CNN hosts town halls with Sanders, Buttigieg and Klobuchar

Updated 0521 GMT (1321 HKT) February 19, 2020
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9:59 p.m. ET, February 18, 2020

Buttigieg to Trump: "My marriage… never involved me having to send hush money to a porn star"

From CNN's Dan Merica and DJ Judd

Will Lanzoni/CNN
Will Lanzoni/CNN

Pete Buttigieg excoriated Donald Trump and one of his most high-profile supporters for questioning his marriage to his husband, Chasten, on Tuesday, telling an audience in Las Vegas that his marriage “never involved me having to send hush money to a porn star.”

Buttigieg is referring to $130,000 in payments arranged by Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to Stephanie Clifford, a porn star known as Stormy Daniels who says she and Trump had an affair in 2006 after Trump married his wife Melania. Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels, but admitted in 2018 that he knew of the payments "later on."

The comments also come days after radio host Rush Limbaugh told his listeners that American voters are “still not ready to elect a gay guy kissing his husband on the debate stage president.” Limbaugh said on Tuesday that Trump, who initially responded to the host’s comments by saying he would not be uncomfortable with a gay president, told him to “never apologize” for his comments about Buttigieg.

“The idea of the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Donald Trump lecturing anybody on family values,” Buttigieg said, before pausing for cheers and applause.

“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,” Buttigieg said. “So, if they want to debate family values, let's debate family values, I'm ready.”

Buttigieg also said he did not take Trump at his word because "he's sending out his supporters to talk in that way."


9:46 p.m. ET, February 18, 2020

Buttigieg: There’s no "compatibility" between Trump’s behavior and Scripture

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Will Lanzoni/CNN
Will Lanzoni/CNN

Pete Buttigieg has routinely spoken about his Christian faith during these events and, again on Tuesday night, argued that religion should not be viewed as the province of any one political party.

Asked whether he believed it was possible to be a Christian and support Trump, he said it wasn’t his place “to tell other Christians how to be Christians.”

“But I will say,” he added, “that I can’t find any compatibility between the way this President conducts himself and anything I find in Scripture.”

Buttigieg also said that his faith would help guide his policy decisions in office.

“The time has come to send a message: that people of faith have a choice,” he said. “And if you belong to a Christian, or any moral or religious tradition, that emphasizes making yourself useful to the oppressed and standing with and identifying with the prisoner, welcoming the stranger -- stranger by the way is another word for immigrant -- yes, that has implications in public life.”

Watch the moment:

9:37 p.m. ET, February 18, 2020

Buttigieg: Bloomberg is trying to buy the nomination

From CNN's Dan Merica and DJ Judd

Will Lanzoni/CNN
Will Lanzoni/CNN

Pete Buttigieg said Tuesday that while he would accept Michael Bloomberg’s donations should he become the Democratic nominee, he does believe the former New York mayor is trying to buy the nomination by spending hundreds of millions on ads.

When CNN's Erin Burnett asked Buttigieg if he believes “trying to buy the democratic nomination for president,” the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor said, “Yes.”

“I mean, what else do you call it,” Buttigieg said. “What else do you call it when you dip into your reserves of millions and billions and don't go through the process of campaigning in states like Nevada, Iowa or New Hampshire, going into the diners and the backyards, looking eye to eye?”

Buttigieg has recently started to attack Bloomberg on the campaign trail, telling an audience in Las Vegas on Tuesday that Bloomberg is “a billionaire who thinks that you... can just buy your way on to television and win that way.”

The former New York mayor qualified for Wednesday night’s Democratic primary debate on Tuesday.

Buttigieg did separate himself from Bernie Sanders during his CNN town hall by saying that if he were to win the party’s nomination, he would accept the billionaire’s support.

“Sure,” Buttigieg said. “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.”

Hear more:

9:31 p.m. ET, February 18, 2020

Buttigieg on Americans with private insurance: "Who are we to tell them they have to give it up?"

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Will Lanzoni/CNN
Will Lanzoni/CNN

Pete Buttigieg argued that his public option health insurance plan had a better chance of surviving in Congress than Bernie Sanders' "Medicare for All" proposal.

The reason: choice.

"This is where I part ways with my friend Sen. Sanders. He believes that we should require everybody to adopt that plan, whether they want to or not," Buttigieg said, before name-checking a powerful local union. "There’s a lot of folks here in the state of Nevada, culinary workers come to mind, who negotiated for good private plans … Who are we to tell them they have to give it up?”

Buttigieg made the case that a drastic expansion of public health insurance was within reach, as long as Americans don't feel like they're being forced to make the change.

“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 of their private plans," he said.

Buttigieg also challenged the for-profit health insurance industry, which has been critical of his public option plan, to beat it.

“I’ll leave it to the private players to figure out if they can measure up," he said.


9:29 p.m. ET, February 18, 2020

Buttigieg connects military experience to active shooter drills at schools

From CNN's Eric Bradner

Will Lanzoni/CNN
Will Lanzoni/CNN

Pete Buttigieg tied his military experience to the active shooter drills students in schools are now involved in Tuesday night after being asked about ending gun violence in schools by an educator in the Las Vegas area. 

“I'm thinking about terms like dispersion of targets and the difference between cover and concealment -- things I learned as part of military training,” the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor said. 

“Part of why I believed I was in the military 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 this country has its priorities wrong,” Buttigieg said. 

He quickly added, “Actually, no -- Washington has its priorities wrong.” 

Hear Buttigieg’s comments:

9:18 p.m. ET, February 18, 2020

Buttigieg calls for Attorney General Barr to resign

From CNN's Dan Merica and DJ Judd

Will Lanzoni/CNN
Will Lanzoni/CNN

Pete Buttigieg said on Tuesday – for the first time – that he believes Attorney General Bill Barr should resign because of his handling of politically sensitive cases like that of longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone

“Absolutely,” Buttigieg said about Barr stepping down. “This really is an emergency, it's an emergency of legitimacy in our justice system. Our justice system only works if it is immune from the interference of politicians.

President Donald Trump has denied that he pushed Barr to intervene in the Stone case, where top DOJ officials reduced the recommended sentence against the Trump adviser. That led all four federal prosecutors who took the case to trial to withdraw. Late last week, Barr also ordered a re-examination of several high-profile cases, including that of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

“This president, especially now that he feels emboldened after getting away with what he got away with during the impeachment process, thinks he can just lean in and ask others to do the same and interfere,” Buttigieg said. “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.”

Watch the moment:

9:01 p.m. ET, February 18, 2020

Buttigieg's town hall has begun


Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg has taken the stage. CNN's Erin Burnett is moderating.

9:07 p.m. ET, February 18, 2020

Sanders on whether he is the Democratic frontrunner: "Who cares"

From CNN's Dan Merica

Will L
Will L

Bernie Sanders dismissed a question about whether he is the Democratic frontrunner.

“Who cares,” Sanders said.

The Vermont senator delivered a strong performance in Iowa and then won the New Hampshire primary, leading many within the Democratic Party to believe he has not supplanted former Vice President Joe Biden as the party’s frontrunner.

Sanders is also atop a number of recently released national polls.

Sanders, though, has little interest in whether he was atop the field.

“I know we take no votes for granted. We are a hardworking campaign. We're so appreciative of the hundreds of thousands of volunteers we have,” he said. “So I can tell you, we're working right now in Nevada trying to bring out the vote.”

Hear Sen. Sanders' response:

9:04 p.m. ET, February 18, 2020

Sanders says he will not release additional medical records

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Will Lanzoni/CNN
Will Lanzoni/CNN

Late last December, three months after he suffered a heart attack in Las Vegas, Bernie Sanders released three letters from physicians attesting to his good health.

On Tuesday night, Sanders said that if the public wants any more information about his health, they should join him on the campaign trail, where he keeps a busy schedule.

Sanders argued that the letters, including one from the attending physician at the US Capitol, amounted to a "detailed report" and, when pressed on whether he would release new details, said, "I don't think we will."

On October 1, Sanders was rushed to an urgent care facility following a grassroots fundraiser in Las Vegas after experiencing chest pains. Sanders then was taken to the hospital in an ambulance and remained there for days before returning home to recuperate.

He was back on the campaign trail about two weeks after he initially fell ill.

Dr. Brian Monahan, the Capitol Hill physician, said in a Dec. 30 letter addressed to Sanders, "You are in good health currently and you have been engaging vigorously in the rigors of your campaign, travel, and other scheduled activities without any limitation."

Monahan also more directly addressed the senator's heart health.

"Several of the medications you initially required (blood-thinner, beta blocker) were stopped based on your progress," Monahan wrote. "Your heart muscle strength has improved. You have never had symptoms of congestive heart failure. The heart chamber sizes, wall thickness, estimated pressures, and heart valves are normal. Several 24-hour recordings of your heart electrical activity indicated no significant heat rhythm abnormality."