Transcript: Sen. Cory Booker on "Face the Nation," April 21, 2019

Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker

The following is a transcript of the interview with Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey that aired Sunday, April 21, 2019, on "Face the Nation."


BOB SCHIEFFER: You may have noticed – we hope you noticed – that last week Face the Nation was off the air due to the Masters golf tournament. But here at the broadcast, we did not stop working. After New Jersey Senator Cory Booker officially announced he was running for the Democratic nomination last Saturday, Margaret Brennan caught up with him in Newark.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You think there's too much infighting in the Democratic Party right now?

SEN. CORY BOOKER: I think that we have - and saw in the last election - people- a lot of infighting that- that undermined our ability to win that election. I plan on being the nominee, but if I'm not, I'm going to make sure that we unify behind whoever is there. Because again, we can't fight each other, and as opposed to unifying each other, which was going to make us stronger. And so in this election- this is why I talk about things like grace. Why I start talking about things about a more courageous empathy for one another. Because there are definitely a politics in this country that believes that they will do better if they can divide us against each other. I'm going to run a race, not getting down into the gutter, not trying to fight darkness with darkness. I'm calling to a more courageous empathy, a more - a revival of civic grace, for us to get us back to what I think patriotism is.

MARGARET BRENNAN: New Jersey is a pharmaceutical hub.

SEN. BOOKER: Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You've signed on to Bernie Sanders' proposal of this "Medicare for All" bill. What happens to all those companies and people employed by those touching the insurance or drug industries?

SEN. BOOKER: We share a value in America, and that's where we should always start, our common values, that nobody in this country should go bankrupt because they get sick or put aside lifesaving drugs because they can't afford them. That's a value I think all Americans share. So now the question is how do we get there? I think the best way to get there is "Medicare for all." But there are a lot of pathways to get to that end, and we've got to start now.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So what happens though to the private insurance companies and to the private pharmaceutical companies under your vision of this--

SEN. BOOKER: Under my presidency--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --plan.

SEN. BOOKER: --well hopefully in my first hundred days we're going to put forward having a public option for Americans. That means doing things like lowering Medicare eligibility down to 55, which by the way would actually lower costs for even the private insurance because you'd see more older people moving out. Number two, one of the biggest drivers to health care costs in this country is the price of those pharmaceutical drugs. It's unacceptable. So we would use the power of Medicare to negotiate down costs.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But this doesn't mean doing away with private health insurance. This doesn't mean the government's setting drug prices.

SEN. BOOKER: Listen, we live in a country where-- of 180 million Americans have private insurance and are satisfied with their insurance, and we have unions who have negotiated for their insurance rates. Anybody that's going to come forward with a bold health care plan has to show what the pathway to getting there is. And the first way we can start to earn trust on that way is to create a viable public option.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What is Cory Booker's immigration plan? Do you accept that there's a humanitarian crisis?

SEN. BOOKER: I- I accept that there's a humanitarian crisis that is being caused by this president. There is a humanitarian crisis when you throw children into cages and separate families. That's a human rights violation. We can keep our country safe and strong and honor human rights as well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you do with the record number of family units that are crossing?

SEN. BOOKER: Well, first of all, Donald Trump's not even listening to his own people. You- you have--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well what does Cory Booker do?

SEN. BOOKER: Well, I'll tell you what Cory Booker does- the exact opposite of what he's doing. You have a president that is not supporting those places where it's sourcing the immigration in the first place. We do lots of foreign aid from Africa to- to- to th- the- the Middle East. We should be making sure that those countries that are going through crises that are causing all this immigration that we're doing more to intervene, to support human rights and basic dignity in those countries. That's a lower cost way to do- to deal with it than to have the horrors of these families with small children trying to make thousands of miles journey to come through our borders. And at our border, we need to make sure that we have an asylum system that actually works as Republicans and Democrats designed that asylum system to work.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What is your view on how the attorney general has described what he has said was spying on the Trump campaign?

SEN. BOOKER: For the attorney general of the United States of America to make such a claim, back it up with no evidence whatsoever, de-legitimized his position as an independent- he's not the president's attorney general. He's the attorney general for the United States of America. The highest law enforcement officer in the land. I think what he did was unfortunate and eroded even more of the trust the American people should have in their attorney general.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Margaret's full interview with Senator Booker is available on FaceTheNation.com