Sen. Amy Klobuchar On Weak Support Among Young Voters & Controversies From Her Tenure as Prosecutor | New Hampshire Public Radio

Sen. Amy Klobuchar On Weak Support Among Young Voters & Controversies From Her Tenure as Prosecutor

Jan 31, 2020

Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

During an Exchange interview, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, who describes herself as progressive but practical, emphasized the word "progressive" in that characterization.  

"I actually pass bills and get things done," she said, referring to the 100 bills she has passed in Washington, DC. -- a frequent campaign theme.  Among the bills she is most proud of: securing funding for a collapsed Minnesota bridge, a bill on drug shortages, and her work on broadband issues. 

"But sometimes it's a small thing. One of my favorite memories of a bill I passed was a very sad story of a girl that was maimed in a swimming pool with a malfunctioning pool drain. And I took that on," she said. "And we passed a bill that changed all the pool drains in the country." 

Klobuchar joined the N.H. Primary News Roundup briefly from Washington, DC, where she has been participating in the Senate impeachment trial. (Although NHPR has offered its full-hour forum, Klobuchar's campaign was unable to fit it into their schedule.) 

When it comes to attracting young voters, who have so far been more energized by candidates promising sweeping changes, Klobuchar suggested she has plenty to offer:  "My first huge system change is really huge -- and that is getting rid of Donald Trump," she said.  After that, she said, she'd address climate change as her first priority, planning to introduce "sweeping legislation to get  us to carbon neutral."  

Klobuchar also addressed her "tough on crime" reputation as a prosecutor in Minnesota and a  controversial case that recently resurfaced after the Associated Press uncovered problems with an  investigation that led to a life sentence for an African American teenager.   Klobuchar defended her record but also said she has called for the case to be reviewed immediately. "Because the job of a prosecutor is to convict the guilty and protect the innocent."

See below for the full transcript of the conversation. 

 

Transcript

This is a computer-generated transcript and may contain errors.

Peter Biello: 

I'm Peter Biello and this is the New Hampshire primary news roundup on the exchange on an HP. And with us now is 20-20 Democratic presidential candidate and Senator Amy Klobuchar. She's joining us from Washington, D.C.. Senator, welcome.

Senator Klobuchar:
Well, thank you, Peter. It's just great to be on. I appreciate it. I'm excited to be able to be out of the Senate for one hour to talk to you.

Peter Biello:
You have been spending so many hours in the Senate. We've been listening here at NHPR. We've been offering live coverage of that.  Senator Klobuchar, you've referred to yourself as progressive, but practical. So what do you mean by that?

Senator Klobuchar:
I mean a progressive that can get things done. And the word progressive actually has progress in it. And my argument is that I'm a candidate really that offers two things. One, I actually pass bills and get things done. And I think that's what we want right now in a president. I passed over 100 bills as a lead Democrat since I got to Washington, D.C. and I've been arguing from the beginning that this election is an economic check, yes, and that means everything from the rail that needs to be built to New Hampshire to southern New Hampshire, that this president has failed on, to the prescription drug prices, to student loans that really hit New Hampshire hard. But it is more than that. It's also a decency check. It is a patriotism check. It is a values check. And the people I meet throughout New Hampshire are constantly coming up, independents and others saying, you know what, I don't agree with everything that the Democrats say on the debate stage, but I don't like this president. And so if we forget that, I think we lose the opportunity to win big and to bring with us independents like we have in New Hampshire. And my last case is I'm someone that wins like that. I win with a fired up Democratic base. I bring people with me instead of shutting them out. I govern in a way that is equipped to get things done. And I've done that in every single race I've ever won. I've actually won in the reddest of red rural and suburban districts by sizable margins. I've actually never lost a congressional district in some very red areas, including Michele Bachmann's district. So I think that matters to Democrats in this race. I think the fact that I'm gaining momentum in New Hampshire, received the endorsement of both a union leader and the Keene newspaper, it just goes to show the broad support I have and my ability to actually speak to the challenges of the day.

Peter Biello:
Young people in particular are leaning towards candidates who are proposing huge system changes. If you are the eventual nominee, what is your pitch to those voters who see you right now as a more moderate candidate?

Senator Klobuchar:
Sure,well, my first huge system change is really huge and that is getting rid of Donald Trump. There is nothing more important for young people because the things that are going to be on their shoulders, climate change, he's done nothing, he's gone backward. To the young voters, I say this. This is my top priority. It's the first thing I'm going to do the first day. Get us back into the international climate change agreement and then bring back the clean power rules and the gas mileage standards and introduce sweeping legislation to get us to carbon neutral. Second issue that young people care about a lot is gun safety. They're really leading the way on that. I've been leading the way on it since I was a county attorney. And it's something that I care a lot about and in fact, I'm the lead on the bill to close the boyfriend loophole, which basically says that domestic abusers, convicted domestic abusers can't go out and get AK-47s. And then finally, I have a proposal to make it easier to pay back student loans and double the Pell Grants, as well as making free 1 and 2 year degrees. And my proposals are a little different than some of the other candidates. Maybe we can talk about that later. But my pitch to young people is you can't have four more years of this president. So why don't we put someone at the top of the ticket that brings the receipts? Someone that actually can win in those hard areas, including in New Hampshire, where we have to win. Someone that can win in the Midwest. My plan is to build a beautiful blue wall around those states of Wisconsin and Michigan and Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, and yes, my home state of Minnesota, where Hillary had her lowest percentage of any state she won in. Build a beautiful blue wall around those states and make Donald Trump pay for it.

Peter Biello:
Senator Klobuchar, we got this note from Carolyn in Weare who says, thank you, Amy, for running. How would you repair the damage the Trump administration has done to relationships with our international allies? Carolyn adds: Good luck in Iowa and here in New Hampshire.

Senator Klobuchar:
Well, that's that's great of her. Thank you, Carolyn. I would, first of all, bring sanity back to our foreign policy. I believe that we should have a strong military. We know in New Hampshire, a very patriotic state where we have more veterans per person than we have in other states. So I know that New Hampshire gets that. But at the same time, we have to take on the challenges that are in front of us that hurt our security. One is cyber attacks. And that's something that I don't think this president has done enough on.

Peter Biello:
Yes. I just want to direct your question more specifically to international relations. Is there is there a conversation you're planning on having with other leaders around the world, some sort of repair of his relationships? Sorry.

Senator Klobuchar:
And I was getting to that. But remember, if we want to work with the rest of the world, we've got to take on the actual challenges in front of us. And I was getting to that because one of them is international agreements. And this president has taken us out of several international agreements and then let our allies, who Caroline is referring to, hold the bag. And it's really the same with cyber. So much of this have to be working with our allies. So in my first 100 days, I would meet with our allies, all of them. And this is a president that, look at the Iranian agreement, he got us out of the agreement and he let Europe hold the bag and then gave all the leverage to China and Russia. I would negotiate ourselves back into the Iranian nuclear agreement. I would take on the Russian agreements. One of them is going to be lapsing, the new START agreement, right when a new president comes in, that is critical for the world's safety. And then, of course, there are others. There's another one as well that he let lapse. The international climate change agreement I already mentioned that he seems to always stand with dictators over allies, tyrants over innocence. And so I think the combination of focusing on diplomacy as well as our military, which is why it started there, modernizing our military, focusing on diplomacy, because in the words of Ambassador Yovanovitch, it's literally been hollowed out because so many great people have left. And that means bringing people back. I'm pleased to have the support of Ambassador Jim Smith, who was the ambassador to Saudi Arabia, a New Hampshire resident and leader, former brigadier general. And I'm really proud to have his support.

Peter Biello:
Let's talk a little bit about the economy. We are in the midst of an unprecedented 11 year economic expansion. Experts say that's likely to continue. Consumer confidence is pretty high, labor market strong. What would you say to Americans who say that this is reason enough to stick with President Trump, assuming he's acquitted in the Senate and can run again?

Senator Klobuchar:
I would ask the New Hampshire mom who's struggling to pay for child care that question. I would ask someone who has trouble finding employees right now in New Hampshire because there is no commuter rail with the most concentrated area in the country that doesn't have commuter rail. And I would ask someone who's working in the gig economy that doesn't have any retirement. The issue here is that it is not shared prosperity. It is not shared prosperity. And the answer is to take a bunch of the things that Donald Trump did to help the wealthy people like his tax cut where he went down to Marao Largo, and basically said, and these are his words, You all just got a lot richer. Take some of that money and put it into things that matter to the people of New Hampshire -- universal child care, helping to pay down student loans, making it easier for people to afford prescription drugs. So that's just one example. But it's really looking at the world in other people's shoes. There's an old story of Franklin Roosevelt. When he died, they put his body on a train and went through America. And a guy was standing at the side of the tracks sobbing with his hat in his hand. And a reporter said to him, Sir? Did you know President Roosevelt? Is that why you're crying? And the guy says, no. I didn't know President Roosevelt, but he knew me. That is the problem with President Trump. There is not the empathy for the people out there that need the help. And so when you talk about him boasting about the economy, man, he is good at that. But what he doesn't ever talk about is how hard it is for people to afford things. And how he hasn't kept his promises to the working people of this country.

Peter Biello:
Senator Klobuchar, we got this question from Doreen. She wrote in to say, I agree with your policies, but haven't heard most candidates speak about our bad national debt. How would you tackle it without taking money from your social policies?

Senator Klobuchar:
Well, thanks, Doreen. That's another great question. And I would have predicted that I got that in New Hampshire. First thing I'd do is, by the way, I love working with both our New Hampshire senators Senator Shaheen and Senator Hassan. They're good friends. And New Hampshire is one of only a few states that had the wisdom to send two women out to the U.S. Senate. So does the other one. One of the things that Senator Shaheen has proposed is biennial budgeting, which means instead of just every year, Congress basically extending the last budget, you give it two years so you can spend a year doing oversight and looking back at how things are spent. I think that's a really good idea and I would push it through as president. Secondly, I'm the only candidate on the debate stage that actually has put together a fund, kind of like a rainy day fund, taken two hundred billion dollars out of that tax cut, add another hundred billion from various savings and start on a deficit repayment to pay back that deficit so that we're in better fiscal shape. The third thing I'd do is that I show how I'm going to pay for every single thing that I propose. I think that's really important because we have a guy in the White House that's been treating the people of New Hampshire like poker chips in one of his bankrupt casinos. These are my friends. And I will get this done.

Peter Biello:
Would you be paying for these things in part with a tax increase? And if so, what would that tax increase look like?

Well it's not going to be a tax increase on the middle class. But let me explain how I would do it. One, take the capital gains rate and go to the normal income rate with capital gains. You would maybe have a few provisions for long-held assets, but that would bring in hundreds of billions of dollars. Take the estate tax exemption, which was three and a half million dollars under President Obama. It went up to 11 million under Trump. Go back to where it was. That brings in over 100 billion dollars. Close that oil giveaway. That's over $30 billion. Stop the hedge fund. That's over 18 billion dollars that you bring in, the hedge fund loophole. Do something when it comes to those corporate tax giveaways. I wouldn't go back to where the tax rate was. I favored bringing it down a few years ago. But he went so low. Every point you bring back is one hundred billion dollars. Go back to the international tax rate the way it was under Obama. That saves 150 billion in 10 years. That's just what I have memorized right now for you. There are so many things we can do that will still keep our country in good fiscal shape, but help us pay down the deficit and also shift some of that money to the people, regular working people in New Hampshire that simply want to have help paying for their pharmaceutical drugs.

Peter Biello:
Senator Klobuchar, we we get this question in our voice mail from a listener and I will play it for you.

Peter Biello:
Hi. This is Annie from Keene. And I want to know what the senators statement is on the Minneapolis NAACP calling for her to resign and BlackLivesMatter due to her record as a prosecutor, with one specific person who's been incarcerated for life, but there's been a bunch of articles that I've seen in the Hill yesterday about it. In the last couple of days. Thank you.

Peter Biello:
So that's the question from Amy in Keene, Senator Klobuchar.

Senator Klobuchar:
Okay thank you. So, first of all, let's step back. I was the county attorney for eight years in Minnesota, had a good reputation for fairness and working with the communities, worked with the Innocence Project on some major, major efforts to have eyewitness identification done in a more fair way, to do a DNA review of all of our cases. And I had a good reputation nationally and locally for the work that I did. Secondly, this case is a case that happened back in 2003 where a little girl was shot doing her homework at her kitchen table. Three people were convicted of that crime, back when I was heading up the office. I didn't individually handle the case. We have over 10,000 cases a year. And then he appealed that case. And when I was not county attorney, there was a second trial where he was also convicted. If there is new evidence in that case and I appreciated that The Associated Press, I have publicly stated that this should be reviewed immediately and must be reviewed immediately because the job of a prosecutor is to convict the guilty and protect the innocent.

Peter Biello:
There were other reports that over your eight years as a prosecutor, you declined to prosecute upwards of two dozen cases of accused police brutality or excessive use of force while also being quite harsh on on lesser crimes. Do you have a response to to that accusation?

Senator Klobuchar:
Yeah, I would say to look at the numbers. African-American incarceration rate went down 12 percent when I was county attorney, which is a major change. A lot of it was my emphasis on white collar crimes as well as drug crimes. Also, with regard to the police cases, those were all given to a grand jury. So it wasn't like nothing happened. The grand jury looked at them. And my view of this now is really for all over the country at the time, that was the practice. And I think that one better way to do it, which I supported in, say, the philando Castile case out of Minnesota, which is past my time as prosecutor, handled directly by the individual prosecutor making a decision about whether the police officer should be prosecuted. In that case, the evidence was there and and the officer was prosecuted. Unfortunately, the jury came back with a verdict of not guilty. But I supported that prosecution, which is probably the most prominent case coming out of Minnesota of a police shooting.

Peter Biello:
I wanted to ask you a question about the many bills you've you've passed into law. This is something that that you talk about a lot. Your ability to to pass legislation that is either sponsored or co-sponsored by you and enjoys the support of Republicans as well. Is there one of those that you feel like you are most proud of?

Senator Klobuchar:
Well, when the 35W Bridge collapsed in Minnesota, that was a national disaster, not just a local disaster. It was a huge eight-lane highway. 13 people were killed and we had to fix that. It was the biggest bridge in our state and we got that built in I think 13 months, which was an all time record. It was eight blocks from my house. And I got the funding for that. I led the way. I worked on a bipartisan basis and worked with the House of Representatives as well. And we got that bridge built. Sometimes the things you work on are big, like the bill I passed on drug shortages or the work that I've done on broadband and on other issues. But sometimes it's a small thing. One of my favorite memories of a bill I passed was a very sad story of a girl that was maimed in a swimming pool with a malfunctioning pool drain. And I took that on. No one had really taken it on. And it stalled out in Congress, worked with her family. And we passed a bill that changed all the pool drains in the country. It may not be the biggest thing, but according to the Consumer Protection Agency, a year or two ago, since we passed it, not one kid was killed from a malfunctioning pool drain. And it was because this family was willing to come forward. They went on TV, they told their story. And I still remember being back in the cloakroom calling that dad who just never gave up on me and telling him we passed the bill. Not a big story, but a lot of times if you've got a president that's willing to take on big things and little things, you've got people's back.

Peter Biello:
Well, Senator Amy Klobuchar, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us this morning. We really appreciate it.

Senator Klobuchar:
Thank you.

Peter Biello:
And just a note to listeners again, we were hoping to have Senator Klobuchar on for the full hour. But this is what worked for her schedule, given that she's she's quite busy now, especially with the Senate impeachment trial. But we did invite her and all the candidates running for president in 2020 for a full hour. Remember, all the conversations in our candidate forums and all our primary 2020 coverage exists online for your listening pleasure at NHPR.org. This is the New Hampshire Primary News Round up on the Exchange. I'm Peter Biello. Thank you very much for listening and have a great weekend.