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Sanders on Trump: We Need to Think Every Day How to Mobilize People to Defeat This Horrific Agenda

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In the wake of Donald Trump’s election victory, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has vowed to fight against Trump’s proposed policies to build a wall across the entire length of the U.S.-Mexico border, to reinstate a database for immigrants from majority-Muslim countries and to deport millions of undocumented immigrants. On Monday night, Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman sat down for an interview with Senator Sanders, who spoke about what it looks like to hold Trump and the Republican Party accountable.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you about that famous moment in one of the debates with Hillary Clinton where you said you didn’t care about the damn emails. Do you feel the same way today?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: What I said—and sometimes it got taken out of context—is that there was an investigation going on and that I wanted to spend—that history, 10 years from now, trust me, no one will remember these damn emails. What they will worry about is people not having healthcare. They’ll worry about climate change. They’ll worry about poverty. They’ll worry about infrastructure. And my point was—and the media often doesn’t play that whole statement—I said, you know, “I’m sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails, because that’s what the whole campaign is about. Why don’t we talk about, A, the collapse of the middle class, income and wealth inequality, healthcare, education, how we move the country forward?” And that was the thrust of my point. It is not my style—and sometimes, amazingly enough, I get criticized for it—for running, you know, ugly and negative ads. I prefer to stay on the important issues facing the American people. There are other areas we could have gone, as well, that Trump went into, that we chose not to do it, because I think, in my own state, I can tell you that people do want to hear a serious discussion on serious issues. That’s what we tried to do.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me tell you the reason I ask this now. This issue that was hijacked by the right-wing media and Trump himself, but the issue of the secretary of state setting up this private email server, and she has her husband, who’s the former president and running a multibillion-dollar foundation, meeting with heads of state, as well, and yet they don’t have accountability here—what this means not only for them, but if this becomes a model, for example, for President Trump. He runs a vast business empire.


AMY GOODMAN: He is the top government official. If he decides to set up his own private email server and decides that he can disappear tens of thousands of email, there won’t be a government record of what is actually going on.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Right, right. I mean, I think that’s a fair point. And I think, with Trump, the major point is this guy has business enterprises all over the world. And you’re looking just at immense, immense conflict of interest. Every decision that he makes is going to impact his bottom line of some business that he owns all over the world. So it remains a huge issue. And I got your point, too, obviously, you know, and that is the valid criticism of having a private email when you’re doing government business.

AMY GOODMAN: And now his Cabinet appointments, your thoughts on the direction he’s going?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I think this is where—and what our job is—in fact, as I mentioned earlier, I’m going to be, I think, in Indiana on Monday night. And we’re going to go to the Carrier plant, where you have a situation where Carrier is—you all remember air-conditioners—they make furnaces in Indiana, actually. And they decided—they announced last year they’re going to shut down two plants in Indiana, throw 2,100 workers out on the street. This is a company that pays top dollar to its CEOs, head guy makes $14 million. Couple of years ago they had a severance package for a former CEO. You know what the guy got as a golden parachute? $171 million. And now what they want to do is shut the plants down and move to Mexico and hire people in Monterrey for three bucks an hour. So it becomes symbolic of a disastrous trade policy. And we’re going to be there.

But to answer your question, what we have got to do now, to those people who voted for Trump, because they said, “Well, you know, this guy sounds reasonable”—Trump sent out a tweet where he says, “I am the only Republican candidate for president who will not cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.” Right? Well, believe me, every American, every person in this country, if I have anything to say about it, will know precisely what is going on with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, because, as you’ve indicated, they are beginning to appoint people who are typical right-wing Republicans who want to privatize and cut Social Security. And our job—and we’ve got it. We’ve got every statement that Trump made during this campaign. And we are going to hold him accountable. Every person in this country will know what he said and what he is doing. Trump said, “One of the issues that I think a whole lot of people are deeply concerned about is the high cost of medicine in this country.” Trump said during the campaign he was going to take on the pharmaceutical industry. He was going to allow for Medicare to negotiate prices with the drug companies, allow people to reimport medicine from Canada and other countries, where the price is often half as much as it is in the United States. Well, you know what? We are going to remind the American people of precisely what Donald Trump said about that and many other issues.

AMY GOODMAN: So now you have someone like Betsy DeVos chosen to be the new secretary of education, sister of Erik Prince, who, you know—


AMY GOODMAN: —is founder of the mercenary firm Blackwater.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: And multibillionaire, a multi, multibillionaire, I think, very active in politics in Michigan.

AMY GOODMAN: And massive supporter of voucher system for education. And then you have Mike Flynn, the national security adviser nominee. And this goes to another point of—though it’s critical to hold Trump accountable, starting with the Democrats, on the issue of the kill list, President Obama’s kill list, his using extrajudicial powers, executive powers, to kill people—can be Americans—without a judge, a jury, without them being charged with a crime. That’s President Obama, and he’s extending those powers. Your thoughts on President Obama’s use of the kill list and then the idea of President Trump using his kill list?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, look, you know, when we talk—obviously, I disagree with Obama in using—unilaterally deciding who’s going to live or die. And, look, it goes without saying that, you know, we are concerned—I am deeply concerned—about virtually everything that Trump is talking about and has talked about in his campaign and the kind of people that he is appointing. But what’s going through my mind right now is to figure out the most effective way that we can fight back. That’s really what I am focusing on right now. And what I will say, and what I believe to be the case, the Republicans are many things, but they’re not dumb. And if millions of people begin to stand up and fight back, they’re going to be thinking twice about doing very bad things.

I’ll give you just one example, Amy. A couple of years ago, sad to say, not only all—virtually all Republicans wanted to cut Social Security. There were a number of Democrats who did, as well. And some of us in the Senate, organizing a defending Social Security caucus, we worked with senior groups all over this country. We got millions of signatures on petitions coming in. And you know what? They backed off. They did not cut Social Security.

So, I think if there’s—if there’s a lesson to be learned right now, when we are fighting for huge stakes—we’re fighting for the future—future of the planet in terms of climate change. We’re fighting for the future of American democracy. We have got to mobilize people and rethink our commitment in terms of what our role is in the political process. And the message I just want to make here in Philadelphia and across this country is it is not good enough to say, “Well, hey, I vote every two years. I vote every four years.” That’s fine, but that is not good enough. What we need to do is to be thinking every day the kinds of role we can play in educating and organizing and mobilizing people to defeat this horrific agenda. And I do believe that if millions of people do stand up and fight back, we can stop him from doing some really awful things. And that’s what I am trying to do right now. And we’ve got to mobilize people to do that.

AMY GOODMAN: We’ll be back with Bernie Sanders, senator of Vermont, former presidential candidate, in a minute.

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