Politics & National Security

National Security Highlights from the Fourth Democratic Primary Debate

By Vishnu Kannan
Wednesday, October 16, 2019, 4:40 PM

On Tuesday, CNN and the New York Times hosted the fourth debate of the 2020 Democratic primary campaign, moderated by Anderson Cooper, Erin Burnett and Mark Lacey. We’ve combed through the transcript from the debate to present the national security-related exchanges. These excerpts are organized both thematically and chronologically.

A complete transcript of the debate can be found through the Washington Post.

Impeachment

COOPER: Since the last debate, House Democrats have officially launched an impeachment inquiry against President Trump, which all the candidates on this stage support. Senator Warren, I want to start with you. You have said that there's already enough evidence for President Trump to be impeached and removed from office. But the question is, with the election only one year away, why shouldn't it be the voters who determine the president's fate?

WARREN: Because sometimes there are issues that are bigger than politics. And I think that's the case with this impeachment inquiry.

When I made the decision to run for president, I certainly didn't think it was going to be about impeachment. But when the Mueller report came out, I read it, all 442 pages. And when I got to the end, I realized that Mueller had shown, too, a fare-thee-well, that this president had obstructed justice and done it repeatedly. And so at that moment, I called for opening an impeachment inquiry.

Now, that didn't happen. And look what happened as a result. Donald Trump broke the law again in the summer, broke it again this fall. You know, we took a constitutional oath, and that is that no one is above the law, and that includes the president of the United States.

Impeachment is the way that we establish that this man will not be permitted to break the law over and over without consequences. This is about Donald Trump, but, understand, it's about the next president and the next president and the next president and the future of this country. The impeachment must go forward.

COOPER: Senator Sanders, do Democrats have any chance but to impeach President Trump? Please respond.

SANDERS: No, they don't. In my judgment, Trump is the most corrupt president in the history of this country. It's not just that he obstructed justice with the Mueller Report. I think that the House will find him guilty of — worthy of impeachment because of the emoluments clause. This is a president who is enriching himself while using the Oval Office to do that, and that is outrageous.

And I think in terms of the recent Ukrainian incident, the idea that we have a president of the United States who is prepared to hold back national security money to one of our allies in order to get dirt on a presidential candidate is beyond comprehension. So I look forward, by the way, not only to a speedy and expeditious impeachment process, but Mitch McConnell has got to do the right thing and allow a free and fair trial in the Senate.

COOPER: Vice President Biden… have Democrats been careful enough in pursuing the impeachment of President Trump?

BIDEN: Yes, they have. I said from the beginning that if, in fact, Trump continued to stonewall what the Congress is entitled to know about his background, what he did, all the accusations in the Mueller Report, if they did that, they would have no choice — no choice — but to begin an impeachment proceeding, which gives them more power to seek more information.

This president—and I agree with Bernie, Senator Sanders—is the most corrupt president in modern history and I think all of our history. And the fact is that this president of the United States has gone so far as to say, since this latest event, that, in fact, he will not cooperate in any way at all, will not list any witnesses, will not provide any information, will not do anything to cooperate with the impeachment. They have no choice but to move.

COOPER: Senator Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that members of Congress have to be, in her words, fair to the president and give him a chance to exonerate himself. You've already said that based on everything you've seen, you would vote to remove him from office. Is that being fair to the president?

HARRIS: Well, it's just being observant, because he has committed crimes in plain sight…He's been selling out national security. And on this issue with Ukraine, he has been selling out our democracy.

Our framers imagined this moment, a moment where we would have a corrupt president. And our framers then rightly designed our system of democracy to say there will be checks and balances. This is one of those moments. And so Congress must act.

But the reality of it is that I don't really think this impeachment process is going to take very long, because as a former prosecutor, I know a confession when I see it. And he did it in plain sight. He has given us the evidence. And he tried to cover it up, putting it in that special server. And there's been a clear consciousness of guilt...Donald Trump needs to be held accountable. He is, indeed, the most corrupt and unpatriotic president we have ever had.

COOPER: Senator Booker, you have said that President Trump's, quote, “moral vandalism” disqualifies him from being president. Can you be fair in an impeachment trial? Please respond.

BOOKER: So, first of all, we must be fair. We are talking about ongoing proceedings to remove a sitting president for office. This has got to be about patriotism and not partisanship.

Look, I share the same sense of urgency of everybody on this stage. I understand the outrage that we all feel. But we have to conduct this process in a way that is honorable, that brings our country together, doesn't rip us apart.

Anybody who has criticisms about a process that is making all the facts bare before the American public, that works to build consensus, that's what this nation needs, in what is a moral moment and not a political one. So I swore an oath to do my job as a senator, do my duty. This president has violated his. I will do mine.

COOPER: Senator Klobuchar, you have—what do you say to those who fear that impeachment is a distraction from issues that impact people's day-to-day lives, health care, the economy, and could backfire on Democrats?

KLOBUCHAR: We can do two things at once. That's our job. We have a constitutional duty to pursue this impeachment, but we also can stand up for America, because this president has not been putting America in front of his own personal interests.

...You know, when he made that call to the head of Ukraine, he’s digging up dirt on an opponent. That’s illegal conduct. That’s what he was doing. He didn’t talk to him about the Russian invasion. He talked to him about that.

COOPER: Thank you. Secretary Castro, is impeachment a distraction?

CASTRO: Not at all…[W]hat we have to recognize is that not only did the Mueller Report point out 10 different instances where the president obstructed justice or tried to, and he made that call to President Zelensky of the Ukraine, but he is in ongoingly — in an ongoing way violating his oath of office and abusing his power.

We have to impeach this president. And the majority of Americans not only support impeachment, they support removal. He should be removed.

COOPER: Mayer Buttigieg, you have said that impeachment should be bipartisan. There's been, obviously, very little Republican support to date, yet Democrats are proceeding. Is that a mistake?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, it's a mistake on the part of Republicans, who enable the president whose actions are as offensive to their own supposed values as they are to the values that we all share.

Look, the president has left the Congress with no choice. And this is not just about holding the president accountable, for not just the things emerging in these investigations, but actions that he has confessed to on television. It's also about the presidency itself, because a president 10 years or 100 years from now will look back at this moment and draw the conclusion either that no one is above the law or that a president can get away with anything.

COOPER: Congresswoman Gabbard, you're the only sitting House member on this stage. How do you respond?

GABBARD: If impeachment is driven by these hyperpartisan interests, it will only further divide an already terribly divided country. Unfortunately, this is what we're already seen play out as calls for impeachment really began shortly after Trump won his election. And as unhappy as that may make us as Democrats, he won that election in 2016.

The serious issues that have been raised around this phone call that he had with the president of Ukraine and many other things that transpired around that are what caused me to support the inquiry in the House. And I think that it should continue to play its course out, to gather all the information, provide that to the American people, recognizing that that is the only way forward.

If the House votes to impeach, the Senate does not vote to remove Donald Trump, he walks out and he feels exonerated, further deepening the divides in this country that we cannot afford.

...

COOPER: Mr. Yang, do you think there's already enough evidence out there to impeach the president? Please respond.

YANG: I support impeachment, but we shouldn't have any illusions that impeaching Donald Trump will, one, be successful or, two, erase the problems that got him elected in 2016…

COOPER: Congressman O'Rourke, on impeachment, please respond.

O'ROURKE: We have a responsibility to be fearless in the face of this president's criminality and his lawlessness. The fact that as a candidate for the highest office in the land, he invited the participation, the invasion of a foreign power in our democracy. As president, he lied to investigators, obstructed justice, fired James Comey, head of the FBI, tried to fire Mueller, head of the investigation, then invited President Zelensky to involve himself in our politics, as well as China, in exchange for favorable trade terms in an upcoming trade deal.

If we do not hold him to account, if there is not justice, not only have we failed this moment, our Constitution and our country, but we have failed everyone who has sacrificed and laid their lives down on the line...And we cannot do that.

...

COOPER: The impeachment inquiry is centered on President Trump's attempts to get political dirt from Ukraine on Vice President Biden and his son, Hunter. Mr. Vice President, President Trump has falsely accused your son of doing something wrong while serving on a company board in Ukraine. I want to point out there's no evidence of wrongdoing by either one of you.

Having said that, on Sunday, you announced that if you're president, no one in your family or associated with you will be involved in any foreign businesses. My question is, if it's not okay for a president's family to be involved in foreign businesses, why was it okay for your son when you were vice president? Vice President Biden?

BIDEN: Look, my son did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong. I carried out the policy of the United States government in rooting out corruption in Ukraine. And that's what we should be focusing on.

And what I wanted to make a point about — and my son's statement speaks for itself. He spoke about it today. My son's statement speaks for itself. What I think is important is we focus on why it's so important to remove this man from office.

On the—look, the fact that George Washington worried on the first time he spoke after being elected president that what we had to worry about is foreign interference in our elections, it was the greatest threat to America. This president on three occasions—three occasions—has invited foreign governments and heads of government to get engaged in trying to alter our elections. The fact is that it is outrageous.

COOPER: [J]ust to follow up. Mr. Vice President, as you said, your son, Hunter, today gave an interview, admitted that he made a mistake and showed poor judgement by serving on that board in Ukraine. Did you make a mistake by letting him? You were the point person on Ukraine at the time. You can answer.

BIDEN: Look, my son's statement speaks for itself. I did my job. I never discussed a single thing with my son about anything having do with Ukraine. No one has indicated I have. We've always kept everything separate. Even when my son was the attorney general of the state of Delaware, we never discussed anything, so there would be no potential conflict.

Foreign Policy

COOPER: I want to turn now to foreign policy. President Trump ordered the withdrawal of all American forces from northern Syria, abandoning America's long-time Kurdish allies. As a result, Turkey has now evaded Syria, ISIS detainees have escaped, and the Kurds have announced a new deal with the government in Damascus, a victory for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, and Russia, and Iran.

Vice President Biden, we know you would not have withdrawn troops from northern Syria in this way, but that is already in process.

So would you send American troops back into northern Syria to prevent an ISIS resurgence and protect our Kurdish allies?

BIDEN: I would not have withdrawn the troops and I would not have withdrawn the additional thousand troops who are in Iraq, which are in retreat now, being fired on by Assad's people. And the president of the United States saying, if those ISIS folks escape from the prisons they're in, they'll only go to Europe and won't affect us.

It has been the most shameful thing that any president has done in modern history—excuse me, in terms of foreign policy…Our commanders across the board, former and present, are ashamed of what's happening here.

What I would do is I would be making it real clear to Assad that, in fact, where he's going to have a problem -- because Turkey is the real problem here. And I would be having a real lockdown conversation with Erdogan and letting him know that he's going to pay a heavy price for what he has done now.

COOPER: Just to clarify, Mr. Vice President, would you want American troops back in northern Syria?

BIDEN: I would want those thousand troops to be protected by air cover, those thousand troops that are being—having to withdraw under fire, make it clear that they're not going anywhere, and have them protected, and work my way back toward what, in fact, needs to be done, protecting those Kurds. They lost their lives. This is shameful, shameful what this man has done.

COOPER: Congresswoman Gabbard, last week you said that American troops should get out of Syria now. You don't agree with how the president handled the withdrawal. What would you have done differently? How would you have pulled out troops without the bloodshed we're seeing now?

GABBARD: Well, first of all, we've got to understand the reality of the situation there, which is that the slaughter of the Kurds being done by Turkey is yet another negative consequence of the regime change war that we've been waging in Syria.

Donald Trump has the blood of the Kurds on his hand, but so do many of the politicians in our country from both parties who have supported this ongoing regime change war in Syria that started in 2011, along with many in the mainstream media, who have been championing and cheerleading this regime change war.

… As president, I will end these regime change wars by doing two things—ending the draconian sanctions that are really a modern-day siege the likes of which we are seeing Saudi Arabia wage against Yemen, that have caused tens of thousands of Syrian civilians to die and to starve, and I would make sure that we stop supporting terrorists like Al Qaeda in Syria who have been the ground force in this ongoing regime change war.

GABBARD: I'd like to ask Senator Warren if she would join me in calling for an end to this regime change war in Syria, finally.

WARREN: So, look, I think that we ought to get out of the Middle East. I don't think we should have troops in the Middle East. But we have to do it the right way, the smart way.

What this president has done is that he has sucked up to dictators, he has made impulsive decisions that often his own team doesn't understand, he has cut and run on our allies, and he has enriched himself at the expense of the United States of America. In Syria, he has created a bigger-than-ever humanitarian crisis. He has helped ISIS get another foothold, a new lease on life.

I sit on the Armed Services Committee. I talk with our military leaders about this…I was in Iraq and went through the neighborhoods that ISIS destroyed...We need to get out, but we need to do this through a negotiated solution. There is no military solution in this region.

COOPER:Mayor Buttigieg, like many of your fellow candidates on the stage, you've been calling for an end to endless wars. What's your response on Syria?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, respectfully, Congresswoman, I think that is dead wrong. The slaughter going on in Syria is not a consequence of American presence. It's a consequence of a withdrawal and a betrayal by this president of American allies and American values.

Look, I didn't think we should have gone to Iraq in the first place. I think we need to get out of Afghanistan. But it's also the case that a small number of specialized, special operations forces and intelligence capabilities were the only thing that stood between that part of Syria and what we're seeing now, which is the beginning of a genocide and the resurgence of ISIS.

Meanwhile, soldiers in the field are reporting that for the first time they feel ashamed—ashamed—of what their country has done. We saw the spectacle, the horrifying sight of a woman with the lifeless body of her child in her arms asking, what the hell happened to American leadership?

And when I was deployed, I knew one of the things keeping me safe was the fact that the flag on my shoulder represented a country known to keep its word. And our allies knew it and our enemies knew it...You take that away, you are taking away what makes America America...It makes our troops and the world a much more dangerous place.

...

GABBARD: Yeah, absolutely. So, really, what you're saying, Mayor Pete, is that you would continue to support having U.S. troops in Syria for an indefinite period of time to continue this regime change war that has caused so many refugees to flee Syria, that you would continue to have our country involved in a war that has undermined our national security, you would continue this policy of the U.S. actually providing arms in support to terrorist groups in Syria, like Al Qaeda, HTS, al-Nusra and others, because they are the ones who have been the ground force in this regime change war? That's really what you're saying?

...

BUTTIGIEG: No, you can embrace—or you can put an end to endless war without embracing Donald Trump's policy, as you're doing.

GABBARD: Will you end the regime change war, is the question.

BUTTIGIEG: What we are doing—or what we were doing in Syria was keeping our word. Part of what makes it possible for the United States to get people to put their lives on the line to back us up is the idea that we will back them up, too.

When I was deployed, not just the Afghan National Army forces, but the janitors put their lives on the line just by working with U.S. forces. I would have a hard time today looking an Afghan civilian or soldier in the eye after what just happened over there. And it is undermining the honor of our soldiers. You take away the honor of our soldiers, you might as well go after their body armor next.

...

COOPER: Senator Sanders, is Turkey still a U.S. ally? Should they remain in NATO?

SANDERS: No, Turkey is not a U.S. ally when they invade another country and engage in mass slaughter.

The crisis here...is when you begin to betray people, in terms of the Kurds, 11,000 of them died fighting ISIS, 20,000 were wounded. And the United States said, “We’re with you, we’re standing with you.” And then suddenly, one day after a phone call with Erdogan, announced by tweet, Trump reverses that policy.

Now, you tell me what country in the world will trust the word of the president of the United States. In other words, what he has done is wreck our ability to do foreign policy, to do military policy, because nobody in the world will believe this pathological liar.

BUTTIGIEG: But this is really important, because what this president has done shows that American leadership shapes the behavior of our allies, or sometimes allies, too. Remember, the problem right now is not just that -- with our competitors. And, for example a place like China, the people of Hong Kong rise up for democracy and don't get a peep of support from the president. It's just not the behavior of adversaries like Russia.

But our one-time allies, like Saudi Arabia, which the CIA just concluded was responsible, as we all knew, for murdering and dismembering an American resident and journalist.

And Turkey, which was an American ally. That's the point. We had leverage. But when we abandon the international stage, when we think our only choices are between endless war or total isolation, the consequence is the disappearance of U.S. leadership...from the world stage...And that makes this entire world a more dangerous place.

COOPER: Senator Klobuchar, should Turkey remain in NATO? Your response?

KLOBUCHAR: We need to work with our allies, to work with Turkey and bring them out. This is an outrageous thing that happened here. And I think we need to talk about this not only in terms of the horror of what happened here with Turkey, but the fact that our president blew it and now he's too proud to say it.

And what do we do now? We continue that humanitarian aid, but then we work with our allies to say come back, Turkey, and stop this...Think about our other allies, Israel. How do they feel right now?...Think about our allies in Europe when he pulls out of the Iranian agreement and gives them holding the bag and gives the power to China and Russia...Think about the nuclear agreement with Russia that he precipitously pulled out of. This is part of a pattern. It's not an isolated incident.

COOPER: Senator Harris, given that the U.S. abandoned our Kurdish allies, what would you do as president to convince the rest of the world that we can still be trusted?

HARRIS: [T]he commander-in-chief of the United States of America has as one of her greatest priorities and responsibilities to concern herself with the security of our nation and homeland.

I serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee. I have over a period of time received classified information about the threats to our security and hot spots around the world.

What has happened in Syria is yet again Donald Trump selling folks out. And in this case, he sold out the Kurds, who, yes, fought with us and thousands died in our fight against ISIS.

And let's be clear. What Donald Trump has done, because of that phone call with Erdogan, is basically giving 10,000 ISIS fighters a "get out of jail free" card. And you know who the winner is in this? There are four: Russia, Iran, Assad, and ISIS.

This is a crisis of Donald Trump’s making. And it is on a long list of crises of Donald Trump’s making. And that’s why dude got to go. And when I am commander-in-chief, we will stop this madness.

COOPER: Secretary Castro, your response.

CASTRO: Well, I mean, you asked the question of, how are we going to get people to trust us again? The first thing is we got to boot Donald Trump out of the Oval Office so that people will trust us again.

You know, I also want people to think—the folks this week that saw those images of ISIS prisoners running free to think about how absurd it is that this president is caging kids on the border and effectively letting ISIS prisoners run free.

He has made a tremendous mistake, a total disaster there in Syria. And just to connect the dots for a second, if you're Kim Jong-un, for instance, why in the world would you believe anything that this president says to contain your nuclear weapons program, when he tore up an Iran nuclear agreement that we just signed four years ago, which was the strongest agreement to contain Iran's nuclear weapons program, and now he's abandoned the very people that we gave our word to?

I would make sure that we work with our allies to pressure Syria to stop the aggression, and I support efforts at stronger sanctions than this president has announced.

LACEY: Senator Booker, the American intelligence community says that Russia is trying to capitalize on the power vacuums around the world as we're seeing right now in northern Syria. What specifically would you do as president to check Vladimir Putin's power on the world stage?

BOOKER: ...Number one, we cannot allow the Russians to continue to grow in influence by abandoning the world stage. We cannot allow Russia to not only interfere in the democracies of the Ukraine, and Latvia, and Lithuania, but even not calling them out for their efforts to interfere in this democracy are unacceptable.

Russia and Putin understand strength, and this president time and time again is showing moral weakness. He makes promises to the American people that he's going to protect this nation. Well, instead of doing something to defeat ISIS, he's now given them a foothold again.

This is an American president that even right now is lying to the American public and saying he's bringing our troops home, at the same time he's increasing troop presence with the Saudis, while they're involved in an unjust war that is killing tens of thousands of children in Yemen.

This president is making us less safe. He is partnering more with Putin than he is with Merkel and Macron. And as president of the United States, I will stop this and restore American integrity abroad.

LACEY: Mr. Yang, your response to Putin and Russia.

YANG: Of course. We have to look at the chain of events. How did we get here? The fact is, we were falling apart at home, so we voted in Donald Trump, and he's now led us down this dangerous path with erratic and unreliable foreign policy.

We have to let Russia know, look, we get it. We've tampered with other elections, you've tampered with our elections. And now it has to stop. And if it does not stop, we will take this as an act of hostility against the American people. I believe most Americans would support me on this.

But Russian hacking of our democracy is an illustration of the 21st century threats. Artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, climate change, loose nuclear material, military drones, and non-state actors, these are the threats that are going to require our administration to catch up in terms of technology.

We all know we are decades behind the curve on technology. We saw when Mark Zuckerberg testified at Congress the nature of the questioning. As commander-in-chief, I will help pull us forward.

KLOBUCHAR: I want to respond to Mr. Yang. I don't see a moral equivalency between our country and Russia. Vladimir Putin is someone who has shot down planes over Ukraine, who has poisoned his opponent, and we have not talked about what we need to do to protect ourselves from Russia invading our election.

This wasn't meddling. That's what I do when I call my daughter on a Saturday night and ask her what she's doing...This was much more serious than that. This was actually invading our election. So to protect ourselves in 2020, what we need, one, backup paper ballots in every single state. That is a bill that I need, and we need to stop Mitch McConnell from stopping that from happening.

And then we need to stop the social media companies from running paid political ads, including ones last time in rubles, without having to say where those ads came from and who paid for them. That's the Honest Ads Act. That's a bipartisan bill that I lead. And we can't wait...to become president to get that done. We need to get it done now.

Gun Control

COOPER: Congressman O'Rourke, in the last debate, you said, quote, "Hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47," but when you were asked how you'd enforce a mandatory buyback, you said police wouldn't be going door to door. So how exactly are you going to force people to give up their weapons? You don't even know who has those weapons.

O'ROURKE: Look, we're going to make sure that the priority is saving the lives of our fellow Americans. I think almost everyone on this stage agrees that it's not right and as president would seek to ban the sale of AR-15s and AK-47s.

Those are weapons of war. They were designed to kill people effectively, efficiently on a battlefield. You mentioned the massacre in Dayton. Nine people killed in under 40 seconds. In El Paso, Texas, 22 were killed in under three minutes. And the list goes on throughout the country.

So if the logic begins with those weapons being too dangerous to sell, then it must continue by acknowledging, with 16 million AR-15s and AK-47s out there, they are also too dangerous to own. Every single one of them is a potential instrument of terror.

Just ask Hispanics in Texas. Univision surveyed them. More than 80 percent feared that they would be a victim of a mass terror attack like the one in El Paso that was targeted at Mexican Americans and immigrants, inspired in part by this president's racism and hatred that he's directed at communities like mine in El Paso.

So I expect my fellow Americans to follow the law, the same way that we enforce any provision, any law that we have right now.

We don't go door to door to do anything in this country to enforce the law. I expect Republicans, Democrats, gun-owners, non-gun-owners alike to respect and follow the law.

COOPER: Congressman, let me follow up. Just to follow up, your expectations aside, your website says you will fine people who don't give up their weapons. That doesn't take those weapons off the street. So to be clear, exactly how are you going to take away weapons from people who do not want to give them up and you don't know where they are?

O'ROURKE: If someone does not turn in an AR-15 or an AK-47, one of these weapons of war, or brings it out in public and brandishes it in an attempt to intimidate, as we saw when we were at Kent State recently, then that weapon will be taken from them. If they persist, they will be other consequences from law enforcement.

But the expectation is that Americans will follow the law. I believe in this country. I believe in my fellow Americans. I believe that they will do the right thing.

COOPER: Thank you. Mayor Buttigieg, just yesterday, you referred to mandatory buybacks as confiscation and said that Congressman O'Rourke has been picking a fight to try to stay relevant. Your response on guns?

BUTTIGIEG: Look, Congressman, you just made it clear that you don't know how this is actually going to take weapons off the streets. If you can develop the plan further, I think we can have a debate about it. But we can't wait. People are dying in the streets right now.

We can't wait for universal background checks that we finally have a shot to actually get through. We can't wait to ban the sale of new weapons and high-capacity magazines so we don't wind up with millions more of these things on the street. We can't wait for red flag laws that are going to disarm domestic abusers and prevent suicides, which are not being talked about nearly enough as a huge part of the gun violence epidemic in this country. We cannot wait for purity tests. We have to just get something done.

O'ROURKE: This is not a purity test. This is a country that loses 40,000 of our fellow Americans every year to gun violence. This is a crisis...

And those challenges that you described are not mutually exclusive to the challenges that I'm describing. I want to make sure we have universal background checks and red flag laws and that we end the sale of these weapons of war, but to use the analogy of health care, it would be as though we said, look, we're for primary care, but let's not talk about mental health care because that's a bridge too far. People need that primary care now, so let's save that for another day.

No, let's decide what we are going to believe in, what we're going to achieve. And then let's bring this country together in order to do that. Listening to my fellow Americans, to those moms who demand action, to those students who march for our lives, who, in fact, came up with this extraordinary bold peace plan...that calls for mandatory buybacks, let's follow their inspiration and lead and not be limited by the polls and the consultants and the focus groups. Let's do what's right…

BUTTIGIEG: The problem isn't the polls. The problem is the policy…The problem is the National Rifle Association and their enablers in Congress, and we should be united in taking the fight to them.

...

O'ROURKE: That's a mischaracterization. Anderson, I've got to answer this. Never took you or anyone else on who disagrees with me on this issue. But when you, Mayor Buttigieg, described this policy as a shiny object, I don't care what that meant to me or my candidacy, but to those who have survived gun violence, those who've lost a loved one to an AR-15, an AK-47, marched for our lives, formed in the courage of students willing to stand up to the NRA and conventional politics and poll-tested politicians, that was a slap in the fact to every single one of those groups and every single survivor of a mass casualty assault with an AR-15 and an AK-47... We must buy them back.

BUTTIGIEG: What we owe to those survivors is to actually deliver a solution. I'm glad you offered up that analogy to health care, because this is really important. We are at the cusp of building a new American majority to actually do things that congressmen and senators have been talking about with almost no impact for my entire adult life...No, this is really important, OK? On guns, we are this close to an assault weapons ban. That would be huge. And we're going to get wrapped around the axle in a debate over whether it's "hell, yes, we're going to take your guns"? We have an opportunity... and some on this stage are saying it doesn't count unless we obliterate…

COOPER: I want to give somebody—I want to give other—I want to give other candidates a chance. Senator Booker, what's your response to Mayor Buttigieg?

BOOKER: Well, look, I again, worry about how we talk to each other and about each other and what this last week has shown. There was a young man in my neighborhood, I watched him grow up. I lived in some high-rise projects with him named Shahad, and he was murdered on my block last year with an assault rifle.

I'm living with a sense of urgency on this problem, because when I go home to my community, like millions of Americans, we live in communities where these weapons, where these gun shots are real every single day.

And I know where the American public is. This is not about leadership. This is why when I talk about things like gun licensing and point out the differences between us, I'm not attacking people or their character or their courage on these issues. We all have courage.

But it’s frustrating that when the American people, 77 percent of Americans agree on licensing, we don’t need leadership right now. We just need folks that are going to stand up and follow where the people already are, because there are millions of Americans where this is a daily nightmare, where we’re surrendering our freedoms…to fear in this country...If I'm president of the United States, I will bring an urgency to this issue and make sure that we end the scourge of mass violence in our country.

COOPER: ...Senator Klobuchar, you support a voluntary buyback, if I'm correct, right. What is wrong with a mandatory buyback? Your response.

KLOBUCHAR: I just keep thinking of how close we are to finally getting something done on this. I'm looking at the mayor of Dayton. I met one of the survivors from that shooting, 30 seconds, nine people killed.

The public is with us on this in a big way. The majority of Trump voters want to see universal background checks right now. The majority of hunters want to see us move forward with gun safety legislation. There are three bills right now on Mitch McConnell's desk, the background check bill, my bill to close the boyfriend loophole so domestic abusers don't get guns, the bill to make it easier for police to vet people before they get a gun. That's what we should be focusing on.

When I'm president, I do want to bring in an assault weapon ban and I do want to put a limitation on magazines so what happened in Dayton, Ohio, will never happen again. But let's not mess this up with this fight.

COOPER: Senator Warren, you support a voluntary gun buyback of assault-style weapons, as well. Why not a mandatory one?

WARREN: So, look, I want to get what works done. I want to use the method we used, for example, with machine guns. We registered them, we put in a huge penalty if you didn't register them, and a huge tax on them, and then let people turn them in, and it got machine guns out of the hands of people.

But the problem here that we need to focus on is, first, how widespread gun violence is. As you’ve rightly identified, it’s not just about mass shootings. It’s what happens in neighborhoods all across this country. It is about suicide, and it is about domestic violence.

...You say we're so close. We have been so close. I stood in the United States Senate in 2013...when 54 senators voted in favor of gun legislation and it didn't pass because of the filibuster...We have got to attack the corruption and repeal the filibuster or the gun industry will always have a veto over what happens.

COOPER: Senator Harris, you disagree with Senator Warren. You think the buyback should be mandatory. Please respond.

HARRIS: Five million assault weapons are on the streets of America today. During the course of this debate, eight people will die from gun violence. The leading cause of death of young black men in America is gun violence, more than the top other six reasons total.

This is a serious matter. I have personally hugged more mothers of homicide victims than I care to tell you. I have looked at more autopsy photographs than I care to tell you. I have attended more police officer funerals than I care to tell you...When I'm elected, I'll give them 100 days to pull their act together, put a bill on my desk for signature, and if they don't, I will take executive action and put in place a comprehensive background check requirement and ban the importation of assault weapons into our country because it is time to act.

COOPER: Vice President Biden, your response.

BIDEN: ...The way to deal with those guns and those AR-15s and assault weapons that are on the street—or not on the street, that people own, is to do what we did with the National Firearms Act as it related to machine guns. You must register that weapon. You must register it. When you register it, the likelihood of it being used diminishes exponentially.

I'm the only one that got—got—moved the—to make sure that we could not have a magazine that had more than 10 rounds in it. I've done this. I know how to get it done. If you really want to get it done, go after the gun manufacturers and take back the exemption they have of not being able to be sued. That would change it.

COOPER: Secretary Castro, the vast majority of homicides committed with a gun in this country are from handguns, not assault-style weapons. What's your plan to prevent those deaths?

CASTRO: Thank you very much for the question. You know, I grew up in neighborhoods where it wasn't uncommon to hear gunshots at night…. You know, in the neighborhoods—let me answer this question about voluntary versus mandatory. There are two problems I have with mandatory buybacks. Number one, folks can't define it. And if you're not going door to door, then it's not really mandatory.

But also, in the places that I grew up in, we weren't exactly looking for another reason for cops to come banging on the door. And you all saw a couple days ago what happened to Atatiana Jefferson in Fort Worth. A cop showed up at 2:00 in the morning at her house when she was playing video games with her nephew. He didn't even announce himself. And within four seconds, he shot her and killed her through her home window. She was in her own home.

And so I am not going to give these police officers another reason to go door to door in certain communities, because police violence is also gun violence, and we need to address that.

Election Security

LACEY: Senator Harris, to you, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says that splitting up big tech companies will make election interference more likely because the companies won't be able to work together to fight it. Could breaking up these companies make the spread of disinformation worse?

HARRIS: No, I don't agree with that at all. And serving on the Senate Intelligence Committee, working with Amy Klobuchar on what we need to do to upgrade the elections infrastructure, knowing that Russia needs to be held accountable for the fact that they interfered in the election of the president of the United States and will attempt to do it again, that's—that's a ridiculous argument he's making.

But I do want to also say this. What we're talking about is a grave injustice, when rules apply to some but not equally to all, and in particular when the rules that apply to the powerless don't apply to the powerful.

And so, Senator Warren, I just want to say that I was surprised to hear that you did not agree with me that on this subject of what should be the rules around corporate responsibility for these big tech companies, when I called on Twitter to suspend Donald Trump's account, that you did not agree, and I would urge you to join me.

Because here we have Donald Trump, who has 65 million Twitter followers and is using that platform as the president of the United States to openly intimidate witnesses, to threaten witnesses, to obstruct justice, and he and his account should be taken down.

We saw in El Paso that that shooter in his manifesto was informed by how Donald Trump uses that platform, and this is a matter of corporate responsibility. Twitter should be held accountable and shut down that site. It is a matter of safety and corporate accountability.