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Kirsten Gillibrand Town Hall. TRANSCRIPT: 3/18/19, All In w/ Chris Hayes.

Guests: Kirsten Gillibrand


ANNOUNCER:  Tonight, an All In 2020 special event --

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND, D-NY:  Now is our time.

ANNOUNCER:  -- from the battleground state of Michigan, Kirsten Gillibrand makes her case to the voters.

GILLIBRAND:  We have to restore the moral integrity of this country.

ANNOUNCER:  Tonight, the New York Senator on her vision for the country, how she plans to stand out in a crowded Democratic primary, and why she`s the one to defeat Donald Trump.

GILLIBRAND:  I have the compassion and the courage to get this done.

ANNOUNCER:  This is an All In 2020 candidate Town Hall with Kirsten Gillibrand.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  Hello and welcome to the Rochester Brewery and Taproom here in Auburn Hills just outside of Detroit.  It`s a great local craft brewery, and we are here for the first Town Hall of this primary season.  We`re here in Michigan, of course, which is one of the three states that flipped and gave the White House to Donald Trump in 2016 election.  He won by a razor thin margin, just 10,000 votes across this entire state. 

In 2018, things changed back, shifting back towards the Democratic Party with big statewide wins for the Democrats here in this state and in congressional districts like this one, which had not elected a Democrat to the House for a full term since 1964.  That streak was broken by Haley Stevens who won here in 2016.  All of these voters here are intending to vote in the Democratic primary, and they want to hear from the candidate on the issues that matter to them as we head into the 2020 race. 

Tonight we have the newest candidate in the field.  She just made her formal announcement, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.


GILLIBRAND:  Thank you.  How are you, Chris?

HAYES:  How are you?

GILLIBRAND:  Thank you for having me.

HAYES:  Come on up.

GILLIBRAND:  Hey everybody, how are you?  Hello, how are you?  Good to see you.  Nice to see you.  Thank you for coming.  Thank you guys very much. 

HAYES:  Have a seat.

GILLIBRAND:  Thank you.

HAYES:  All right.  Have you heard the term Gilli-fam?


HAYES:  Because there`s a Gilli-fam here.

GILLIBRAND:  Thank you.

HAYES:  We coined that phrase (ph).  You know, this is a question that I ask everyone who`s running, can it (ph) feel this crowded in a country where tens of millions of people are constitutionally eligible, why should you, Kirsten Gillibrand, you be the sole person that wields this powerful office, why should you be president?

GILLIBRAND:  I believe I`m the best candidate to take on President Trump, because I have the vision of what actually needs to be done in this country.  I`ve listened to voters all across this country about what`s going on in their lives and what their worries are and their challenges.

I have the compassion to fully absorb that and then offer a real plan, a real set of ideas about how can we solve these problems, and I have the experience.  I`ve actually gotten things done over the last 10 years in the Senate and 12 years in Congress, and brought people together to do the right thing.

And let me explain, when I talk to folks around my state of New York all across your state and states around the country, they`re worried about healthcare.  They want healthcare as a right, not a privilege. 

They`re worried about education; they`re worried about their kids in crumbling public schools, early childhood education, affordable quality college.  They`re worried about jobs. They want to be able to earn their way into the middle class, they want to live the American dream, and they`re really worried about corruption and greed in Washington.

They want money out of politics, they want publicly funded elections, and those are the things that I have actual legislation to get these things done.  It`s why I`m for Medicare for all, it`s why I`m for the Green New Deal, it`s why I`m for rewarding work, and it`s why I`m for publicly funded elections.

  HAYES:  So let`s talk - I want to talk politics.  You said you`re the best person to beat Donald Trump and policy.  Let`s talk about records -

GILLIBRAND:  And -- But I just didn`t finish, the one thing I just want to add is that my record in Congress is about bringing people together.  Not only did I win a two to one Republican district twice, the first time by six points, the second time by 24 points.

Then I served the U.S. Senate for 10 years, every election I brought the state together, I have the highest vote total of 72 percent.  That`s higher than anyone who`s ever run, President Obama, Secretary Clinton, any person who`s run statewide in its history.

And I get bills passed, big bills like Don`t Ask Don`t Tell repeal and the 9/11 health bill, money for our first responders who were dying of cancer because they did the brave things.  But also smaller things that matter.  In the last Congress, the Republican House, Senate and president, I passed 18 bills into law, things that would help Michigan like money for rural broadband, money for small businesses, money for made in America.

HAYES:  So let me ask you about the - you did win this relatively conservative district, in fact it was a quite conservative district, two to one as you mentioned.


HAYES:  And you had positions that were more conservative at times, you got an A rating from the NRA, you ran ads about the specter (ph) of illegal aliens.  What do you say to someone who looks at your political trajectory and says you were sort of pandering to those voters then and then you became a state wide politician in New York and you became liberal, and now you`re running a Democratic primary and you`re basically following what is most convenient politically?

GILLIBRAND:  First I also ran on, in 2005, Medicare for All because I travelled around my district and asked people what they needed, they were so worried about healthcare, they couldn`t afford it.

I also ran on getting out of Iraq, and when I started running on that issue very few of the people in the district supported it.  But by Election Day, 70 percent supported getting out of Iraq.  So I led on that issue, which is why I think I will be the best candidate. 

Now, on guns, I should have done more.  I regret, actually, not caring about other communities.  My community didn`t have the gun violence that other parts of the state had.  And in fact, the biggest issue for upstate New York was hunting rights.

And you know, my mother didn`t just cook the Thanksgiving turkey, she shot the Thanksgiving turkey.  So I came from a different lens.  But what - what I regret is that I should have cared more about ending gun violence in other places.  And so, the first thing I did when I became a senator was met with families who lost their loved ones to gun violence. 

And when you - a mother or father who`s lost a child to gun violence, there is no way you will ever not answer them directly and say, "I will do something to end gun violence."  And that`s what I did. 

HAYES:  So that`s the change?  I mean -


HAYES:  - when you talk about your change on this, what you`re -


HAYES:  - saying is you were convinced, through talking to these individuals, that you had the wrong position, and you changed your mind?

GILLIBRAND:  More than convinced, that I should have been better, that I was humbled and regretted that I didn`t think beyond the needs or the priorities of the people I represented, because the truth is we all have a responsibility to end gun violence in this country.  We have all to take on the corruption and greed that the NRA represents, of the gun manufacturers who want to sell weapons to everyone.

It doesn`t matter if you`re a teenager in a Walmart or someone on the terror watchlist or someone who has grave mental illness with a violent background or someone with a violent criminal record, the reason why they oppose universal background checks is because they want to sell those weapons to all those people. 

And you know, we`re having a debate in this country about what`s capitalism and what`s socialism.  Well, let`s just find one really important difference, there is a difference between capitalism and greed, and the line is when a gun manufacturer says, "I want to sell this weapon to anyone, at any cost and not care that it results in children dying on a park bench in Brooklyn."  It is unacceptable and is why all of us are required to stand up to the gun manufacturers, stand up to the corruption and greed that runs Washington, and hold them accountable.


HAYES:  You support publicly-funded elections.


HAYES:  You just talked about standing up for corruption and greed.  What affect do you donors have on you?  You`ve been criticized for raising money from Wall Street.  You`re a New York Senator, and New York Senators of whichever party get a lot money from Wall Street.  What does someone purchase when they max out to Kristen Gillibrand?

GILLIBRAND:  Absolutely nothing.  When someone gives you money for your campaign, it`s because they believe in you.  And my values have never been for sale.

HAYES:  If that`s the case, why - if it`s the case, then why - why is it so important to get publicly-funded elections?  If there`s no input to output correlation, right?


HAYES:  - then what`s corrupt about -

GILLIBRAND:  The reason why - the reason why we need publicly-funded elections, which is why I am, number one, not taking corporate PAC money, not taking federal lobbyist money, not having individual super PACs.  The reason why I`ve made those commitments is because it`s a first step.

And the reason why we need to get money out of politics is because of the way Washington works.  And what I`ve learned in 10 years is that the powerful have unlimited power, and money is the name of the game.  So when the NRA doesn`t want any gun reform, they funnel money into campaigns of candidates across this country to make sure they don`t vote for common sense gun reform. 

If you believe healthcare`s a right and not a privilege, well, you have to be willing to take on the insurance companies, because they funnel money into Washington with the most sophisticated lobbyists in the world to make sure we don`t have Medicare for all, to make sure they aren`t cut out of the system, because you know what the insurance companies do?  It`s a middleman.  They take a lot of money out of the system and doesn`t actually provide true value.  So that`s why we have to fight against that. 


When you`re suffering from the opioid crisis, like they are in my state and your state, states all across the country, what we have to do is take on the drug manufacturers who purposely made these drugs stronger, more addictive, and now that we have the documents, we know they did it because they wanted record sales. 

HAYES:  Should there be some accountability --


HAYES:  -- for these corporations? 

GILLIBRAND:  Absolutely. 

HAYES:  Is that something that you would pursue through the Department of Justice --


HAYES:  -- if you were President of The United States?

GILLIBRAND:  Let`s just take the opioid crisis, they should be prosecuted.  What we now know from internal investigations --


HAYES:  Who should be prosecuted?

GILLIBRAND:  I think the -- the -- what we know from the evidence that`s been gleaned from what the Sackler family did and how they looked at drugs as a way to make billions of dollars and making sure that the dosage was higher so they are more addictive, the way they dampened down any investigation, any -- any transparency and accountability, that is what we have to take on. 

And so if you`re not willing to do the hard work, which I am, to take money out of politics, to have publicly -- publicly-funded elections, to ensure voting right -- we as people, as Americans, everyone in this Town Hall, this is what democracy looks like, you looking me in the eye and saying "If you`re going to be my president, this is what I expect of you."

Until we restore what`s been broken, what`s been lost by getting money out of politics and changing who has the power in this country -- it shouldn`t be the elite of the elite, the most wealthy and the most powerful companies in America that can fund lobbyists, fund campaigns.  It`s all related, and that`s why I`m running for president, because -- it`s not just about President Trump, it`s about taking on the corruption and greed that defines everything.

HAYES:  Stick around.  Don`t go anywhere at home. We`ll be right back with this Town Hall with Kirsten Gillibrand in Michigan.


EDDIE OSMAN, MICHIGAN RESIDENT:  That`s what you needed?


OSMAN:  Here we go.  My name is Eddie Ossman (ph), and I`m the owner of the American Fuel Stop (ph) gas station.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Right across the street from you -- there was a manufacturer plant right across the street.

OSMAN:  That`s correct.  Used to be a Ford Motor Company doing the Lincoln.  Lincoln Town Car (ph), that was one of the profitable and busiest plant in the United States, and this company here used to have almost about 7,000 to 8,000 people.  People who worked over there for 20 years and suddenly they have no idea where they`re going to end up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, in this community it`s about jobs.

OSMAN:  It`s about jobs 100 percent, and like you ask me what do you need from my next candidate, what did I tell you?  Jobs.


HAYES:  Obviously jobs and the economy rank very high in the list for concerned Democratic primary voters.  That was Eddie Osman.  He`s a small business owner and an immigrant from Lebanon here in the Michigan in the 11th district.  We`ve also got some other Michiganders here - Rebecca Plessener (ph).  She`s a mom to a 1-year-old.  She works at Ally.  We`ve got AJ Freer (ph) who`s a VP of the UAW local 600.  He`s a third generation autoworker.  And Sonia Patel, she`s a member of the Democratic Club and she`s got a daughter who`s headed off to college.  Eddie, what do you want to hear from a presidential candidate about the economy?

OSMAN:  Jobs - what`s going to happen to our jobs?  Do I have to worry about it?  Do I have to worry about my kids that are right now (ph) 15, 16- years old?  They`re going to go to college.  Are they going to find any jobs after they finish college?  Are we going to be able to afford college?  What`s going to happen to the United States?  Is it going to still be number one economy power in the world?  Or like they say in 2030 (ph) China`s going to take over us?  Is all the jobs going to shipped overseas?  Are they going to stay in the United States? 

Are we going to be able to get a decent pay?  We`re not going to get like the minimum wage, live day-by-day.  Something is going to be like the old days.  Something where America is great and still something is going to make us afford to take vacations, not afford to not do that, afford to have home, luxuries?

HAYES:  What is the - your vision for what a middle class economy looks like?

GILLIBRAND:  So I think the most important thing that we have to do which, you know, frankly the country hasn`t focused enough on is rewarding work again.  Actually rewarding people`s work and what that means to me is four things.

The first is, let workers organize, collective bargain and form unions.  It`s so important when you have an --


GILLIBRAND:  -- a good (ph) representation because then you can -- workers can have a voice to make sure they have fair pay, good pay, and have good benefits.  It`s really important.  We have to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, $15, and get rid of the tipped wage and then index that to inflation.


GILLIBRAND:  So, many more (ph) reasons why.  The second idea is that we have to make sure a full employment is actually a national priority, and what that means to me to is to make sure that we can train workers.  Anyone who is underemployed or unemployed will get access to job training that is created in our community colleges, state schools, apprenticeship programs, not-for-profits, with the employers directly so you have a pipeline to jobs and fully fund that. 

The third thing I would do, which helps our moms and dads is, we have to change the infrastructure of work and what that means to me is the National Paid Leave Plan, we`re the only industrialized country in the world that doesn`t have it. 

We need to actually understand that all workers need that, whether it`s a parent who`s dying and sick, whether it`s a loved who`s ill, whether it`s a new baby.  Affordable daycare, universal pre-K and making sure it`s equal pay for equal work, and then --


GILLIBRAND:  -- that the infrastructure of work (inaudible).  And last, we need to reward good corporate behavior and punish behavior, so you need carrots and sticks. 

Carrots are things like a bill that I just passed in the last Congress, again with the Republican House, Senate, and president signed into law, which was a made in America bill to help more manufacturers get access to more government funding to help them grow manufacturing jobs, and then if a company ships jobs overseas, I`m introducing a new bill this Congress, that they will be punished, that we can actually take back any tax deductions or tax benefits they had and take away any tax breaks, because they cannot be rewarded. 

And if I am President of the United States, I promise you I will work on rewarding work in all these ways, but I will also make sure no company outsources our jobs without paying a penalty.


HAYES:  Yes.  So, I just wanted to follow-up, because A.J. sitting right there works for UAW, and I have watched, in my career of following politicians around, I have heard them talk about, we`re not going to let corporations outsource jobs.  Every politician I`ve ever seen, because it gets applause.  People don`t like outsourcing of jobs.  And guess what`s happened, lots of outsourcing.


HAYES:  Donald Trump was the best at running this particular con.


HAYES:  I guess my question to you A.J., as someone who watched this happen, right, in terms of your membership, like what concretely, tangibly, what are you looking for when people talk about making sure that the jobs stay here in a place like Michigan?

A.J. FREER, MICHIGAN RESIDENT:   It`s an honor, Senator.  And we`ve seen in the auto industry, over 30 years, the most dominant current example is General Motors shipping five plants overseas.  They received $50 billion in a bail-out, you`ve been good in your voting record on supporting autoworkers.  I`ve checked it out.  They received a five -- over $500 million tax credit from Trump and his corporate tax cut. 

Now, our workers that have been in auto factories work harder than anybody else in the world, and we know that these jobs are being sent away to exploit workers.  They have no health and safety regulations in China and Mexico.  They have no rights to real unions, they have rights to fake unions, run by companies.

As the President of the United States, the 50, 60-year-old auto worker who`s seen his job leave is tired of hearing, you`re going to have to learn a new skill set.  They don`t want to hear you need to learn to code.  They don`t want burial insurance.  They want their jobs.  They want the right to work in dignified, good-paying jobs, and they`re also concerned about those good-paying jobs being here for their children and grandchildren.


UNIDENTFIED MALE:  So we`re looking in the auto workforce for a real solution to these problems that have developed over 30 years.

GILLIBRAND:  OK, so I think there`s a couple of things we need to do.  As I said, making sure our unions are strong, fighting against right to work states is going to be priority, because it`s just pushing down wages and making sure people don`t have collective bargaining rights, which we think is an outrage.

In terms of the auto industry particularly, I think there`s ways we can incentivize keeping jobs here through the Green New Deal.  One of the things that that bill`s about, which we`ll talk about later I think, is about energy efficiency.  So when you have a manufacturer who`s making cars, there`s a whole industry ahead of us about energy efficient cars, about battery propelled cars, about less carbon emission cars.

We are the greatest investors in the world.  People who work in your industry have been investing and building cars for decades, for generations.  So why not unleash the innovation, the entrepreneurialism of your industry to actually create the cars of tomorrow, and if you create a tax incentive so that it`s so much cheaper to do that car manufacturing here in America, because you are solving the problem, that is a win-win for everyone.

And so, I - the reason why I believe the Green New Deal is such a market opportunity is because it`s a strategy to keep jobs here, to create innovation, and I also believe we should put a price on carbon.  And the reason why this is so relevant to you -- so when you have manufacturers that send jobs overseas, they`re producing typical, traditional cars that are polluting the environment.  Why not reward the innovators in the United States with much lower taxes and tax requirements to incentivize capital flows to keep those jobs here?

FREER:  Can I follow up on that?

GILLIBRAND:  Yes, please.

FREER:  I think you make outstanding points, and I love your vision.  The thing I`m interested also to know is, you talked about making it incentivized for the companies to stay here.

GILLIBRAND:  Yes, yes.

FREER:  We`re looking for real solutions to make corporations want to stay here, so that`s going to include more regulation.  It`s going to include more laws.  Is there specifically things that when you win presidency -


FREER:  - that you want to enact right away?

GILLIBRAND:  Well, the tax benefits to make it cheaper to put a manufacturing plant in Michigan today to manufacturing cars.  That -- money flows when tax rates are lower.  That`s just how the economy works.  The other thing I would do is take on China in a very different way than Trump does.  So Trump has started a trade war.  When you start a trade war, you`re not holding China accountable.  In fact, you`re just raising prices.  Steel, a fundamental input for manufacturing, because we have a trade war with China on steel, it`s raising the cost of you producing that steel in American because of his trade war.

HAYES:  Let me - I want to ask - stop for one second.  Do people - how does it feel - positive or negative about the tariffs?  Negative?  Put your hand in the air if you`re negative on the tariff.

GILLIBRAND:  Negative.  The trade wars are a disaster, but you have to hold China accountable, because what they did before is they would dump steel on the markets and -

HAYES:  Right.

GILLIBRAND:  - and totally undermine our manufacturing and our competitiveness, and we didn`t hold them accountable enough.  So there`s a difference between holding a country accountable and starting a trade war.

HAYES:  Let me turn to Rebecca -

GILLIBRAND:  Should I follow up?

HAYES:  I want to turn to Rebecca just for -

GILLIBRAND:  OK, we`ll talk more.

HAYES:  - time purposes and talking about for the - the situation you`re in.


HAYES:  Situation near and dear to my heart, as I have a 1-year-old at home and three kids.  What would you like to hear from the Senator?

PLESSNER:  Sure.  So I had a baby last year.  He`s actually 11 months old today, and I`m fortunate enough to work for a company that has a very generous paid leave program, which was fantastic, but being off made me realize -

GILLIBRAND:  What`s your child`s name?

PLESSNER:  His name is Theodore.

GILLIBRAND:  Do you call him Theo?

PLESSNER:  I call him Theo.

GILLIBRAND:  Oh my, did you set this up?

HAYES:  I did not, but I -

GILLIBRAND:  That is my oldest son`s name.

HAYES:  I know -


GILLIBRAND:  And did you know Theodore means gift of God?

PLESSNER:  I did not know that.

GILLIBRAND:  Did you know that?

PLESSNER:  He`s certainly a gift from god.

GILLIBRAND:  That is the best thing about that name.

PLESSNER:  Oh my gosh (ph), I love that.  Well very cool.

GILLIBRAND:  So tell me more about Theo (ph).

PLESSNER:  Yes absolutely.  So I just realized when I was off like how difficult it is to be a new mom, how crazy I felt all the time.  And like I said, I had the time off, but I just don`t understand how women do it without that flexibility.

So I know you talk about -

GILLIBRAND:  How did you have the time off?

PLESSNER:  Yes, so my company provides four months of paid family leave.

GILLIBRAND:  Paid leave? Oh my goodness, so you`re one of the lucky ones.  Yes, she is a lucky one. 

HAYES:  Can I just say there is just a - there was a room wide gasp over - over what is the bare minimum of OECD paid family leave in the rest of the industrialized world.

GILLIBRAND:  Yes, you realize - you realize less than 16 percent of American workers have access to paid leave.  And we are the only industrialized country in the world that doesn`t actually have paid leave as a national priority.

So what`s your question?

PLESSNER:  So my question is how are you planning to enact that, like what are your visions for that, what are -

GILLIBRAND:  Well the vision -

PLESSNER:  -- how are you going to get people to sign onto that?  It seems like a very obvious thing to me.

HAYES:  That`s a good question.

GILLIBRAND:  OK, I`ll tell you how.  So first of all, the American people want national paid leave.  Let`s start there.  We even have a president who I agree with on basically nothing talking about the need for paid leave.

HAYES:  It`s true.

GILLIBRAND:  We have Republican candidates talk about paid leave and many Democratic candidates.

So the country is in agreement, we need national paid leave.  The best way to provide national paid leave is to make it an earned benefit, so that you buy in over your lifetime whether you`re working full time, part time, big business, small business, so that it`s yours.

It`s the way for a small state, like when I was talking about this idea years ago, a place like North Dakota, they vetoed paid leave because the state wasn`t big enough to pass it on their own. New York and California have already passed paid leave.  But not smaller states, because they don`t have enough people.  And so if you bought in .2 percent of your income, it`s basically two dollars a week, would you pay two dollars a week to get access to paid leave?


GILLIBRAND:  Of course you would.

PLESSNER:  Of course I would.


HAYES:  So this works like social insurance, like -

GILLIBRAND:  It`s like social security, it`s the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and if I go to every employer in America and say would you buy every employee of yours one cup of coffee a week so that he or she can have paid leave when their family member needed it, overwhelmingly small businesses that can`t offer it, they don`t have the ability, don`t have the resources to offer it will say "Yes I can offer that."

And there`s no overhead because it`s just like social security. 

PLESSNER:  So, sorry can I - can I clear up something?

GILLIBRAND:  Yes, yes. 

PLESSNER:  OK, so both me and my employer would be paying into this fund?

GILLIBRAND:  Yes, two dollars a week.  So it`s not a lot of money -

HAYES:  So like unemployment, insurance, disability, social security.

GILLIBRAND:  It`s $104 a year for employees, you pay, they pay, that`s not a great deal of money and one that if you create this fund, Chris, when your employer says "Oh gosh, she`s going to be out for three months, I`m going to have to hire a quick replacement worker or a temp," they can use your old salary to begin to fund that temp, because now you`re going to get the payment straight out of your fund that you bought in.

So it`s yours.  You get to take it with you everywhere you go.

HAYES:  Sonia, you`ve got a - you`ve got a daughter who`s in college now, is that right?

SONIA PATEL, MICHIGAN RESIDENT:  No, she`s in high school, I have a son in college.

HAYES:  Son in college, and you`re sort of thinking about what their career or job opportunity is going to look like, what would you like to hear?

PATEL:  Right, well I had so many fears for them that I didn`t have before, I mean there`s -they`re children of immigrants, now I worry about my daughter, I worry about, you know, if she`s ever assaulted no one`s going to believe her.

I worry about the opportunities presented for her, I worry that she`s going to out work anyone, but I don`t know if she`s going to be paid for that work.  I just - I feel as a mom in this day and age, everything is different.

GILLIBRAND:  So many issues. OK, so we`ll talk about education first, and one of the problems with President Trump is Betsy DeVos.

I voted against Betsy DeVos, I voted against most of President Trump`s nominees for his cabinet because they were either unqualified or they did not have the experience necessary.  I have the best voting record against Trump nominees of anyone else running for president.


GILLIBRAND:  And the reason why I`m so disturbed about Betsy Devos`s exact words, she said she doesn`t actually want to enforce Title IX requirements, she doesn`t want to protect survivors of sexual violence on a college campus.  I`ve been working on a bipartisan basis -- and remember, bipartisan basis about how you get things done with -- with an array of senators from all different backgrounds including Marco Rubio on this issue --

PATEL:  Wow. 

GILLIBRAND:  -- on this issue of how do we end -- how do we end sexual violence and assault on a college campus.  We need transparency and accountability, we have to have a nationwide survey so every kid in America can fill out a form saying do you feel safe, have you been assaulted, if you have did you report, if not, why not.  That would create transparency and accountability overnight.

We need memorandums of understanding to work with law enforcement so if someone is a survivor and wants to go to law enforcement, they won`t` be laughed out of the police station, which happens all the time.   And you need to make sure that you hold them accountable, and to make sure anyone who deals in these cases is fully trained, so that`s issue one. 

You also were worried about affordability.  Student debt is one of the biggest crises we have in this country today.  I believe that the federal should not be making money off the backs of our students and that`s exactly what`s happening --


GILLIBRAND:  So one of the quickest ways to get rid of student debt is refinance all federal student debt at the lowest rate for debt that`s available.  So your house mortgage, your business loan --


GILLIBRAND:  -- today that`s about four percent.  If you refinance all federal debt at four percent automatically you would be $15 billion right back into the economy. 

HAYES:  Wow. 

GILLIBRAND:  I also think that we should --


GILLIBRAND:  -- make college more affordable to more kids.  Imagine telling every American kid if you do public service for a year, you get two years free of community college (inaudible) --


GILLIBRAND:  Imagine if you told them -- imagine if you told them if you -- if you do two years of public service, you get four years free. 

PATEL:  Wow. 

GILLIBRAND:  That would create a pipeline of kids doing service for someone else.  And I promise you, when you spend any time putting others before yourself -- any time, whether you`re in healthcare or education or as a first responder or as someone in the military -- it`s an expansion of the G.I. bill.  And it works.  The G.I. bill is one of the greatest economic engines in our history.  So that`s my big idea for how more kids can get to education that`s much more affordable, because it`s free (ph). 

PATEL:  I like it. 


HAYES:  We`ve got some more questions from folks here.  I want to thank Eddie and Rebecca, A.J. and Sonia.  Thank you so much.  We`ll be back with some more Michiganders with their questions for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.  Don`t go anywhere.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I like lollipops.



BROOKS:  When I was out knocking door-to-door for various candidates, I was talking to a lot of people in the area.  A lot of people are also interested in healthcare and were concerned about healthcare.

My name is Teresa Brooks (ph).  I am a wife, a mother, and a physician.  I never considered myself to be a political person, and that really changed in 2007, 2008 with the candidacy of Barack Obama, and I was very inspired by him.  But then I stopped paying attention and I got complacent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When it comes to healthcare, what are you hearing from voters?

BROOKS:  Obviously I`m a physician, so I`m in the industry.  And so, it is something that I see everyday, day-in and day-out.  And there`s a lot of concerns that people have especially with their insurance - their health insurance.  People really want a healthcare system that can work for them.  I think it`s important for everyone to have access to affordable healthcare.


HAYES:  That was Michigan physician Teresa Brooks who is here to ask a question from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. She`s joined by some other Michiganders.  We have joining her Rick Joseph who is 2016 Michigan Teacher of the Year.  He`s from the Birmingham Public Schools.


HAYES:  We have David Sanchez who`s an immigrant rights organizer with Michigan United.  And Nayyirah Shariff who`s the director of Flint Rising. 

Teresa, you have a question on healthcare for the Senator?

BROOKS:  Yes, so I am a physician, and as a physician and a healthcare provider, we are on the frontlines.  So I`ve seen many concerning things on healthcare recently especially. I have a patient who he works, he has a job, but he cannot afford the premiums that are rising, he cannot afford the $900 a month premiums. He also makes too much money to qualify for the ACA and Medicaid, and he`s too young to qualify for Medicare. So he is literally praying every day that he doesn`t develop some catastrophic illness until he`s able to qualify for Medicare.  I have a patient just last week who told me he couldn`t afford his insulin, and he was asking me what could he do. 

And insulin, you can`t live without insulin if you`re an insulin-dependent diabetic.  It`s a life saving medication.  And I have a lot of patients that are of mature population and they live on a fixed income and they cannot afford these rising premiums and co-pays and healthcare costs that are happening.  So, you know, I know that you support Medicare for All.  How would that work?  How you would implement it, how would you get it done?

GILLIBRAND:  Yes.  So I believe, as I think most Americans do, that healthcare should be a right and not a privilege.  And that means you have to fight for universal coverage that`s affordable and quality for everybody.  I think the quickest way you get there is you allow anyone to buy into Medicare at a price they can afford -- something like four or five percent of income.  They buy in, so it`s an earned benefit and they are qualified automatically for Medicare.  What that does at a minimum is create competition in the system immediately.  Those insurers, I don`t think they are going to compete.  They refuse to lower their rates; they`re pricing people out of the market today. 

But for the Affordable Care Act they were dropping people with preexisting conditions and under President Trump they`re going to keep dropping people with preexisting conditions.  So the truth is, let`s have a not-for-profit public option compete for the business.  I think over a couple years we`re going to transition into single payer.

HAYES:  So I just want to be clear on that.


HAYES:  So you`re not saying start with single payer.  What you`re saying is introduce potentially a buy-in option --

GILLIBRAND:  Correct. 

HAYES:  -- and it`s possible that private insurance continues to exist under that --


GILLIBRAND:  I dare them. 

HAYES:  That`s OK with you (ph).

GILLIBRAND:  I dare them, because I don`t think they will meet the needs because they`re a for-profit company.  When your goal is to make money for your shareholders, you are not giving that patient the medicine they need or the treatment they need or the extra day in the hospital they need because it doesn`t allow you to make enough money. 

So I don`t think they will compete.  So create this not-for-profit public option as they transition.  I imagine within a few years most of Americans are going to choose Medicare, because it`s quality, it`s more affordable I mean in your own mind, just think four or five percent of income on what you make today.  Is that cheaper or not?  It`s going to be cheaper.  If you make $100,000, it`s $4,000 a year.  It is cheaper. 

And almost -- most Americans earn less than that, so that would be what I would do because Medicare works.

HAYES:  Rick, you had a question for the senator. 

RICK JOSEPH, MICHIGAN RESIDENT:  I started my career in Chicago as a bilingual (inaudible) teacher, Spanish is my second language and as a National Board certified teacher I`m aware of the role that teachers play as leaders.  I also was recently in El Paso, Texas, and I`m happy to report the only crisis on our border has been manufactured by this administration.

GILLIBRAND:  True facts.


JOSEPH:  And I would was there through an organization called Teachers Against Child Detention and my colleagues Amy (ph) (inaudible) teaches refugees and immigrants in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and one of her student wrote this poem, I want to read it to you.

She`s from El Salvador.  She says, there was nowhere else to but here.  No schools to danger.  No friends to danger.  No life to danger.  (Inaudible) -- the painted ones, in the (inaudible) too much danger.  They rape, they rape, they rape, they kill.  Girls have no chance.  There was nowhere else to go but here. 

So the refugees that come to our Southern border, they come because of these dire situations, so I`m wondering what you will do as president to address these issues related to immigration and how we can uphold our immigration policies so that we enshrine asylum seekers and refugees and give them the opportunity to practice their rights and seek asylum.  And then in -- on a greater level how can we address equity issues at the federal level for education policy so we make sure that we are supporting equitable funding initiatives across our country?

GILLIBRAND:   So, immigration first to me (ph), education second.  I believe that immigration has always been a strength of this country.  Our country was largely founded by immigrants and largely built by immigrants.  Our diversity has always been our strength.  It`s what creates entrepreneurialism, in the nation all across America for our entire history and in our best moments we have not of been afraid of immigrants.  In our worst moments we have.

We have a Statue of Liberty standing in New York Harbor with that beacon of light and hope saying, send us your tired and your hungry, send us you huddled mass of yearning to breathe free.  She stands for something.  She stands for the fact that this country has always welcomed it -- not always, its best moments welcomed immigrants and that is not what we`re seeing from this president today. 

What he has done on the border is inhumane and intolerable.  He is separating families, children from parents, mothers from babies and locking up people in facilities that are run by for-profit prison companies.  It`s an outrage.  I would get rid of all that.  That should not be under ICE, it should not be under Homeland Security. 

Immigration is not a security issue.  It is an economic and a humanitarian and a family issue.  So --


GILLIBRAND: -- there is no such thing as an illegal human.


GILLIBRAND:  I believe we have to fundamentally transform how we treat people seeking asylum and refuge, because in my state and I know in your state, you have immigrant populations across this state.  Refugee populations that make your economy stronger, that make your city and states stronger, that makes this country stronger, we should not be afraid of refugees and asylum seekers and mothers and babies seeking our help. 


HAYES:  I want to see if David has a follow-up question about immigration policy.  Yes.

GILLIBRAND:  Yes, go ahead.

DAVID SANCHEZ, MICHIGAN RESIDENT:  Senator, thank you.  Yes, I`m from one of those immigrant communities you talk about, Southwest Detroit, born and raised in Detroit.  My grandfather came to Southwest Detroit in the 50s just to make a better life for himself and his family and me, his grandson, right, which is working out.  So, I really appreciating him for that.  And there`s still family there that are making life for themselves, creating that beautiful culture, diverse culture that you`re talking about, but there`s also Michigan being right off of the border, border patrol and ICE that is devastating families. 

A lot of earlier immigrants decades and centuries ago didn`t have to go through a huge militarized police force to begin to start their lives here, right?  I know grandmothers that have been detained in detention, low hanging fruit who check in with ICE all the time.  I know grandmothers that have tethers on their ankles, unfortunately.  All right?

And my question is to you -- so for one, as a immigrant rights organizer, I found a really great policy that -- that I supported and tried to get the senators in Michigan to support the DATA Act, which you sponsored.  And what that does is put some oversight on ICE and border patrol and collects data of who they`re doing traffic stops for. 


SANCHEZ:  Right?  And that`s how we can see if it`s racial bias or anything like that.  And I`m wondering how you would get Democrats and Republicans together -- right now it seems like we`re so far to the right.  A lot of conservative people have taken the country a step backward.  I`m wondering how you can bring us back to do things that just make sense, to hold up our freedoms and values that we hold so dear. 

GILLIBRAND:  I think you have to talk about common ground.  Because the truth is everyone knows that diversity is a strength no matter where you go in this country because they see it.  So I would just remind them about why immigration -- and our story as Americans shows that our strongest and best moments are when we welcomed immigrants and our lowest and darkest moments are when we did not, -- and remind people how important immigration is.  But the bill that you mention is something that I authored because we have a community and border too.  And anyone here in Michigan knows we do enormously great things with Canada. 

We have economics, we have businesses, cross-border transactions, we have kids going on field trips.  This is why our border matters and the way people are treated at that border really matters, that`s why I authored the legislation to say we need transparency and accountability, we need to know how many times they`re stopping someone, what they`re stopping them for.  Are they stopping them because they don`t like the color of their skin or are they stopping them because they actually have a concern?  That`s the data we don`t have and that`s why I supported that bill, because we have to get rid of institutional racism. 

And we have institutional racism in so many parts of our communities, we see it in the criminal justice system but we also see it in every day instances like healthcare, education and jobs.  And this is one area where I think transparency and accountability can help us. 


HAYES:  Nayyirah, do you have a question for Senator Gillibrand? 

NAYYIRAH SHARIFF, MICHIGAN RESIDENT:  Yes.  Today is the 1,780th day since Flint residents have had clean drinking water.  And actually next month will be the fifth year anniversary since the switch.  And over the course of those five years we have residents who are facing multiple adverse health issues around drinking water and being exposed to lead, bacteria and other contaminants.  And one of the issues at the federal level is one there is no money or investment to invest in our infrastructure where we`re constantly having contaminants being reintroduced into our water system.  The other thing is we do not have any health-based standards at the federal level. 

And how can you, one, ensure that there is long term recovery for Flint residents, but because -- not only do we have drinking water crises not only within the state of Michigan but in other populations around the country.  So we`re also facing a burgeoning water affordability crisis --


SHARIFF:  -- because water is becoming more and more unaffordable for poor income residents across the country. 

GILLIBRAND:  Yes.  So I believe that clean air and clean water is a human right, and I believe that every American should have access to it no matter what. 


GILLIBRAND:  I -- I -- I`ve been serving on a committee that`s in charge of clean water for 10 years.  I have made clean water one of my absolute areas of focus and priority.  I have a bill that we`re hoping to introduce in this Congress called the Pipe Sac (ph), to do exactly that, to give communities like Flint, Michigan, to actually form water, because I know you`re running out of access to bottled water and people can`t afford it.  So you should have a right to clean water.

The second thing we should do, is for other areas of degradation, I know you have PFAS in your state, which is a chemical that`s used in fire fighting foam, it`s also used in manufacturing, you have legacy pollution throughout your state because of your history of manufacturing.  Polluters should be paying.  They should also be paying for medical monitoring, and this is what Flint resident`s need. 

You should have access as a matter of rights to full medical monitoring, because whatever that -- the toxins that your children, that your families have drank during that entire time when you were exposed to toxins and chemicals and led that are harming your children, your families and yourselves, you should have a right to doctors that have the expertise and that can monitor you over your lifetime and make sure you get the medical help you need. 

That is what we put in place when we passed the 9/11 health bill, because these were the first responders who raced up the towers and came down and then breathed in all the toxins because EPA told them the air was safe under George W. Bush. 

So, what we need, just like President Trump today, EPA is trying to roll back every type of requirement should have clean air and clean water, President Trump is letting polluters pollute and rolling back any protections. 

And as President of the United States I would make clean air and clean water a national priority and no one in Flint, Michigan would not have to clean water and wouldn`t have access to basic medical support and medical care.

HAYES:  We`ll be -- thank you all for your questions.  We`re going to be right back here in Auburn Hills, Michigan, with more with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.  Stick around. 


HAYES:  We are back here with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in Auburn Hills, Michigan, and I want to ask you a question and we`re going to take a few from the audience before we wrap up here.  This is a question that I get from a lot of people - viewers emailing me.  It has to do with Al Franken.  There are people that e-mail me all the time who are angry at you because they feel like you played some kind of untoured role in pushing out Al Franken after allegations came out against him. 

And then in light of a New York Times story about a staffer on your staff who complained about sexual harassment from someone else on your staff and fought - and quit in protest of the handling of that issue which she felt was not handled, and people have e-mailed be to say what does - what does the Senator say about her own record when it comes to sexual harassment?

GILLIBRAND:  So I believe we as a society must value women.  It`s so important that we value women, which is why when a woman or a man comes forward who has an allegation of sexual assault or sexual harassment that you believe them, and that you do a full, thorough investigation so that justice is possible. 

I`ve been taking on this cause throughout my Senate career, whether it happens in the U.S. military where so many survivors are disbelieved and not just disbelieved but they`re retaliated against.  I take it on, on college campuses because there are colleges across America who`d rather shove it under the rug than have transparency and accountability.  I take it on in Congress, passing -- with the help of many colleagues, including Ted Cruz -- a new sexual harassment bill for how Congress deals with sexual harassment. 

In terms of my own office, the woman who came forward, she was believed, her allegations were taken seriously, they were fully investigated thoroughly and immediately.  Her allegations did not rise to sexual harassment but we did find evidence of derogatory comments.  The person that she alleges against was punished and this employee was dearly valued.  I told her that she was loved by us, by our office, by personally, I hugged her and she was deeply valued. 

In terms of Senator Franken, it was a very hard issue for so many Democrats, because the truth is we miss him and people loved him.  But he had eight credible allegations against him of sexual harassment for groping, two of them since he was a Senator and the eighth one that came out was a congressional staffer. 

And I had a choice to make whether to stay silent or not, whether to say it`s not OK with me, and I decided to say that.  Now, Senator Franken was entitled to whatever type of review or process he wanted, he could have stuck it out, stayed in the Senate, gone through his ethics committee investigation for as long as he wants, forget how many months.  He could have sued all of the eight women who came out against him.  Those were his choices.  But I had to make my choice. 

Now, I am a mother of boys and the conversations I was having at home at the time were very upsetting.  Because Theo said to me, "Mom, why are you so tough on Al Franken?"  And as a mother I had to be really clear, it is not OK for anyone to grope a woman anywhere on her body without her consent, it is not OK to forcibly to kiss a woman ever without her consent.  It was not OK for Senator Franken, and it was not OK for you, Theo, ever.  So I needed to have clarity.  And if there are a few Democratic powerful donors who are angry, because I stood up for women who came forward with allegations of sexual harassment, that`s on them.


HAYES:  Tell me your name and your question. 

NADA AL -HANOOTI, MICHIGAN RESIDENT:  My name is Nada Al-Hanooti.  I`m with MDH USA, we`re a nonprofit focused on engaging the -- politically engaging most of the minority communities. 

So I`m a Palestinian American, I was -- I was born to immigrant parents.  My mom was born and raised in a refugee camp in Syria.  She actually just received her citizenship three days before Trump`s inauguration.  So with the Muslim ban happening, my mom feared traveling because she does not -- she does not speak English, and she was afraid of harassment from Homeland Security giving her dual citizenship.  And this fear is with her having citizenship. 

And most of my community, the Muslim community does not have citizenship and their fear -- they have daily fears day to day with being deported, being separated by their homes.  And now with last week`s incidences we have another layer -- added layer of fear with New Zealand. 

Our place of solitude and sanctuary, the mosque, has now been compromised.  My mom spends most of her time there.  Our community members spend most of their time there, and our president is not even defending us.  He`s promoting Islamophobia, and he does not see white nationalism as a threat.  So my question to you is what will you do about white nationalism and will you repeal the Muslim ban - that executive order for the Muslim ban?

GILLIBRAND:  I will stand up against white nationalism, and I will repeal the Muslim ban as soon as I`m president of the United States.  Now -- but to answer your broader question - to answer your broader question, one of the reasons why I am running for president is because what Donald Trump has done to this country.  He`s made her family afraid to worship.  He has spread fear and hate and degradation across this country.  He has spewed hate, racism, anti-Semitism and has inspired more. 

Now, Donald Trump did not create hate and racism and bigotry and anti- Semitism, but what he has done is poured fuel on a fire that is raging more than I`ve ever seen it in my lifetime.  Hate crimes have gone up exponentially all across my state, all across the country, because of what President Trump has unleashed.

I had the courage to stand up for him - to stand up against him.  I had the courage to fight what needs to be done, because it`s not just about him.  It`s the corruption and greed that destroys everything in Washington.  It makes it impossible to do the right thing, to make it impossible to end gun violence, to make it impossible to pass healthcare as a right, not a privilege, to make it impossible to take on the drug companies on the opioid crisis.  So that`s really what we`re up against. 

And so, each one of us has a choice today to say will we defend this democracy?  Will we as Americans fight for what we believe in?  Will we as Americans reject that hate that her family has to go through every day?  Will we say this is not who we are as Americans?  Will we take back that right to vote through making sure we have voting rights?  Will you kick money out of politics and make sure we have publicly funded elections?  Will you fight with every fiber of your being because everything that you care about is at stake?


And let`s just talk about national security for one minute. I know from law enforcement that this Muslim ban, that this hatred about Muslims means that Muslims are afraid to work with law enforcement, afraid to come forward to make sure our communities are safe as they always have. 

I am a Senator from New York state.  We are still often the number one terror target in this country, so I spend so much time and effort getting resources for our first responder to make sure they can have the money they need, to make sure we deal with terrorism. 

I`ve been on the Armed Services Committee for 10 years.  I focus on how we defeat terrorism worldwide, but I promise you, you do not defeat terrorism by being hateful.  And let me tell you another thing.  When I went to Syria - and God bless your mother to survive those refugee camps - I met with mothers that could well have been your mother, and they looked me in the eye and they said you are so afraid of Osama Bin Laden.  When you turn a blind eye to people suffering here in Syria, you`re creating thousands every day. 

So that is what Donald Trump is creating.  He is making us less safe.  His hatred makes us less safe.  His Muslim ban makes us less safe.  So I will protect this country.  I will make sure that we are safe, but I will make sure that we remember that we are at our best when we love one another, when we treat others the way we want to be treated.  When we believe in the golden rule and we care about the least among us. 


HAYES:  I want to thank everyone here at the Rochester Mills Brewer and Taproom, all the audience here in the great state of Michigan and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.  Please join me in -- in thanking her.