Politics & National Security

National Security Highlights from the Second Democratic Primary Debate

By Vishnu Kannan
Friday, August 2, 2019, 3:17 PM

On Tuesday and Wednesday, CNN held the second round of debates of the 2020 Democratic primary campaign, moderated by Jake Tapper, Don Lemon and Dana Bash. We’ve combed through the transcripts from both nights to present the national security-related exchanges. These excerpts are organized both chronologically and thematically.

Complete transcripts of both debates can be found through the Washington Post.

Night 1

Opening Statements

O'ROURKE: We will meet these challenges here at home, and we will lead the world in those that we face abroad, successfully confronting endless war and climate change. At this moment of truth, let us pursue our national promise and make a more perfect union of everyone, by everyone, and for everyone.


BUTTIGIEG: I'm running for president because our country is running out of time. It is even bigger than the emergency of the Trump presidency. Ask yourself how somebody like Donald Trump ever gets within cheating distance of the Oval Office in the first place.

It doesn't happen unless America is already in a crisis -- an economy that's not working for everyone, endless war, climate change. We have lived this in my industrial Midwestern hometown. My generation has lived this as long as we have been alive.


BASH: Mayor Buttigieg, you're in favor of getting rid of the law that makes it a crime to come across the U.S. border illegally. Why won't that just encourage more illegal immigration?

BUTTIGIEG: When I am president, illegally crossing the border will still be illegal. We can argue over the finer points of which parts of this ought to be handled by civil law and which parts ought to be handled by criminal law. But we've got a crisis on our hands. And it's not just a crisis of immigration; it's a crisis of cruelty and incompetence that has created a humanitarian disaster on our southern border. It is a stain on the United States of America.

Americans want comprehensive immigration reform. And frankly, we've been talking about the same framework for my entire adult lifetime, protections for DREAMers; making sure that -- that we have a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented; cleaning up lawful immigration.

We know what to do. We know that border security can be part of that package and we can still be a nation of laws. The problem is we haven't had the will to get it done in Washington. And now we have a president who could fix it in a month, because there is that bipartisan agreement, but he needs it to be a crisis rather than an achievement. That will end on my watch.

BASH: But just a point of clarification, you did raise your hand in the last debate. You do want to decriminalize crossing the border illegally?

BUTTIGIEG: So in my view, if fraud is involved, then that's suitable for the criminal statute. If not, then it should be handled under civil law. But these show of hands are exactly what is wrong with the way that this race is being covered.

. . .

BASH: ...Congressman O'Rourke, you live near the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso. You disagree with Mayor Buttigieg on decriminalizing the border crossings. Please respond.

O'ROURKE: I do, because, in my administration, after we have waived citizenship fees for green card holders, more than 9 million of our fellow Americans; freed DREAMers from any fear of deportation; and stopped criminally prosecuting families and children for seeking asylum and refuge; end for-profit detention in this country; and then assist... those countries in Central America so that no family ever has to make that 2,000-mile journey, than I expect that people who come here follow our laws, and we reserve the right to criminally prosecute them if they do not.

BASH: Senator Warren, you say the provision making illegal border crossings a crime is totally unnecessary. Please respond.

WARREN: So the problem is that, right now, the criminalization statute is what gives Donald Trump the ability to take children away from their parents. It's what gives him the ability to lock up people at our borders.

We need to continue to have border security, and we can do that, but what we can't do is not live our values. I've been down to the border. I have seen the mothers. I have seen the cages of babies. We must be a country that every day lives our values. And that means we cannot...... make it a crime...... when someone...

BASH: Thank you, Senator. Just to clarify, would you decriminalize...


BASH: ... illegal border crossings?

WARREN: The point is not about criminalization. That has given Donald Trump the tool to break families apart.

BASH: Governor Hickenlooper, your response?

HICKENLOOPER: I agree that we need secure borders. There's no question about that. And the frustration with what's going on in Washington is they're kicking the ball back and forth. Secure the borders, make sure whatever law we have doesn't allow children to be snatched from their parents and put in cages. How hard can that be?


BASH: Senator Klobuchar, your response?

KLOBUCHAR: if you want to do something... about border security, you first of all change the rules so people can seek asylum in those Northern Triangle countries.

Then, you pass the bill. And what the bill will do is, it will greatly reduce the deficit and give us some money for border security and for border processing the cases. And most of all, it will allow for a path to citizenship.

BULLOCK: The biggest problem right now that we have with immigration, it's Donald Trump. He's using immigration to not only rip apart families, but rip apart this country. We can actually get to the point where we have safe borders, where we have a path to citizenship, where we have opportunities for Dreamers.

And you don't have to decriminalize everything. What you have to do is have a president in there with the judgment and the decency to treat someone that comes to the border like one of our own.

BASH: Senator [Warren]… he just said your plan in unrealistic. How do you respond?

WARREN: You know, I think that what we have to do, is we have to be an America that is clear about what we want to do with immigration. We need to expand legal immigration. We need to create a path for citizenship, not just for Dreamers but for grandmas and for people who have been working here in the farms and for students who have overstayed their visas\ we need to fix the crisis at the border.

BASH: Governor Bullock, your response?


BULLOCK: A sane immigration system needs a sane leader. And we can do that without decriminalizing and providing health care for everyone.

And it's not me saying that, that's Obama's Homeland Security secretary...that said you'll cause further problems at the border, not making it better.

WARREN: What -- what you're saying is ignore the law. Laws matter. And it matters if we say our law is that we will lock people up who come here, seeking refuge, who come here, seeking asylum, that is not a crime. And as Americans, what we need to do is have a sane system that keeps us safe at the border, but does not criminalize the activity...


BASH: Congressman Ryan, are Senator Sanders’ proposals going to incentivize undocumented immigrants to come into this country illegally?

RYAN: Yes. And right now, if you want to come into the country, you should at least ring the doorbell. We have asylum laws. I saw the kids up in Grand Rapids, not far from here. It is shameful what's happening. But Donald Trump is doing it.

And even if you decriminalize, which we should not do, you still have statutory authority. The president could still use his authority to separate families. So we've got to get rid of Donald Trump. But you don't decriminalize people just walking into the United States. If they're seeking asylum, of course, we want to welcome them. We're a strong enough country to be able to welcome them.

Domestic terrorism

LEMON: Last week the FBI Director Christopher Wray said that the majority of domestic terrorism cases this year have been motivated by white supremacy. In fact, the alleged shooter in this weekend’s attack in Gilroy, California referenced a well-known white supremacist book on social media. How are you going to combat the rise of white supremacy?

WARREN: We need to call out white supremacy for what it is: domestic terrorism. And it poses a threat to the United States of America...


LEMON: President Trump's tariffs have boosted the U.S. steel industry but hurt auto manufacturers like those here in Michigan, which could drive up the cost of cars. As president, would you continue President Trump's steel tariffs?

RYAN: Look, I think President Trump was onto something when he talked about China. China has been abusing the economic system for a long time. They steal intellectual property. They subsidize goods coming into this country. They've displaced steel workers, auto workers, across the board, eroded our manufacturing. And we basically transferred our wealth of our middle class either up to the top 1 percent or to China for them to build their military.

So I think we need some targeted response against China. But you know how you beat China? You out-compete 'em. And that's why I'd put a chief manufacturing officer in place to make sure that we rebuild the manufacturing base.

We've got to fill these factories that -- in Detroit, in Youngstown, that used to make cars and steel. We've got to fill them with workers who are making electric vehicles, batteries, charging stations, make sure they're making solar panels.

As I said earlier, China dominates 60 percent of the solar panel market. They dominate 50 percent to 60 percent of the electric vehicle market. We're going to make 10 million electric vehicle somewhere in the world in the next 10 years. I want them made in the United States. That's why I have a chief manufacturing officer that will sit in the White House and help drive this agenda.

LEMON: Congressman, thank you. Just as a point of clarification, as president, would you consider President Trump's steel tariffs, yes or no?

RYAN: Well, I would have to re-evaluate. I think some of them are effective. But he's bungled the whole thing, obviously. He has -- see, here's the problem with President Trump. He has a tactical move -- one of many -- he has a tactical move. What's the grand strategy for the United States? China has 100-year plan, a 50-year plan, a 30-year plan, a 20-year plan. We live in a 24-hour news cycle. That spells disaster for our economy and disaster for our global politics.


DELANEY: So, listen. This is what I don’t understand. President Trump wants to build physical walls and beats up on immigrants. Most of the folks running for president want to build economic walls to free trade and beat up on President Obama. I’m the only one running for president who actually supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership. President Obama was right about that. We should be getting back in that.

Senator Warren just issued a trade plan...

... that would prevent the United States from trading with its allies. We can't go and -- we can't isolate ourselves from the world. We have to engage ... with fair, rules-based trade.


WARREN: You know, for decades, we have had a trade policy that has been written by giant multi-national corporations to help giant multi-national corporations. They have no loyalty to America. They have no patriotism. If they can save a nickel by moving a job to Mexico, they'll do it in a heartbeat. If they can continue a polluting plant by moving it to Vietnam, they'll do it in a heartbeat.

I have put out a new comprehensive plan that says we're not going to do it that way. We're going to negotiate our deals with unions at the table, with small businesses at the table, with small farmers at the table, with environmentalists at the table, with human rights activists at the table.

DELANEY: So that was the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I think President Obama was right. He did include environmental standards. He did include labor standards. We would be in an entirely different position with China if we had entered the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

We can't isolate ourselves from the world. We can't isolate ourselves from Asia. Senator Warren's plan, basically, that she put out, we would not be able to trade with the United Kingdom.

WARREN: What the congressman is describing as extreme is having deals that are negotiated by American workers for American workers. American workers want those jobs, and we can build the trade deals that do it.

People want access to our markets all around the world. Then the answer is, let's make them raise their standards. Make them pay workers more. Let their workers unionize. Raise their environmental standards before they come to us and say they want to be able to sell their products.

O'ROURKE: ...When have we ever gone to war, including a trade war, without allies and friends and partners? As president, we will hold China accountable, but we will bring our allies and friends, like the European Union, to bear, and we'll also negotiate trade deals that favor farmers and American workers and protect human rights and the environment and labor, not just here in the United States...

Foreign Policy

TAPPER: Senator Sanders, President Trump has argued that the United States cannot continue to be the, quote, "policeman of the world." You said the exact same thing on a debate stage in 2016. If voters are hearing the same message from you and President Trump on the issue of military intervention, how should they expect that you will be any different from him?

SANDERS: We have been in Afghanistan I think 18 years, in Iraq 16 or 17 years. We have spent $5 trillion on the war on terror. And there are probably more terrorists out there now than before it began. We're going to spend -- the Congress passed -- and I will not vote for -- a $715 billion military budget, more than the 10 next countries combined.

What we need is a foreign policy that focuses on diplomacy, ending conflicts by people sitting at a table, not by killing each other. As president of the United States, I will go to the United Nations and not denigrate it, not attack the U.N., but bring countries together in the Middle East and all over the world to come to terms with their differences and solve those problems peacefully….The United States cannot be the policeman of the world.

TAPPER: Thank you, Senator. Governor Hickenlooper, how do you respond to Senator Sanders' vision for America's role in the world?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, we share the recognition of the incredible costs...

We are able now to -- I call it constant engagement. But we should have an international diplomatic approach where we're talking to everybody, because if we're going to deal with climate change and cyber security and nuclear proliferation, we've got to be talking to everybody. And tariff wars don't work.


TAPPER: I want to go to Congressman Ryan and I want to turn to the subject of North Korea, which just hours ago launched two short-range ballistic missiles for the second time in less than a week. Congressman, you've said that you would not meet with North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un unless you were at least close to a deal. Now, Senator Klobuchar says that she would, quote, "always be willing to meet with leaders to discuss policies." Is that view wrong?

RYAN: Yeah, I think so. I love Amy Klobuchar, but I think she's wrong on this one. I don't think presidents of the United States meet with dictators.

We saw what just happened with President Trump. He goes to the demilitarized zone with the leader of North Korea, gives him a huge photo op, gives him global credibility, because the most powerful person in the world is sitting there meeting with him, and weeks later, he’s lobbing more missiles. That doesn’t make any sense.

We've got to demilitarize our foreign policy. We've got to make sure that we are engaging these countries all the time. This is very difficult work. I've been in Congress 17 years. I've sat on the Defense Appropriations Committee. I've sat on the Armed Services Committee. This is long, tedious work, much of it done outside of the eye of the TV camera.

And as president, you've got to monitor that and be very disciplined every day. Don't go give a dictator a huge win. Sit down and do your job.

And the same thing with what's happening in Central America. He's cutting the State Department budget, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, where the migrants are coming from.


KLOBUCHAR: I think we agree. I just think you have to leave open the possibility of meeting with anyone at any place. What I don't like is how this president has handled it.

He's taking us out of the climate change agreement, out of the Iran nuclear agreement, out of the Russian nuclear agreement, and I don't agree with that.

And when he was just with Vladimir Putin at the G20, when he was asked about invading our democracy, he made a joke. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost their lives on the battlefield to protect our democracy and our right to vote.

KLOBUCHAR: Four little girls in Birmingham, Alabama, lost their life in a church at the height of the civil rights amendment...So I do believe you meet with people, but you'd better have an agenda...

TAPPER: Mayor Buttigieg, you served in Afghanistan where just yesterday two U.S. servicemembers were killed. There are currently about 14,000 U.S. servicemembers in Afghanistan. You've said, quote, "One thing everybody can agree on is that we're getting out of Afghanistan." Will you withdraw all U.S. servicemembers by the end of your first year in office?

BUTTIGIEG: We will withdraw. We have to.

TAPPER: In your first year?

BUTTIGIEG: Yes. Look, around the world, we will do whatever it takes to keep America safe. But I thought I was one of the last troops leaving Afghanistan when I thought I was turning out the lights years ago.

Every time I see news about somebody being killed in Afghanistan, I think about what it was like to hear an explosion over there and wonder whether it was somebody that I served with, somebody that I knew, a friend, roommate, colleague.

We're pretty close to the day when we will wake up to the news of a casualty in Afghanistan who was not born on 9/11.

I was sent into that war by a congressional authorization, as well as a president. And we need to talk not only about the need for a president committed to ending endless war, but the fact that Congress has been asleep at the switch.

And on my watch, I will propose that any authorization for the use of military force have a three-year sunset and have to be renewed, because if men and women in the military have the courage to go serve, members of Congress ought to have to summon the courage to vote on whether they ought to be there.

TAPPER: Congressman O'Rourke, responding -- returning, rather, to the question of whether you would withdraw all U.S. servicemembers from Afghanistan during your first year in office as president, how do you respond, sir?

O'ROURKE: I would in my first term in office. Agree that there is nothing about perpetuating this war, already in its 18th year, that will make it any better. We've satisfied the reasons for our involvement in Afghanistan in the first place. And it's time to bring those servicemembers back home from Afghanistan, but also from Iraq, also from Yemen, and Somalia, and Libya, and Syria.

There is no reason for us to be at war all over the world tonight. As president, I will end those wars, and we will not start new wars. We will not send more U.S. servicemembers overseas to sacrifice their lives and to take the lives of others in our name. We can resolve these challenges peacefully and diplomatically.

TAPPER: Governor Hickenlooper, you disagree. You've said that you're open to keeping some servicemembers in Afghanistan beyond your first term.

HICKENLOOPER: I look at it as a... humanitarian issue. And with all due respect, you're looking at the condition of women...... if we completely pull our troops out of there, you're going to see a humanitarian disaster that will startle and frighten every man, woman, and child in this country. And I don't think -- I mean, we have troops in over 400 different locations around the world. Most of them are small, they're peacekeeping, they're not greatly at risk.

We’re going to have to be in Afghanistan. Look at the progress that’s happened in that country. We’re going to turn our backs and walk away from people that have risked their lives to help us and build a different future for Afghanistan and that part of the world?

TAPPER: Senator Warren, you want to make it U.S. policy that the U.S. will never use a nuclear weapon unless another country uses one first. Now, President Obama reportedly considered that policy, but ultimately decided against it. Why should the U.S. tie its own hands with that policy?

WARREN: Because it makes the world safer. The United States is not going to use nuclear weapons preemptively, and we need to say so to the entire world. It reduces the likelihood that someone miscalculates, someone misunderstands.

Our first responsibility is to keep ourselves safe. And what's happening right now with Donald Trump is they keep expanding the different ways that we have nuclear weapons, the different ways that they could be used puts us all at risk.

You know, we talk about what’s happening around the world. I have three older brothers who served in the military. I see that they would do anything. Our military is the best on Earth. But we should not be asking our military to take on jobs that do not have a military solution. We need to use our diplomatic tools, our economic tools, and if we’re going to send someone into war, we better have a plan for how we’re going to get them out on the other end.

TAPPER: Governor Bullock, your response to Senator Warren's proposal to the U.S. never use a nuclear weapon first?

BULLOCK: I wouldn't want to take that off the table. I think America's strength -- we have to be able to say that. Look, never, I hope, certainly in my term or anyone else, would we really even get close to pulling that trigger.

But by the same token, America's strength -- and, look, this president has made America first as America alone. Our allies no longer trust us. Our adversaries are with us. But going from the position of strength, we should be negotiating down so there aren't nuclear weapons. But drawing those lines in the sand, at this point I wouldn't do.

LEMON: Senator Warren. your response?

WARREN: Look, we don't expand trust around the world by saying, "You know, we might be the first ones to use a nuclear weapon." That puts the entire world at risk and puts us at risk, right in the middle of this. At a time when Donald Trump is pulling out of our nuclear negotiations, expanding the opportunities for nuclear proliferation around the world, has pulled us out of the deal in Iran, and Iran is now working on its nuclear weapon, the world gets closer and closer to nuclear warfare. We have to have an announced policy that is one the entire world can live with. We need to make that clear. We will respond if someone else does, but not first.

LEMON: Governor Bullock, please respond.

BULLOCK: Part, I agree with. But by the same token, like, we need to get back to nuclear proliferation...de-proliferation, reducing it. But at the same time, when you actually have Korea; when you have others, I don't want to turn around and say, "Well, Detroit has to be gone before we would ever use that." When so many crazy folks are getting closer to having a nuclear weapon, I don't want them to think I could strike this country and I and we as the United States of America wouldn't do a thing.

Part of the strength really is the ability to deter.


Night 2


LEMON: Secretary Castro, you think it should no longer be a crime to cross the U.S. border illegally. President Obama's homeland security secretary, Jeh Johnson, whom you served with, says that is a public declaration that the border is, quote, "effectively open to all." How is he wrong?

CASTRO: The only way that we’re going to guarantee that we don’t have family separations in this country again is to repeal Section 1325 of the Immigration Nationality Act. That is the law that this president, this administration is using to incarcerate migrant parents and then physically separate them from their children.

My immigration plan would also make sure that we put undocumented immigrants who haven't committed a serious crime on a pathway to citizenship, that we do a 21st century Marshall Plan with Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, so that we can get to the root of this challenge so people can find safety and opportunity at home instead of having to come to the United States. That's how we can be smarter, more effective, and more humane when it comes to immigration policy.

LEMON: Senator Bennet, what's your response?

BENNET: I disagree that we should decriminalize our border...


LEMON: Senator Gillibrand, I want to bring you in. What's your response?

GILLIBRAND: So I believe that we should have a civil violation. No president before President Trump enforced the law in the way he has enforced it. Because he's using it as the crutch to lock up women and children, to separate mothers and babies, to put them behind bars.

So I don't think we should have a law on the books that can be so misused. It should be a civil violation and we should make sure that we treat people humanely.


BIDEN: The fact of the matter is, you should be able to -- if you cross the border illegally, you should be able to be sent back. It's a crime. It's a crime, and it's not one that in fact...

China and TPP

BASH: I want to turn now to a question about trade and for Congresswoman Gabbard. Many saw the Trans-Pacific Partnership issue as something that would be a critical tool to deal with the rise of China. You were against it. How would you ensure that the United States is able to remain competitive against China on the world stage?

GABBARD: By pushing for fair trade, not trade deals that give away the sovereignty of the American people and our country, that give away American jobs, and that threaten our environment. These are the three main issues with that massive trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

I think the central one was the fact that it gave away our sovereignty to a panel of international corporations whose rulings would supersede any domestic law that we would pass, either a federal law or a state or a local law. This is extremely dangerous and goes against the very values that we have as a country.

What to speak of the fact that it would have a negative impact on domestic jobs and that it lacked clear protections for our environment. These are the things that we have to keep at the forefront as we look to enact fair trade deals with other countries to make sure that we continue to be a thriving part of our global economy.

BASH: So to be clear, Congresswoman, would you keep President Trump's tariffs on China in place?

GABBARD: I would not, because the approach that President Trump has taken has been extremely volatile without any clear strategic plan, and it has a ravaging and devastating effect on our domestic manufacturers, on our farmers, who are already struggling and now failing to see the light of day because of the plan that Trump has taken.

BASH: Vice President Biden, would you rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which, of course, President Trump withdrew from? Please respond.

BIDEN: I'd renegotiate. We make up 25 percent of the world's economy. In order -- either China is going to write the rules of the road for the 21st century on trade or we are. We have to join with the 40 percent of the world that we had with us, and this time make sure that there's no one sitting at that table doing the deal unless environmentalists are there and labor is there.

And to make sure we equip our workers first to compete by investing in them now, in the things that make them more competitive. That's what we have to do. Otherwise, they are going to write the rules of the road. We must have the rest of the world join us to keep them in check from abusing.

... I would not rejoin the TPP as it was initially put forward. I would insist that we renegotiate pieces of that with the Pacific nations that we had in South America and North America, so that we could bring them together to hold China accountable for the rules of us setting the rules of the road as to how trade should be conducted. Otherwise, they're going to do exactly what they're doing, fill the vacuum and run the -- and run the table.

Foreign Policy

TAPPER: Senator Booker, there are about 14,000 U.S. servicemembers in Afghanistan right now. If elected, will they still be in Afghanistan by the end of your first year in office?

BOOKER: Well, first of all, I want to say very clearly that I will not do foreign policy by tweet as Donald Trump seems to do all the time. A guy that literally tweets out that we're pulling our troops out before his generals even know about it is creating a dangerous situation for our troops in places like Afghanistan.

And so I will bring our troops home and I will bring them home as quickly as possible, but I will not set during a campaign an artificial deadline. I will make sure we do it, we do it expeditiously, we do it safely, to not create a vacuum that's ultimately going to destabilize the Middle East and perhaps create the environment for terrorism and for extremism to threaten our nation.

TAPPER: Congresswoman Gabbard, you're the only veteran on this stage. Please respond.

GABBARD: This is real in a way that's very difficult to convey in words. I was deployed to Iraq in 2005 during the height of the war where I served in a field medical unit where every single day I saw the high cost of war. Just this past week, two more of our soldiers were killed in Afghanistan.

My cousin is deployed to Afghanistan right now. Nearly 300 of our Hawaii National Guard soldiers are deployed to Afghanistan, 14,000 servicemembers are deployed there. This is not about arbitrary deadlines. This is about leadership, the leadership I will bring to do the right thing to bring our troops home, within the first year in office, because they shouldn't have been there this long.

For too long, we've had leaders who have been arbitrating foreign policy from ivory towers in Washington without any idea about the cost and the consequence, the toll that it takes on our servicemembers, on their families. We have to do the right thing, end these wasteful regime change wars, and bring our troops home.

TAPPER: Mr. Yang, Iran has now breached the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal after President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal, and that puts Iran closer to building a nuclear weapon, the ability to do so, at the very least. You've said if Iran violates the agreement, the U.S. would need to respond, quote, "very strongly." So how would a President Yang respond right now?

YANG: I would move to de-escalate tensions in Iran, because they're responding to the fact that we pulled out of this agreement. And it wasn't just us and Iran. There were many other world powers that were part of that multinational agreement. We'd have to try and reenter that agreement, renegotiate the timelines, because the timelines now don't make as much sense.

But I've signed a pledge to end the forever wars. Right now, our strength abroad reflects our strength at home. What's happened, really? We've fallen apart at home, so we elected Donald Trump, and now we have this erratic and unpredictable relationship with even our longstanding partners and allies.

What we have to do is we have to start investing those resources to solve the problems right here at home. We've spent trillions of dollars and lost thousands of American lives in conflicts that have had unclear benefits. We've been in a constant state of war for 18 years. This is not what the American people want. I would bring the troops home, I would de-escalate tensions with Iran, and I would start investing our resources in our own communities.

TAPPER: Governor Inslee, your response?

INSLEE: Well, I think that these are matters of great and often difficult judgment. And there is no sort of primer for presidents to read. We have to determine whether a potential president has adequate judgment in these decisions.

I was only one of two members on this panel today who were called to make a judgment about the Iraq war. I was a relatively new member of Congress, and I made the right judgment, because it was obvious to me that George Bush was fanning the flames of war.

Now we face similar situations where we recognize we have a president who would be willing to beat the drums of war. We need a president who can stand up against the drums of war and make rational decisions. That was the right vote, and I believe it.

TAPPER: Vice President Biden, he was obviously suggesting that you made the wrong decision and had bad judgment when you voted to go to war in Iraq as a U.S. senator.

BIDEN: I did make a bad judgment, trusting the president saying he was only doing this to get inspectors in and get the U.N. to agree to put inspectors in. From the moment "shock and awe" started, from that moment, I was opposed to the effort, and I was outspoken as much as anyone at all in the Congress and the administration.

Secondly, I was asked by the president in the first meeting we had on Iraq, he turned and said, Joe, get our combat troops out, in front of the entire national security team. One of the proudest moment of my life was to stand there in Al-Faw Palace and tell everyone that we're coming -- all our combat troops are coming home.

...I opposed the surge in Afghanistan, this long overdue -- we should have not, in fact, gone into Afghanistan the way...

TAPPER: Congresswoman Gabbard. Your response to what Vice President Biden just said.

GABBARD: We were all lied to. This is the betrayal. This is the betrayal to the American people, to me, to my fellow servicemembers. We were all lied to, told that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, was working with Al Qaida, and that this posed a threat to the American people.

So I enlisted after 9/11 to protect our country, to go after those who attacked us on that fateful day, who took the lives of thousands of Americans.

The problem is that this current president is continuing to betray us. We were supposed to be going after Al Qaida. But over years now, not only have we not gone after Al Qaida, who is stronger today than they were in 9/11, our president is supporting Al Qaida.

The Mueller report and Impeachment

LEMON: Let's talk about now the former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's appearance in front of Congress last week. When asked whether or not the president could be charged with a crime after leaving office, his answer was yes.

Senator Harris, you have criticized President Trump for interfering with the Justice Department, and just last month you said if you were elected president, your Justice Department would, quote, "have no choice and should go forward with obstruction of justice charges against former President Trump." Why is it OK for you to advocate for the Justice Department to prosecute somebody, but President Trump, not him?

HARRIS: Well, I would never direct the Department of Justice to do whatever it believes it should do. But, listen, look, we all watched his testimony. I've read the report. There are 10 clear incidents of obstruction of justice by this president, and he needs to be held accountable. I have seen people go to prison for far less.

And the reality of it is that we have a person in the White House right now who has been shielded by a memo in the United States Department of Justice that says a sitting president cannot be indicted. I believe the American people are right to say there should be consequences and accountability for everyone and no one is above the law, including the president of the United States.

LEMON: Senator Booker, your response?

BOOKER: My response is exactly that. I've read the report. I've read the redacted versions of the report. ... We have a president that is not acting like the leader of the free world. He's acting like an authoritarian against the actual Constitution that he swore an oath to uphold.

And so this is a difference with a lot of us on this debate stage. I believe that we in the United States Congress should start impeachment proceedings immediately. ...We swore an oath to uphold the Constitution. The politics of this be damned. When we look back in history at what happened when a president of the United States started acting more like an authoritarian leader than the leader of the free world, the question is, is what will we have done? And I believe the Congress should do its job.

LEMON: Secretary Castro, what's your response?

CASTRO: Well, I agree. I was the first of the candidates to call on Congress to begin impeachment proceedings. There are 10 different incidents that Robert Mueller has pointed out where this president either obstructed justice or attempted to obstruct justice. And I believe that they should go forward with impeachment proceedings.

As to the question of what my Department of Justice would do, I agree with those who say that a president should not direct an attorney general specifically to prosecute or not prosecute. However, I believe that the evidence is plain and clear and that if it gets that far, that you're likely to see a prosecution of Donald Trump.

LEMON: Mayor de Blasio, I'm going to bring you in. What's your response?

DE BLASIO: I think it's obvious at this point in our history that the president has committed the crimes worthy of impeachment. But I want to caution my fellow Democrats. While we move in every way we can for impeachment, we have to remember at the same time the American people are out there looking for us to do something for them in their lives. And what they see when they turn on the TV or go online is just talk about impeachment...So, yeah, move for impeachment, but don't forget to do the people's business and to stand up for working people, because that's how we're actually going to beat Donald Trump. The best impeachment is beating him in the election of 2020.

LEMON: Senator Bennet, how do you respond to this conversation?

BENNET: I think, look, as we go forward here, we need to recognize a very practical reality, which is that we are four months -- we've got the August recess. Then we are four months away from the Iowa Caucuses. And I just want to make sure whatever we do doesn't end up with an acquittal by Mitch McConnell in the Senate, which it surely would. And then President Trump would be running saying that he had been acquitted by the United States Congress

LEMON: Secretary Castro, please respond.

CASTRO: Well, let me first say that I really do believe that we can walk and chew gum at the same time. All of us have a vision for the future of the country that we're articulating to the American people. We're going to continue to do that. We have an election coming up.

At the same time, Senator, you know, I think that too many folks in the Senate and in the Congress have been spooked by 1998. I believe that the times are different. And in fact, I think that folks are making a mistake by not pursuing impeachment. The Mueller Report clearly details that he deserves it.

And what's going to happen in the fall of next year, of 2020, if they don't impeach him, is he's going to say, "You see? You see? The Democrats didn't go after me on impeachment, and you know why? Because I didn't do anything wrong."

These folks that always investigate me, they're always trying to go after me. When it came down to it, they didn't go after me there because I didn't do anything wrong."

Closing Statements

GABBARD: Donald Trump and warmongering politicians in Washington have failed us. They continue to escalate tensions with other nuclear-armed countries like Russia and China and North Korea, starting a new Cold War, pushing us closer and closer to the brink of nuclear catastrophe.

Now, as we stand here tonight, there are thousands of nuclear missiles pointed at us. And if we were to get an attack right here tonight, we would have 30 minutes, 30 minutes before we were hit. And you would receive an alert like the one we received in Hawaii last year that would say, "Incoming missile. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill."

And you would see as we did, as my loved ones in Hawaii did, there is no shelter. This is the warmonger's hoax. There is no shelter. It's all a lie.

As president, I will end this insanity, because it doesn't have to be this way. I will end these wasteful regime change wars, work to end this new Cold War through the use of diplomacy to de-escalate these tensions and take the trillions of dollars that we've been wasting on these wars and on these weapons and redirect those resources into serving the needs of our people right here at home.