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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Town Hall Meeting with Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), Presidential Candidate. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired June 2, 2019 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN TOWN HALL HOST: Good evening from the CNN Center in Atlanta, and welcome to a CNN Democratic President Town Hall event. I'm Victor Blackwell.
Three congressman hoping to win the nomination and take on President Trump are participating in their first national televised town hall. Tonight you'll hear from congressmen Tim Ryan and Eric Swalwell, but we begin the night with Congressman Seth Moulton. He was first elected in 2014 after serving in the Marine Corps including four tours in Iraq. He was among the first Americans to reach Baghdad in 2003. The 40-year-old Moulton would be the youngest president ever elected. Tonight, he'll take questions from democrats and independents who say they'll plan the participate in the democratic primaries and caucuses. So now, please welcome Congressman Seth Moulton. Good to have you, Congressman.
REP. SETH MOULTON (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you very much,
BLACKWELL: You're welcome (ph).
MOULTON: Thank you.
BLACKWELL: All right, Congressman, we've got a lot of people here.
MOULTON: Looks like a great crowd.
BLACKWELL: Yes, a good crowd. Great questions here for you, and tonight we're going to start obviously after what happened in Virginia Beach, we're going to start with what happened there. I was just there yesterday. 12 people murdered in a government building by a city employee. Now, gun violence obviously a major issue in America. Let's bring in Holly O'Connor. She has a question about that. She's a behavioral health care coordinator. Holly -
HOLLY O'CONNOR, BEHAVIROAL HEALTH CARE COORDINATOR: Hi.
MOULTON: Hi. How are you, Holly?
O'CONNOR: Good. Thank you. My question is if elected, would you be willing to declare a national emergency over the gun violence epidemic in America and then ban all assault weapons and high-capacity magazines?
MOULTON: Thank you very much for that question, and thank you all so much for having me here to Atlanta tonight. You know, it's almost embarrassing to be standing here as a member of Congress given how little we've done about gun violence in America.
I carried guns in Iraq every single day, too. I had to use guns for my job. Guns saved my life, but weapons of war have no place on our streets or in our schools, and whether it's declaring a national emergency or pursuing executive action, I will do whatever I can to actually make progress on this gun violence plague in America. And what we're talking about here, folks, isn't that crazy. The vast majority of Americans - democrats, republicans, independents - agree that we should have universal background checks on guns, that there shouldn't be loopholes.
I had the two most bipartisan gun bills in the last Congress. One was to ban bump stocks, which the NRA has already banned from their own headquarters, and the second was - be prepared. This was a little bit controversial - was to prevent terrorists from buying guns. OK, this isn't that crazy. And we've even already banned weapons of war, just different ones.
You know, in addition to those two guns, I carried two grenades on my chest every single day I was in Iraq. I never blew myself up. I was very safe. I would feel comfortable having two grenades on me tonight, but would you feel comfortable? No. OK, so we've decided that as a society that we're not going to allow people to walk around with grenades. Grenades actually are really good for fishing. The Iraqis used to try to buy them off of us because you just throw them in a pond and all the fish pop up dead.
So like that - but you don't need grenades to fish. You don't need assault rifles to hunt. Two more really quick things. We need to also have a conversation about mental health in this country. Republicans always - republicans like to say that you just solve the mental health crisis and you won't have gun violence, and then they never fund mental health. They're wrong on both counts. It's not going to just solve the crisis on its own, but we also do need to fund mental healthcare.
And this last thing is we need to have a conversation about domestic terrorism because a lot of what is happening with gun violence in America, it's very simple. It's called terrorism. It's just domestic terrorism. Thank you.
BLACKWELL: Congressman, let me ask you because you mentioned weapons of war, but this shooter reportedly had two .45 caliber handguns and a suppressor. Reportedly he purchased them legally, so is there anything about your gun control proposal that would have prevented this shooting?
MOUTLON: Well we should not have high capacity magazines, which I understand he had.
MOULTON: We should not have suppressors. You don't need a suppressor. I mean, that's - that's something like, you know, assassins need to use, OK. We should not have that here at home. And I don't know all the details of this particular incident, but the fact that he was able to purchase the guns legally makes me say, "maybe we got some problems with our guns laws."
BLACKWELL: OK. Let's bring in Steve Serafin. He's a semo-retired business owner. Steve -
STEVE SERAFIN, SEMI-RETIRED BUSINESS OWNER: Thank you, and as a ex- veteran of our foreign wars, what is your opinion on how our military feels in regard to our current president as he soundly criticizes, concluding last week, U.S. citizens, ex-presidents, and others while on foreign soil? And why would he accept the word of a tyrant or dictator over that of our own Intelligence Committee?
MOULTON: Thank you, Steve, for that question, and thank you for your service for our country as well. I can't speak for all veterans, but I can certainly speak for myself. I've had a lot of problems with this president, but in some ways the most fundamental issue is that you just can't trust anything he says. And I don't know about you, but the first lesson I learned when I went to Marine training was you can drop out of a run and they'll let you try again the next day. You can fail a test and they'll probably let you retake the test, but if you lie about anything, you're gone that afternoon. That's how important trust is when it comes to leadership and life or death decisions about young Americans. And I don't care whether you're the biggest Trump supporter or the biggest Trump hater. You just can't trust a word that this man says. So I could go on and on, but maybe that says enough. Thanks.
BLACKWELL: Well Congressman -
BLACKWELL: - let me ask you about something -
BLACKWELL: - you said in 2016 during the campaign then. You compared President Trump's rise to that of Adolf Hitler's rise. Do you still stand by that comparison?
MOUTLON: What I was talking about is the fact that tyrants can get elected, and I think we all learned that in 2016, right? That's why elections matter.
BLACKWELL: Are there - are there any rhetorical, let's say, guardrails for your campaign? Anywhere you will not go because some people think that a Hitler reference would be too far?
MOUTLON: Well, of course you have to be careful about what you say. I mean, the best example is the Twitter account of our commander in chief. So yes, but you're right. Of course you have to be careful about what you say, but, you know, I just - I just try to speak from my heart and be real about the challenges that are facing America. And I think it would be better if more people in Washington did that. You know, people often ask me, Seth, why is Congress so stupid? You know, why can't Congress believe in climate change or whatever else? And I've only been there a few years, but my experience is that most of my colleagues are pretty smart. What's lacking in Washington isn't intelligence. It's courage. It's the courage to just speak the truth.
BLACKWELL: Next question, let's go to Maureen Smith, a retired engineer. Maureen-
MAUREEN SMITH, RETIRED ENGINEER: OK. Will you remove the absurd Department of Justice policy that a sitting president can be indicted? And will you at least ensure that any charges against a sitting president will be told (ph) so that the statutes of limitations do not expire?
MOULTON: One of - you know, this election isn't just about policies here and there. It's about our values. And one of our values in the United States of America is that nobody is above the law. Nobody. So the answer to your question is yes, and more than that this is why I came out a year ago and said Congress should be doing its job and having a debate before the American people about impeaching this president because I understand - look, I disagree with some of my fellow candidates in this race and some of our party leadership on this, and I understand that the politics might be tricky, OK? But how about just doing the right thing, you know? How about doing the right thing because I swore and oath to protect and defend the Constitution. How many of you have read the Mueller Report? A few. All right, just read the executive summary. Don't even read the whole thing. Just read the executive summary and then come back to me and say that there's not enough evidence in there to be debating impeachment.
BLACKWELL: So Congressman, you say that the politics are tricky and you disagree with some of your democratic colleagues, but their point would be that it could possibly be ill-conceived if republican-led Senate will not convict. To them you say what?
MOUTLON: To them I say that's the Senate's problem. Our job in the House is to do our constitutional duty (ph). That's just how it goes (ph).
BLACKWELL: All right. More with Congressman Seth Moulton after a break.
BLACKWELL: We are live from Atlanta for a CNN Democratic presidential town hall event with Congressman Seth Moulton.
Congressman, we will start with Eliza Swiback here on my left, a clinical psychologist, working with veterans who suffer from post- traumatic distress.
QUESTION: Hi, Rep. Moulton.
MOULTON: How are you? QUESTION: I'm fine, thank you.
I was encouraged by your own disclosure recently that you have been treated for PTSD related to your military service.
So what specifically will you do as president to increase mental health care access and quality for everybody who needs it?
MOULTON: Thank you so much for that question. And I'm so glad we're discussing this, in this campaign. I will do three specific things. Let me first mention briefly my own experience because, frankly, I did not have the courage to share this before. I was afraid of the political liability.
Even the, you know, the personal liability. I mean, my own family didn't know I was going to a therapist for post-traumatic stress. And I know that a lot of Americans go through this as well; 50 percent of veterans who have post-traumatic stress don't seek care; 50 percent of Americans who have mental health issues don't seek care.
We need to change that because I'm stronger and our economy will be better if we just, just like we deal with physical ailments.
There shouldn't be a stigma. There's no stigma if you break your leg. You just go to the hospital, you get it fixed and you are back on your feet.
And that should be the same with mental issues as well.
MOULTON: So I hope my talking about this is an example to other, that others will be encouraged to share their stories, too. But I also have to say, that an inspiration to me was some of the young Marines that I served with, younger than me, who had the courage to share their stories even before I shared mine.
So what are we going to do?
The goal is to just make it routine that you get mental health care. Just like you go and get an annual physical, regardless of whether you are sick. You should get a mental health check-up. And just like the doctor says, hey, are you eating well?
Are you exercising?
Well, there are things you can do to be mentally healthier, too. Like I've have learned about meditation and yoga and, by the way, these are practices that are now being used by our most elite troops because they realize that it makes them stronger.
So the three things that I will do with my mental health care proposal are, one, set an example with our active duty service men and women and our veterans by making sure that everybody on active duty gets a mental health check-up every year.
That if you went to a combat zone, you get a checkup within two weeks of coming home.
MOULTON: It's a check-up.
And then we're going to use that as a model for the rest of America. And we'll start in high school. And every high schooler in American will just get an annual mental health check-up, whether they need it or not --
MOULTON: -- this is a -- this is a healthy thing to do.
And then the third thing is there are a lot of great suicide prevention and mental health hotlines out there. But we just need to make one number that everyone will remember. I think it should be 5- 1-1. You dial 5-1-1, no matter you who are, veteran, non-veteran, everyone who just needs to talk to someone, dial 5-1-1 and you will be connected immediately to someone who can help.
BLACKWELL: I know this is a personal issue for you, obviously and -- but for the first time this week, you decided to share a traumatic experience that you had on your way to Baghdad in 2003, I believe it was.
Now I know -- I know this isn't easy to discuss but you decided to speak about it publicly.
What did you hope that would do for veterans?
MOULTON: What I hoped it would do is -- gratefully what I have already seen it start to do this week. The people ask a lot, what's the most meaningful thing you have done as a member of Congress. And it's definitely hold veterans' town halls, sort of like this, where veterans and non-veterans get together and veterans just get a chance to share their stories and to talk about how their work overseas has affected their lives here at home and try to bridge that divide between veterans and non-veterans.
And so this week we held a number of veterans' town halls, just like that but focused specifically on mental health. And the stories that I've heard have been incredible. There have been Vietnam veterans who stood up and said, I've never shared this story before, from Vietnam. But I'm sharing it today because other people are talking, too.
BLACKWELL: Congressman, thank you for sharing and thank you for your service. Thank you for your service.
BLACKWELL: And that question is from Nick Verneault, he's a student at Georgia Tech, studying biochemistry -- Nick.
MOULTON: All right.
QUESTION: Hi, Congressman.
MOULTON: You are a scientist. You wouldn't fit in very well in Congress.
QUESTION: On your website it states that you believe that Americans deserve affordable health care.
Why do you stop short of supporting a single payer system?
MOULTON: That's a great question and I'm so glad you asked it because my view is what President Obama planned, which is that we should have a public option like Medicare for all or hopefully a more modern version of Medicare, since it was a government plan designed in 1963.
But that should compete against private options as well because competition is good for the system. It keeps prices down. It improves outcomes. And I think that people should have choices for their health care.
And I say this as the only candidate in this race who actually gets single payer health care because I made a commitment to continue going to the V.A. when I was elected to Congress. I said, look, as long as my fellow vets are going there and the system is pretty broken, I'm going to see first-hand. And I've seen the good, the bad and the ugly of single payer health care.
There are some things the V.A. does really well, like, for example, the V.A. negotiates prescription drug prices. Medicare doesn't do that. That means our prescription prices at the V.A. are lower than Medicare.
But I also got surgery shortly after I was elected. And to make a long story short, they sent me home with the wrong medications. Now it just made -- it was a painful night because I had a minor abdominal surgery. And I thought it was a really big deal until my wife got a C-section and then I realized, whoa, it was not a big deal.
MOULTON: But it hurt.
MOULTON: And rather than give me the painkillers they had prescribed, the pharmacy sent me home with a bottle of Advil. But the only way I suffered was just because it was painful. Imagine if they had sent me home with a much more powerful or more addictive drug than the one I was prescribed.
We've heard of the stories of veterans dying on waiting lists and recently veterans have even been committing suicide in waiting rooms of the V.A. because they don't have enough mental health care professionals.
So I don't want that system for you. I want different systems to compete, just like they do with other things in America, to give you the best health care in the world because that's what you deserve.
BLACKWELL: Congressman, you have -- you just talked about your experience with the V.A. in relation to Medicare for all.
Do you believe that the government is capable of implementing Medicare for all?
MOULTON: In a perfect world, yes. As a political reality, this is the other thing, it's just never going to get passed. So it's not realistic right now.
That doesn't mean we should aspire to have a single payer system. And, frankly, look, if at the end of the day, under my system, the same system that President Obama wanted, if the public option outcompetes the private options and that's what we end up with, fine. But let's make it better along the way.
Imagine if the next president comes in and says, you know what, folks, we don't need options for delivering packages. We're going to get rid of UPS and FedEx, we're just going to outlaw them. It's just going to be the U.S. Postal Service.
Does anyone think that will actually make things better?
I mean, I love the U.S. Postal Service. They delivered my mail in Iraq. But I think competition is good for the system. And if we have choices for delivering packages, I think we should have choices for something much more important, which is delivering health care.
BLACKWELL: Next question, Congressman, goes to Will Martin. He's a sophomore at Georgia Tech, studying public policy. He was an interim paid canvasser on the Stacey Abrams' campaign for governor -- Will.
QUESTION: Hi, Representative.
How do you expect the Democratic Party to nominate you, someone who has opposed Nancy Pelosi from the Right at a time when many in the Democratic Party, including myself, wish she were more progressive (ph)?
MOULTON: We're -- sorry, that she were more progressive or with that I were more progressive. QUESTION: Her.
MOULTON: Well, listen I didn't oppose her from the Right or the Left. I just said that the top three leaders in Congress, who have been there combined almost 100 years, should just make room for a new generation of leadership.
more or less And with the Democratic Party, we should be able to have a democratic debate about who our leaders should before. And it's OK if you and I disagree. But let's be afraid to have that debate.
And because we had that debate, we got the Voting Rights Subcommittee, we got the Climate Change Subcommittee and we got a deal on term limits in exchange for giving Speaker Pelosi the votes that she needed to become Speaker. She only won by five votes and we gave her seven as a part of that term limits deal that will make sure that the next generation of leaders in Congress, this historically diverse class of freshmen that I worked so hard to help get elected, will actually have a voice in the future of our politics.
MOULTON: Now let me say one more thing. Speaker Pelosi is doing a great job of standing up to Trump. She's doing a great job. We should give her credit for it.
MOULTON: But I do disagree with her on impeachment because, as I mentioned earlier, we just have a constitutional duty to hold the executive accountable. And I think we should be doing that right. (INAUDIBLE) --
MOULTON: And thank you for working on the Stacey Abrams campaign, because Stacey Abrams should be the governor of --
BLACKWELL: Congressman, let me follow up here because you say today she is doing a great job. But you said after the election that you would not be, quote, "answering the call of the American people" if she and her top two deputies were in charge. You say today she is doing a great job.
Were you wrong about that?
MOULTON: No, that's what I heard on the campaign trail as I was going across the country helping so many people get elected. Of the 40 seats that we flipped to take back the House, 21 of them were endorsed and supported by my Serve America organization.
I went to a lot of difficult districts that we needed to win to take back the House. And what I consistently heard is it's time for a new generation of leadership in our politics. Now that doesn't take anything away from her. And that's why I have no problem saying that she is doing a great job of standing up to Trump.
But I want to make sure that people also look to our party and say, that's the party that's going to take us forward. That's the party of the future of leadership, in our party and our country.
BLACKWELL: All right. We'll be right back with more CNN's Democratic presidential town hall with Congressman Seth Moulton.
BLACKWELL: Welcome back to CNN World Headquarters for a Democratic Presidential Town Hall event. Later tonight we'll be with congressmen Tim Ryan and Eric Swalwell. Let's continue now with Congressman Seth Moulton. Got a fan right here in the front row.
MOULTON: Thank you. All right.
BLACKWELL: There you go. Next question comes from Maria Fernandez. She's the Manager of Patient Relations for Emory Johns Creek Hospital. Maria -
MARIA FERNANDEZ, HOSPITAL PATIENT RELATIONS MANAGER: OK. Good evening, Representative Moulton.
MOULTON: How are you?
FERNANDEZ: I'm fantastic. How are you?
MOULTON: I'm good, thanks.
FERNANDEZ: Excellent. All right, I'm done.
What is your plan to lead the dismantling of systemic racism in this country to drive justice for marginalized groups, especially for black and first-nations people? And if you could please, please frame this beyond criminal justice reform.
MOULTON: We have a problem with racism in America today. If this country wasn't racist, Stacey Abrams would be governor because people of color are being systemically denied the most basic right in a democracy, which is the right to vote. That's why we need a new voting rights act in America. Second, let's talk about criminal justice reform for a second. Look, I smoked weed when I was younger.
I didn't get caught, but if I had -
- I would have been fine because I'm a white guy. Just last year I think it was a Louisiana man was sentenced to prison for life for selling $20 of marijuana. So criminal justice reform means we need to legalize cannabis. We need to legalize marijuana across this country, and if you're in prison for that, you're out, and we expunge those records.
Finally, this is a leadership issue. Let's not ignore the fact that when the man in the Oval Office is a racist - and yes, I did just say that. I don't think that's inappropriate - it's going to affect everyone in this country. And that's why under my administration, my Department of Justice will fight relentlessly to ensure that there are not two sets of laws - one for black, one for white, one for rich, one for poor - but that everyone in America is subject to the same laws. The president talks about law and order. That's real law and order.
BLACKWELL: Congressman, you say that your administration will fight. Let me ask you about your biography here. You represent Massachusetts's sixth district which is about 75 percent white, 4 percent African American. You graduated from a prestigious boarding school where tuition and boarding is currently around $55,000. You've three degrees from Harvard. Now, on paper this reads as elite. What today, 2019, informs your policy making for a party, for a country that is so racially and economically diverse?
MOULTON: Look, I totally get that. I even rode (ph) in college, which was like the most elite sport. So I was - you know, the resume looks terrible, right? I am still paying my college loans, but the bottom line is that I had a lot of great opportunities in my life. I did, but every American should have those same opportunities, and I saw this most of all when I was serving in the Marines.
When I served with people from all over this country - people with different religious beliefs, different political beliefs, people who were rich, people who were poor - but we all came together to get united behind a common mission to serve our country. And I had to earn every one of those marines trusts whether they came from a background like mine or they came from a totally different background.
And if there's one thing that keeps me grounded as a politician because I think that's really important. I think you have to work consciously when you're in a place like Washington to keep grounded. It's keeping in touch with those marines, some of the best Americans I've ever met, and some of the best friends I've ever had.
BLACKWELL: So on the question of race and diversity, it's been 15 years since the democratic party has nominated two white men on a national ticket. What's the relevance of racial and gender diversity on a national ticket?
MOULTON: It's relevant because we need to represent America. You know, and I'll tell you sort of a funny story about this. I was in this meeting that turned a little heated with a fellow republican, and he was really, frankly, out of line with me, but this was when I was a freshman. And it was a good lesson in politics because he wrote me a note saying, "you know what? Thank you, Seth, for being here. I'm glad we could have this debate." And I was like, wow. That really changed my opinion of him, so I made a point that afternoon of going and finding him and shaking his hand on the floor when we were having votes.
And so, I went up to this old, white republican, and I said, "thank you so much for sending me that note." And he looked at me like -
And I said, "no, no, the note about, you know, because we had that debate." And then like a good politician he just said, "you're welcome."
And then about 30 seconds later I found the other old, white republican who looked just like him who actually sent me the note and I thanked him for the note.
You can't even tell them apart, OK?
So we absolutely need more diversity in our politics, and that's part of the reason why as I travelled around the country helping a lot of fellow veterans get elected, you know, many of them are women and they're already making a difference. That voice in our party and in our politics of Washington already matters. So we have a lot of work to do, and I recognize that as a youngish white man I'm going to have to earn the support of everybody in American whether they look like me, whether they come from my background, or whether they come from a totally different background. That's - that's the work that I've got to do in this election, and I'm looking forward to doing it.
BLACKWELL: Let's bring in Jill Daugherty. Jill is a health scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researching traumatic brain injury. Jill -
MOULTON: Thank you.
JILL DAUGHERTY, HEALTH SCIENTIST FOR DISEASE CONTROL: Thank you. Good evening. I'm very concerned about the recently passed restrictions on abortion access across the country. With the issue seemingly headed to the Supreme Court, what could you do as president to protect a woman's right to choose?
MOULTON: Well, first of all let me just say that you should be concerned. We should all be concerned. This was settled law almost 50 years ago, and now it's under assault. And let's be clear it's under assault because of one man, and his name is Brett Kavanaugh. That's why the state legislatures, including right here in Georgia - I mean, my God. What a disgusting law. They're passing these laws hoping they'll get appealed to the Supreme Court and then Brett Kavanaugh will let them pass.
I was standing out at a Planned Parenthood rally in front of the Supreme Court two weeks ago, and one of the points I made I said, "if you lie in a confirmation hearing, you should be impeached," and that applies to Brett Kavanaugh. Second, because women's rights across this country are under assault, it will be a litmus test for me when I pick a Supreme Court nominee. Whoever it is, she or he must support a woman's right to choose.
BLACKWELL: Let's bring in Edward Ross. He owns a vinyl record store here in Atlanta.
MOULTON: All right.
BLACKWELL: Edward -
EDWARD ROSS, RECORD STORE OWNER: So my question is you say that it's unacceptable that 1 percent of the people own 50 percent of the wealth and the best way to address that is through taxation. Under Eisenhower, the top marginal tax rate was over 90 percent and the country seemed to thrive. Do you support increasing the top marginal tax rate, and if so to what level?
MOULTON: I do support increasing the top marginal tax rate. I don't know if we'd need to go as high as 90 percent, but here's - but here's what we fundamentally need to do. We need to make the tax system fair. How many of you here tonight paid more than $1 in taxes last year? Raise your hand.
OK, I don't see anybody who's not raising their hand. You all paid more in taxes than Amazon and Netflix combined, and as far as you can - we can tell, you paid more than Donald Trump has paid for the last 30 years. Now, I don't care what the economic rationale for that is. It's just not fair. So there's a lot that we need to do to fix our economy, and the first is that if you work for a living, you should pay the same tax rate as someone who just sits and trades money for a living or has so much money that they don't even know what to do with it.
The second thing we need to do for our economy is we need to reform our education system so that everybody can compete for the jobs and keep them. Yes, education needs more money no question, but it also needs reform because the K through 12 system we have today was actually built in response to the industrial revolution when we were all coming off the farms, and now we're going through an even quicker economic revolution called the automated revolution or the technical revolution, and we all know that the education system today isn't preparing kids enough for the future.
You know, my 7-month-old daughter, she's not saying too much yet, so she hasn't told me what she wants to do yet in life.
But whether she wants to go to college, whether she wants to build the college, or whether she wants to defend the college I know one thing. I'm going to be proud of her whatever she chooses, and America should be proud of her, too. So there's a lot we need to do for education reform. Third, we need to invest in 21st century infrastructure - yes, repairing roads and bridges - but also making sure that everybody in America has high-speed Internet and 5G communications.
In the Trump economy, the people at the top do really well, and that's why the top line numbers right now are fine. In the Moulton economy, everybody gets equal opportunity because we've never been a country of equal results. I understand that some are going to succeed more than other, but entwined (ph) in our Constitution is that we're a country of equal opportunity, and that's not the case in America today.
BLACKWELL: We'll be right back with CNN's Democratic Presidential Town Hall with Congressman Seth Moulton.
BLACKWELL: Welcome back to CNN's presidential Democratic town hall with Congressman Seth Moulton.
All right, Congressman, the next question comes from John Adams. He's a product manager for a software company -- John.
QUESTION: Congressman. So my question is, there is a narrative that government regulations and environmental protections are harmful to businesses, especially small businesses and, therefore, are bad for jobs and bad for the economy.
How would you implement policies to address the climate crisis while simultaneously ensuring that companies can move to cleaner technologies, maintain growth and transition workers into new jobs?
MOULTON: John, it's a great question because there is no reason why we can't do both: solve climate change and grow the economy. That's what we should be doing.
MOULTON: I was one of the first people to sign onto the Green New Deal. But we need to make sure the Green New Deal means that we win the green tech revolution, that we're selling solar panels to China, not the other way around, that we sell the technologies to the developing world that will make clean power possible, no matter where you live.
That's what we need to do. We need to grow the economy and we need to do it while also solving climate change. And it's also why I have announced the most ambitious national service program since the Great Depression.
And a cornerstone of my national service program, that calls on every one of the 33 million young Americans between 17 and 24 to consider serving their country, is called a Federal Green Corps, which will put young Americans to work, making our country more climate resilient and also training them for the green economy jobs of the future. Thanks.
(APPLAUSE) BLACKWELL: Congressman, let me ask about your moon shot, as you call it, fusion energy. Right. I'm not a physicist. So let me say that first.
MOULTON: So I have a degree in physics --
BLACKWELL: Yes, you do.
MOULTON: - which, for everybody in life who sees my resume and not my transcript, makes me sounds really smart.
MOULTON: I'll leave to you interpret that.
BLACKWELL: Actually is harnessing on Earth the same energy that powers the sun, to simplify it, it would be a multi-billion dollar gamble on an energy source that really isn't proven.
Is that the best effort for a search for clean energy?
MOULTON: It shouldn't be the only effort. But it absolutely should be something we do. And when you go and spend time with the physicists and whatnot at places like MIT, they'll tell you that we're a lot closer than we think.
And here's the bottom line. We cannot let China develop this technology and sell it to us. We have got to win the green tech revolution. And that's why we should invest (INAUDIBLE) --
BLACKWELL: OK. The next question goes to Courtney Reader. She recently graduated from Louisiana State University.
BLACKWELL: Courtney, what's your question for the congressman?
QUESTION: So I graduated college three weeks ago and want to know your plans to make higher education more affordable for future generations and minimize student loan debt.
MOULTON: Well, first of all, congratulations.
MOULTON: You have college loans. Yes, this guy too. So this is a problem that affects millions of Americans. And our debt is astronomical.
So I think that free college is a great aspiration. But I also think that sometimes Democrats make a mistake by only talking about free college because Half of America doesn't even go to college. And we got to make sure that everybody in America has access to a new education, a better education for the new economy.
So we absolutely have to work to bring down tuition costs because that's what's driving college loans. But we also need to make sure that, if you want to go to vocational school, if you want to learn a new job, if you want to go to a job training school to learn a skill for the new economy, that we're going to support you, too.
And we're going to respect your work when you get out.
BLACKWELL: Would you -- would you support a debt forgiveness program for graduates who are currently struggling with college loan debt along the lines of Senator Elizabeth Warren (INAUDIBLE)?
MOULTON: I think we absolutely should consider that but I want to make sure that we address the needs of everybody who doesn't even get to go to college first. That's all I'm saying. That would be my first priority. Thanks.
BLACKWELL: SO that's a yes for people who are currently struggling with --
MOULTON: No, I didn't give it an outright yes, I said we should consider it because I think that we have to address the people who don't even go to college yet first. And that's what I mean when we say we really need education reform in this country.
BLACKWELL: OK. Next question goes to Misha Maynar, a licensed physical therapist who recently made a run for Atlanta city council -- Misha.
QUESTION: Yes, I did, thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you for your service, Senator (sic). My question is, name two publicly known issues that you did not agree with, with the Democratic Party on, and state how you would have worked with Republicans to solve the issue more timely?
MOULTON: Ooh, that is a tough question.
Sorry we got to you.
MOULTON: No, it's a great question. It's a great question.
You know, one actually has to do with climate in my home district, where folks wanted to extend a gas pipeline -- of course, all the Democrats were against this, because we say we can just solve the problem with clean energy.
I looked at the numbers and, although that's a great goal and we need to get there and there's no one who believes it more than me, it wasn't going to happen right away. And what has happened is we were importing gas to Massachusetts from Russia, where there are no climate protections whatsoever.
So I got a lot of heat for that from my own party. But I was just trying to make a decision based on the facts.
Another was -- yes, these are the tough issues that are in Congress; when we had an issue on GMO labeling for example. And a lot of people gave me heat for agreeing to a compromise deal, because they wanted better GMO labeling. And I said, it's better to have some GMO labeling than nothing at all. And so that's what I did. Thanks.
QUESTION: Thank you.
BLACKWELL: There's also on the issue of marijuana legalization, there's the Marijuana Justice Act that was proposed in the Senate, five senators who are running for the nomination have approved it, you've (INAUDIBLE) signed on as co-sponsor, so you've not signed onto the House version.
This decriminalizes it, gets some review for people who are currently in prison on marijuana-related charges.
Why have you not signed on as a co-sponsor?
MOULTON: Because I think we can go farther than that. And I actually have three bipartisan bills in the House that I'm co-author of, that will start legalizing cannabis by starting with the V.A. And I think that we just got to be smart about how we pursue this.
MOULTON: You know, I just want to take a second to talk about a pretty big question, which is, why am I here, why am I doing this?
I think this is the most important election of our lifetimes. And it's about a lot of issues, like education, health care and climate change.
But much more than that, it's about who we are as a country. It's about our values. It's about what kind of future we're going to build. It's about whether we can get united behind a common mission not to make America great again, looking backwards to some mythical version of the past that never really existed, but whether we can make America better than it's ever been before.
Donald Trump doesn't want that. He wants to keep us divided.
MOULTON: To win, we need to bring together a diverse coalition of Americans, everybody in our party with independents, even a few disaffected Republicans. And I think I have the best experience in this race to do that because I had to bring together a diverse coalition in the most difficult environment imaginable in Iraq, in a place where I didn't even agree with the war but we all had to get united behind a common mission.
That's what the next President of the United States needs to challenge us to do, to all believe in something a little bit bigger than ourselves, to believe in America so much that we're willing to step up and serve our country to make it better.
This election isn't just about 2020, it's about what we're going to do in 2021.
MOULTON: And we've got to make a better world for everybody in America. We've got to restore our moral leadership in the globe. And we've got to make sure that our kids, like my 7-month-old daughter, Emmy, have a future that's even brighter than ours.
BLACKWELL: Thank you, Congressman Seth Moulton.
Up next, Poppy Harlow moderates the presidential town hall with Congressman Tim Ryan.