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Interview with Bernie Sanders. TRANSCRIPT: 7/10/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Bernie Sanders


DONNA EDWARDS (D-MD), FORMER CONGRESSWOMAN:  But I do think this continues to be a fight that gets played out within the caucus on these substantive issues. 

HAYES:  I think so, too, particularly those bills.  Donna Edwards and Matt Fuller, thank you both. 

That is ALL IN for this evening. 

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.  Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris.  Thanks, my friend.  Much appreciated.

And thanks to you at home for joining us.  Happy to have you here. 

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is here in studio for an interview.  I`m very excited to be talking with Senator Sanders.  I saw him at the debate in Miami and we haven`t had him here in studio for an interview in a long time.  I`m very excited he`s here.  He`s going to be here in just a moment. 

Also exciting today, the U.S. national soccer team that won the World Cup this weekend was celebrated in truly perfect, raucous and over the top fashion today with a ticker tape parade through downtown Manhattan.  This was just -- just pure joy.  The excitement and the enthusiasm, just the glee in the city, particularly from lots of kids in the city, it was absolutely palpable today.  It was so great. 

Whether or not you were in New York City and you were able to make it, or whether you just might have seen these images today, the footage and the coverage, it was such a nice national bright spot in the news.  Just worth letting it wash over you, right?  Just worth pausing to let it just make you happy for a moment.  It was so great. 

I think especially it feels great because the news has been so dark lately, right?  It`s nice to have something that is pure gleaming glee because the news has been dark.  I mean, even today, the weird news was dark. 

Like this new reporting over the last 24 hours from the great David Fahrenthold at "The Washington Post."  David Fahrenthold`s new reporting for "The Post" provides all Americans today with basically formal front page notice that among the ways this president and his family are continuing to make money from their private businesses on the side during his time in office is by doing this event with a Miami strip club. 

And this is not like a historical thing that turned up.  This is this week.  You can meet your caddy girl Friday, July 12th, that`s the day after tomorrow.  You can also RSVP for your caddy girl.  I don`t exactly know what that means, but in order to do it, you call one of these numbers or you just show up at the strip club.  That`s the strip club address. 

But that event that starts on Friday at the strip club continues on Saturday at the Trump National Doral.  You can see, that`s their logo here.  And I believe also on this flyer for the event, I believe that is the Trump family crest as well, although you shouldn`t hold me to it.  I think it is. 

Some of the other promotional materials like this one posted at show that in addition to the base rate for getting the caddy girl of your choice, again you can earth buy the girl outright or you can bid for her at an auction.  In addition to the base rate for your caddy girl, you can also -- see right here under the Trump family crest, you can pay for a VIP upgrade, which is a combined package where you get three days and two nights` stay with breakfast at the president`s hotel combined with a half hour in the VIP room plus bottle service at the strip club with full nudity. 

So, you get a special stripper package combined with a stay at the president`s club. 

Now, I mention, there are a few different ways you can give the president your money here through this event.  You can sort of do the buy it now plan or you pre-reserve the nude dancer that you want and you get to pick her out specifically.  Or you can roll the dice, press your luck, and instead go to the auction the night before the event, the live auction, where you can`t just pick the girl you want and buy her, all of the girls that are remaining will be sold off to the highest bidder one by one. 

So, after you purchase your chosen nude dancer, either directly or at the auction on Friday night, then on Saturday at the president`s club, you get to take her out for a round of golf.  The organizer from the strip club tells David Fahrenthold that on the golf course, the dancers would be promised -- they were that the dancers would wear, quote, pink mini skirts and what the organizer from the strip club called a, quote, sexy white polo. 

Now, if that`s not what you were after, if that is disappointing to you given what you were going to be spending on this event, the president`s venue, take heart.  After you are allowed to do the golfing thing with the promised pink mini skirts and the sexy white polos, right after that, the plan for the event is that everybody leaves the president`s golf club and goes back to the strip club itself if you get the VIP package, transportation is provided. 

And that`s the part where there would be less clothing than there would be on the golf course.  Again, this is a strip club that advertises full nudity on a normal day.  For this event involving the president`s golf club and the Trump family crest, the strip club says it would be planning a, quote, very tasteful burlesque show which only could involve nudity.  They just say, could involve nudity, they`re not promising. 

There`s a little ambiguity there, little excitement and suspense as to just how naked the event would ultimately become. 

So, this was reported last night by David Fahrenthold, a Pulitzer Prize- winning reporter who has followed the money in the Trump business empire from the beginning of Trump`s term in national politics.  In David`s initial report last night, he got a statement from the Trump Organization confirming that the nude dancer event is happening at the president`s golf club.  In a statement from the Trump Organization, the business not only confirmed the event was happening, it bragged for a worthwhile cause, a Miami charity was reportedly going to get some of the proceeds of this event after the president`s club got paid its cut. 

By this afternoon, the supposed charity beneficiary had announced that they no longer wanted anything do with this event.  So, after that announcement from the charity backing out, for several hours that, left us with the impression that this was just going to be the president`s club hosting a nude dancer auction for money straight up regardless of a worthy cause, but as we were getting ready to get on the air tonight, about an hour and a half ago, we got word that after a little bit of national discussion on this matter driven by "The Washington Post`s" reporting, the president`s family business has as of tonight decided that they are not going to go through with this after all. 

I mean, obviously, this is fine.  I mean, this is -- you know, this is what you might expect from an American presidency.  I mean, I blame Obama.  Who among us doesn`t recall how President Obama`s frequent nude dancer auctions at the private business he and Michelle kept operating while he was president, that kind of broke the seal in any potential outrage over that kind of thing.  After all his nude dancer auctions. 

I`m sure, that`s why the president`s business had been planning this event why no one much cared until because of the outrage over Obama doing exactly this kind of thing.  No one cared until the ended up on the front page of the "Washington Post."  I mean, I had been wondering if maybe the Pence family would show up.  It would be interesting to see, would they be more fiscally responsible and go for the buy it now nude dancer of your choice or maybe they try their luck with the auction?  What do you think, Pence family? 

Again, as of tonight, though, within the last hour or so, we have new this is has been called up.  It`s still up at  So, maybe people will still show.  Apparently it has been cancelled. 

The idea, though, that President Trump would be trying to profit from something like this, would be trying to hold an event like this involving the use of his family crest and all of rest, I mean, it`s sort of just, you know, Wednesday in an average Trump presidency news cycle. 

But on a day like today, it`s hard to avoid that this sort of thing is -- it`s not just a one-off, right?  This is what the Trump presidency has been like in an ongoing way.  It seems like it`s going to continue.

I mean, today in addition the strip club nude dancer auction at the president`s golf club news, in the same news cycle, we also got this eyebrow raising ruling from a federal judge in Florida, which is about the Florida massage parlor owner who had mysterious ties to the Chinese government and Chinese communist party organizations while she was simultaneously marketing access, literally offering to sell access for cash to Chinese national who wanted to attend the events with the president and his family and his cabinet officers at the president`s for-profit club, Mar-a-Lago. 

The woman in question who has been photographed at Mar-a-Lago, including in the company of the president, who has herself become a pretty serious Republican Party fund-raiser in the Trump era, she is the original owner of a string of massage parlors, but specifically the massage parlor where the owner of the New England Patriots football team, Robert Kraft, got caught up in a prostitution sting.  Robert Kraft and more than 20 other people were charged with prostitution offenses related to that massage parlor.  He has pled not guilty, but those charges are pending. 

Meanwhile, here is Mr. Kraft having dinner at the president`s table two days ago at an event honoring the emir of Qatar.  And now, I don`t know if there were massages at that event, but in this presidency, weirdly, you almost feel like you have to ask. 

And now, this federal judge in Florida has just issued the short order, giving prosecutors the go ahead to file classified evidence with the court in a related case, because the president`s Mar-a-Lago club, massage parlor, prostitution ring, cash for access scandal is now affirmed by this judge in Florida to also have a nexus to a counterintelligence investigation that`s currently under way into potential Chinese government spying in South Florida in general and in President Trump`s Mar-a-Lago club in particular. 

That nexus gave rise to this order from the federal judge allowing prosecutors to file classified evidence with the judge, rather than allowing that evidence to be seen publicly or by the grand jury or even by the defense.  The judge ruled that, quote, the court finds that the classified information referenced in the government`s motion and memorandum implicates the government`s classified information privilege because the information is properly classified and its disclosure could cause serious damage to the national security of the United States.  Quote: It is ordered that the government is authorized to withhold from the defendant the specified information outlined in the motion. 

In addition to the classified evidence counterintelligence part of that, the Justice Department is also reportedly investigating whether the massage parlor corruption scheme around Mar-a-Lago might have involved funneling foreign donations to Republican Party entity and causes. 

Now, to be clear and to be fair here, we should not confusion the various profit-making enterprises that the president and his family are running alongside his time in the Oval Office, we should recognize that they are separate entities here, that they are running as their side business in addition to the presidency.  I mean, let`s be clear.  The nude dancer auction with the we promise they are sexy polo shirts and the mini skirts and the burlesque show with full nudity afterwards, that`s the president`s club in Florida that`s called Doral.  That is a totally separate presidential property from the Chinese spying massage parlor prostitution ring scandal, that one is associated with the president`s other business in Florida which is called Mar-a-Lago. 

So, to be fair, understand that this is both properties totally separate scandals.  And I understand at this point, a couple of years into this, it can be a little hard to disambiguate these things.  We have never have scandals anything like this with any president ever, let alone multiple scandals like this running simultaneously.  It`s hard to keep them all straight. 

But with this president, this is what the news is like now.  And on days like today with news cycles like this, I will admit to finding it a little -- I don`t know if it`s unnerving, it`s at least unsettling that those kinds of stories I just described from today`s news cycle, those are unspooling in today`s news alongside this continually devolving scandal in Washington. 

This today was President Trump`s labor secretary, Alex Acosta, giving a lengthy press conference in which he addressed his role as a U.S. attorney in Florida, in a still murky deal in dozen years ago in which he and his office signed a federal, non-prosecution agreement with Jeffrey Epstein, a wealthy and well-convicted connected sexual predator who did serve a little bit of time with generous provisions for work release on state prostitution charges in Florida. 

Alex Acosta is feeling the need to explain his actions from back in the day related to the Epstein case, because Epstein is now facing decades in prison, even though Alex Acosta wouldn`t bring charges against Epstein when he was the U.S. attorney in Florida.  And when the FBI amassed enough evidence for a 50-plus page indictment against Epstein in Florida, when Acosta was the U.S. attorney there, even though Acosta wouldn`t bring federal changes against him, somebody else finally did bring considerable charges against Epstein, in this case for sex trafficking.

Jeffrey Epstein has pled not guilty.  He is facing 45 years in prison if he is convicted and sentenced to the maximum term.  Well, today in Washington, the press conference by Labor Secretary Alex Acosta was designed, it seemed, to signal that he is not planning on resigning over the scandal. 

Labor secretary also took questions.  This was clearly him showing he is willing to face criticism on this matter, willing to face his critics. 

But Alex Acosta`s defense started to boomerang on him.  This I did not expect.  In a bunch of different ways, what Secretary Acosta did today and in particular the information he released to the press today seemed to have made things worse for him in terms of efforts to justify his previous actions and to justify why he shouldn`t be apologizing now at least if not resigning over his role in the scandal now that Jeffrey Epstein is facing federal charges since Acosta couldn`t bring himself to bring similar charges when he had Epstein in his clutches years ago.

I mean, first of all, there`s the fact that a federal judge has not ruled that Alex Acosta`s office broke the law when they made this non-prosecution deal with Jeffrey Epstein without notifying Epstein`s victims that they were doing so.  Acosta is gong to face some sort of sanction in federal court for having broken the law in that way, right?  The judge has already said Acosta`s office under his leadership broke the law by not telling the victims about the deal before they did it.  We are waiting to find out what his sanction is going to be from the court. 

That itself makes it remarkable that he is still a cabinet official and hasn`t resigned or been fired.  But even today, while mounting the defense and knowing that that decision from the court is pending in terms of his fate, Acosta still has no answer on that issue.  And he has no apologies for Epstein`s victims either, even though he was explicitly asked today if he saw any need that he should apologize to them. 

Remember, he did this deal with Epstein without telling Epstein`s victims that he was doing it, which was against the law.  And, in fact, to make it all worse today, Acosta released a declaration from his lead prosecutor who worked on the case which include some damning admissions that don`t help Acosta on it at all. 

For example, the materials that Alex handed out to the press today in the big defensive press conference included this letter in which his lead prosecutor working under his leadership in his office spelled out explicitly that Alex Acosta`s office stopped efforts to notify victims about this non-prosecution deal specifically because Epstein told them to, because Epstein`s lawyers demanded that they stop telling the victims.  Acosta`s office spells it out explicitly in this letter to Epstein`s lawyers why they stopped victim notification about Epstein`s deal. 

Quote: Three victims were notified shortly after the signing of the non- prosecution agreement, notified of the general terms of that agreement.  You, meaning you Epstein`s lawyers, raised objections to any victim notification and no further notifications were done.

So Acosta`s office has already been found by a judge to have broken the law by not telling the victims about the deal they were giving to Epstein.  Acosta just released information showing us all that his office admitted in writing that the reason they didn`t notify more victims is because Jeffrey Epstein told them not to.  That`s why they stopped. 

I mean, so that`s a problem for Labor Secretary Alex Acosta.  That is not getting better with his supposed defense that he mounted today.  In fact, that would seem like it`s getting worse. 

Also, the materials that Acosta distributed today in his own defense additionally show that his office, Acosta`s office believed that Epstein was breaking the terms of the non-prosecution agreement they had signed him up to.  Quote: It is clear neither you nor your client ever intended to abide by the terms of the agreement that he signed.  They put that in writing.  Acosta`s office, Acosta`s prosecutors saying, you were never intending to abide by that deal. 

Well, OK.  I mean, once you have got an alleged perpetrator who you decided to give a non-prosecution agreement to for whatever reason, once that perpetrator violates the terms of that agreement, then deal`s off.  Agreement`s broken.  You are no longer bound by it.  Prosecute away, right? 

But Alex Acosta`s office never prosecuted Jeffrey Epstein.  And Acosta in his own defense released this information today, I mean, purportedly as part of the reason you are supposed to feel better about his actions.  It doesn`t make things any better for him.  In fact, and it would seem to make things worse. 

You not only gave Epstein this deal, your office believed that Epstein broke the deal and you still didn`t prosecute him? 

And the even bigger problem for Acosta is that what he strode to the podium to say today, his main argument for why he did this non-prosecution deal with Epstein back in the day was that he was actually trying to be the real hero in the Epstein case.  In the past, Acosta has been able to be vague in his justifications for why he did this agreement to not prosecute.  He`s been able to be vague about it because he never faced all that much pressure.  He didn`t find the scandal to be any sort of barrier to the Trump administration, picking him to be in the cabinet. 

But now, Acosta is under pressure and so, now, he is having to spell it out and the main case he made today is that he had to do this non-prosecution deal with Epstein because the state of Florida was screwing it up.  Remember he was the federal prosecutor there.  He said state prosecutors had evidence on Epstein, but they were not going to be able to get a proper conviction or proper sentence. 

And so, Acosta had to swoop in with this inexplicable deal.  A federal non- prosecution deal that would have Epstein pleading guilty to one state charge and doing time in a county jail where he got let out every day on work release where his private driver picked him up and drove him home. 

Today in response to Secretary Acosta`s press conference, the top state prosecutor on the Epstein case responded with a written statement.  Quote: I can emphatically state that Mr. Acosta`s recollection of this matter is completely wrong.  My office, the state attorneys` office, took the local police department`s investigation of Epstein to a grand jury and subpoenaed witnesses.  The grand jury returned a single count indictment, a felony solicitation of prostitution, a third-degree felony. 

Subsequently, so thereafter, the U.S. attorney`s office, Alex Acosta`s office produced a 53-page indictment that was abandoned after secret negotiations between Jeffrey Epstein`s lawyers and Mr. Acosta.  The state attorney`s office was not a party to those meetings and negotiations and definitely had no part in the federal non-prosecution agreement. 

No matter how my office, meaning how the state office resolved the state charges, the U.S. attorney`s office, Alex Acosta`s office, always had the ability to file its own federal charges.  If Mr. Acosta was truly concerned that the state`s case and felt he had to rescue the matter, he would have moved forward with the 53-page federal indictment that his own office drafted.  Instead, Alex Acosta brokered a secret plea deal that resulted in a non-prosecution agreement.  It closes: Mr. Acosta should not be allowed to rewrite history. 

So honestly, bottom line, this just turned out to be an unusually gross day in the news even for the Trump era.  If I had access to a shower in my office, I would have used it to get through the process of reading on these developing stories.  But as a legal matter and as a political matter in terms of the future of this cabinet official, it does seem to me like this cabinet official, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta made the case against himself worse today with this defense he rolled out, which is immediately contested by the person who the defense pointed at. 

And also with the specific information that he handed out to the press about the Jeffrey Epstein case and how it was handled under his leadership at the U.S. attorney`s office in Florida. 

That said, I`m not a lawyer.  I`m just an easily grossed out middle aged person who reads the news for a living.  So, that is my sense.  But we ought to check it out with somebody who knows these things. 

Joining us now is Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney, former senior FBI and Justice Department official. 

Chuck, it is great to see you.  Thanks very much for making time to be here tonight. 


MADDOW:  So, I understand that you were able to see Acosta`s press conference today and look at some of the materials that he handed out.  Let me ask you about the impression that I had as a non-lawyer looking at the materials, feeling like at least the public case, the non-legal case Acosta is making to justify his position, his actions in the Epstein case seem worse.  They don`t seem to me to be helped by the material he distributed. 

ROSENBERG:  He said a couple of things that made sense.  I can start with that, because it`s much shorter and a bunch of things that made no sense at all. 

The things that made sense, Rachel, these are hard cases and you want to be very sensitive to the victims.  That`s where the logic in his press conference ended, right? 

There is no -- the state`s attorney in Florida is 100 percent right.  If Alex Acosta thought that the case was not properly handled by the state, he had the complete ability to bring charges federally.  They had the draft indictment. 

He did say that the cases are hard.  Again, I will reiterate.  They are hard.  But they had more than 30 minor child victims in this case.  Even if a bunch didn`t want to testify and I completely understand that, some number would. 

And oh, by the way, if some number would not and didn`t feel like they had the quantum of proof they needed, they simply could have continued the investigation until they did.  There was no sort of time stamp on this.  There was no urgency to negotiate a non-pros agreement.  It doesn`t add up.  It doesn`t make sense, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Let me drill down on the last point you were making there, because this was something that dawned on me today that I had not previously appreciated with this case.  I mean, Acosta has basically said that he didn`t feel like he could bring charges for whatever reason.  I mean, there`s chapter and verse on this.

He didn`t feel like he could bring charges.  That doesn`t mean though, that he had to bring an affirmative non-prosecution agreement regardless of what the state did.  Acosta could have just let this investigation run.  He affirmatively chose to enter into this non-prosecution agreement without any imperative to do so. 

ROSENBERG:  That`s right.  So, first of all, just for context, we don`t normally, in fact, we don`t routinely or almost ever end cases with a non- prosecution agreement.  If we don`t have a case, we simply don`t bring it. 

So, there was no reason, no need to enter into a non-prosecution agreement.  Putting that aside, there was absolutely no time limit on the investigation.  The Southern District of New York, god bless them just indicted the case, right?  There is no statute of limitations problem. 

So, if the Florida -- if the federal prosecutors in Florida thought they didn`t have enough, all they had to do was continue their work.  It was that simple. 

MADDOW:  Chuck, one last question for you.  Another thing that struck me as something that I wanted to ask you about because I didn`t really understand the implication, was that Secretary Acosta said repeatedly words to the effect of this was a different time.  Meaning I think he was implying that cases like this 12 years ago were handled in a very different way, we didn`t have the same sensitivities, maybe we didn`t have the same legal tools. 

He seemed to imply that this is a different era for pursuing a trafficking case or the kind of case that SDNY is producing against Epstein right now compared to how it was back then. 

ROSENBERG:  Way, way, way back in 2007, in the dark ages of federal prosecution, I can assure you, Rachel, there were thousands of prosecutors and cops and agents around the country making difficult sex crimes cases. 

Look, we are trained in this way.  We know how to work with victims.  The notion that we couldn`t bring such a case all the way back in 2007 is deeply wrong and deeply dangerous -- and by the way, deeply insulting to the men and women who are doing this kind of work. 

MADDOW:  Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney, former senior FBI and Justice Department official -- invaluable counsel for us on nights like tonight.  Chuck, thank you very much.

ROSENBERG:  My pleasure.

MADDOW:  All right.  Senator Bernie Sanders going to be here live with us in just a moment. 

Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  So every day, there is new news on the polls and the fund-raising numbers and even the evolving logistics of the gigantic Democratic presidential primary and, you know, we can run through that stuff any time you want.  There is an infinite supply of that any day of the week.  But that horse race stuff will always be with us and it is only part of the way the competition is being waged. 

If you are, for example, Senator Bernie Sanders waging your second run for the presidency in four years, this week, for example, has been very, very busy already and it`s only Wednesday.  Yesterday, Senator Sanders announced a bicameral resolution, a House and Senate resolution to declare the climate crisis the national emergency.  It is a national emergency resolution.  This follows, of course, President Trump declaring a pulled out of thin air national emergency to build his border wall and inexplicably to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia for its war in Yemen. 

That resolution from Senator Sanders calling to declare a climate crisis a national emergency, that was yesterday.  And then, today, the senator released what he`s calling his anti-endorsement list in which he quotes FDR: I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made. 

In Senator Sanders` case, that`s a list by his own accounting that includes a bunch of billionaires and CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and titans of Wall Street like the former heads of JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, as well as former Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan, a whole list of famous dudes who have all criticized him by name. 

In unveiling this extraordinary list, Senator Sanders accused the people on that list of having a, quote, vested interest in preserving the status quo, so that they can continue to exploit working people across America.  Quote: We welcome their hatred. 

Then, just tonight, Senator Sanders wrote an op-ed in "The Washington Post".  The headline you can see there, the straightest path to racial equality is through the 1 percent.  Quote: The unfortunate truth is that politicians who take checks from millionaires and billionaires owe their corporate constituents first and everyday Americans last. 

The black-white wealth gap could be closed by targeting the extreme wealth at the very top.  Instead, politicians beholden to the 1 percent ask the black middle class and white middle class to fight over the scraps. 

Busy, right?  Busy.

Joining us now for "The Interview", Senator Bernie Sanders from the great state of Vermont, candidate for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.

Senator, it`s great to see you.  Thanks for being here.


MADDOW:  I`m not -- promise, I`m not going to ask you horse race and process questions, but I do want to know -- I mean, in 2016, pretty soon into it, you were essentially running in a two-person primary.  How is it different to run in a two-million-person primary? 


SANDERS:  It is very different. 


SANDERS:  I mean, I think the difference is the last time, we had to win 50 percent of the vote in order to win a state and we ended up winning 22 states.  I think this time around, I doubt that anybody will come close to 50 percent of the vote in any state. 

MADDOW:  Uh-huh.

SANDERS:  So, you are talking about candidates getting 25 or 30 percent of the vote. 

I feel very good with the fact that we have now received some $2 million individual contributions which I think is all time world record up to this point, averaging all of $19 apiece.  We have over a million volunteers.  We have strong organizations in the early states, Iowa and New Hampshire, et cetera.  So, we are feeling pretty good. 

MADDOW:  Knowing that that ceiling might be different in terms of what`s possible, even for the strongest campaigns in the early states, how do you change your strategy to account for that?  Your ad play (ph)?  What do you do?

SANDERS:  Well, I think it`s more aggressively getting out the vote and grassroots organizing.  I mean, at the end of the day, you`re just going to have to get people out to the caucuses and get votes in the primaries in order to win.  And that means having strong organizations in the states and having a strong volunteer movement.  And I think we have both. 

MADDOW:  In terms of the character of the primary this far, we are not that far into it.  We had the one debate and there`s still a ton of people who are in the field.  But a lot of people had remarked on the fact that people are playing your song.  That a lot of your progressive policy positions that you staked out not only over the course of your career but in your 2016 campaign -- 


MADDOW:  -- are now much more centrist positions among this field. 

Is that just a matter of satisfaction for you or does that give you new work to do? 

SANDERS:  Well, both.  It is a deep sense of satisfaction.  I mean, you followed the last campaign.  You were there in the debates. 


SANDERS:  And many of the ideas that I brought forth, $15 an hour minimum wage.  Hey, Bernie, you`re crazy.  That`s too extreme.  In a few days, the U.S. House of Representatives is going to pass a $15 an hour minimum wage. 

Bernie, public colleges and universities, tuition free, that can`t be done.  University of Texas today announced the families $60,000 or under free tuition, and all over the country, people are moving in that direction. 

Dealing with student debt.  Oh, Bernie, that can`t be done.  Well, now, you`re hearing a whole lot of people are understanding that it is an outrage, it really is criminal that you have young people out there who can`t get married and can`t have kids because they are dealing with incredible rates of student debt right now. 

Dealing with climate change as a national security issue.  I was asked at one debate, the one that -- I don`t know if it was that you`re in, Bernie, what is the major crisis we face, ISIS, al Qaeda, what is it?  I said it is climate change.  And people kind of laughed.  But they are not laughing today. 

Health care as a human right.  Oh, Bernie, that`s not -- that`s un- American.  Nobody in America believes that.  The last poll that I saw, 60 or 70 percent of the American people believe in a Medicare-for-All, single- payer program. 

So, the good news is we have moved -- not only have we moved the debate, we moved legislation in states and in the federal government. 

But now, what has to be done, Rachel, and I think I`m the only candidate who will tell you this, is that at the end of the day, it`s not good enough to talk about Medicare-for-all, to talk about being aggressive on climate change.  What we have got to do is understand there is a reason why in the last 30 years, the top 1 percent have seen an increase in their wealth of $21 trillion, while wealth has gone down for the bottom half.  Why 500,000 people are sleeping out in the street, why we are the only major country not to guarantee health care to all people, or parental leave, or sick and medical leave.  There is a reason. 

And the reason is and what this campaign is about is finally saying that if you want real change, we need a political revolution.  And what does that mean?  It means we are going to have to take on Wall Street and the insurance companies -- 

MADDOW:  Uh-huh.

SANDERS: -- and the drug companies and the fossil fuel industry and the military industrial complex and the prison industrial complex. 

In other words, we can talk about all the great things we want to do, but at the end of the day, to understand why we are where we are, where the middle class is shrinking, where 40 million people live in poverty, we have to understand the political reality and the power structure of America. 

We are prepared to take those guys on, and that`s why I say, unapologetically -- I am not afraid of those people.  They want to condemn.  You know, the billionaires want to condemn, that I`m an existential threat to the Democratic Party -- so, be it.  We are going to take them on. 

MADDOW:  In terms of how that translates, practically.  I`m hearing echoes of your first answer in the debate in Miami.  When the question was along the lines of what do you want to do first?  And you talked about this need for a political revolution -- 


MADDOW:  -- and the need to take to sort of take on multi-front battles --


MADDOW:  -- all at the same time. 

If you were elected president in 2020, odds are, I don`t know, let`s guess, 50/50 that Senator Mitch McConnell would still be the leader of the Republicans in the Senate and they still hold the majority there.  You know for being in the Senate what that means in terms of the power of getting legislation through. 


MADDOW:  If -- I know you don`t want McConnell to still be there. 

SANDERS:  Right.

MADDOW:  If he is still there -- 


MADDOW:  -- what would you put on his plate first?  What would you -- what will be your first legislative priority? 

SANDERS:  I`ll tell you, before I put anything on his plate, I would be in the state of Kentucky holding a rally, with tens of thousands of people, to say to what is, in fact, one of the poorest states in this country, a real struggling state in Kentucky, that we need to raise the minimum wage, a state which is really suffering for lack of health care. 

We`re going to rally the American people in Kentucky.  We`re going to rally the American people in Mississippi.  We`re going to rally the people in South Carolina to demand that their representatives -- I know this is a radical idea -- actually do what the American people want. 

The point that I make over and over again, Rachel, is the ideas that I talk about are ideas that the American people want.  They don`t get it because you got a Congress indebted to wealthy campaign contributors. 

And, by the way, whether you call it socialism or social democracy or progressive government, everything that I`m talking about exists in countries like Norway, Sweden, Denmark, where they have health care for all, where they have strong universal child care programs, where college education is free. 

These are not radical ideas, but we need to rally the American people by the millions.  That`s what I mean by a political revolution. 

And as president, that`s what I will help lead.  We will give Mitch McConnell something he cannot afford to refuse.  And that is we`re going to give him millions of people demanding he take action on the issues impacting the working class of this country. 

MADDOW:  We`ll be right back with Senator Bernie Sanders, Democratic 2020 presidential candidate, right after this. 

Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  We`re back with Senator Bernie Sanders of the great state of Vermont.  He is running to be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States. 

Senator Sanders, thank you again for sticking with us. 

You talked about climate change as an emergency.  And indeed, this week, you introduced bicameral legislation with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the House to declare a climate emergency. 

You have also said just this week that you will be coming out with the strongest climate change plan in the current Democratic field.  And I know you haven`t released details, but how do you define it as the strongest?  What is it?

SANDERS:  What it will do -- and there are other good plans out there.  I don`t mean to denigrate other plans.

What it will do is essentially tell the fossil fuel industry that they cannot continue to destroy this planet for the sake of their short-term profits.  I mean, just stop and think about it.  They lie every day.  They are obfuscating reality.  They`re making huge amounts of money and, oh, by the way, they`re destroying the planet. 

So, somebody has got to say, sorry, you know, we don`t accept people shooting down other people.  You are destroying the planet.  Thousands and thousands of people will die as a result of what you`re doing.  It has to change.

We have to transform our energy system and energy efficiency, sustainable energy.  We need a new transportation system as well. 

And the other point here, Rachel, is obviously this is not just an American issue.  This is a global issue by definition. 

We need a president not like Trump who doesn`t even accept the reality of climate change, thinks it`s a hoax, we need a president who says every country on Earth that, you know what, you are in this.  China, you`re in it.  Russia, India, Brazil, Africa, we are all in this together. 

And maybe -- and I know this may be a pipe dream, I admit it, but maybe in this crisis, planetary crisis, maybe we move the world to say that instead of spending a trillion and a half dollars every year on weapons of destruction designed to kill each other, maybe we can use those resources to fight our common enemy, which is climate change. 

And as president, I would love the opportunity to lead that effort. 

MADDOW:  Ii think about a corporate-driven effort like that, going at the fossil fuel industry, going at big oil and energy, holding them accountable for their role in climate change and I can envision an agenda like that in the United States.  But then when you start to talk about the rest of the world, I think about Saudi Aramco, and I think about the big state controlled oil companies in our economic rivals around the world, and I can`t imagine them not just seeing that as a competitive advantage. 

SANDERS:  Well, the answer is, is to rally the people in those countries.  I think ordinary people in most of the countries understand that if we don`t act boldly, the planet we`re going to be leaving to our kids and grandchildren will be increasingly unhealthy and uninhabitable. 

MADDOW:  But as a U.S. president, you couldn`t rally the Saudi people or the Chinese people. 

SANDERS:  Actually, you could. 

MADDOW:  You could?

SANDERS:  Actually, you could.

MADDOW:  How does that work in Riyadh?


SANDERS:  See if Mohamed bin Salman will let me into the country. 

MADDOW:  For starters, yes.


SANDERS:  But I do think -- I mean, people throughout the world understand the threat.  And we need a grassroots movement globally -- now, we`re beginning to see, it`s especially led by the young people, you know? 

And I think -- we are fighting for the future of the planet.  This is an existential crisis.  So, we have to act in a way we have never acted before.  And I think it`s the people of the planet saying to oil companies all over this world -- stop it.  We cannot allow you to destroy the planet. 

MADDOW:  Let me ask you about another international effort that has been something you and I have talked about before in interviews over the years.  I was struck by new polling that shows that even Iraq and Afghanistan veterans do not believe that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were worth fighting.  And there are not big differences between the veterans who have fought those wars and the American people broadly in these issues. 

And you have told me in the past and I know that you have been assiduous in your work on this in the past about wanting to get American troops out of these conflicts.  Why is it so intractable?  Why as a -- why are presidents as desperate as President Obama and President Trump both unable to achieve the stated goal of getting troops even just home from Afghanistan? 

SANDERS:  By the way, that`s a good question.  Before I answer it, I`m the former chairman of the Veterans Committee -- 


SANDERS:  -- in the Senate and I talked to many of those veterans.  And the kind of trauma that they went through is something that we should never dismiss, will never forget. 

They know, unlike Donald Trump, what the cost of war really is.  They saw their friends blown up.  They came back without an arm or leg or with PTSD. 

But to answer your question, I think we need political will here.  We need to do everything that we can to make sure that those countries around the world, and right now, I`m not even just thinking about Iraq or Syria.  I`m thinking about Saudi Arabia and Iran. 

We have spent, not only have we lost thousands of lives, Rachel, we have spent I believe $5 trillion on the war on terror, $5 trillion. 

And our job as the most powerful country on Earth is to bring Saudi Arabia, which is a terribly despotic government, and Iran, which is also undemocratic, bring them in to the damn room and saying, we`re not going to be fighting eternal wars.  You guys, we`re here.  You`ve got to work it out, but don`t think that the United States is going to get involved in never-ending wars. 

MADDOW:  Let me ask you on the issue of veterans.  You have been a champion of Medicare-for-All.


MADDOW:  And as I mentioned, a lot of your fellow candidates are now onboard with you on that, including people saying from the dais in Miami, I`m with Bernie on this. 

What happens to veterans care under Medicare-for-All? 

SANDERS:  We strength -- the V.A. is a separate entity and it must remain as a separate entity because veterans have unique problems.  So, we maintain the Veterans Administration and we strengthen it. 

MADDOW:  Senator, can you stick with us for one more segment? 

SANDERS:  Sure. 

MADDOW:  We`ll be right back with Senator Bernie Sanders right after this.  Stay with us.


MADDOW:  We`re back with Vermont senator and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders. 

Senator, thank you again for sticking with us. 

SANDERS:  My pleasure.

MADDOW:  The last question for you and it is a little bit of sticky wicket and I do not want you to be annoyed for asking.  But it is the thing -- when I talked to people about having on the show today, it was the number one thing people wanted me to ask you about, which was the issue raised by Eric Swalwell, who has now dropped out of the race for president, in the debate, when he -- and he directed it to Vice President Biden and his refrain was pass the torch.  That you`ve had your chance, you`ve been in politics for a long time and we need younger leadership basically. 

Basically making an overt age argument for why Vice President Biden shouldn`t be the nominee and implicitly why you shouldn`t be the nominee.  You called that ageist after the debate.  But I wonder how you grapple with the substance of that argument. 

SANDERS:  You know, if you look at history, there were arguments why black people shouldn`t be president, why women shouldn`t be president.  I think you have to look at the totality of the person.  There were some people who are 90 who are a lot more active and energetic than people who are 50. 

You have to look at what somebody believes, what somebody is fighting for, what their experience is about.  Just to look at age is I think missing the boat in a very, very deep way. 

MADDOW:  But he is talking about length of experience in the political system. 


MADDOW:  I mean, you`ve been in public office since before Eric Swalwell was born.  I mean, he`s saying, people who have been in the system, who`ve been trying all this time to make change, you need to get out of the way so that new voices can (INAUDIBLE). 

SANDERS:  And what is his -- those people`s positions?  Do they believe in Medicare-for-All?  Have they fought to raise the minimum wage?  Have they been a leader in tackling the issues of climate change?  Have they been on picket lines their whole life standing with working people, been active in the women`s movement, active in the gay movement? 

In other words, it`s just not good enough to say, hey, I`m young.  Pass me the torch.

You`ve got to tell me what you stand for, what your vision of America is.  And I think that that is just not a satisfactory explanation. 

MADDOW:  Senator Sanders, it`s great to have you here. 

SANDERS:  Good to be with you.

MADDOW:  Come back soon. 


MADDOW:  We`ll be right back.  Stay with us.


MADDOW:  That`s going to do it for us tonight.  We`ll see you again tomorrow when Senator Kamala Harris is going to be here with us. 


Good evening, Lawrence.

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