Transcript: Sen. Amy Klobuchar on "Face the Nation," June 30, 2019

Klobuchar downplays Democratic differences after first debate

The following is a transcript of the interview with Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota that aired Sunday, June 30, 2019, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back. We are now joined by Minnesota senator and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar. She joins us from Minneapolis. Good morning, senator. 

SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR: Thanks, Margaret. Hello. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: We saw this historic moment with President Trump stepping into North Korea. And I wonder, if you're commander in chief, would you continue the diplomacy that he has started? 

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: You always have to talk to everyone when it is American security and the world's security at stake. But he keeps having these summits and meetings that really don't produce anything. There's been a number of them now, and this time, you know, you just can't look at this as going over and talking to your dictator next door and bringing them a hot dish over the fence. There is a lot more. And what this is about, is making sure that there are measurable results, that we have a plan when we go in there and we just haven't seen that. In fact, just in May you saw North Korea launch another missile into the sea in violation of the U.N. resolution and to me, you need to have a plan to denuclearize that peninsula or at least reduce those weapons immediately, and I just don't see that happening, yes. 

But yet, we know that talks are good, but I just don't see this president- when you look at what happened in Iran when he got out of that agreement and we were 10 minutes away from war and a month away from them blowing the caps when it comes to uranium- enriching uranium. When you look what he did with the nuclear agreement with Russia, he is constantly- climate change pulling us back from working with our allies to try to solve these problems. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You said there, North Korea would denuc- denuclearize or at least need to reduce their arsenal. Would you accept them as a nuclear power?

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: I- no, I would not. What I'm saying is you need to have steps and measures and you would- could start there and then of course you have dates and you have times and you have a focus and you have a plan. But that is not what he does. He goes and gets a letter and says, "I love the guy," right in the face of the Warmbier's, who lost their son, Otto. So I am concerned just because of the track record here. Talk is good, but if all it is is talk it doesn't produce anything for national security for America and international security for our allies. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: As Commander-in-chief what would you do differently with China? What leverage would you use to get them to capitulate on trade?

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: I would first acknowledge to the American people very clearly the problem here. The surveillance, the intellectual property violations are basically stealing our blueprints, what they have done when it comes to subsidizing industries and manipulating their currency. The second thing that I would do is to work with our allies and to push them, and I wouldn't have just walk away from every negotiating table, months goes by. I think you have to keep at it methodically. And mostly, I wouldn't have used the approach they've used. Yes, targeted tariffs, but they have used basically a meat cleaver or maybe we should call it a "tweet cleaver" when it comes to how they're dealing with these other countries. 

And when you talk to Larry Kudlow and he talked about the patriotism of our farmers, I'm in a very heavy ag state. Iowa, my neighbor is a heavy ag state, North Dakota. I've talked to farmers in those areas and what they tell me is, they're not going to get that soybean market back in one year because that market has gone to farmers in other countries. And so that's why there's an urgency to this when we have an 891 billion dollar trade deficit, which is the worst that we've seen. You can't just keep talking about it. You actually have to get it done. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You heard me ask Larry Kudlow about Republican senators' concerns about Huawei. You are a sitting senator, would you vote to ban American companies from doing business with them? 

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: I don't think we should be doing business with them right now. And I agree with my colleagues not just Senator Rubio, but also Senator Warner, Mark Warner, who is the ranking on the Intelligence Committee, that this is a major security risk for America. You know,  you look at everything from China to Russia using cyber against us. It is the modern warfare we certainly know that from our elections in 2016. They may not use tanks or missiles but they can go after our electric grid. They can go after our security in a very different way. And so I don't know why he would just give that away right now. I would think that he would put firm, firm standards in place as part of any agreement with China. And that's not what we have. We just have another promise that they're going to buy American agriculture. Okay, that's positive. But I wouldn't give it up in that short term gain for the long term where we need to protect our security and our cybersecurity. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about the debates this week. One question to many of your colleagues and competitors was whether their health care plan would cover undocumented immigrants. Would your plan do that? 

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: As part of comprehensive immigration reform, we must move forward on making sure that people have health care. California just did that with Medicaid, and I am supportive of that but I think on the national basis, as we go forward, get immediate health care for people, yes. But as part of making this actually happen, you need comprehensive immigration reform. And one thing that was missing from the NBC debate, actually, that I hope we can discuss, is that we have a humanitarian crisis at the border right now. But we also did not talk about the other immigrants that are here. The people who are here on temporary legal status, we've got hundreds of thousands of people that are legally here that are at risk or are being deported that work in our nursing homes and our hospitals. We have got dreamers, two million of them, that came to this country through no fault of their own and are a major part of our economy. So, we need to have an economic discussion about this, as well as a border discussion--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay, so-- 

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: --and that's why I want to move forward, as president, with comprehensive immigration reform. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So that was a yes? That your health care plan would cover--

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: That was a yes--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: --for immediate health care needs, but as far as other benefits I think we need to- that has got to be a part of the discussion of comprehensive immigration reform. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay, because they were excluded from the existing Obamacare law. 

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: That is correct. Yes. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you are- I mean you- you- you call yourself a pragmatist. You're, in many ways--

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --perceived as a moderate from the Midwest. Do you feel, sometimes, that the rest of the party is- is- is leaving you behind? That it's--

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: No--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --gone so progressive? 

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: I think- I- I- I think- I'm thinking the issues you're focused here on, for instance, Medicare for all- and I want universal health care, I just got a different way to get there. And as I said in the debate, I don't think that we should take away people's right to their private insurance and kick half of America off of their private insurance. I think there is a better way to do this and that strengthening Obamacare, taking on the pharmaceuticals. On free college for all, I made it very clear, I want to expand Pell grants, make it easier for kids to go to college. But I don't think- and that's what some of these plans do, that we should be using taxpayer money to finance rich kids to go to college. Many of our public universities, something like 10 percent of the kids come from families that make over 200,000 dollars a year. 

And I think that taxpayer money is better used to get free community college, to help kids get certifications, when those are some of the fastest growing degreed jobs we have in this nation. And so to me, this is a legitimate policy argument about how we help people afford college, help them pay off their loans, make bold policy changes, which this president is not doing. But I think there's room in our party for a legitimate debate. I just think it's important to realize there's a lot more that unifies us than separate- that there's a lot more that unifies us than there is that divides us, and that divide right now is with the American people and the president. He promised them pharmaceutical prices going down, they've gone up. He promised them infrastructure, he has done-- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: --nothing. He promised them a safer world when he got out of the Iranian agreement. It is not safer. That's the case we need to make. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, we'll look for you on that next debate stage. Thank you very much, Senator Klobuchar.