TODD: Good evening, and welcome to the MSNBC Democratic candidates debate.
MADDOW: We are super excited to be here at the University of New Hampshire. Tonight, this is the first time that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have squared off exactly like this. Face-to-face, just one-on-one, just the two of them.
TODD: And neither party has seen this yet. These candidates are both running for the Democratic nomination, but they are very different from each other when it comes to what matters most and how they would go about the job of being president. Our job tonight is to draw out those differences so you, the voters, can understand them and be fully informed.
MADDOW: And we do hope that the candidates will take this opportunity to show us the distinctions -- show us the differences between them. That's the whole reason that we're here tonight.
We're not here for talking points. We're to learn about the difference between the candidates. And with that, let's get going. Please join us in welcoming Secretary Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders.
TODD: First, I want to say a special thanks to the New Hampshire union leader for helping make this debate possible, and the readers, who helped provide some of the questions and topics that we'll be addressing tonight.
The rules tonight, by the way, are simple: 90 seconds for answers, 30 seconds for follow-ups and rebuttals.
MADDOW: And with that, that's it. We're going to begin with 60- second opening statements from each of the candidates. And as agreed to in advance by the two campaigns, we're going to begin tonight with Senator Sanders.
SANDERS: Rachel, thank you very much.
Millions of Americans are giving up on the political process. And they're giving up on the political process because they understand the economy is rigged.
They are working longer hours for low wages. They're worried about the future of their kids, and yet almost all new income and wealth is going to the top 1 percent. Not what America is supposed to be about. Not the fairness that we grew up believing that America was about. And then sustaining that rigged economy is a corrupt campaign finance system undermining American democracy, where billionaire, Wall Street, corporate America can contribute unlimited sums of money into super PACs and into candidates.
Our job, together, is to end a rigged economy, create an economy that works for all, and absolutely overturn Citizens United. One person, one vote. That's what American democracy is about.
TODD: Thank you, Senator. Secretary Clinton.
CLINTON: Well, I'm happy to be here in New Hampshire for this debate, as we move toward the primary on Tuesday.
I believe that America has the opportunity to once again live by our values, live up to our values in the 21st century, but I think that America can only do that if Americans can succeed. And there are lots of reasons why Americans today are feeling left out and left behind.
CLINTON: Yes, of course, the economy has not been working for most Americans. Yes, of course, we have special interests that are unfortunately doing too much to rig the game.
But there's also the continuing challenges of racism, of sexism, of discrimination against the LGBT community, of the way that we treat people as opposed to how we want to be treated.
I believe that we can get back on the right track. I want to imagine a country where people's wages reflect their hard work, where we have healthcare for everyone, and where every child gets to live up to his or her potential.
I'm fighting for people who cannot wait for those changes, and I'm not making promises that I cannot keep.
Secretary Clinton, last night you cited the Concord Monitor when you said of Senator Sanders that, quote, "It's very hard to see how any of his proposals could ever be achievable." So please tell us why you think if he's elected president on a platform of promising things like free public college and universal healthcare, that he cannot achieve those things.
CLINTON: Well, let me start by saying that Senator Sanders and I share some very big progressive goals. I've been fighting for universal healthcare for many years, and we're now on the path to achieving it. I don't want us to start over again. I think that would be a great mistake, to once again plunge our country into a contentious debate about whether we should have and what kind of system we should have for healthcare.
I want to build on the progress we've made; got from 90 percent coverage to 100 percent coverage. And I don't want to rip away the security that people finally have; 18 million people now have healthcare; preexisting conditions are no longer a bar. So we have a difference.
I also believe in affordable college, but I don't believe in free college, because every expert that I have talked to says, look, how will you ever control the costs. What I want to do is make sure middle class kids, not Donald Trump's kids, get to be able to afford college. I want to get the economy going again. It's not just enough about what we're against, as important as that is. I have a plan to create new jobs, manufacturing, infrastructure, clean energy jobs that will make us the 21st century clean energy super power. I also want to make sure small businesses can start and grow again.
And of course, I believe in raising the minimum wage and equal pay for work. But the numbers just don't add up, from what Senator Sanders has been proposing. That's why all of the independent experts, all of the editorial boards that have vetted both of us have concluded that it is just not achievable.
Let's go down a path where we can actually tell people what we will do. A progressive is someone who makes progress. That's what I intend to do.
TODD: Thank you, Secretary.
Senator Sanders, so just explain how you spent nearly two decades in Congress and haven't gotten any of these things passed. Why do you think as president you'll be able to achieve big, big new programs like this?
SANDERS: Well, I haven't quite run for president before.
Let's deal with some of the comments that Secretary Clinton made. And by the way, you know, sometimes there's a lot of drama here. I have known Secretary Clinton for 25 years and respect her very much.
Here is the issue. Every major country on earth, whether it's the U.K., whether it's France, whether it's Canada, has managed to provide healthcare to all people as a right and they are spending significantly less per capita on health care than we are. So I do not accept the belief that the United States of America can't do that.
I do not accept the belief that the United States of America and our government can't stand up to the ripoffs of the pharmaceutical industry which charge us by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.
Number two, in the economy today, everybody understands that we need a well educated workforce. This is 2016. When we talk about public education, it can no longer be K through 12th grade. I do believe that public colleges and universities should be tuition free. Well, how do we pay for that? It's an expensive proposition.
I do believe that we should substantially lower student debt in this country, which is crushing millions of people. We pay for it, in my view, by a tax on Wall Street speculation. The middle class bailed out Wall Street in their time of need. Now, it is Wall Street's time to help the middle class.
CLINTON: If I could just follow up on that.
CLINTON: There is no disagreement between us on universal coverage for health care, the disagreement is where do we start from and where do we end up.
The Republicans want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, I want to improve it. I want to build on it, get the costs down, get prescription drug costs down. Senator Sanders wants us to start all over again. This was a major achievement of President Obama, of our country. It is helping people right now.
I am not going to wait and have us plunge back into a contentious national debate that has very little chance of succeeding. Let's make the Affordable Care Act work for everybody.
SANDERS: ... this is a good discussion here.
SANDERS: And let me just say this. As Secretary Clinton may know, I am on the Health Education Labor Committee. That committee wrote the Affordable Care Act. The idea I would dismantle health care in America while we're waiting to pass a Medicare for all is just not accurate. The Affordable Care Act has clearly, as Secretary Clinton made the point, done a lot of good things, but, what it has not done is dealt with the fact we have 29 million people today who have zero health insurance, we have even more who are underinsured with large deductibles and copayments and prescription drug prices are off the wall.
So I do believe that in the future, not by dismantling what we have here -- I helped write that bill -- but by moving forward, rallying the American people, I do believe we should have health care for all.
TODD: All right, thank you both. Rachel. MADDOW: Secretary Clinton, Senator Sanders is campaigning against you now, at this point in the campaign, basically arguing that you are not progressive enough to be the Democratic nominee. He has said that if you voted for the Iraq war, if you are in favor of the death penalty, if you wobbled on things like the Keystone Pipeline or TPP, if you said single payer health care could never happen, then you're too far to the right of the Democratic Party to be the party's standard bearer.
Given those policy positions, why should liberal Democrats support you and not Senator Sanders?
CLINTON: Well because I am a progressive who gets things done. And the root of that word, progressive, is progress. But I've heard Senator Sanders comments, and it's really caused me to wonder who's left in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Under his definition, President Obama is not progressive because he took donations from Wall Street; Vice President Biden is not progressive because she supported Keystone; Senator Shaheen is not progressive because she supports the trade pact. Even the late, great Senator Paul Wellstone would not fit this definition because he voted for DOMA.
You know, we have differences and, honestly, I think we should be talk about what we want to do for the country. But if we're going to get into labels, I don't think it was particularly progressive to vote against the Brady Bill five times.
I don't think it was progressive to vote to give gun makers and sellers immunity. I don't think it was progressive to vote against Ted Kennedy's immigration reform. So we could go back and forth like this, but the fact is most people watching tonight want to know what we've done and what we will do. That's why I am laying out a specific agenda that will make more progress, get more jobs with rising incomes, get us to universal health care coverage, get us to universal pre-k, paid family leave and the other elements of what I think will build a strong economy, that will ensure Americans keep making progress. That's what I'm offering and that's what I will do as president.
MADDOW: Senator Sanders, have you established a list of what it means to be a progressive that is unrealistic?
SANDERS: No, not at all. Here's the reality of American economic life today. The reality is that we have one of lowest voter turnouts of any major country on earth because so many people have given up on the political process. The reality is that there has been trillions of dollars of wealth going from the middle class in the last 30 years to the top 1/10th of 1 percent.
The reality is we that have a corrupt campaign finance system which separates the American people's needs and desires from what Congress is doing. So to my mind, what we have got to do is wage a political revolution where millions of people have given up on the political process, stand up and fight back, demand the government that represents us and not just a handful of campaign contribution -- contributors.
SANDERS: Now all of the ideas that I'm talking about, they are not radical ideas. Making public colleges and universities tuition free, that exists in countries all over the world, used to exist in the United States. Rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, and creating 13 million jobs by doing away with tax loopholes that large corporations now enjoy by putting their money into the Cayman Islands and other tax havens. That is not a radical idea.
What we need to do is to stand up to the big money interests, and the campaign contributors. When we do that, we can, in fact, transform America.
MADDOW: Thank you Senator.
TODD: I'd like to follow up on a comment that Secretary Clinton said, Senator. President Obama has not called for abolishing the death penalty. President Obama is for the big Asian trade deal known as TPP, and just yesterday you said you can't be both a moderate or a progressive, but you can't be both. Is President Obama, in your judgment, based on these policies positions, a progressive?
SANDERS: Let me just pick up on this point. This whole discussion began because I commented, not making overall evaluation about the Secretary. She was in Ohio, I think, in September or November and she got up and said something like, I have been -- I'm paraphrasing, I have been criticized because people think I'm a moderate. Well, I am a moderate.
That's where this came from. It wasn't me paraphrasing her. It is what she said, and all that I said was there's nothing wrong with being a moderate. But, you can't be a moderate, you can't a progressive.
In terms of President Obama, I think if we remember where this country was seven years ago, 800,000 jobs being lost every month, $1.4 trillion dollar deficit. The world's financial system on the verge of collapse. I think that President Obama, Vice President Biden, and the Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate have done a fantastic job. We are in much better shape than we were seven years ago, although my Republican colleagues seem to have forgotten where we were seven years ago. That's the fact, but, we still have a very long way to go.
Do I think President Obama is a progressive? Yes, I do. I disagree with him on a number of issues including the trade agreement. But, yes, I think he has done an excellent job.
TODD: ... (inaudible) Clinton, go ahead...
CLINTON: ... If I could, you know, in the very first debate I was asked am I a moderate or a progressive and I said I'm a progressive who likes to get things done. Cherry picking a quote here or there doesn't change my record of having fought for racial justice, having fought for kids rights, having fought the kind of inequities that fueled my interest in service in the first place going back to my days in the Children's Defense Fund.
It certainly didn't stop me from taking on the drug companies and the insurance companies. Before it was called Hillarycare -- I mean, before it was called ObamaCare it was called Hillarycare because we took them on, and we weren't successful, but we kept fighting and we got the children's health insurance program. Every step along the way I have stood up, and fought, and have the scars to prove it.
CLINTON: ... I think it's important that, look, I understand Senator Sanders really trying to distinguish himself. I understand that, that's what you do in campaigns, but at the same time let's not be -- in, I think an unfair way, making an accusation, or making an attack about where I stand and about where I've always stood.
It is fair to say, Senator, that in your definition, as you being the self-proclaimed gatekeeper for progressivism, I don't know anyone else who fits that definition, but I know a lot of really hard fighting progressives in the Democratic party who have stood up time, and time again against special interests, against the powerful on behalf of those who are left behind and left out.
And, that's what we ought to be celebrating. Let's talk about what we would do as President, and Commander in Chief to make sure the progress continues into the future.
TODD: (inaudible) 30 seconds, and then we'll move.
SANDERS: That's right, I mean, instead of arguing about definitions, let's talk about...
CLINTON: ... Well, you began it yesterday with your comments...
SANDERS: ... What we should do, and one of the things we should do is not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. I am very proud to be the only candidate up here who does not have a Super PAC, who's not raising huge sums of money from Wall Street...
(APPLAUSE) SANDERS: ... And special interests. I am enormously proud. Never believed it would happen that we have raised 3.5 million individual contributions, averaging $27 dollars a piece. That is what the political revolution means.
MADDOW: Senator Sanders, as a Vermonter, you have almost a home state advantage here in New Hampshire. But back home across the border, you also have a long history of running against Democrats as a third-party candidate, for governor, Senate, for Congress.
In 1988 your candidacy as a third-party candidate arguably cost the Democrats a congressional seat and sent a Republican instead.
How can you lead the Democratic Party nationally when you have not been a member of the Democratic Party until very recently?
SANDERS: Well, Rachel, actually, that wasn't accurate. In 1988 the Republican did win, I believe, by 3 points. I came in second. It was 34-31, I think, 19 for the Democrat. In that race the Democrat was the spoiler, not me. And it is true...
SANDERS: It is true, it's not to be denied, I am the longest- serving independent in the history of the United States Congress. People of Vermont sent me to Washington as an independent. That is true.
But on the other hand, I have -- when I was in the House for 16 years, I caucused with the Democrats. In the Senate for nine years caucused with the Democrats, of course. And I was elected by the Democrats to be chair of the Veterans Committee three years ago, which I'm very proud of. And now am the rankings member on the Budget Committee, leader of the Democrats in opposition to the majority Republicans.
I am running for president as a Democrat. And if elected, not only do I hope to bring forth a major change in national priorities, but let me be frank, I do want to see major changes in the Democratic Party.
I want to see working people and young people come into the party in a way that doesn't exist now. And you know what, I want a 50-state strategy so the Democratic Party is not just the party of 25 states.
MADDOW: Secretary Clinton.
CLINTON: You know, the person who first put out the idea of a 50-state party strategy is former Governor Howard Dean, who is with us tonight.
CLINTON: And I'm very proud and grateful to have the support of so many elected Vermonters and former officials. Two former governors, the current governor, the current other senator. I really appreciate that.
And I think it's because they've worked with me, they've seen what I do. They know what kind of a colleague I am. They want me as their partner in the White House. And that's exactly what I will do.
We'll get things done together. Democrats, Republicans, independents, we're going to make progress together when I'm president.
MADDOW: So, Senator, to that point, Secretary Clinton is raising the issue of endorsements by your home state Democrats. She's implying that that says something about the people who know you best.
SANDERS: Well, I don't see it quite like that.
MADDOW: How do you see it?
SANDERS: I am -- will absolutely admit that Secretary Clinton has the support of far more governors, mayors, members of the House. She has the entire establishment or almost the entire establishment behind her. That's a fact. I don't deny it.
But I am pretty proud that we have over a million people who have contributed to our campaign averaging 27 bucks apiece. That we have had meetings where 25,000-30,000 people have come out. That our campaign is a campaign of the people, by the people, and for the people.
So, Rachel, yes, Secretary Clinton does represent the establishment. I represent, I hope, ordinary Americans, and by the way, who are not all that enamored with the establishment, but I am very proud to have people like Keith Ellison and Raul Grijalva in the House, the co-chairmen of the House Progressive Caucus.
CLINTON: Well, look, I've got to just jump in here because, honestly, Senator Sanders is the only person who I think would characterize me, a woman running to be the first woman president, as exemplifying the establishment. And I've got to tell you that it is... (APPLAUSE)
CLINTON: It is really quite amusing to me.
People support me because they know me. They know my life's work. They have worked with me and many have also worked with Senator Sanders. And at the end of the day they endorse me because they know I can get things done.
CLINTON: I am not going to make promises I can't keep. I am not going to talk about big ideas like single-payer and then not level with people about how much it will cost.
CLINTON: A respected health economist said that these plans would cost a trillion dollars more a year.
I'm not going to tell people that I will raise your incomes and not your taxes, and not mean it, because I don't want to see the kind of struggle that the middle class is going through exemplified by these promises that would raise taxes and make it much more difficult for many, many Americans to get ahead and stay ahead. That is not my agenda.
MADDOW: Senator Sanders, you'll have 30 seconds to respond to that.
SANDERS: What being part of the establishment is, is, in the last quarter, having a super PAC that raised $15 million from Wall Street, that throughout one's life raised a whole lot of money from the drug companies and other special interests.
To my mind, if we do not get a handle on money in politics and the degree to which big money controls the political process in this country, nobody is going to bring about the changes that is needed in this country for the middle class and working families.
CLINTON: Yeah, but I -- I think it's fair to really ask what's behind that comment. You know, Senator Sanders has said he wants to run a positive campaign. I've tried to keep my disagreements over issues, as it should be.
But time and time again, by innuendo, by insinuation, there is this attack that he is putting forth, which really comes down to -- you know, anybody who ever took donations or speaking fees from any interest group has to be bought.
And I just absolutely reject that, Senator. And I really don't think these kinds of attacks by insinuation are worthy of you. And enough is enough. If you've got something to say, say it directly.
But you will not find that I ever changed a view or a vote because of any donation that I ever received.
CLINTON: And I have stood up and I have represented my constituents to the best of my abilities, and I'm very proud of that.
CLINTON: So I think it's time to end the very artful smear that you and your campaign have been carrying out...
CLINTON: ... in recent weeks, and let's talk...
... let's talk about about the issues. Let's talk about the issues that divide us.
SANDERS: Let's talk about -- OK, let's talk...
CLINTON: And let's -- let's...
SANDERS: ... let us talk about issues.
CLINTON: ... we both agree with campaign finance reform.
SANDERS: Let's talk about issues.
CLINTON: I -- I worked hard for McCain-Feingold.
CLINTON: I want to reverse Citizens United.
SANDERS: ... let's -- let's -- let's talk about issues.
CLINTON: And so -- let's talk about issues.
SANDERS: Let's talk -- let's talk about issues, all right? Let's talk about why, in the 1990s, Wall Street got deregulated. Did it have anything to do with the fact that Wall Street provided -- spent billions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions?
Well, some people might think, yeah, that had some influence.
Let's ask why it is that we pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, and your medicine can be doubled tomorrow, and there's nothing that the government can do to stop it.
You think it has anything to do with the huge amounts of campaign contributions and lobbying from the fossil fuel industry? Let's talk about climate change.
Do you think there's a reason why not one Republican has the guts to recognize that climate change is real, and that we need to transform our energy system? Do you think it has anything to do with the Koch brothers and ExxonMobil pouring huge amounts of money into the political system?
That is what goes on in America. I am not -- I like...
... there is a reason. You know, there is a reason why these people are putting huge amounts of money into our political system. And in my view, it is undermining American democracy and it is allowing Congress to represent wealthy campaign contributors and not the working families of this country.
CLINTON: Well, you know, Senator, I don't think -- I don't...
TODD: ... Secretary, we're gonna...
CLINTON: ... I don't think you could find any person in political life today who has been subjected to more attacks and had more money spent against her by special interests, among whom you have named a few, than I.
And I'm proud of that. You know, when I took on the drug companies and the insurance companies for universal health care coverage, they went after me with a vengeance.
CLINTON: Today, you've got hedge fund billionaires aligned with Karl Rove, running ads against me to try to get Democrats to vote for you. I know this game. I'm going to stop this game.
But while we're talking about votes, you're the one who voted to deregulate swaps and derivatives in 2000, which contributed to the over-leveraging of Lehman Brothers, which was one of the culprits that brought down the economy.
So I don't know -- I'm not impugning your motive because you voted to deregulate swaps and derivatives. People make mistakes and I'm certainly not saying you did it for any kind of financial advantage. What we've got to do as Democrats -- what we've got to do as Democrats is to be united to actually solve these problems. And what I believe is that I have a better track record and a better opportunity to actually get that job done.
That's what this election should be about.
SANDERS: I think as Secretary Clinton knows, there is nobody who fought harder. I was on the House Financial Committee at that time. I heard the arguments coming from Democrats and Republicans -- Robert Rubin, Alan Greenspan -- about great an idea it would be if we did away with Glass-Steagall and if we allowed investor banks and commercial banks and big insurance companies to merge.
Go to YouTube today. Look up Greenspan-Sanders. Listen to what I told them then. I helped lead the effort against deregulation. Unfortunately, we lost that. The result is -- was the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression.
MADDOW: Senator Sanders, Secretary Clinton, obviously we've touched a nerve. We're going to be back with more on this subject, and much more, right after this. Stay with us.
TODD: All right, welcome back. Let's get right to it.
Senator Sanders, you were talking about all of your campaign contributions and campaign finance reform. You rail against big money in politics. But do you realize there is one public financing system that we do have in place, and it is -- it is in place to run for president. Why aren't you walking the walk on that?
Why aren't you participating in the presidential public financing system which is designed to essentially keep big money out of presidential politics?
SANDERS: Chuck, actually we looked at it, but it turns out to be a disaster. The way it is structured right now, if you make it all the way to California, you could do pretty well. But in terms of the early states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, the other states -- it just doesn't work.
Your point is well taken. I believe in public funding of elections, absolutely. But this system is -- I don't know if the secretary would agree -- is currently very antiquated and no longer applies to modern day politics.
TODD: Well, going on that then, why criticize her on Super PACs, and you got -- and all this when it is -- you know, that's the system? I mean, you could be participating in a publicly-financing -- public financing system...
TODD: ... and being able to set -- being able to set an example.
SANDERS: -- but Chuck, it is a public financing system that everybody knows is antiquated. It no longer works. Nobody can become president based on that system. So what's the alternative? There are two alternatives. And, you know, we looked at it. Well, should we do a Super PAC, but I concluded, honestly, I don't represent Corporate America or billionaires, I didn't want it.
So the other alternative was to ask working families and the middle class to help out in a transformational campaign. And you know what? We got 3.5 million individual contributions, $27 a piece. I think that's pretty good.
MADDOW: Secretary Clinton, on the issue of Wall Street...
CLINTON: On the issue of Wall Street.
MADDOW: ... on the issue of Wall Street, when our reporters go out and talk to people on the ground in the early states, what they tell us over and over again when they find voters who are leaning toward Senator Sanders rather than yourself is that the most frequent area of concern that they hear from those voters is the issue of Wall Street and whether or not you are too close to Wall Street.
Last night, when you were asked about speaking fees and the amount of speaking fees you got from Goldman Sachs speeches, you said that's what they offered.
Have you been too dismissive of voters' concerns about this issue in your own campaign and your own career?
CLINTON: Well you know, Rachel, I think I may not have done the job I should in explaining my record. You know, I did -- when I left the secretary of State's office, like so many former officials, military leaders, journalists, others, I did go on the speaking circuit. I spoke to heart doctors, I spoke to the American Camping Association, I spoke to auto dealers, and yes, I spoke to firms on Wall Street. They wanted me to talk about the world, what my experience had been as secretary of State.
But what I want people to know is I went to Wall Street before the crash. I was the one saying you're going to wreck the economy because of these shenanigans with mortgages. I called to end the carried interest loophole that hedge fund managers enjoy. I proposed changes in CEO compensation.
I called for a consumer protection financial bureau before it was created. And I think the best evidence that the Wall Street people at least know where I stand and where I have always stood is because they are trying to beat me in this primary. They have collected and spent as much as $6 million on these ads. Hedge fund billionaires, Karl Rove, another billionaire, jumped in.
And why are they doing that? These are guys who try to make smart investments. They know my record, they know me, they know that I say what I believe and I will do it. And I also have a pretty good understanding about how to stop them.
So I do want people to know that, and I think it's important for everybody to understand I have a record, I have stood firm and I will be the person who prevents them from ever wrecking the economy again.
(APPLAUSE) MADDOW: Senator Sanders, you have been a critic of Secretary Clinton taking those speaking fees and having donations from Wall Street. What about her defense of her record?
SANDERS: Let me just say this. Wall Street is perhaps the most powerful economic and political force in this country. You have companies like Goldman Sachs, who just recently paid a settlement fine with the federal government for $5 billion for defrauding investors.
Goldman Sachs was one of those companies whose illegal activity helped destroy our economy and ruin the lives of millions of Americans. But this is what a rigged economy and a corrupt campaign finance system and a broken criminal justice is about. These guys are so powerful that not one of the executives on Wall Street has been charged with anything after paying, in this case of Goldman Sachs, a $5 billion fine.
Kid gets caught with marijuana, that kid has a police record. A Wall Street executive destroys the economy, $5 billion settlement with the government, no criminal record. That is what power is about. That is what corruption is about. And that is what has to change in the United States of America.
CLINTON: If I could, let me just say that of course it has to change. It has to change. And that's why I have put forward a plan to do just that. And it's been judged to be the toughest, most effective and comprehensive one.
I have great respect for Senator Sanders's commitment to try to restore Glass-Steagall. But I do not believe that that is enough. And in fact, I don't believe it really addresses a lot of the biggest issues we have.
You know, we now have power under the Dodd-Frank legislation to break up banks. And I've said I will use that power if they pose a systemic risk. But I want to go further, because it was investment banks, it was insurance companies, it was mortgage companies, all of which contributed.
So let's not just be narrowly focused on one part of the problem. We have a lot of issues with corporate power that have to be addressed. My plan takes us further and it would do the job.
(APPLAUSE) SANDERS: I would say that -- that folks who have looked at this issue for a long time, whether it's Elizabeth Warren or many other economists, will tell you that right now, yes, we do need a 21st century Glass-Steagall legislation. And I would tell you also that when you have three out of the four largest banks in America today, bigger than they were -- significantly bigger than when we bailed them out because they were too big to fail, I think if Teddy Roosevelt were alive today, a good Republican by the way, what he would say is: Break them up; they are too powerful economically; they are too powerful politically.
And that is what I believe and many economists believe. Time to break them up.
CLINTON: Look we have a law -- look, you know, I -- I appreciate the senator's advocacy. We have a law. It was passed. It was signed by President Obama. It lays out a process that you go through to determine whether a systemic risk is posed.
And by the way, President Obama signed that, pushed it through, even though he took donations from Wall Street, because he's a responsible president. So we have a law in place. If the circumstances warrant it, I will certainly use it. And from what you say, I know you will as well.
But that is not enough. And I keep going back to this because part of the reason the Wall Street guys are trying so hard to stop me -- the hedge fund guys, the shadow banking guys -- is because I've got their number on all of that. And my plan goes so much further to try to prevent the problems of the future.
You know, we can't just fight the last war. We've got to be prepared to stop these guys if they ever try to use their economic power once again, to hurt the economy, and to hurt so many Americans. And my plan, Paul Krugman, Barney Frank, a lot of experts who understand what the new challenges might be, have said I am exactly on point, and the Wall Street guys actually know that.
TODD: ... she has had more people praise her plan than yours.
SANDERS: Well, we've had a number of economists supporting our legislation. And here's where we are. The American people can judge. Six largest financial institutions in America today have assets of roughly $10 trillion; equivalent to 58 percent of the GDP of the United States of America.
SANDERS: That is a lot of money. They issue two thirds of the credit cards, and by the way they're ripping off a whole lot of people with high interest rates on the credit cards, and they write about one third of the mortgages.
That is a lot of power for six financial institutions. That's it. I think it is too much power. Too much economic power, too much political power, and the economists that I talk to say we should break them up.
TODD: Thank you both. Let me move on to our next question here, and in fact it comes to us through New England Cable News.
Secretary Clinton, it's addressed to you, and it's about this issue of the speeches, particularly to Goldman Sachs. This is what the questioner wrote verbatim.
"I am concerned with the abuses of Wall Street has taken with the American taxpayers money," and then she asks whether you would release the transcripts of your Goldman Sachs speeches, and then added, "Don't you think the voting public has a right to know what was said?"
But, let's make that bigger. Are you willing to release the transcripts of all your paid speeches? We do know through reporting that there were transcription services for all of those paid speeches. In full disclosure, would you release all of them?
CLINTON: I will look into it. I don't know the status, but I will certainly look into it. But, I can only repeat what is the fact that I spoke to a lot of different groups with a lot of different constituents, a lot of different kinds of members about issues that had to do with world affairs. I probably described more times than I can remember how stressful it was advising the President about going after Bin Laden.
My view on this is look at my record. Look at what I am proposing, and -- we have a vigorous agreement here. We both want to reign in the excesses of Wall Street. I also want to reign in the excesses of Johnson Controls that we bailed out when they were an autoparts company, and we saved the auto industry, and now they want to avoid paying taxes.
I want to go after the pharmaceutical companies like Valeant, and Turns that are increasing prices without any regard to the impact on people's health. Now, if all we're going to talk about is one part of our economy, and indeed one streak in our economy, we're missing the big oil companies. We're missing other big energy companies. We're missing the big picture, and I have a record of trying to go at the problems that actually exist, and I will continue to do that.
TODD: Senator, you sound like you want to respond. Go ahead.
SANDERS: Yeah, I do. I agree with much of what the Secretary said, but, madam Secretary, it is not one streak. Wall Street is an entity of unbelievable economic and political power. That's a fact.
And, I want to say something, and it may sound harsh, not to you, but to the American people. In a sense, in my view, the business model of Wall Street is fraud. It's fraud. I believe that corruption is rampant, and the fact that major bank after major bank has reached multi billion dollar settlements with the United States government when we have a weak regulator system tells me that not only did we have to bail them out once, if we don't start breaking them up, we're going to have to bail them out again, and I do not want to see that happen...
CLINTON: ... Well, Senator, no one wants to see that happen. I mean, look, I care deeply about this because just like you I have met so many people who had their life savings wiped out, who lost their homes, who are barely back with their heads above water.
This was a disaster for our country, and we can never let that happen again. We have no disagreement about this. But, I think it's a broader target list than just Wall Street, and I believe that we have to be very focused on how we try to take back the power and increase the empowerment of the American people. And, I think I have that kind of experience, maybe because they've beat me up for so many years, and I know exactly how to handle them because I've been in the arena with them time and time again.
MADDOW: Senator Sanders, let me turn to, I think, where this direction is heading anyway, which is the broader issue of big business and power in our political system. You on the campaign trail have railed against big name American corporations like Boeing, and General Electric, and Wal Mart. But, some big businesses in this country have also been part of advancing progressive goals like that nationwide initiative to expand employment opportunities for veterans. That was all about cooperation between the Obama administration and some very big business. The Affordable Care Act, some of the thorniest problems in that bill were worked out in cooperation with big business in order to accomplish progressive goals.
Could you work with them, or have you made enemies of big business in this country with the way you've approached them in this campaign?
SANDERS: Of course I can work with them, but let's be clear. When I talked about Boeing and I talked about General Electric, what I was referring to is an outrage. I suspect the secretary agrees request me.
Right now you have a loophole such that these guys are putting their profits, multi-billion dollar profitable corporations putting billions of dollars into the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, and other tax havens.
And in a given year, Rachel, after making billions of dollars in profit, do you know how much they're paying in taxes to the United States government in a given year? Zero. Now explain to me how that makes any sense at all.
So what I have said with regard to Boeing and GE and other multinationals that pay zero taxes, you know what we're going to do? We're going to end that loophole. They are going to pay their fair share of taxes.
We're going to use that money to rebuild our infrastructure and create up to 13 million jobs.
Can I work with corporations? Are there good corporations doing incredible cutting edge research and development? Absolutely they are. And we should be proud of them.
But on the other hand, there are many corporations who have turned their backs on the American worker, who have said, if I can make another nickel in profit by going to China and shutting down in the United States of America, that's what I will do.
I will do my best to transform our trade policy and take on these corporations who want to invest in low-income countries around the world rather than in the United States of America.
MADDOW: Senator Sanders, thank you.
And with that, we're going to take a break.
TODD: We'll be right back. And we're going to get to trade and a lot of other issues.
MADDOW: Welcome back -- welcome back to the Democratic candidates' debate. We're going to be talking about America in the world, both in terms of some trade issues, but also national security.
And Secretary Clinton, we're going to start with you. There are more than 4,000 American troops back in Iraq right now as part of the fight against ISIS. It has been 15 straight years of wars and multiple deployments for America's military families, who have borne such a disproportionate burden.
Is President Obama right to keep escalating the number of U.S. troops that's fighting ISIS right now?
CLINTON: Well, I think what the president understands, and what he's trying to do, is that we have to support the Arab and Kurdish fighters on the ground who are actually doing the fighting.
I agree with the president. I've said myself, we will not send American combat troops back to either Syria or Iraq -- that is off the table.
But we do have special forces, we do have trainers, we do have the military personnel who are helping with the airstrikes that the United States is leading so that we can try to take out ISIS infrastructure, take out their leadership.
And I think that, given the threat that ISIS poses to the region and beyond, as we have sadly seen in our own country, it is important to keep the Iraqi army on a path where they can actually take back territory, to work with the Sunni tribes in Anbar province and elsewhere so that their fighters can be also deployed, to work with the Kurds to provide them the support, but they're doing the fighting. We're doing the support and enabling.
And I also think we've got to do more to stop foreign fighters, foreign funding and take ISIS on online, as well as doing everything necessary to keep us safe at home.
So as I look at what the president it doing, it adds up to me. We just have to keep -- try to get more support for those people on the ground in Syria and Iraq who have to actually physically take the territory back. MADDOW: To be clear, to the specific question, if that strategic goal that you're describing requires considerably more of Americans -- an ever-increasing number of Americans in Iraq and maybe in Syria, are you OK with the numbers increasing?
CLINTON: No. I mean, of course that's a theoretical question, and we don't know what it would be for, and we don't know how many numbers there are. I am against American combat troops being in Syria and Iraq.
I support special forces. I support trainers. I support the air campaign. And I think we're making some progress. I want to continue to intensify that, and that's exactly what the president is doing.
MADDOW: Thank you, Madam Secretary.
TODD: Go ahead, Senator Sanders -- 30 seconds, your response.
SANDERS: OK. Let me agree with much of what the secretary said, but where we have a different background on this issue is we differ on the war in Iraq, which created barbaric organizations like ISIS.
Not only did I vote against that war, I helped lead the opposition, and if you go to my website, berniesanders.com, you will see the statement that I made in 2002. And it gives me no pleasure to tell you that much of what I feared would happen the day after Saddam Hussein was overthrown, in fact, did happen.
TODD: All right. Senator, I want to stay, though...
CLINTON: If I could -- if I could...
TODD: Go ahead. 30 seconds.
CLINTON: ... respectfully add -- look, we did differ. A vote in 2002 is not a plan to defeat ISIS. We have to look at the threats that we face right now...
... and we have to be prepared to take them on and defeat them.
TODD: Let me -- let -- we're gonna -- we're staying -- we're staying basically on this topic. Obviously you've been emphasizing this difference on the Iraq war, but one place where you do agree, and one place where you voted to authorize the use of force, was in favor of the war in Afghanistan.
Right now, it is possible President Obama is going to be leaving the next president, perhaps President Sanders, at least 10,000 troops in Afghanistan. How long will those troops be in Afghanistan under President Sanders?
SANDERS: Well, I think our great task is to make certain that our young men and women in the military do not get sucked into never- ending, perpetual warfare within the quagmire of Syria and Iraq. And I will do my very best to make sure that that doesn't happen.
I agree with the secretary that I think what has to happen -- and let me just mention what King Abdullah of Jordan said. I think he hit the nail on the head.
SANDERS: And what he said is essentially the war against ISIS is a war for the soul of Islam. And it must be Muslim troops on the ground that will destroy ISIS, with the support of a coalition of major powers -- U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Russia.
So our job is to provide them the military equipment that they need; the air support they need; special forces when appropriate. But at the end of the day for a dozen different reasons, not the least of which is that ISIS would like American combat troops on the ground so they could reach out to the Muslim world and say, "Look, we're taking on those terrible Americans."
The combat on the ground must be done by Muslim troops with our support. We must not get involved in perpetual warfare in the Middle East.
TODD: Can you address a question on Afghanistan?
TODD: How long are these troops going to be there? If President Obama leaves you 10,000 troops, how long do you think they're going to be there?
SANDERS: Well, you can't simply withdraw tomorrow. Wish we could, and allow, you know, the Taliban or anybody else to reclaim that country. But what we must do, and what we have seen in recent months, is some progress in Iraq, where finally the Iraqi army, which has not been a particularly effective fighting force, retook Ramadi. ISIS has lost I think 40 percent of the territory that it held in the last year.
Hopefully, and you know, one can't predict the future, that maybe our training and their fighting capabilities are improving and we are going to make some progress in destroying ISIS.
TODD: Secretary Clinton, 30 seconds: How long are these troops going to be in Afghanistan? We have more American troops in Afghanistan than what we were talking about with Iraq.
CLINTON: Oh, absolutely. The president decided to leave more troops than he had originally planned in Afghanistan. We have a very cooperative government there, with Ashraf Ghani and his top -- his top partner, Abdullah. And they are doing their very best. And the Afghan army is actually fighting. The Afghan army is taking heavy losses defending Afghan territory.
And I would have to make an evaluation based on the circumstances at the time I took office as to how much help they continue to need. Because it's not just the Taliban. We now are seeing outposts of, you know, fighters claiming to be affiliated with ISIS.
So, we've got this arc of instability from North Africa to South Asia, and we have to pay close attention to it. And we have to build coalitions, something that I did to take on the Iranian nuclear program, and what I will do as president to make sure that we defeat these terrorist networks.
TODD: You know, Senator Sanders, nobody knows who your foreign policy advisers are. You haven't given a major foreign policy speech. And it doesn't sound like all the time that foreign policy is a priority, other than when you're asked about it, and you say you're going to crush ISIS, as you said last night and earlier.
You have not proactively laid out a foreign policy doctrine yet. Why?
SANDERS: Well, that's not quite accurate. I did give a speech at Georgetown where I talked about democratic socialism and foreign policy. Maybe I shouldn't have combined the two in the same speech, because the foreign policy part of it didn't get much attention. So, let me take this opportunity to give you a very short speech here on the issue.
I think, while it is true that the secretary and I voted differently on the war in Iraq, what is important is that we learn the lesson of the war in Iraq. And that lesson is intrinsic to my foreign policy if elected president, is the United States cannot do it alone. We cannot be the policeman of the world. We are now spending more I believe than the next eight countries on defense. We have got to work in strong coalition with the major powers of the world and with those Muslim countries that are prepared to stand up and take on terrorism.
So I would say that the key doctrine of the Sanders administration would be no, we cannot continue to do it alone; we need to work in coalition.
CLINTON: A group of national security experts, military intelligence experts, issued a very concerning statement about Senator Sanders's views on foreign policy and national security, pointing out some of the comments he has made on these issues, such as inviting Iranian troops into Syria to try to resolve the conflict there; putting them right at the doorstep of Israel. Asking Saudi Arabia and Iran to work together, when they can't stand each other and are engaged in a proxy battle right at this moment.
CLINTON: So I do think questions have been raised and questions have to be answered because when New Hampshire voters go on Tuesday to cast your vote, you are voting both for a president and a commander in chief. And there is no way to predict what comes in the door of that White House from day to day that can pose a threat to the United States or one of our friends and allies, and I think this is a big part of the job interview that we are all conducting with the voters here.
TODD: All right, Senator, 30 seconds.
SANDERS: (OFF-MIKE) I fully, fully concede that Secretary Clinton, who was secretary of State for four years, has more experience -- hat is not arguable -- in foreign affairs. But experience is not the only point, judgment is. And once again, back in 2002, when we both looked at the same evidence about the wisdom of the war in Iraq, one of us voted the right way and one of us didn't.
In terms of Iran and in terms of Saudi Arabia, of course they hate each other. That's no great secret. But John Kerry, who is I think doing a very good job, has tried to at least get these people in the room together because both of them are being threatened by ISIS.
CLINTON: Well, let me just add that, you know, I've said this before and I'm very proud of it, that when it comes to judgment, having run a hard race against Senator Obama at the time, he turned to me to be secretary of State. And when it comes to the biggest counterterrorism issues that we faced in this administration, namely whether or not to go after bin Laden, I was at that table, I was exercising my judgment to advise the president on what to do, on that, on Iran, on Russia on China, on a whole raft of issues.
Because I know from my own experience that you've got to be ready on day one. There is just too much unpredictable threat and danger in the world today, you know, to try to just say wait, I'll get to that when I can. That is just not an acceptable approach.
MADDOW: Secretary Clinton, at the -- at the last Democratic debate in Charleston -- I want to get specific here -- Senator Sanders called for moving as aggressively as we can to normalize relations with Iran. Your campaign has criticized him for saying that. Now that he's standing next to you here on this stage, can you explain why the U.S. shouldn't try to normalize relations in Iran in your view?
CLINTON: Absolutely. You know, I did put together the coalition to impose sanctions. I actually started the negotiations that led to the nuclear agreement, sending some much my closest aides to begin the conversations with the Iranians.
I'm very pleased we got that nuclear agreement. It puts a lid on the nuclear weapons program. We have to enforce it, there have to be consequences attached to it. But that is not our only problem with Iran. We have to figure out how to deal with Iran as the principal state sponsor of terrorism in the world.
They are destabilizing governments in the region. They continue to support Hezbollah and Hamas in Lebanon against Israel. A lot of work that we have do is going to be incredibly hard. I'm prepared to do that work, but I believe, just as I did with imposing the sanctions, you have to get action for action.
If we were to normalize relations right now, we would remove one of the biggest pieces of leverage we have to try to influence and change Iranian behavior. The president doesn't think we should. I certainly don't think we should. I believe we have to take this step by step to try to reign in Iranian aggression, their support for terrorism and the other bad behavior that can come back and haunt us.
SANDERS: Who said That think we should normalize relations with Iran tomorrow? I never said that. I think we should move forward as quickly as we can.
And you're right. They are a sponsor of terrorism around the world and we have to address that. But you know, a number of years ago, people were saying normal relationship with Cuba, what a bad and silly idea. They're Communists, they are our enemy. Well guess what? Change has come.
So please don't suggest that I think we normalize relations with Tehran tomorrow. We don't. But I would like to see us move forward, and hopefully some day that will happen. And I would say if I might, Madam Secretary -- and you can correct me if I'm wrong. When you ran against Senator Obama you thought him naive because he thought it was a good idea to talk to our enemies. I think those are exactly the people you have to talk to and you have to negotiate with.
CLINTON: Well Senator, let me just correct the record if I can. You know -- let me correct the record.
TODD: 30 seconds, madam secretary.
CLINTON: As I -- as I certainly recall, the question was to meet with without conditions. And you're right, I was against that. I was against it then I would be against it now.
CLINTON: Part of diplomacy, the hard work of diplomacy is trying to extract whatever concessions you can get, and giving something the other side wants. Of course you've got to try to make peace with, and work with those who are your adversaries, but you don't just rush in, open the door, and say, "Here I am. Let's talk and make a deal."
That's not the way it works.
SANDERS: I think President Obama had the right idea, and the bottom line is that of course there have to be conditions. But, of course it doesn't do us any good to not talk with our adversaries...
CLINTON: ... Well, we set conditions on Iran. We worked hard to get them established, and to be enforced, and then we talked. That's exactly the right...
CLINTON: ... And, that's what I did with the President, so he and I are on the very same page.
SANDERS: Just to set the record straight, I very strongly supported the agreement which makes certain that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon.
TODD: Alright, as Commander in Chief, Senator Sanders, you've got to prioritize potential threats to the United States. Three countries, North Korea, Iran, Russia. How would you rank them in order of their threat to America's security right now...
TODD: ... Starting with the biggest threat.
SANDERS: ISIS, you forgot one...
TODD: ... I didn't say that...
SANDERS: ... ISIS would be ...
TODD: ... We already had that. I'm talking about these three countries. How would you orient our national security, our national defense posture.
SANDERS: Clearly North Korea is a very strange situation because it is such an isolated country run by a handful of dictators, or maybe just one, who seems to be somewhat paranoid. And, who had nuclear weapons.
And, our goal there, in my view, is to work and lean strongly on China to put as much pressure. China is one of the few major countries in the world that has significant support for North Korea, and I think we got to do everything we can to put pressure on China. I worry very much about an isolated, paranoid country with atomic bombs.
I think, clearly, we got to work closely with China to resolve the serious problems we have, and I worry about Putin and his military adventurism in the Crimea and the Ukraine.
TODD: Secretary of Defense Ash Carter this week picked one of those three, and he has said Russia is, basically, the most important national security threat. Sort of reorienting the defense and the challenges to that. Do you agree with his decisions...
SANDERS: ... No, I don't. I worry very, very much about an isolated country. That's what makes me nervous. Russia lives in the world. China lives in the world. North Korea is a very, very strange country because it is so isolated, and I do feel that a nation with nuclear weapons, they have got to be dealt with. Dealt with effectively.
TODD: Secretary Clinton, what do you think of Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. He's basically putting Russia above Iran, above North Korea, as sort of the chief national security challenge right now.
CLINTON: I haven't talked to Secretary Carter, but here's what I would think he's planning. We do have the nuclear weapons agreement with Iran, that's an enforcement consequence, action for action, follow on. We have a plan, we will watch them, we will be vigilant.
We do have to worry about North Korea. They continue to develop their nuclear weapons capability, and they're working very hard on their ballistic missile capability.
And, I know that some of those plans could very well lead to a missile that might reach Hawaii, if not the West Coast. We do have to try to get the countries in the region to work with us to do everything we can to confine, and constrain them.
But, what Secretary Carter is looking at is the constant pressure that Russia's putting on our European allies. The way that Russia is trying to move the boundaries of the post-World War II Europe. The way that he is trying to set European countries against one another, seizing territory, holding it in Crimea. Beginning to explore whether they could make some inroads in the Baltics.
We know that they are deeply engaged in supporting Assad because they want to have a place in the Middle East. They have a naval base, they have an air base in Syria. They want to hang on to that. I think what Secretary Carter is seeing, and I'm glad he is, is that we got to get NATO back working for the common defense. We've got to do more to support our partners in NATO, and we have to send a very clear message to Putin that this kind of belligerence, that this kind of testing of boundaries will have to be responded to. The best way to do that is to put more armor in, put more money from the Europeans in so they're actually contributing more to their own defense.
TODD: Thank you both, Rachel?
MADDOW: Secretary Clinton, I want to ask you about a national security issue that is closer to home. There are thousands of veterans, over 100,000 veterans living in the state of New Hampshire.
If either one of you is nominated as the Democratic Party's nominee, you will likely face a Republican opponent in the general election who wants to privatize or even abolish big parts of the V.A. It's a newly popular idea in conservative politics.
How will you win the argument on that issue given the problems that have been exposed at the V.A. in the last few years? What's your argument that the V.A. should still exist and should not be privatized?
CLINTON: Well, first of all, I'm absolutely against privatizing the V.A. And I am going do everything I can to build on the reforms that Senator Sanders and others in Congress have passed to try to fix what's wrong with the V.A.
There are a lot of issues about wait times and services that have to be fixed because our veterans deserve nothing but the best.
But you're absolutely right, you know, Rachel, this is another part of the Koch brothers agenda. They've actually formed an organization to try to begin to convince Americans we should no longer have guaranteed health care, specialized care for our veterans.
I will fight that as hard as I can. I think there's where we can enlist the veterans service organizations, the veterans of America, because, yes, let's fix the V.A., but we will never let it be privatized, and that is a promise.
MADDOW: Senator Sanders, you, as a congressional leader on veterans issues and the Veterans Committee, you've worked in a very bipartisan way with Senator John McCain and others on veterans issues. Is the right contour of the fight, the way she's talking about this issue?
SANDERS: Let me agree. You know, as the secretary knows, I chaired -- I had the privilege and the honor of chairing the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. And it is interesting to me, you know, Republicans give a lot of speeches about how much they love veterans. I work with the American Legion, the VFW, the DAV, the Vietnam Vets, and virtually every veterans organization to put together the most comprehensive piece of the veterans legislation in the modern history of America. That's what I did.
And I brought it to the floor of the Senate. Every Democrat voted for it, I got two Republicans. We ended up with 56 votes and I couldn't get the 60 votes that I needed. That is pathetic.
This was legislation supported by all of the veterans organizations, addressing many of the serious problems that veterans face in health care and in how we deliver benefits to them.
So Republicans talk a good game about veterans, but when it came to put money on the line to protect our veterans, frankly, they were not there.
What I did next, Rachel, is I had to retreat a little bit, I had to compromise. I did work with John McCain. I did work with Jeff Miller over in the House. And we put together not the bill that I wanted, but probably the most comprehensive V.A. health care bill in the modern history of this country.
Secretary Clinton is absolutely right, there are people, Koch brothers among others, who have a group called Concerned Veterans of America, funded by the Koch brothers. The Koch brothers, by the way, want to destroy Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, every governmental program passed since the 1930s. Yes, there are people out there who want to privatize it.
The last point that I'd make. I had a hearing. I had all of the veterans groups in front of me. And I said to them, tell me when a veteran gets in to the V.A., understanding there are waiting lines and real problems, when a veteran gets into the system, is the quality of care good?
Without exception, what they said, good, excellent, very good. We've got to strengthen the V.A. We do not privatize the V.A.
MADDOW: Thank you, Senator.
Senator Sanders, Secretary Clinton, we're going to take another break. We'll be talking about Social Security and some of those other issues when we come back.
TODD: And we are back. We're gonna get into a little bit of election politics, electability, in a little bit.
Senator Sanders, The Iowa Democratic Party has declared Hillary Clinton the winner of Monday's Iowa caucuses -- narrowest of margins. Today, the Des Moines Register has an editorial that calls for the audit of the results, saying, quote, "what happened Monday night at the Democratic caucuses was a debacle, period. The results were too close not to do a complete audit."
Senator Sanders, do you accept the idea that Hillary Clinton won Iowa? And do you -- or do you believe the caucuses are still an open question?
SANDERS: Well, I agree with the Des Moines Register, but let's not blow this out of proportion. This is not a -- this is not, like, a winner-take-all thing.
I think where we now stand -- correct me if I'm wrong -- you have 22 delegates, I have 20 delegates. We need 2,500 delegates to win the nomination.
You know, so this is not -- this is not the biggest deal in the world. We think, by the way, based on talking to our precinct captains, we may have at least two more delegates.
What the Des Moines Register said -- you know, there were coin -- I think there were half a dozen coin flips -- a fairly chaotic type situation. At the end of the day, no matter how it's recounted, it will break roughly even.
And by the way, I love and respect the caucus process in Iowa. See, and I don't have to say it, because they voted already.
And I love New Hampshire, too, because you haven't voted, but...
... but, look, I think people are blowing this up out of proportion. But I think we need improvements in the process by which results are determined.
TODD: Secretary Clinton, will you participate in some sort of audit, if that's what the party wants to do? You good with that?
CLINTON: Whatever they decide to do, that's fine.
TODD: That's fair enough. OK.
TODD: Good, we move on. We're happy with that. We have more questions.
MADDOW: Senator -- Senator Sanders, in 1964...
See, when you are old, then they go back all these years. All right. What have you got?
MADDOW: In 1964, I heard that the Republicans nominated Barry Goldwater, who was the hero of the conservative movement. He was, however, far to the right of most of that party. In 1972, the Democrats nominated George McGovern, who was a hero of liberals in the antiwar movement, but he was to the left of his party's mainstream.
Both of those nominees made activists very excited, and they both got destroyed in the general election. Even Democrats who love you worry about your fate in a general election. And I know you have good head-to-head polling numbers against Republican frontrunners right now. We know that. But do you have a general election strategy that is different than the way you're running right now to try to get the nomination?
SANDERS: Well, you know, a general election is different than a primary and caucus process. But let me just say this. In terms of where we are right now, as you mention, Rachel, in a number of national and state, including New Hampshire. For example, the last poll I saw -- there may have been a new one -- last one I saw here in New Hampshire, a battleground state, had me defeating Trump by 19; the secretary defeating him by one. There were also pretty large margins in Iowa and Wisconsin.
These are polls. Polls go up. Polls go down. But here's why I think I will be, if nominated, the strongest candidate. Democrats win when there is a large voter turnout; when people are excited; when working people, middle class people and young people are prepared to engage in the political process.
Republicans win when people are demoralized and you have a small voter turnout, which by the way is why they love voter suppression. I believe that our campaign up to now has shown that we can create an enormous amount of enthusiasm from working people, from young people, who will get involved in the political process and which will drive us to a very large voter turnout.
If there is a large voter turnout, not only do we retain the White House, but I think we regain the Senate. We win governors' chairs up and down the line. So I believe if you want to retain the White House, if you want to see Democrats do well across the board, I think our campaign is the one that creates the large voter turnout and helps us win.
MADDOW: Secretary Clinton, your campaign surrogates, and people who have endorsed you, have suggested that or even said that if Senator Sanders is the nominee, that Democrats will suffer nationwide and the chances will go down of Democrats holding onto the White House. With him here standing next to you, can you tell us whether or not you believe he would win the general election if he were nominated?
CLINTON: I can only tell you what I believe, and that is that I am the strongest candidate to take it to the Republicans and win in November.
And I say that with great -- with great respect for the campaign that Senator Sanders has been running. I personally am thrilled at the numbers of people, and particularly young people who are coming to support your campaign. I hope that I will be able to earn their support. They may not support me now, but I support them and we'll work together.
But what I'm concerned about is the views of many Democrats who know their states, who know how hard it is to win a general election. And it also will push whoever the nominee is into the spotlight. I've been vetted. There's hardly anything you don't know about me. And I think it's fair to say that whoever is in that position, Senator Sanders or anyone else who might have run, will face the most withering onslaught.
So, I think that I am the person who can do all aspects of the job. I think I'm the person best prepared to take the case to the Republicans. And I think that at the end of the day, it's not so much electability. It is who the American people can believe can keep them safe, can get the economy moving again, can get incomes rising, can build on the progressive accomplishments of President Obama.
And I think that the coalition that President Obama put together to win twice is a coalition that I can put together and add to. And that's what I'm prepared to...
TODD: We'll stay on this issue. We'll stay on this topic.
TODD: Secretary Clinton, just like there are some Democrats that question Senator Sanders' ability in the general election, many Democratic voters that our reporters have been running into in Iowa and New Hampshire, they tell our reporters over and over again they're worried about the emails issue, not because they don't believe your explanation, but because it's a drip-drip, because the cloud is hanging over your head and that it will impact the general election.
They see your numbers right now and they think it's the email issue as to why you're not polling very well. So can you reassure these Democrats that somehow the email issue isn't going to blow up your candidacy if you're the nominee?
CLINTON: Absolutely I can. You know, before it was emails, it was Benghazi, and the Republicans were stirring up so much controversy about that. And I testified for 11 hours, answered their questions. They basically said yeah, didn't get her. We tried. That was all a political ploy.
Now, we had a development in the email matter today when it came out that Secretary Powell and close aides to Former Secretary Rice used private e-mail accounts. and now you have these people in the government who are doing the same thing to Secretary Powell and Secretary Rice's aide they've been doing to me, which is that I never sent or received any classified material. They are retroactively classifying it.
I agree completely with Secretary Powell, who said today this is an absurdity. And so I think the American people will know it's an absurdity. I have absolutely no concerns about it whatsoever.
TODD: All right, Madam Secretary, there is an open -- there is an open FBI investigation into this matter about how you may have handled classified material. Are you 100 percent confident that nothing is going to come of this FBI investigation?
CLINTON: I am 100 percent confident. This is a security review that was requested. It is being carried out. It will be resolved. But I have to add if there's going to be a security review about me, there's going to have to be security reviews about a lot of other people, including Republican office holders, because we've got this absurd situation of retroactive classifications.
Honest to goodness, this is -- this just beggars the imagination. So I have absolutely no concerns about it, but we've got to get to the bottom of what's really going on here, and I hope that will happen.
TODD: Well, Senator sanders, you famously at the first debate said you didn't give a darn about her emails; I think you used another (inaudible).
TODD: You're right. I'm trying to -- it's a -- it's a family hour still right now. After 11:00, I'll say it the other way. And you mostly have refrained from commenting on it, but recently you called it a very serious issue, and then the other day you said well she's getting slapped with the email controversy.
Are you -- how are you feeling about these darn emails now?
SANDERS: I am feeling exactly the way I felt at the first debate. There's a process under way. I will not politicize it.
TODD: OK. Senator Sanders, thank you.
SANDERS: And by the way -- and by the way, if I may, the secretary probably doesn't know that there's not a day that goes by when I am not asked to attack her on that issue, and I have refrained from doing that and I will continue to refrain from doing that.
MADDOW: Senator Sanders, thank you. Senator, in December, one of your campaign staffers was fired from your campaign for taking voter data essentially from the Clinton campaign. You apologized for that when the incident was made public.
Your campaign has now been criticized for its operatives essentially impersonating culinary union members wearing union pins in Nevada, and the Nashua Telegraph has complained recently that you falsely implied in an advertisement that they had endorsed you when they did not.
None of these issues obviously is the end of the world, but they all are of a piece. Are you in some sense losing control of your campaign?
SANDERS: Not losing control of our campaign. You know, we have hired a whole lot of people in a rapid way and I am familiar with the first two instances and they are unacceptable, and we have apologized and dealt with that.
In terms of the last one, as I understand it, we did not suggest that we had the endorsement of a newspaper. Newspapers who make endorsements also say positive things about other candidates, and to the best of my knowledge, that is what we did. So we never said, never said that somebody, a newspaper endorsed us that did not. What we did say is blah blah blah blah was said by the newspaper.
MADDOW: Just to follow up on that, the title of the ad in question was Endorsement.
SANDERS: But that was only for -- that was not to be on television. That's an important point. That was just something -- as the secretary knows, you put titles on ads and you send them out, but there was no word in that ad, none, that said that those newspapers had endorsed us.
MADDOW: Secretary Clinton, do you want 30 seconds on that issue?
MADDOW: And with that, we will (inaudible).
MADDOW: Welcome back to the University of New Hampshire, and the Democratic candidates' debate.
Secretary Clinton, on the issue of the death penalty, here in New Hampshire, the one person who is on death row is there for killing a police officer. It's a crime that has caused anguish in this state, both among death penalty opponents and death penalty supporters.
The last time I had the chance to talk with you on this issue, on the death penalty, you said that capital punishment has a place in a very few federal cases, but you also said you would breathe a sigh of relief if the Supreme Court abolished the death penalty nationwide. Tonight, do you still support capital punishment, even if you do so reluctantly?
CLINTON: Yes, I do. And -- you know, what I hope the Supreme Court will do is make it absolutely clear that any state that continues capital punishment either must meet the highest standards of evidentiary (ph) proof of effective assistance of counsel or they cannot continue it because that, to me, is the real dividing line.
I have much more confidence in the federal system, and I do reserve it for particularly heinous crimes in the federal system, like terrorism. I have strong feelings about that. I thought it was appropriate after a very thorough trial that Timothy McVeigh received the death penalty for blowing up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, including 19 children in a daycare center.
I do for very limited, particularly heinous crimes believe it is an appropriate punishment, but I deeply disagree with the way that too many states are still implementing it. If it were possible to separate the federal from the state system by the Supreme Court, that would, I think, be an appropriate outcome.
MADDOW: Senator Sanders, you have singled out the death penalty, and Senator Clinton's support for the death penalty, as an issue that makes it hard to consider as progressive in your mind...
SANDERS: ... Look, I hear what the Secretary said, and I understand, but look, there are -- all of us know that we have seen in recent years horrible, horrible crimes. It's hard to imagine how people can do, bomb, and kill 168 people in Oklahoma City, or do the Boston Marathon bombing, but this is what I believe, and for a couple of reasons.
Number one, too many innocent people, including minorities, African Americans, have been executed when they were not guilty. That's number one. We have to be very careful about making sure about that.
But, second of all, and maybe, in a deeper reason, of course there are barbaric acts out there. But, in a world of so much violence and killing, I just don't believe that government itself should be part of the killing. So, when somebody commits...
SANDERS: ... Somebody commits any of these terrible crimes that we have seen, you lock them up, and you toss away the key. They're never going to get out. But, I just don't' want to see government be part of killing. That's all. (APPLAUSE)
MADDOW: Another issue related to the proper role of government, and in this case, specifically the role of government between the federal government and the states. I want to talk for a moment about the issue of Flint, Michigan. On the Flint lead poisoning disaster, you have both been highly critical of Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan, and how the state in Michigan both caused the lead poisoning problem, and has not acted fast enough to fix it. You have both been outspoken on that.
The fact is that Michigan though has not fixed it. There is no door to door delivery of clean water in Flint even today. Not a single lead pipe has been replaced in Flint, even today. If the state is failing, would you, Secretary Clinton, would you as President order a federal response to get it right over and above the wishes of the state?
CLINTON: Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, Rachel, you and I have talked about this before. I thank you for going to Flint to hold that town hall. I will be in Flint at the Mayor's invitation on Sunday to get an in depth briefing about what is, and is not happening.
This is an emergency. Everyday that goes by that these people, particularly the children, are not tested so we can know what steps must be taken to try to remediate the effects of the poisoning that they have been living with is a day lost in a child's life. I know from the work that I've done over so many years, lead, the toxic nature of lead can affect you brain development, your body development, your behavior.
I absolutely believe that what is being done is not sufficient. We need to be absolutely clear about everything that should be done from today to tomorrow, into the future to try to remedy the terrible burden that the people of Flint are barring. That includes fixing their pipes, it includes guaranteeing whatever healthcare and educational embellishments they may need going forward, and I think the federal government has way where it can bill the state of Michigan. If Michigan won't do it, there have to be ways that we can begin to move, and then make them pay for it, and hold them accountable.
MADDOW: Senator Sanders are there things the President could be doing? President Obama could be ordering, done, right now, in Flint, Michigan that are not being done that you as President would do?
SANDERS: Absolutely. I think the Secretary described the situation appropriately.
SANDERS: You know, I don't go around asking for governor's resignations every day. In fact, I think I never have in my life. But I did ask for the resignation of Governor Snyder because his irresponsibility...
SANDERS: ... was so outrageous.
What we are talking about are children being poisoned. That's what we're talking about. We don't know, no one knows for sure because they haven't done the appropriate studies, but there's no question that kids' intellectual development may have been impacted. We don't know how many thousands.
The idea that there has not been a dramatic response is beyond comprehension. And when you have one of the, I think, significant public health crises of recent years, of course the federal government comes in.
And of course the federal government says, you're not going to be poisoning little kids and impacting their entire lives.
Last point on this. And I suspect the secretary agrees. One wonders if this were a white suburban community what kind of response there would have been.
SANDERS: Flint, Michigan, is a poor community. It is disproportionately African-American and minority. And what has happened there is absolutely unacceptable.
MADDOW: Senator, thank you.
TODD: Secretary Clinton, let me turn to the issue of trade. In the '90s you supported NAFTA. But you opposed it when you ran for the president in 2008. As secretary of state, you supported TPP, and then -- which, of course, is that trade agreement with a lot of Asian countries, but you now oppose it as you make your second bid for president.
If elected, should Democrats expect that once you're in office you will then become supportive of these trade agreements again?
CLINTON: You know, Chuck, I've only had responsibility for voting for trade agreements as a senator. And I voted a multinational trade agreement when I was senator, the CAFTA agreement, because I did not believe it was in the best interests of the workers of America, of our incomes, and I opposed it.
I did hope that the TPP, negotiated by this administration, would put to rest a lot of the concerns that many people have expressed about trade agreements. And I said that I was holding out that hope that it would be the kind of trade agreement that I was looking for.
I waited until it had actually been negotiated because I did want to give the benefit of the doubt to the administration. Once I saw what the outcome was, I opposed it.
Now I have a very clear view about this. We have to trade with the rest of the world. We are 5 percent of the world's population. We have to trade with the other 95 percent. And trade has to be reciprocal. That's the way the global economy works.
But we have failed to provide the basic safety net support that American workers need in order to be able to compete and win in the global economy. So it's not just what's in the trade agreement that I'm interested in.
I did help to renegotiate the trade agreement that we inherited from President Bush with Korea. We go the UAW on board because of changes we made. So there are changes that I believe would make a real difference if they could be achieved, but I do not currently support it as it is written.
TODD: Well, Senator Sanders, I know you want to respond on this, you have never supported a trade deal since you've been in Congress.
SANDERS: Absolutely right.
TODD: But if you do that as president...
TODD: If you do that as president, how are you not essentially letting China, who will do all of these deals around the world, how are you going to prevent China from essentially setting the rules of trade for the world?
SANDERS: Chuck, I believe in trade, but I do not believe in unfettered free trade. I believe in fair trade which works for the middle class and working families of this country and not just large multinational corporations.
I was not only in opposition to NAFTA -- and this is an area where the secretary and I have disagreements. I was not only in opposition to NAFTA, I was on the picket line in opposition to NAFTA because I understood -- I don't think this is really rocket science.
We heard all of the people tell us how many great jobs would be created. I didn't believe that for a second because I understood what the function of NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China, and the TPP is, it's to say to American workers, hey, you are now competing against people in Vietnam who make 56 cents an hour minimum wage.
I don't want American workers to compete against people making 56 cents an hour. I don't want companies shutting down in America, throwing people out on the street, moving to China, and bringing their products back into this country.
SANDERS: So, do I believe in trade? Of course, I believe in trade. But the current trade agreements over the last 30 years were written by corporate America, for corporate America, resulted in the loss of millions of decent-paying jobs, 60,000 factories in America lost since 2001, millions of decent-paying jobs; and also a downward spiral, a race to the bottom where employers say, "Hey, you don't want to take a cut in pay? We're going to China."
Workers today are working longer hours for lower wages. Trade is one of the reasons for that.
TODD: All right. Thank you both.
We're going to sneak in one more break here, and when we come back we'll squeeze as many questions as we can before we end this thing. We'll be right back.
TODD: All right. Welcome back here in the final minutes.
MADDOW: The home stretch.
TODD: The home stretch of this only Democratic debate in the final week before the primary.
Let me start with you, Secretary Clinton, on this question. Obviously, President Obama got a lot of ambitious stuff done in his first year and a half. You're going to have to make choices. And there's a lot of heavy lifts. And he made choices. He did healthcare and it came at the expense, arguably, of immigration reform. Had he put immigration reform first, perhaps that gets done and healthcare doesn't.
TODD: So there are three big lifts that you've talked about: immigration, gun reform, climate change. What do you do first? Because you know the first one is the one you have the best shot at getting done.
CLINTON: Well, I -- I don't accept that premise, Chuck. I think that we've got so much business we have to do. We've talked a lot tonight about what we're against -- we're against income inequality. We're against the abuses of powerful interests. We're against a lot of things.
I'm for a lot of things. I don't want to just stop bad things from happening, I want to start good things from happening. And I believe, if I'm so fortunate to get the nomination, I will begin to work immediately on putting together an agenda, beginning to talk with members of Congress and others about how we can push forward.
I want to have half a billion more solar panels deployed, the first four years.
I want to have enough clean energy to power every home the next four years. I want us to keep working on the Affordable Care Act, to get not only to 100 percent coverage, but bring down the costs of prescription drugs and out-of-pocket costs.
I want to move forward on paid family leave, on early childhood education, I want us to do more for small businesses.
Small businesses have to create most of the jobs, and we're not creating and growing small businesses. I think, if you have a smart agenda, you pick the committees that you know have to begin to work on these various pieces -- because that's the way Congress is set up. You go through different committees, and you really make a big push in the beginning.
Immigration reform, economic revitalization with manufacturing, with infrastructure -- we put it out there, and we begin to work on an ambitious, big, bold agenda that will actually produce the results that I want to see for our country.
TODD: All right, but Senator Sanders...
... you've still got to do something first. As you know, history said -- shows what you pick first is your best shot at getting, and how you prioritize things.
TODD: Immigration reform, for instance, fell by the wayside in the first term because of this.
SANDERS: ... I am absolutely supportive of comprehensive immigration reform and a path towards citizenship for 11 million people today who are living in the shadows. All right? We got to do that.
But you miss -- when you looked at the issues, you missed two of the most important. And that is you're not going to accomplish what has to be done for working families and the middle class unless there is campaign finance reform.
So long as big money interests control the United States Congress, it is gonna be very hard to do what has to be done for working families. So let me be very clear. No nominee of mine, if I'm elected president, to the United States Supreme Court will get that nomination unless he or she is loud and clear, and says they will vote to overturn Citizens United.
Second point -- second point is that the only way we make change in terms of health care, in terms of dealing with a broken criminal justice system which, today, allows us to have more people in jail than any other country -- largely African-American and Latino -- the only way we create millions of jobs by rebuilding our infrastructure or have a tax system that says to the wealthy that they are going to pay their fair share, is when millions of people become involved in the political process.
No, you just can't negotiate with Mitch McConnell. Mitch is gonna have to look out the window and see a whole lot of people saying, "Mitch, stop representing the billionaire class. Start listening to working families."
And as president, that's what I will work hard on.
MADDOW: Secretary Clinton, Republicans, particularly in campaign years, often talk about which departments of government -- which agencies of government they would get rid of if they were elected president. The EPA, the Department of Education, the Commerce Department, oops -- is -- is there a department of government that you would get rid of? Or is there a whole new one that you would create?
CLINTON: The answer to both of those is no. I'm interested in making what we have work better. I want to streamline programs that are duplicative and redundant. I want to have a top-to-bottom review about what works and what doesn't work, and be absolutely clear we're getting rid of what doesn't work.
I have had the opportunity to run a big agency. I was very flattered when Henry Kissinger said I ran the State Department better -- better than anybody had run it in a long time. So I have an idea of what it's going to take to make our government work more efficiently.
And when you put together a budget, you have to make a lot of hard decisions, but I think it's not appropriate to say "I'm going to get rid of this, get rid of that" until you have a very good process that gives you the information about what to do.
CLINTON: But I want to add something else, you know, because look, we have so much work to do in our country, and I think it's the greatest work that Americans will be called to do. And of course, we have to have people in every community involved in it. We have to have the political voice, the political grassroots speaking up and speaking out about what we have to try to accomplish in Washington.
But we also need to have a very clear set of goals that we are going to achieve, and we need to level with the American people about what they are, what they will cost, what will be expected of our citizenry. So I see as president having a constant dialogue with Americans here's what we're trying to get done, here's why I need your help, here's why you may think comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship isn't something you care about, but I'm telling you it will help fix the labor market, it will bring people out of the shadows --
MADDOW: Thank you, Secretary Clinton.
CLINTON: -- it will actually raise wages. You have to make all those connections so that you've got people with you every step of the way. That's what I want to do.
MADDOW: Thank you very much. Thank you.
TODD: All right, before we go, I want to ask each one of these. Secretary Clinton, you've made it clear when you look at Senator Sanders, you do not see a president, but do you see --
CLINTON: I never said that.
TODD: But do you see -- do you see a vice president?
TODD: Would you unite the party by trying to pick Senator Sanders as your running mate?
CLINTON: Well, I'm certainly going to unite the party, but I'm not -- I'm not getting ahead of myself. I think that would be a little bit presumptuous. If I'm so fortunate as to be the nominee, the first person I will call to talk to about where we go and how we get it done will be Senator Sanders.
TODD: Senator, would you consider the secretary?
SANDERS: I agree with what the secretary said. We shouldn't be getting ahead of ourselves. And as I have said many times, you know, sometimes in these campaigns, things get a little bit out of hand. I happen to respect the secretary very much, I hope it's mutual. And on our worst days, I think it is fair to say we are 100 times better than any Republican candidate.
CLINTON: That's true. That's true.
TODD: Secretary Clinton, closing statements. You are first.
CLINTON: Well first, thanks to MSNBC and thanks to all of you for holding this debate before the New Hampshire primary. I am going to campaign as hard as I can between now and Tuesday to earn your votes in that primary, and I hear some talk that people are trying to decide do they vote with their heart, do they vote with their head, I'm asking you to bring both your heart and your head to vote with you on Tuesday because we have a lot of work that can only come because your heart is moved.
You know, we didn't get to talk about the continuing struggles that Americans face with racism, with sexism, with discrimination against the LGBT community, with new Americans, with people with disabilities. Yes, we have income inequality, we have other forms of inequality that we need to stand up against and absolutely diminish from our society.
So I have been moved by my heart ever since I was a young woman about the age of a lot of Senator Sanders' supporters worrying what I can do to make a difference for my country, and I will bring that heart with me, but I will also tell you we've got to get our heads together to come up with the best answers to solve the problems so that people can have real differences in their lives that will make them better for now and into the future.
TODD: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Senator Sanders.
SANDERS: I -- my dad came to this country at the age of 17 from Poland. Didn't have any money, couldn't speak English, he died pretty young, and I think it would have been beyond his wildest dreams to see his son up here on this stage today running for president.
I love this country and my dad loved this country, and he was the most proud American because of what it gave him in terms of raising his family, even though we never had much money. But today in America, we are the only major country on earth that doesn't guarantee health care to all people, that doesn't guarantee paid family and medical leave. We have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country on earth. We are seeing millions of families unable to send their kids to college in the United States of America.
I'm running for president because I believe it is just too late for establishment politics and establishment economics. I do believe we need a political revolution where millions of people stand up and say loudly and clearly that our government belongs to all of us and not just a handful of wealthy campaign contributors.
TODD: Well, there you have it. I promise you, Rachel and I have a lot more questions, but we just don't have any more time, unless we could (inaudible) a third hour, but I don't think so.
Our debate coverage -- (inaudible) debate coverage will continue in just a moment with our colleague (inaudible).
And we want to thank all of you for being here, and we want to thank the two candidates for taking part in this important event.
MADDOW: We also want to thank our host, the University of New Hampshire, and the people of New Hampshire. You guys get to vote in just five days. I can't wait to see how it turns out. Don't screw up.
TODD: We'll see you in a few minutes. Thank you.