The latest: Democratic presidential candidates face off in Charleston

BY    | Updated: Jan 17, 2016 at 11:25 PM
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders speaks as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton listens at the NBC News - YouTube Democratic presidential candidates debate in Charleston, South Carolina Jan. 17, 2016. Photo By Randall Hill/Reuters

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders speaks as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton listens at the NBC News – YouTube Democratic presidential candidates debate in Charleston, South Carolina Jan. 17, 2016. Photo By Randall Hill/Reuters


10:54 p.m.

The Democratic presidential debate has concluded.

10:51 p.m.

Bernie Sanders has used his last minute of the Democratic debate to call for campaign finance reform, one of his favorite subjects on the campaign trail.

He says little can be done to change the economy or jumpstart his “political revolution” as long as wealthy Americans can contribute unlimited sums of money in elections. Sanders has made his call to reverse the Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgate of money in politics a central piece of his campaign.,

He says he plans to start a revolution to “say proudly and clearly that the government belongs to all of us.”

10:50 p.m.

Hillary Clinton says that “every single American should be outraged” by the water crisis in Flint.

Clinton says Sunday night that she sent a “top campaign aide” to Flint, which is dealing with lead contamination of the city’s tap water. She criticized Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, saying he has “acted as though he didn’t really care.”

Clinton argues that “if the kids in a rich suburb of Detroit had been drinking contaminated water and being bathed in it, there would have been action.”

President Barack Obama has signed an emergency declaration that clears the way for federal aid in Flint. The water became contaminated after Flint switched from the Detroit water system to the Flint River as a cost-cutting move. The corrosive water lacked adequate treatment and caused lead to leach from old pipes.

Bernie Sanders followed Clinton’s remarks by noting that he has called for Snyder’s resignation.

10:49 p.m.

Martin O’Malley says at the Democratic presidential debate that the campaign overlooks several critical issues.

The former Maryland governor notes that he and his fellow candidates haven’t talked much about immigration laws in Sunday’s debate. He called attention to Puerto Rico’s debt crisis and its effect on citizens there. He says there’s not enough attention paid to the proliferation of drug traffickers across both American continents.

O’Malley says the U.S. political process is capable of solving such problems. “There is no challenge that is too great for us to overcome,” he says, if Americans ” join forces together.”

10:31 p.m.

Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley both say Americans’ privacy rights shouldn’t be violated as the government collects information about potential terrorist threats.

Sanders says public policy has not yet caught up with the explosion of data collection through the Internet and apps. He says the government should work together with Silicon Valley to ensure “lone wolves,” or terrorists affiliated with the Islamic State group, aren’t using the Internet for their benefit.

Hillary Clinton is praising President Barack Obama for meeting with Silicon Valley executives, but says Muslim Americans can offer the first line of defense against “lone wolf” attacks. She and the other candidates are slamming GOP front runner Donald Trump’s calls to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

10:26 p.m.

Hillary Clinton describes her relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin as one of “respect.” But she also calls him a “bully” with “a mixed record” and promises she would “stand up to him” if she’s elected president of the United States.

Clinton notes that she spoke out against Putin’s aggressiveness before she ended her tenure as secretary of state during President Barack Obama’s first term.

She also says she has no regrets for offering Russia a “reset button” when she began her tenure at state. Republican presidential hopefuls use that widely circulated quote from Clinton as a punch line to frame her as weak on foreign policy.

Clinton argues that establishing a more positive relationship with Russia led to a number of positive developments: an agreement to reduce nuclear arms; the establishment of troop supply lines through Russia to reach U.S. troops in Afghanistan; and getting Russia to agree to sanctions against Iran.

Diplomacy, Clinton says, means figuring out how to strike deals to “advance your security and your values.” With Putin, that means, “we have to figure out how to deal with him.”

10:24 p.m.

Hillary Clinton says President Barack Obama’s efforts to get chemical weapons out of Syria had a “very positive outcome.”

Asked Sunday if Obama should have stuck by his statements that chemical weapons would constitute a “red line,” Clinton says that as commander in chief “you have to be constantly evaluating the decisions you have to make.” She also said the situation was complicated and noted the “great turmoil currently in the region.”

Bernie Sanders called the situation in Syria an “incredible quagmire.” He said the first priority in the region should be the “destruction of ISIS,” followed by “getting rid of” Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

10:18 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders says on Syria, he’d do everything he can to avoid “perpetual warfare” in the Middle East.

He’s casting the conflict as a “quagmire.” And he says having Americans involved would be an “unmitigated disaster.”

10:15 p.m.

Neither Hillary Clinton nor Bernie Sanders say the United States should re-open its embassy in Tehran, although both say the nuclear deal with Iran and recent prisoner release mark significant steps in the countries’ relationship.

Clinton says, “we had one good day over 36 years, and I think we need more good days” before rapidly normalizing relations with the nation. Sanders, meanwhile, says that while he does not believe the embassy should be reopened at this time, the goal should be to “warm relations” with Iran, which he called a “very powerful and important country in this world.”

Both praise the nuclear agreement negotiated by the Obama administration but say the United States must keep a careful eye on Iran to make sure it continues to comply with the deal.

10:06 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidates want voters to know them as the science party.

That’s as opposed to the Republican presidential field that includes several candidates who dismiss the scientific consensus that human activity has made the earth warmer over time.

Martin O’Malley says the three candidates “actually believe in science.” He says Democrats should commit to “a 100 percent clean electricity grid by 2050,” leaning on solar and other sources instead of fossil fuels to power the nation.

Bernie Sanders mocks Republicans as “a major party … that is so owned by the fossil fuel industry and their campaign contributions that they dont’ even have the courage, the decency to listen to the scientists.”

Sanders says younger Americans “instinctively” recognize the imperative to change consumer behavior, and he agrees with O’Malley’s call to remake the energy industry. He pitches the transition as an economic opportunity. “We need to be bold and decisive,” he says. “We can create millions of jobs.”

10:04 p.m.

Bernie Sanders is defending his single payer health care plan, saying that it would save families more money than it costs them in higher taxes.

Though his plan would increase taxes on all Americans by 2.2 percent, middle-class families would save $5,000 in health insurance costs, he says.

He adds: “There are huge savings in what your family is spending.”

Hillary Clinton has attacked Sanders for proposing a plan that she says would raise taxes and reignite a divisive political issue.

10:01 p.m.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are facing off over how they would pay for their policy proposals.

Sanders said Sunday night that he has explained exactly how he would pay for an “ambitious agenda.” For example, he says he’ll pay for his plan to provide tuition-free public university with a tax on “Wall Street speculation.”

Clinton says she too has explained how she will pay for her plans. She says she is the only candidate to pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class. “I want to raise incomes, not taxes,” she says.

Sanders says his proposal for a single-payer health care system may raise taxes on middle class families, but will end the need for costly private health insurance premiums. So he says in the end “it’s a pretty good deal.”

10:00 p.m.

Martin O’Malley is jumping into the debate over Wall Street regulation between his two Democratic rivals by alleging Hillary Clinton is being untruthful about the strength of her plans to reign in Wall Street excesses.

He jumped in quickly to say “that’s not true,” when Clinton said her plan for financial regulation has been called the toughest and most comprehensive.

O’Malley says he would put “cops back on the beat of Wall Street.”

Sanders, likewise, says it’s wrong that none of the executives of the largest banks faced jail time after the financial collapse.

9:58 p.m.

Bernie Sanders is pointing to Hillary Clinton’s campaign contributions and speaking fees from Wall Street as evidence that she won’t be able to impose stricter regulations on the financial sector.

He says, “I don’t get personal speaking fees from Goldman Sachs.”

Clinton is shooting right back, alleging Sanders’ comments amount to an attack on President Barack Obama’s record on financial regulation. She also says there’s “no daylight” between her and Sanders on the basic premise that big banks need to be reigned in.

Wall Street regulation is a major point of contention between the two campaigns, with Sanders recently releasing an ad outlining “two visions” within the Democratic party over Wall Street regulation.

Clinton’s response tying herself to Obama is part of her effort to craft herself as the natural heir to his presidency.

9:45 p.m.

Hillary Clinton says she plans to keep pursuing all votes, including from young people who turn out in droves for Bernie Sanders.

Democratic debate moderator Lester Holt cites polling that suggests the 74-year-old Sanders leads the 68-year-old Clinton by about a 2-to-1 margin among “young voters,” though he did not offer details.

Clinton cited several points in her platform as reasons she should appeal to young people, such as tuition-free community college, overhauling the student loan system and restoring voting rights laws struck down by the Supreme Court.

But she stresses that her pitch ultimately is aimed at voters of all ages. “Turning over the White House to Republicans,” she says, would “be bad for” everyone.

9:42 p.m.

Bernie Sanders is embracing his identity as a self-proclaimed “democratic socialist,” saying the Democratic party needs “major reform.”

Democrats need to expand their outreach to traditionally red states like South Carolina and lessen their dependency on Super PACs, he says.

He adds: “We need to expand what the input is into the Democratic party.”

9:39 p.m.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both say they can work to find common ground in Washington — though they have different takes on how to get things done.

Asked about how to bridge political divisions, Clinton says Sunday night that she has a long history of working across the aisle. Among her examples was working with Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, to increase health care access for veterans.

Clinton says she will “go anywhere to meet with anyone at any time to find common ground.”

Sanders says he also has a history of working with Republicans – citing collaboration with Republican Sen. John McCain, of Arizona – but he also argues that a key issue in Washington is that Congress is “owned by big money” and is not pursuing the policies the public wants.

9:31 p.m.

A heated Bernie Sanders says the debate over health care reform should be about who has “the guts to stand up to” private insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

He says the reason the United States doesn’t guarantee health care as a right is partly because of a “corrupt” campaign finance system.

Sanders and Hillary Clinton are engaged in a fiery back-and-forth over how to further reform health care. Sanders is advocating for a “Medicare for all” plan, while Clinton says she would build on the Affordable Care Act.

Clinton says she has experience taking on the health insurance industry, noting with a smile that they’ve spent “many, many millions of dollars” attacking her – but says the candidates must be realistic when it comes to health care reform. She says even with Democrats in charge, Congress has failed to pass a bill allowing people to choose to participate in Medicare.

9:30 p.m.

Bernie Sanders is defending his proposal for universal health care as being in the true traditions of the Democratic Party and presidents like Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman.

Hillary Clinton says the Vermont senator’s idea would “tear up” the Affordable Care Act and give Republicans a fresh opportunity to undo one of President Barack Obama’s “greatest achievements.”

“With all due respect, to start over again with a whole new debate is something that would set us back,” Clinton says.

Sanders is blasting Clinton’s attacks as misrepresenting the fact that he “has fought for universal health care for my entire life.” He says his plan doesn’t scrap the Affordable Care Act’s vision of expanded coverage, but builds on it by “getting private insurance out” of health care markets.

He notes that even with Obama’s law, which still hinges on private insurance, about 29 million Americans remain without health care coverage. This issue, he says, “is whether or not we have the guts to stand up to the private insurance companies and all their money.”

9:25 p.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders says in the Democratic presidential debate the U.S. Justice Department should investigate “whenever anybody in this country is killed while in police custody.”

He responded to a question from a voter who questioned the fairness of prosecutors being responsible for investigating allegations of police brutality in their local jurisdictions.

Sanders also used the question to repeat several points that he has worked into his standard campaign pitch in recent months. He praised police officers for doing a “difficult job” but added, that any officer who “breaks the law,” they should face consequences.

He also says the U.S. “should de-militarize” local police forces “so they don’t look like occupying armies.” And he calls for local agencies to use “community policing,” placing officers in local neighborhoods so they get to know citizens, and to diversify their forces to “look like the communities

9:21 p.m.

Bernie Sanders is taking on criticism that he’s not as electable as Hillary Clinton or as popular as her among black voters.

He says, “we have the momentum, we’re on a path to victory.”

Sanders says he’s confident black voters will increasingly back his candidacy when they learn more about his positions. He’s pointing to his support in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, where he’s neck and neck with Clinton, that voters who have had a chance to learn about him are strongly backing his campaign.

Although Sanders and Clinton are close in the early voting states, the former secretary of state continues to out-perform Sanders in national polls and has wider support among African American voters.

Sanders is also taking on the argument that he’s not as “electable” as Clinton, telling views he performs better in matchups against Republican front-runner Donald Trump than Clinton does.

9:20 p.m.

Martin O’Malley is defending his record in Baltimore and Maryland on criminal justice.

Asked about his crime policies in light of the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore police custody, O’Malley says Sunday night that “we weren’t able to make our city immune from setbacks” but, “we were able to save a lot of lives.”

O’Malley said he repealed the possession of marijuana as a crime and repealed the death penalty in the state. He said incarceration rates and violent crime rates dropped under his watch.

9:16 p.m.

Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are reiterating their push to reform the criminal justice system, with Clinton saying it’s riddled with “systemic racism” and Sanders deriding it as “broken.”

9:15 p.m.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are clashing early on guns in a Democratic presidential debate blocks from where nine people were killed by a white gunman at a historic black church in June.

Sanders says Clinton’s assertion that he’s a tool of the gun lobby is “disingenuous” and notes that he has a lifetime rating of a D- from the National Rifle Association.

He says he’s always supported bans on military style assault weapons, though Clinton counters that he voted several times against the Brady Bill that eventually became law under her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

Hillary Clinton has hammered Sanders for weeks for voting effectively to shield gun manufacturers from legal liability in gun deaths. Sanders says the bill was unfair to independent gun retailers, whom he has said don’t deserve to be sued. He says he would support legislation that would target manufacturers specifically. Sanders also argues that as a “senator from a rural state that has virtually no gun control” he’s in an “excellent position to bring people together on the politically sensitive issue.”

9:08 p.m.

Martin O’Malley says investing in cities will be a top priority in his first days in office.

Asked about his priorities for his first 100 days in office, the former Maryland governor says Sunday that he would focus on efforts to boost wages, promote clean energy and enhance cities.

The former mayor of Baltimore says: “We have not had a new agenda for America’s cities since Jimmy Carter.”

9:07 p.m.

Bernie Sanders says three of the major issues he’d pursue as president are raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, rebuilding crumbling roads and bridges and making health care available to everyone.

He says he’d focus his first 100 days in office on “bringing America together to end the decline of the middle class.”

Sanders is centering his campaign on making wealthy Americans pay what he calls their “fair share.” He says his campaign is about “thinking big.”

9:01 p.m.

The Democratic presidential debate is underway, with three candidates set to clash over health care, gun policy and more in a forum just a few blocks from the “Mother Emanuel” church where nine parishioners were murdered last year.