Transcript: Amy Klobuchar on "Face the Nation," August 25, 2019

Klobuchar: Trump uses tariffs "like a meat cleaver"

The following is a transcript of the interview with Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota that aired Sunday, August 25, 2019, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to "Face the Nation." We are now joined by Minnesota senator and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar. She joins us from Boston. Good morning to you Senator. 

SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR: Good morning, Margaret. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You've said before on this program that you agree with the premise of challenging China but you do it with allies and you wouldn't use tariffs. How exactly would you get them to the negotiating table? 

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: Right now you have complete chaos, Margaret, and you can use tariffs, but not the way this president has been using tariffs. He's been using them like a meat cleaver or maybe the better word is a tweet cleaver. And when you look at what he's done just on August 1st he announced three hundred billion goods, more tariffs. Then on August 13th they reversed it. Then on August 20th they said they were going to do taxes because of the fears of recession they were going to reduce taxes which of course would only add more to the debt that he's created. And then the next day they reversed that. 

And I think one common adage, when you deal with the rest of the world and you want to have credibility for our great country, is that you keep your promises and you keep your threats. And what he does is he makes these blustering threats like kicking all of our companies out of China that people don't think really he's going to follow through on. So what I would do is go back to the negotiating table with our allies examine these tariffs some of them can come off. Some of them could stay on and then make sure that we're using trade enforcement. 

I had my own experience with this to keep Minnesota iron ore mines open because of Chinese steel dumping. And at the end of the Obama administration we've called for and passed some laws, got more enforcement going. And they opened up again. That is not the careful targeted approach that this president is doing and as a result you've got soybeans sitting in bins in Iowa, you've got pork down to its lowest export levels in nine years. This is starting to hurt everyday Americans because of the chaos that he's created.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Democrats are- are running on this message that the economy isn't working for everyone. But in this latest CBS News poll we see the majority of people say the economy is good and they approve of President Trump's handling of it. Are Democrats out of step?

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: We're not out of step and I just know the people that I talk to they know the economy is stable and we've come out of the downturn because of the hard work and resilience of our workers and our businesses. But what a true leader does, there's an old Ojibwe saying that a true leader makes decisions not for this generation but for seven generations from now. This president can't make- keep his decision for seven minutes from now. 

What a true leader does it says "what are these challenges? What do I see on the horizon?" We know that we've got to do something long term about this debt. And he just keeps adding to it. We know we have to help people afford things like their pharmaceuticals. And he has done nothing. He's made a bunch of promises. 

I would take them on. It's this whole constellation of things where it's just too expensive for people to participate in this economy. And then the third thing that we need to do is to simply go back to the negotiating table when it comes to the trade war that he's created and then make sure that we are doing something about this debt in the long term. That's why I've opposed so many of his policies. Even if you just took these corporate tax giveaways, what he's done in that last tax bill, you could have so much more money--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: --to invest in people's everyday lives and infrastructure.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about Afghanistan. As commander in chief, you told the New York Times in your first year you would no longer have troops in that country. Senator Lindsey Graham is warning you go to zero, that's reckless. That risks having the country collapse into the hands of terrorists. So how do you balance that?

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: I look at it this way. We have people that were now are deploying that weren't even born when we got into Afghanistan. So, a lot of this is negotiating. You know this president because of the chaos that he's created on the foreign stage makes it so our allies don't always trust him. But that doesn't mean that you don't go back to the negotiating table and you try to negotiate. I think you've got to make sure that when you're dealing with the Taliban that you know exactly what they're up to what's going to happen. You want to make sure a lot of the gains we made with women in government and the democracy gains that we made in Afghanistan stay the same. But yes I think we need to start bringing our troops home. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Does any footprint need to stay?

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: You could always have training footprints and people working there ready to go if there is a complete upsurge. But I think that you have to make sure that this country can function on their own. And my concern right now is that if this president just keeps going back and forth on this once again they'll never step up. That's whe- been the past with Afghanistan.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We saw three 2020 candidates drop out recently. Seth Moulton, one of them, told the Times: "I think it's evident this is now a three way race between Biden, Warren and Sanders. And it's a debate about how far left the party should go." Do you feel those same pressures?

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: No I don't feel them at all because I've just made the debates for the fall. It's like making the playoffs. And it is a long haul number of our presidents that ended up being our presidents were in single digits at this point in the summer. And that's because I have a different kind of campaign. I am running a grassroots campaign. We have great teams in New Hampshire and in Iowa. And we're gaining support endorsements all the time.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: --I've won in rural areas. I've won with moderates. I've won with independents and liberals. I think that's what we need in charge of a ticket. And that's how I'm going to run this campaign. And it's how I'll govern when I'm president. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Lastly--

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: After a president like we've had we need it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Lastly on immigration. The White House said this week that they want to change the Flores agreement which would allow them to detain indefinitely migrant families but do it to- holding them together. The Obama administration also tried to get out from under the Flores agreement. Where do you stand on this?

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: This will end up in court. And my guess is that it will be thrown out because of the way this administration has handled immigration. But I think the bigger issue here, Margaret, is that if he really wanted to do something about this he'd pass comprehensive immigration reform which would be better for our economy instead of using these immigrants as pawns.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Klobuchar, thank you. We'll be right back with Josh Bolten of the Business Roundtable.