

BUTTIGIEG: Thank you. Thank you.


BURNETT: I want to begin tonight with a question about the president and what's going on with the judicial system in this country, President Trump.

Tomorrow the leaders of an independent group of federal judges, I don't know if you all saw this, but they're going to be having an emergency meeting and they're going to be talking about President Trump's attorney general, Bill Barr, how they've been handling these politically sensitive cases like Roger Stone.

More than 2,000 former Justice Department officials, as you know, have called for Barr to resign. Do you think he should, Mayor?

BUTTIGIEG: Absolutely. This really is an emergency. It is an emergency of legitimacy in our justice system. Our justice system only works if it is immune from the interference of politicians. And obviously this president, especially now that he feels emboldened after getting away with what he got away with during the impeachment, thinks he can just lean in and ask others to do the same, and interfere.

And one of the first criteria for my attorney general is that she or he will understand that she or he is the lawyer for the American people and not the personal lawyer of the president of the United States.


BURNETT: I want to bring in Jamie Shay in our audience, she's from Henderson. She is retired but she is volunteering this week, Mayor Buttigieg, for the Democratic Party, in the caucuses on Saturday. And she is supporting you.

Go ahead, Jamie.

QUESTION: Hi, Mayor Pete, and thanks for coming tonight. You've not had a great amount of success turning around the lack of support of people of color, with your successes in Iowa and New Hampshire, your campaign has renewed excitement. But do you have a plan to gain the trust and support of more people of color as your campaign moves forward? And if so, how?

BUTTIGIEG: Yes. First of all, thank you for your work for the party. It's so important.


BUTTIGIEG: And one of the reasons I'm proud to belong to our party is that our party reflects the diversity of our country. And, of course, we're thrilled with the successes that we've had top two finishes in the first two states. But most of the racial diversity of the electorate is in the states yet to vote, beginning right here in Nevada.

And I view this not as a political question, but as a question of how to make sure we can lead, in order not just to win, but to deserve to win. Now the reality is voters of color have every reason to be especially skeptical of politicians, especially new politicians. When voters of color, and I'm thinking in particular of black voters who have been the most reliable and loyal constituency in the Democratic Party, feeling that politics has not delivered for them, often feeling that our party has taken their support for granted, I understand why that bar is so high.

Not only that, but I am from a city that has a complicated story, just like America has a complicated story. I'm proud of the things we were able to get right, cutting black unemployment, cutting black poverty in our city. We were nationally recognized for race-informed work on economic opportunity. But we've also had tremendous struggles and a lot of unfinished business, especially when it comes to racial justice and policing. I'm seeking to earn the support of voters of color, first of all, by

asking for it, and demonstrating that I understand that I am not entitled to anybody's support. And by laying out a vision for how the future can be a better one by proactive steps on everything from economic empowerment to reforms to our legal system that I know we must deliver in our time so that this can become a country where your race has no bearing on your health or on your wealth or on life expectancy or on your experience with law enforcement.

I also know that nobody is experiencing the pain of living under this administration more than voters of color. And that is why it is so important that we select a nominee who will put an end to the Trump administration, and I will continue working to demonstrate, to show, not just tell, that I am building the best campaign to do just that.


BURNETT: So how do you -- you talk about obviously Nevada and South Carolina, and these are going to be the diverse states that are going to vote. And you have made progress, but you've got a long way to go when you look at the polls with people of color. Are you worried you're running out of time?

BUTTIGIEG: Again, I'm worried that America is running out of time. This is not just about my political fortunes, this is about whether our country can get this right. But what I'm going to do as a candidate is use every minute and every day that remains to find voters, look them in the eye, meet them where they are, and speak specifically to the challenges that black and Latino and AAPI Americans face, that Native Americans face that are of a piece with the American experience but also unique challenges that deserve specific attention.


BURNETT: So our next question comes from Karen Keehan, she's over here, a special education teacher. She works with students who have been emotionally traumatized and she's also currently an undecided voter.

Karen, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes. Thank you for being here tonight, I appreciate it. As an educator here in Clark County School District, I participate in mandatory drills where I lock my door, draw blinds, ask students to shut down computers. They lay down on the floor, spread around the room. I explain they must be on the floor to avoid bullets coming through the windows and doors. To be more -- and then they need to spread out to be more difficult targets. They need to also turn off any screens that they have to prevent light from attracting the attacker.

What is your plan for remedying the terror that has become embedded in our schools?

(APPLAUSE) BUTTIGIEG: It is heartbreaking to hear you walk through that because it's in the specific way you described it, I'm thinking about terms like dispersion of targets and the difference between cover and concealment that are things that I learned as part of military training. And part of why I believed I was in the military was to serve potentially in conflict zones so that kids at schools in America would never have to have that experience.

And to see what we are accepting in terms of the expectation that this is just normal, that kids are going to have active shooter drills, sometimes before they're old enough to learn how to read, shows you that this country has its priorities wrong. Actually, no, Washington has its priorities wrong, because...


BUTTIGIEG: You know, you look at something like universal background checks. It won't save every life. But it would make a big difference. This is something that the vast majority, not just of Democrats, but of Republicans, and gun owners already believe we ought to do. It's 80 or 90 percent support in America and we still can't get it through Washington.

It shows you what has to change in our political system. It shows the need for presidential leadership on this issue, because you are in such an important field. This, of all things, should not be your problem, and it certainly shouldn't be the problem of the children that you serve.


BURNETT: So this weekend, as you know, was the one-year anniversary of the Parkland shooting. And the shooter was 19 years old. He had purchased his firearm. Florida moved to change that. So now the minimum age to purchase a gun in that state is 21 years old. Several of your opponents want to do the same thing on a federal level, make it you have to be 21 years old to buy a gun legally. Do you support that?

BUTTIGIEG: I would be very open to that. We have to do whatever we can to save lives. And it's not just background checks, it's not just age of purchase, it's also red flag laws. Ways to disarm domestic abusers or intervene when somebody is a danger, especially because the crisis of gun violence in our country, it's not just murder, it's suicide. And many of those suicides are preventable.

And I believe we also need to take action on assault weapons. Because the kinds of weaponry I trained on in the military has no business anywhere near an American school.

BURNETT: I want to bring in -- sorry, it was two years to Parkland, so. I want to bring in Alex Giuliani, a law student at UNLV who is currently undecided. Alex?



GIULIANI: We have seen our government neglect public education, welfare, and Social Security, because their donors have no stake in those programs. By allowing private health insurance to exist under your universal health plan, do you worry that those who can afford private insurance will lose their vested interest in maintaining the quality of national health care?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, what I'm proposing is a national health insurance program that I believe will be so good that everybody or almost everybody over time will choose it. And if I'm right, then it will eventually become the Medicare plan for our everybody.

But I'm not willing to assume that we're right. This is where I part ways with my friend Senator Sanders. He believes that we should require everybody to adopt that plan, whether they want to or not, when actually there's a lot of folks here in the state of Nevada, for example, culinary workers come to mind, who negotiated for good private plans, often traded wages as part of that.

Who are we to tell them they have to give it up? I believe that we should trust individuals to make the right choice for them. But I also believe that support will exist for this plan that I'm proposing we create. As a matter of fact, one of the things that I think is striking about the moment we're living in is we have a powerful American majority ready to support this reform, what I'm talking about, creating a public plan for everybody, just as long as we don't kick people off their private plans, then this has widespread support, which is really important at a moment when we have got to try to unify and not further polarize the American people.


It solves the problem. It brings us together. It's also paid for, which is more than you can say for Senator Sanders's plan. And I believe it is the best way to make sure that there is no such thing as an uninsured American.


BURNETT: So Senator Sanders actually has called the current -- the private health insurance system that we have now corrupt. That's the word that he has used. Do you also believe it is corrupt? And if you do, why do you want to leave it in place?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, again, I think that Americans should be able to decide for themselves. Now the private insurance industry attacked my plan the moment that it came out, I think because they don't want the competition. And what we're going to do is we're going to create this quality public plan, either they'll come up with something better and they'll stay in business, or they'll fail to come up with something better and they'll go out of business. Either way works.

The important thing is not whether the government is providing your coverage. The important thing is that you get great coverage one way or the other. And I'll leave it to the private players to figure out if they can measure up.


BURNETT: So you've said undocumented immigrants should have been able to receive coverage through Obamacare. This is something that you've said in the past, and you've addressed that in your health plan. Now let's just say you're the president of the United States. You go to Congress. You're trying to pass the bill. And that becomes the roadblock, that you're just not able to get it through if you're going to provide access for undocumented immigrants. Would you be willing to put it aside, or is that something you will not drop?

BUTTIGIEG: I'm going to fight to make sure that anybody can participate on this plan, because if we are excluding people from the ability to get in on health insurance, we're not just harming them, we're punishing ourselves. We become a less healthy country. More people will be in emergency rooms because they can't get the preventative treatment that they need up front. And more people will be sick.

Nobody wins when that is the case. And so I will do everything in my power to make sure that when we deliver this plan, we do it in a way that everybody can participate.

BURNETT: Is it fair to say, just to be clear, that health insurance for undocumented immigrants is a deal-breaker for you?

BUTTIGIEG: I can't game out every amendment or poison pill, every change they're going to try to make to bring the package together. What I'll say is that that is one of the pillars of the plan as I see it.

BURNETT: All right. I want to bring in Donald Fagan. He's a student at UNLV, currently undecided. So go ahead, Donald.

DONALD FAGAN, STUDENT, UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA, LAS VEGAS: Hi, Mayor Pete. Candidates such as Senator Sanders have criticized your campaign support from billionaires. Many Americans feel like their voices are often disregarded in favor of those with larger wallets. How can the average voter be certain that you will represent their interests first? And will you pledge to make overturning Citizens United and removing money from politics a day one priority as president?


BUTTIGIEG: So the answer to your second question is, yes, I will. Citizens United is a disaster for our democracy. And if what it takes to fix Citizens United is a constitutional amendment, then I think that's exactly what constitutional amendments are for. Let's not be afraid and let's launch that fight on day one.


BUTTIGIEG: And as far as defending the interests of those who aren't wealthy, I have the smallest wallet of anybody running for president right now. They did a ranking in Forbes magazine. And I'm officially the least wealthy presidential candidate right now. So when I'm talking about the interest of middle class, I'm also talking about our own. And I got into politics, I got into campaigning in order to be part of solutions for folks like my neighbors, folks like my own family.

And I also believe that at a time like this, we've got to get help from everybody who is willing to support our bold vision for the future. My campaign was driven and is driven by hundreds of thousands of individuals who have donated. As a matter of fact, if you're watching right now, you can go to, send in 5 or $10, because that is the lifeblood of our campaign.

But if there are some people a lot wealthier than I am who want to be part of that, who want to chip in, great, because we're getting ready to go up against Donald Trump and his allies, who have been raising hand over fist in order so much money in order to hold on to their grip on power.

And my campaign is one that's never going to define itself by whose help we reject. My campaign is about belonging. It's about bringing everybody into the picture and standing side by side with everybody determined to make sure that we end the Donald Trump presidency and deliver a better future for Americans.


BURNETT: So when you said you want to not be defined by who you reject, last hour, I don't know if you heard Senator Sanders, but he would not commit to accepting money from Michael Bloomberg if Michael Bloomberg is not the Democratic nominee. Right, he has pledged to help whoever is.

Would you take his money and his support if you are the nominee?

BUTTIGIEG: Sure. As a matter of fact...


BUTTIGIEG: Look, right now, obviously I'm competing against Mayor Bloomberg. We have, I think, different approaches and different visions. But his philanthropy supported a million dollar effort in our community to help low-income people get transportation to go to work.


I'm not going to reject that help because it came from a very wealthy person. This is the moment to bring everybody that we can into this effort.

And I promise exactly one thing in return for any contribution, which is we're going to take that contribution and use it to go beat Donald Trump.

(APPLAUSE) BURNETT: So, you know, you talk about something he did in your community, but obviously Amy Klobuchar has said Bloomberg is, her words, hiding behind his ad spending. Elizabeth Warren says he has bought his way on to the debate stage. Bernie Sanders has accused him of trying to buy the entire election.

Pretty simple question, yes or no. Do you think Michael Bloomberg is trying to buy the Democratic nomination for president?

BUTTIGIEG: Yes. Yes. I mean, what else do you call it? What else do you call it when you dip into your endless reserves of millions and billions and don't go through the process of campaigning in states like Nevada or Iowa or New Hampshire, humbling yourself, going into the diners and the backyards, looking eye to eye to voters?

Look, my campaign wouldn't exist if all that mattered was how much money and fame you start with and how you get yourself on the air. We built this thing from nothing. And we built it by having those conversations and letting voters pick apart what you have to say.

And to try to just go around that by throwing colossal sums of money on television, shows you what's wrong with our system. And I also believe it's not the best way to pick our nominee or the next president.


BURNETT: So I want to bring in Kristen Makhathini now. She is a realtor and she is from Henderson, Nevada. She previously had supported Senator Kamala Harris. So she is now undecided. Go ahead with your question, please.

QUESTION: Thanks. Hi, Mayor Pete, thanks for spending time with us tonight. As a fellow Episcopalian and Christian, it is very frustrating to hear so much of the public discourse that assumes that being a Christian equals evangelical Christian conservatism. My Episcopalian belief and Christianity teaches me the values of scripture, tradition, and reason. I am a Democrat and a Christian, you can be both.

How can you use your voice as president to share this viewpoint more broadly when the right thinks they own it?


BUTTIGIEG: Well, first of all, I'm glad to be with a fellow Episcopalian. And I agree. It starts with sending the message that God does not belong to a political party. And...


BUTTIGIEG: And by the way, you know, it's also very important to make clear that the presidency and the Constitution, and my presidency will belong to people of every religion and of no religion equally. This is not about imposing my faith on anybody.


BUTTIGIEG: But I have got to say, like you, I find a message in scripture that is very different from what the political right seems to want to talk about all the time, a lot about poverty, a lot about compassion, a lot about humility that I seek in my imperfect way to live up to, and that does have implications for how I will approach public office.

And the time has come to send a message that people of faith have a choice. And if you belong to a Christian tradition or any moral or religious tradition that emphasizes making yourself useful to the oppressed and standing with and identifying with the prisoner, and welcoming the stranger, the stranger by the way is another word for immigrant. Yes that has implications in public life and I won't be afraid to talk about how my positions are informed by my faith.


BURNETT: So, you know, to the point you talk about, about God not belonging to any kind of political party, at the last CNN town hall, you said if your faith calls upon you to help the marginalized, those who are afflicted, to comfort -- to comfort people, to strive for humility and decency, as the Christian faith does, and then I quote you, "then I just can't imagine that that requires of you that you be anywhere near this president."

Do you think it is impossible to be a Christian and support President Trump?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, I'm not going to tell other Christians how to be Christians. But I will say, I cannot find any compatibility between the way this president conducts himself and anything that I find in scripture. Now I guess that's my interpretation. But I think that's a lot of people's interpretations. And that interpretation deserves a voice.


BURNETT: All right, we are going to be back with more from presidential candidate, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, right after this break.




BURNETT: And welcome back to Sahara Las Vegas. We're here with Democratic presidential candidate, the former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, for a live town hall.

So one thing that people might not know about you is that you speak eight languages. Am I missing one?

BUTTIGIEG: Depends what you mean by speak. Some -- some better than others.

BURNETT: OK. OK. All right, but among them, Norwegian and Maltese...


BURNETT: ... which has a lot of X's in it and all kinds of things. So, you know, I was thinking, like could you say something in one of them? And I'm like, here we are, and I didn't want to make it, you know, too easy, but something like, I don't know, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?


BUTTIGIEG: Oh, wow. Yeah, let's see. In Maltese, it would be something like (speaking Maltese) I think. A bunch of Maltese people are going to like tweet me how I got that wrong.

BURNETT: There's no winning on this one, by the way.

BUTTIGIEG: Yeah, and Norwegian (speaking Norwegian) I don't know. Anyone Norwegians here? I don't know.

BURNETT: You couldn't get immediately...

BUTTIGIEG: As far as everybody here knows, that was right.



BURNETT: So which of them -- because, I mean, when people hear eight languages, I mean, most of us speak one or we struggle to kind of comprehend a second. What was the hardest to learn?

BUTTIGIEG: Maltese is actually really hard, because it's this mix. So my father emigrated from Malta. It's one of the smallest countries in the world. It's got its own language. And it's a mix of everything -- it's a Semitic language.


It's got parts of Arabic in it. There's a bunch of Italian and some English going on.

Like, the basic way to say hello in Maltese is to say, "All right?" And thank you in Maltese is "Thank you." And -- but you also say grazie, which is Italian. It's like a whole -- but, you know, the languages that are the most different from English are obviously the most challenging. And you don't get to practice a lot of them.

BURNETT: No, I know, like I say, it's all those X's. Is there a time, though, that you can think where knowing one of these languages helped you help someone else?

BUTTIGIEG: Yeah. I remember the day the travel ban went into effect. And we were in Houston -- at the time I was seeking to be DNC chair and decided to go down and participate in the protests on the travel ban. And there was a rumor going that an Iranian family had been caught up in the situation that -- you know, they were being caught at customs and weren't being allowed through because of the ban.

Anyway, we were there at the terminal. And there was this amazing scene. It was a protest that had been organized almost on the spot by a young woman who was a server at a Carrabba's. It showed you the power of online organizing. And within a few hours, hundreds of people were at the airport, and we were -- they were calling for the travel ban to be lifted.

And then there was a stay, I think, in court. And so this family started coming through. And they were being mobbed by TV reporters, and I realized that they might not have had any idea of why there were all these protesters, cameras, or anything. So I went up.

And I learned -- to go to -- to deploy to Afghanistan, I learned Dari, which is kind of like Farsi, which is the language of Iran. So I see this man emerge, kind of Middle Eastern appearance. His wife is in a hijab. They got three or four little kids. A bunch of suitcases. They look exhausted.

And I went up to them and started trying to ask, you know, are you OK? Do you understand what's happening? Do you need any help? Everybody is here to support you. And the more I tried to say this in Farsi, the clearer it became that he -- he didn't understand me at all.


And then I realized he was an Arabic speaker. And I studied Arabic in college. I'm not very good at it, but I'd studied it. And had this conversation -- he had no idea what was going on. He was actually Jordanian, and he just wanted to go home.

And meanwhile, there -- because I'm wearing a tie, the reporters from one of the local TV stations think that I'm his lawyer and they start interviewing me. And one of them was from Telemundo, which was in Spanish, and they were asking me to try to ask him questions in Arabic, which I'm not that good at, and they were asking me in Spanish. And it was a real mess.

But in the end, I just realized there was this crowd chanting and cheering, and they didn't know what was going on, so I just grabbed the luggage cart to help him and his wife, and just got them out of there to the garage where his cousin was waiting to pick him up.


BURNETT: Got him where he was going.

All right, I want to bring in Dave Comarow. He is a retired patent attorney from here in Las Vegas. And you say you're undecided, as well. Go ahead with your question, Dave.

QUESTION: Mayor Buttigieg, welcome to our humble little town. BUTTIGIEG: Great to be here.

QUESTION: I hate that anybody has to ask this question, but, Mayor Pete, if you do become the nominee, how are you going to deal with the almost certain flood of personal attacks based on your sexual orientation?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, it'll happen, and I'm ready. You know, when I decided to come out in...


Thanks. When I decided to come out in -- it was during a re-election year in South Bend. I was up for mayor. I decided, after my deployment, that I was just too old to not have a personal life and made that personal decision, not knowing what the effect on my career would be or on being able to win.

Mike Pence was the governor of Indiana then. And it was tough sledding for -- as it still is for many LGBTQ people in the state where I come from. And I just decided I had to do it. And what wound up happening was that I got re-elected with 80 percent of the vote.


And what that tells me was that, at the end of the day, people were ready to judge me based on the job I was doing for them. But I also think it's important to recognize that change on these issues and acceptance and equality, even though it's got a long way to go, it's also happened at a pace that a lot of people are struggling with.

And I think for those who haven't quite found their way all the way to the right side of history, it's important to beckon them in the right direction. I remember not long after I started dating Chasten, and I ran into a woman I knew in South Bend, older generation, a little more conservative. And she kind of gave me this mischievous pat on the arm, and she said, "I met your friend the other day, and he is wonderful."

You know, that could have been a moment to give her a lecture on the difference between, you know, your friend and your partner. But what I realized was, in her way, she was kind of inching toward the


of acceptance, she felt good about it, she felt good that she was moving in that way. And I think in a moment like this, it's really important that we find those who are maybe not quite there yet, and help them get there instead of clubbing them over the head and telling them they're bad people until they see it just the right way. And I think that's a really important part of where our politics needs to go.


BURNETT: So last week, Rush Limbaugh made homophobic comments about you and he said that America is not ready, he doesn't think, for a gay president. Now, then Limbaugh -- I don't know if you know -- but he gave this whole story today that President Trump told him don't apologize...

BUTTIGIEG: Oh, great.

BURNETT: ... for saying anything he said. Publicly, though, Trump says that he would not have a problem supporting a gay candidate. Do you take him at his word?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, not if he's sending out his supporters to talk in this way. And, look, I mean, the idea of the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Donald Trump lecturing anybody on family values...


I mean, I'm sorry, but one thing about my marriage is it's never involved me having to send hush money to a porn star after cheating on my spouse with him or her.


So they want to debate family values? Let's debate family values. I'm ready.


BURNETT: All right. Our next question is from Nick Elefantis. He is a high school government teacher. He is from Las Vegas and also undecided. Nicholas, please.

QUESTION: Good evening, Mayor Buttigieg. It's widely acknowledged that the public education system in Nevada and across the nation is broken. Part of it is due to the attrition of teachers. We're faced with low salaries and crippling student debt. What can be done to help keep hard-working, highly qualified teachers in their job, instead of looking for the door?



You may see Chasten, who's right next to you, is nodding along, because he's a teacher with high student debt and who has dealt with low compensation. So we as a household -- you know, we understand what you're going through.

And it is so important that we recruit and motivate and empower teachers to be in that profession. It's such an important profession. And yet, as we talked about earlier, teachers are now being expected to convert into highly trained armed guards if there's a threat to the classroom. You're finding part of your job automated by the over- reliance on test administration.

And then there's the simple fact that teachers are not paid enough. We can do something about that. And we should do something about that with federal funds.

So I'm proposing that we triple the funds going into Title I in particular. Those are dollars that go into low-income districts, which is where having a great teacher is especially impactful, because low-income students, and disproportionately black and brown students, will perform better and earn more in the future, be more economically empowered if they have the best teachers.

We also, I think, need to lift up the profession as a whole. I'm proposing we create a...


Yeah. I'm proposing that we create an Education Access Corps. The idea would be to link up high-quality teaching programs across the country. And if you participate in them, and then commit to teaching in one of those Title I programs, you have a portable teaching license you could take anywhere, and you get your student loans forgiven, if you do have that debt, in exchange for agreeing to be a teacher in such an important area.


Bottom line is, as I like to say is that if we respected our teachers just a little more like we do our soldiers and paid our teachers just a little more like we do our doctors, this country would be a better place for all of us.


BURNETT: So you were talking about federal funding and what you would do with federal funding. Elizabeth Warren, some of your opponents, have called for complete freeze, no federal funding for new charter schools. Do you think that makes sense?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, I think that we need to not have a meat cleaver approach on this, but insist that any charter schools are set up in a way that will benefit traditional public schools, too. It can't just be up to whether you win a lottery that you have opportunity.

We've got to make sure -- charters can have a role in piloting new ideas or innovations, but they have to be subject to the same accountability and the same scrutiny as traditional public schools. And they should be funded at a comparable level.

So if we're talking about federal funds being used in a way that would tilt the scale, and then a charter school that gets more money says, see, we got better results, but it's just because they had more resources, that's not fair.

What we've got to do is make sure that any innovations that are going on in the space of education go in a way that would ultimately reach students at every kind of

[21:35:00] traditional public school in the country. And I neglected to mention one other thing, talking about teachers and how important that job is. There are a lot of people in school buildings and in classrooms, teachers, but also paraprofessionals and other educators and support staff who are also very much underpaid, and it's important that we, I think, speak to that, as well. I meant to mention that.


BURNETT: Johnathan Carter is also a teacher. He's a high school English teacher, part-time college instructor here in Las Vegas, currently undecided, but I believe, Jonathan, leaning towards Mayor Pete. I don't know how he's done tonight for you, but that's what you were I think coming in the door. Go ahead with your question.

BUTTIGIEG: Hopefully I can bring you across, then.

QUESTION: Good evening, Mayor.


QUESTION: The president of the United States has been accused of not always telling the truth about some of the most basic issues concerning Americans.


BUTTIGIEG: That's diplomatic.

QUESTION: I try. If you are in a debate with him, what will be your approach to ensuring that his mistruths do not go unchecked while still communicating your own vision for the country and not allowing yourself to become nothing more than a fact-checker?


BUTTIGIEG: You know, it's a great point. I think this president is kind of like one of those Chinese fingertraps, you know, the harder you pull, the more you get stuck in them. Because he has this way of commanding our attention by doing something outrageous or telling a lie. And if he -- if he tells a lie, you've got to correct it. If he does something racist, you got to confront it. If he insults a war hero, you got to stand up to it. And yet the moment you do that, you're starting to get sucked into his game.

And so I believe the discipline that's going to be required of any nominee, and the discipline I plan to bring to that debate stage, is to be ready very quickly to correct his lies and to confront his wrongdoing, but to put it in its place quickly enough that we deny him his famous ability to change the subject.

Because the real subject of this election is our lives. And that's a winning issue for us. We're the ones trying to get you a raise. We're the ones ready to deliver paid family leave, serious about climate change, prepared to do something about gun violence, standing up for workers and unions. On the things that are going to affect whether our lives go better in the future, I believe we've got all the best answers.

I think he knows that, and that's why he needs us arguing about whatever crazy nonsense he can use to dominate the news. And so my overall philosophy on how to defeat this president, especially how to debate this president, is, yeah, you've got to stand up to him sometimes, but the less we're talking about him, the more we're talking about you, and that's how we're going to win.


BURNETT: You know, it's amazing how many people just in casual conversation talk about this, the debates, and how they imagine the debates between Trump and whomever the Democratic nominee is. So you touched on this a little bit, but how would you on a debate stage balance between responding to him, whether -- whatever it is he's saying or sometimes, as you mentioned, it could be five or six topics in one answer, responding and not letting him dominate the conversation?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, I think it's to remember what the election is about. I believe that every election is about the voter asking one question: How is my life going to be different if you're president instead of you?

And when it comes to the things that are going to decide our lives and our children's lives going better or worse, we have not only a strong message, we have the majority of the American people with us.

You know, Democrats are so used to being in a defensive crouch politically, we forget this sometimes, but the American people are with us on wages, with us on health, even with us on guns and with us on immigration reform, issues where we used to hesitate to say what we really believe. The American people are already there.

We've just got to make sure that we keep the focus on those basic questions. And I will maintain the discipline to keep that at the center of this election and of the debates themselves.

BURNETT: And so how do you reach voters -- because you're going to want some of these voters to listen to you, to possibly vote for you -- who get their news from sources that are very friendly to the president and may not be aware of the fact that he may be saying something false?

BUTTIGIEG: Yeah, well, that's why I go on some of those networks. It's a controversial decision. I took some heat in my party. But in addition to appearing on networks like CNN, you're going to see me on networks like Fox News. Not because I'm under any illusions about their objectivity, but how can -- in a world where people are starting to get their own information from their own sources and even have their own facts, how can we be surprised if somebody's not responding to my message if they've literally never even heard it?

How can we be mad at them for believing a lie, if it's the only thing that ever got to them? And those tendencies are only going to increase with these social media bubbles. That's why I think it's very important to pop those bubbles, to cross through different media, and I'm doing it as a candidate, I'll do it as president, too.


BURNETT: So our next question is from Brian Linsey. He owns a moving and a storage company here in Las Vegas. He's currently leaning towards supporting you, Mayor Buttigieg.


Go ahead, Brian.

QUESTION: Good evening, Mayor Pete. Good afternoon, Chasten. Welcome to Las Vegas to both of you.


QUESTION: Measures to enact legislation to protect our climate and natural resources invariably run into GOP resistance, typically prevented as, "This will cost us jobs" or "This will hurt the economy."


QUESTION: How do you protect our climate and protect our economy from job loss simultaneously?

And would you -- would you support a specific legislative proposal for a carbon tax and rebate?

BUTTIGIEG: I will. That's the answer to the last part. Because I believe it would play a very important role in making sure that our economy and the prices in our economy accurately reflect the true cost of businesses as usual.

Remember, the most costly thing we could possibly do is to stay on the path that we're on. And that's not just a moral cost; that's a dollars and cents cost because the catastrophic effects of climate change, which we're already beginning to see, are only going to increase.

So the idea of a carbon tax and rebate, or a carbon fee and dividend, whatever you want to call it, is that we assess a fee on the price of carbon. But, at least in my plan, we would rebate that right back out to the American people.

And I'd do it on a progressive basis so that most low and middle- income people would be made more than whole. This is not about taking money out of the economy. This is about making sure that the economy accurately reflects the cost of carbon pollution and climate change. And that's part but only part of how we're going to meet these needs.

Now, you're right, there has been a lot of partisan resistance to doing the right thing, whether it's climate, whether it's protections for federal lands, for air and for water. But here's another example, kind of, like what we were talking about earlier with guns, where, actually, there's a lot more agreement among the American people than there is on the floor in Congress.

Right now, most Americans, including in conservative states, believe in protecting public lands, believe in making sure we have clean air and water.

Now, there are some who have been made to feel like they are part of the problem, if you're working in certain kinds of industry, for example. Ironically, those are some of the very people whose skills we will need to recruit in the next generation of those industries that have to be carbon-free.

There is no question there will be a transition. And I'm proposing that we invest over $200 billion in supporting workers through that transition. But we also estimate that we will create at least 3 million net new jobs by taking the action we must as a country to mobilize and fight climate change.

And some of these jobs are -- might sound a little new-fangled, high- tech green jobs. A lot of them are jobs that are perfectly easy to understand right now. I'm talking about building trades. I'm talking about union carpenters and electrical workers and insulators and glaziers that we're going to need just to get our buildings to where they will have to be retrofitted for -- for us to stay ahead of the climate challenge.

So we've got to break this idea that we're choosing between doing the right thing for our climate and doing the right thing for our economy. The only way forward, for our economy, for our future, for our children and for our climate, is to step up, come together, deal with carbon pollution and lead the world in doing something about it.


BURNETT: So earlier tonight, Senator Sanders was talking about the Green New Deal, which he supports. And one of the key tenets of the Green New Deal is a federal jobs guarantee, which he happens to also support. Do you support a federal jobs guarantee?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, I want everybody to have an opportunity to work, but I wouldn't structure it in the same way that Senator Sanders is talking about.

What I would do is make sure not only that we're supporting everyone's ability to get training for jobs that are growing -- I mean, remember, we have shortages right now in key areas, from direct care workers to -- to educators.

BURNETT: That's true.

BUTTIGIEG: But, also, I'm proposing that we create a national service program, a million paid voluntary national service opportunities a year, to help get people that experience of working on something important. In fact, a big part of it would be a climate core, and then other parts of it could be decided by local communities, so that we set everybody on the path to success, whether they're going to ultimately go to college or whether they're going directly into the workforce.

BURNETT: All right. We're going to take a very brief break. When we come back, we'll have more with Mayor Pete Buttigieg, right after this.




BURNETT: And welcome back. We are live from Las Vegas with former mayor Pete Buttigieg.



So I want to ask you about something else that happened this morning. And I know you're out on the campaign trail, but I know there's no way you missed this, President Trump commuting the sentence of the former Illinois governor and "Celebrity Apprentice" contestant...



... Rod Blagojevich, the former New York police commissioner Bernie Kerik, Michael Milken, the financier, and a former NFL owner.

My question, though, is who would be at the top of your list for possible presidential pardons?

BUTTIGIEG: I would start with nonviolent drug offenders caught up in the racial disparities of the failed war on drugs.


I mean, look, I actually think presidential clemency power can be an important part of how we de-carcerate a country that is shockingly over-incarcerated.

I mean, if incarceration made a country safe, we'd be the safest country in the world, and we're not. It's bad enough just by the numbers, but when you add to that the racial disparities of who has been incarcerated often for nonviolent offenses, or those who have aged out of being any threat and could contribute in their communities.

That's where I would be paying my attention. This president -- it seems like he's never met a corrupt politician he didn't like.


It's one thing about him that actually is bipartisan, is his fondness for corrupt politicians. (LAUGHTER)

And it's just, to me, the absolute wrong direction to even think about that pardon power.

BURNETT: I want to bring in Chelsea Johnson. She's a student at Nevada State College who is undecided tonight.


Go ahead, Chelsea.

QUESTION: Hi, Mayor Pete.


QUESTION: I was wondering what you plan to do on protecting everyday citizens' valuable data that has been collected and sold by social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram?

BUTTIGIEG: What a great question. And it's an example of one of the issues that the next president is going to face that hadn't even been thought about, really. a few years or decades ago.

And we don't have a national policy on data security or on data privacy. Different states have them. So basically, we have 50 different policies across the country. And not only that, we're relying on very outdated legal protections.

Just think about this. When you download an app, you have that thing you've got to scroll through about 18 pages of fine print and then you just click "Agree," right? Nobody reads what's in there. There could be anything in there. But in the eyes of the law, that counts as a legitimate legal binding document on your relationship with that company and what's going on with your data.

It's why I believe we need to set a national standard, even when you give your data to a company, on what they can and can't do with it, certain rights that we have over data, especially when companies are making money off of it.

And that means accountability for the big tech companies like Facebook and Google and Amazon, but also companies of any size can act in very problematic ways with our data.

So the time has come to create a body of law that will set those left and right boundaries. We can't just leave it to the companies to regulate themselves, the way we have been.

And we need leaders who can understand this. You know, we've seen several times now the spectacle of a tech executive appearing before a committee of elected officials who make it abundantly clear that they have no concept of what it is they're supposed to be regulating. We have to make sure we bring the right expertise not just in elected office but in terms of who is appointed to hold these companies accountable and establish a new and tighter framework for what they can and can't do with our personal data.


BURNETT: This is Lisa Krueger. She's a former precinct captain and delegate at the Nevada convention in 2016, also a retired flight attendant. She's undecided but I believe leaning towards supporting Mayor Buttigieg.


BURNETT: OK. There we go. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, Mayor Pete. Thank you so much for joining us tonight. Also, congratulations on all fronts. You're doing an amazing job and it's wonderful.


You are one of the most exciting candidates that I've seen in decades. But I am curious why the senior population seems to love you so much and the younger crowd, the students, aren't quite as up to date with that.

I have an 86 year-old father and he loves you. He says "Mayor Pete" -- in fact, he thinks you're a doctor. He goes, "Dr. Pete." I'm like, "No, he's a mayor. He's a mayor."


BUTTIGIEG: Well, all right. He's promoted me.


QUESTION: But he loves you and he's so behind you, and then I ask my 32 year-old son and he said, "Well, I mean, yeah, he's OK."


I'm like -- so I'm just curious about that.

BUTTIGIEG: Yeah. So I don't know all the reasons for that. You know, even when I was running for mayor, when I was in my 20s, we found that older voters were likely to be the most supportive. I wonder, maybe, if it's partly that the longer you've been here and you've seen leaders of different ages and generations succeed and fail, maybe it demystifies, a little bit, the idea that age is the same thing as wisdom. I don't know.

What I do know is that we're going to continue reaching out to everybody. Of course, we're thrilled to have a lot of support -- and one thing that was very encouraging in those first two contests, in Iowa and New Hampshire, was that we did do well with voters of different age brackets as well as different educational experiences and different kinds of communities, urban, rural and suburban.

And I have a message for young people, too. And it's the longer you're planning to be here, the more the decisions that are about to be made will affect you personally. I am running to be the most progressive president we will have had in the last half century. But, crucially, I'm also running to do it in a way that can actually start to bring America together and unify a frighteningly divided American people.


And that will continue to be my message as I reach out to voters of all generations.


BURNETT: So maybe a "grass is greener" thing. And, look, nobody -- older people may want to be younger and younger people want to be older. But a new poll out just a few hours ago showed 40 percent of voters either have some reservations or are very uncomfortable about a president under 40 years old. I can tell you, when you hit that number, it doesn't feel so great. However, you're not there yet.


What would you say to them?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, again, I think that, look, every candidate, every person, is different. But let's not equate age with wisdom. After all, we've got the oldest president in American history and how's that working out for us right now?



BURNETT: So, if you were elected, or when -- if you're the nominee.


You get a code name, Secret Service code name.


BURNETT: Do you have any kind of thoughts on what you might want that to be?


BUTTIGIEG: One of the many, many ways in which I'm very different from this president is I'm not great at thinking up nicknames. I'll...


BURNETT: That's true. He would have had several choices at the ready for this when he...

(UNKNOWN): (OFF-MIKE) BUTTIGIEG: Yeah, I'll -- I'll leave it to others to figure that out. But that's a fun one to turn over in my mind.


BURNETT: All right. And -- and for the young voters, I do wonder, what do you say to those young voters? Does it -- do you think to yourself, "Why is it that people my age or people in their 20s and they can look at you and look at your husband and they should have a lot in common? Why is it that they are sometimes wary?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, again, I think everybody ought to be wary right now. I mean, so much is at stake in the decision that we are about to make. We've got to make sure we have a nominee who can win and defeat Donald Trump. And we've got to make sure we have somebody who's going to keep the promises that they are making.

And I don't blame anybody for being skeptical about my candidacy or any candidacy. But what I'll also say is that, you know, we have worked to show, not just tell, in the course of our campaign, how we can build a life in this country that will be one of belonging, that will not just be about getting the policies right but opening up a better era to just live in and be an American.

And I want to reach out to people of every background, every age group and also make clear that, whether you support me or not, I'm running to be a president for you as well. And I will support you in your life, no matter who you supported in this election.

BURNETT: Well, we thank you very much for your time tonight, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.


Coming up next, presidential candidate Senator Amy Klobuchar. She will join Anderson Cooper. We will be back on this stage and we will be back right after this.