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Interview With Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Democratic Presidential Candidate; Trump Administration Planning To Open A New Temporary Shelter In Texas For Migrant Children. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired June 7, 2019 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Today kicked off with a weak monthly jobs report. The government announcing that the U.S. economy added only 75,000 jobs last month, well below expectations. So will that news boost or block a new push by Senator Bernie Sanders? Sanders is calling on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow a bill to raise the minimum wage to come before the Senate floor. It would nearly double it to $15 per hour. So far, McConnell hasn't responded publicly, but the chances of that happening, looking at the history of minimum wage seems slim.

Earlier this week, Sanders attended Walmart's annual shareholders meeting and demanded that Walmart, well, basically do the same, take it upon themselves to raise their hourly wage to $15.

Let's talk through it. Senator Sanders is joining me now.

Senator, thanks for being here.


BOLDUAN: So you're fresh off asking Walmart to raise their minimum wage. You're asking McConnell to do the same when it comes to the federal minimum wage. How does the weak jobs report that just came out, how does that help your argument?

SANDERS: Well, I -- I don't know that it helps or hurts all that much. The bottom line here is, we have worked very hard with Amazon workers to raise the minimum wage there to $15 an hour, with Disney workers to raise their minimum wage to $15 an hour. And in the case of Walmart, you have a company owned by the wealthiest family in this country, the Walton family, worth $175 billion. Their CEO got $24 million in compensation last year. Yes, they can afford to pay their workers $15 an hour. And that is what we need to do nationally.

The bottom line here is that the great economic crisis in this country, to my view, right now, is that you have millions of workers, over half of the American workforce, living paycheck to paycheck, because the wages they're earning are just too low. And that is why, if we raise that minimum wage to $15 an hour, you'll be giving a pay raise to some 40 million Americans who desperately need it.

BOLDUAN: You have 21 states who are already -- have taking action to be above the federal minimum wage. Vermont is yet to make it to that $15 mark that you're talking about. But when it comes to the states, if that's where the real action is, is that a better place for you to be focusing your efforts, instead of with Congress, which when was the last time that Congress raised the minimum wage, a decade plus ago?

[11:35:00] SANDERS: Twelve years ago. You're right.


SANDERS: Look, I think we've got to do both. And I was disappointed, to be frank with you. Vermont's minimum wage is now close to $11 an hour, far higher than the $7.25 national minimum wage. I was disappointed that the legislature did not take it to $15 an hour.

But I think we've got to work on all fronts. We've got to work on getting major corporations to do the right thing. We have to work on states. And I'm proud to tell you, you know, that four years ago when I talked about raising that minimum wage to $15 an hour, I was told it was a very radical idea. But, since then, seven states have already done it. It is time for the federal government to do it.

And this is what I say to Mitch McConnell. If McConnell wants to vote and his Republican colleagues want to vote against a $15 an hour minimum wage, that is their right as senators. But let's have that debate. And they can tell the people in Kentucky or all over this country why they think we should keep a starvation minimum wage of $7.25. That's what he wants to do, let's have that debate. But not to bring that bill to the floor is wrong.

The American people want that debate. They know that so many people are working at starvation wages. And I think they want that to change.

BOLDUAN: That was -- starvation wages is one of the biting criticisms you took directly to Walmart. Right after the shareholders meeting, you said that you didn't think that you had changed the CEO's mind when it came to this, when it came to $15 an hour. That seems to be right from what we see.

But if you -- if they don't join the ranks, then, of Amazon and Costco on this one, will you and the campaign be boycotting Walmart?

SANDERS: Well, let me just say this. What I was pleased -- you're quite right, he did not say, yes, we're going to do $15 an hour, as Costco has done, as Amazon has done, as Target is in the process of doing. But what he did do, and say for, I believe, the first time, that he believed the federal government should raise the minimum wage. That's a step forward for them.

But I think all over this country, people have got to put as much pressure on Walmart as they possibly can because Walmart, as you know, is the largest private sector employer in this country, 1.5 million workers. As Walmart goes economically, it will have an impact on a lot of other companies.

And the goal here is very simple. It's to say that if you work 40 hours a week in America, you should not live in poverty. And the other point about Walmart and some of these other low-wage

employers is many of the workers at Walmart are forced to go on Medicaid, food stamps, and public housing. Who do you think pays for that? It's the ordinary taxpayer who pays to subsidize that.

BOLDUAN: But with that -- but with that, you -- you -- you're -- you have no problem making bold statements and taking bold action in order to make a statement. Will you -- will your campaign be, I don't know, making a statement to boycott using Walmart until they do join the ranks of Amazon? I mean --

SANDERS: Well, we're going to -- we are going to work with, you know, the -- I was invited to speak to the board of directors at Walmart by employees there. And we're working with a group of employees. And we will sit down with them and strategize as to how we continue to go forward.


I want to ask you about this, as it's happening, well, really changed the course in the last day plus. In basically a little over 24 hours, Joe Biden went from supporting the Hyde Amendment, the ban on federal money being used for abortion services, to now saying that he no longer will support that ban.

Do you applaud him on that turnaround?

SANDERS: Well, look, you know, there are 24 candidates running for president in the Democratic process. Joe is one of them. He will run his campaign the best way he can.

All I can say is that I have always supported a woman's right to control her own body. And that means all women, including lower income women. And I have always voted against the Hyde Amendment. So I'm glad that, you know, Joe has -- has come to that position.

BOLDUAN: Do you trust that this is now his fixed position on federal funding for abortion services?

SANDERS: Well, I -- look, I'm not here to attack Joe Biden. All I'm here to say is that right now the women of this country are under tremendous pressure because what we're seeing in Alabama, Georgia, and other states is an outrageous effort to deny women the right to control their own bodies. It's clearly an effort to undermine and end Roe versus Wade.

And I will say two things. Number one, I hope the men who are watching this program understand, this is not just a woman's issue. It's an issue that impacts all of us, and men have got to stand with women.

And, second of all, I think that we have got to do absolutely everything that we can. And as president of the United States, I would make certain that I will never, ever appoint any nominee to the Supreme Court who is not 100 percent pro supporting Roe v. Wade.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you about trade. It might be the one issue where you and President Trump have some agreement on.

What do you think of the tariffs that he's threatening right now to impose on Mexico starting next week?

SANDERS: Look, I mean as you have heard me say, I think the trade policies of the United States under Republican and Democratic leadership for decades has been a disaster. If you look at NAFTA, if you look at PNTR (ph) with China, probably cost us over 4 million good paying jobs. Companies shut down in America. Throw American workers out on the street, and they go to China and Mexico and hire people at low wages. That's wrong. That's a bad policy.

But for trade, you need a comprehensive trade policy. You need to be working with your allies. You cannot have a trade policy based on the tweet of the day. And that is very discombobulating, I think, for businesses, for farmers all over this country.

So, no, I do not support what Trump is doing on trade.

Do I think we need to change our trade policies to protect American workers? Yes, I do.

[11:40:00] BOLDUAN: You have -- tell me if you need a moment because I know -- believe me, I know what it feels like to get a catch in my throat when I'm trying to -- I'm glad you have water.

Senator, let me ask you about Nancy Pelosi and what happened and what she's actually said in the last 24 hours.

You have stated very clearly your support for launching impeachment proceedings into President Trump. This week, Speaker Pelosi, she said behind closed doors, and we told our viewers about it earlier, that she said, I don't want to see him impeached. I want to see him in prison.

Do you agree with Nancy Pelosi?

SANDERS: Well, look, what I agree is two things.

Number one, you have a president who believes he's above the law. And he has got to be held accountable. And I do believe that the Judiciary Committee in the House should go forward with an impeachment inquiry, an impeachment inquiry. But what Democrats in the House, and this is not an easy position to be in, and it's a -- you know, Nancy Pelosi's living in a difficult world right now, is the American people want to hold this president accountable. They want to make sure we have a president who obeys laws. And they want Congress to investigate him.

But on the other hand, the American people are sick and tired of paying outrageously high prices for prescription drugs, having 34 million Americans who have no health insurance and more who are underinsured. They want the Congress to be dealing with climate change, raising the minimum wage, criminal justice, immigration reform. Enormous issues out there.

So the balance, I think, that the Democrats in the House have got to stake, where they've got to be is, on one hand, hold Trump accountable. Go forward with an impeachment inquiry. On the other hand, do not neglect the issues, the bread and butter issues that the vast majority of the American people are deeply concerned about. We can do both, go forward in both directions. That is what I believe has to be done.

BOLDUAN: You definitely believe that, but that's really where the debate is. If -- even if you are walking and chewing gum at the same time, if it is seen as -- by the public as walking and chewing gum, and that's part of the debate going on in the House right now amongst Democrats.

I do want to ask you, because this, on one poll number, yes, I always know a poll is a snapshot in time, but they're -- I want to know what you think about this snapshot, actually, or what this snapshot tells you because in a recent CNN poll, 54 percent said that they think Donald Trump will win re-election. That is slightly more than those who thought Barack Obama would win a second term around this very same time.

What do you do with that, senator?

SANDERS: Well, I think what you do is two things.

Number one, and this is what I will be doing, and I will tell you why I think I am the strongest Democratic candidate. I think you have to expose Trump for the fraud that he is and explain to those people who voted for him, no, he's not standing with working families, he is standing with the billionaire class. You don't stand with working families when you try to throw 32 million people off the health care they have, when your budget talks about massive cuts to Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security and when 83 percent of the tax benefits go to the top 1 percent.

But on the other hand, you need to bring forth -- it's not good enough just to attack Trump -- you need to bring forth an agenda that increases voter turnout, that is a campaign of excitement and energy. Not the old status quo. You've got to talk to working people and to young people. You've got to bring millions of new people into the political process, to demand, finally, that we have a government and a political process in this country that works for all of us and not just the 1 percent.

And if you are timid and if you're middle of the road, I don't think you create that kind of excitement and energy to defeat Trump. And given the fact that, in my view, Trump is the most dangerous president in the history of this country, it is imperative that we do that.

BOLDUAN: Senator Sanders, thank you for -- thank you for your time. I really appreciate it.

SANDERS: Thank you very much.


BOLDUAN: We'll see you on the trail. Coming up, after the deaths of six migrant children in U.S. custody, one of the most prominent doctors in the United States is warning more children will die unless things change immediately. She is joining me next.


When he was 20 years old, this week's CNN hero was wrongfully convicted and locked up in a Texas prison for 15 years. After a full exoneration and starting his life over in his mid-30s, Richard Miles has spent his newly found freedom now helping others transform their lives after prison.


RICHARD MILES: My mom would always tell me, when you look out the window, don't look at the bars, look at the sky. I could change my perception within the place of incarceration. At the end of the day, be confident in your change.

The idea really started from inside. People get out, and they come right back in. I said, if I ever get out, man, we're going to start a program and we're going to help people. Acknowledgment, transparency, and forgiveness, these are the three essential things we need when we are coming back home.


BOLDUAN: To hear more of Richard's incredible story and journey, go to right now.



BOLDUAN: A surge and a stark warning. The Trump administration is now planning to open a new temporary shelter in Texas with up to 3,000 beds for children, as they wrestle with the skyrocketing number of migrants at the southern border. More than 11,000 minors were apprehended just last month. And now, after six migrant children have now died in U.S. custody, one of the most prominent doctors in the country is warning that more of these children will die as well unless permanent changes are made and made now.

Dr. Colleen Kraft from the American Academy of Pediatrics, writing, in the "Houston Chronicle," this in part, "For Children under 18, conditions in DHS custody are not only unsafe but potentially deadly. This agency has proven repeatedly that it cannot care for children. Security personnel are not medical professionals. They play an important role in cybersecurity and preventing illegal drugs and weapons from entering our country. They should not be in charge -- they should not be charged with meeting the basic needs of children though."

Dr. Kraft joins me now. It's good to see you again, Doctor. Thank you for being here.


BOLDUAN: So you have been to the -- to the facilities where some of these children are held. That was the -- the first time that we actually spoke last summer, was after one of your visits. Now that you're writing -- now that you -- now you're writing that no child should be subjected to these facilities at all, where they're sleeping on cement floors, lights are on 24/7. The temperatures can be frigid. What is it that you think that people are missing about this because the conditions aren't changing, Doctor, and the crisis is only getting worse?

KRAFT: The problem is, is that we don't have medical experts on the ground in these facilities who know how to care for children, combined with the fact that more and more of the people coming to the southern border are children. So that sets up a perfect storm where you have more children and you don't have people trained to know the difference between the child who is mildly ill and a child who is seriously ill, and that's going to lead to more and more deaths at the border.

BOLDUAN: Well -- and we know -- we at least know of six children who died in U.S. custody. And I was really struck when you wrote this. "More children will continue to die if we don't make immediate permanent changes to the way that we treat them when they come here." And you say pediatricians are at least the short-term answer, I guess. Why is that?

KRAFT: We have pediatricians on the ground telling us what's going on in these facilities, outside these facilities, with the children that they have seen in emergency departments and in their communities. And we know that we could monitor these situations and be of advice through the Department of Homeland security on what's the right situation for children. We could be training some of the medical personnel that they do have on staff to notice the difference between a mildly ill and an acutely and seriously ill child.

BOLDUAN: Well -- and Doctor --

KRAFT: We could be there to help this.

BOLDUAN: Last time we spoke you had been in touch with top officials about offering help. Why haven't -- clearly nothing has come of it. Why aren't they taking you up on your offer?

KRAFT: I think that they are -- they care about what we have to say, but the differentiation is really in the action of what needs to be done for these children. So we have been very strong in putting into place that we need a pediatrician presence where there are any children crossing the border. We need to be training and monitoring these personnel, and that continues to be our message.

BOLDUAN: I do want to ask you because just yesterday we learned that the administration's cancelling some programs for kids at these government facilities in order to save money. I mean some -- it's English classes, recreational programs and legal aid. One quote that's really struck out to me, in response to them cutting off funds for activities like soccer, are that they have been deemed, quote unquote, "not directly necessarily unnecessary for the protection of life and safety which is, I guess their standard. As the former head of American Academy of Pediatrics, what do you say about this?

KRAFT: Children are developmentally different than adults, and children need more than just food and water. They need emotional support. They need recreation. They need exercise. They need education. All of these things help them thrive and all of these things help them move through adversity.


And we have to get Congress to not roll back the protections of the Flora settlement agreement for these vulnerable children because this takes away the amount of time that limits them -- their time and detention, as well as some of these other very necessary developmental items that children need to grow and thrive.

BOLDUAN: Doctor, I really appreciate your perspective on this. Thank you so much. We'll be right back.