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Tom Steyer says he is ‘leading the charge’ on climate change

Billionaire businessman Tom Steyer told NewsHour Weekend Sunday that “saying something different” sets him apart from the crowded field of Democratic candidates seeking to become the president next year. He joins Yamiche Alcindor from the campaign trail to discuss why climate change is his top priority, his years-long push to impeach President Trump and why no one can call him "a socialist."

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  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Another Democrat vying for a spot in the next debate is billionaire businessman Tom Steyer.

    He's on the campaign trail this weekend and he joins us now from Manchester, New Hampshire. Thanks so much for being here.

    You were one of the first Democrats to come out in favor of impeaching President Trump. Now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she may delay sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate. Do you agree with that strategy?

  • Tom Steyer:

    Look, I think Speaker Pelosi is trying to use her parliamentary power to try and ensure that there is some semblance of a fair trial in the Senate. And I applaud her for that, because what I've been calling for for two years is to have televised hearings with everybody from the White House testifying under oath in front of the American people as to the corruption of this president and his obstruction of justice.

    And Nancy Pelosi is trying as hard as she can to force Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans to put some semblance of a fair trial in front of the American people and not to bury the evidence of this president's long standing corruption.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    You became a billionaire in part by founding a hedge fund that invested in fossil fuel and coal. You're now running as a climate change advocate.

    How do you square that? Why should people trust you on the issue of climate change, given how you made your money?

  • Tom Steyer:

    That isn't how my made my money Yamiche, just to be fair. I started a business that invested in every part of the economy. We invested in fossil fuels, but at a much lower level than they are as a part of the economy.

    And while I was running that investment firm, I realized, oh, my goodness, there's this unintended consequences of our economy being driven by fossil fuels. So I divested. I walked away from my business. I took the giving pledge in order to promise to give most of my money to good causes while I'm alive.

    And I've spent over a decade working on climate change, pushing for clean energy, fighting oil companies and public utilities to force them to do the right thing. And I've been winning.

    So, in fact, what I'm asking Americans to do is exactly what I did. We all have come from a fossil fuel driven economy. We all grew up in one. We have to realize, we weren't trying to do something wrong when we got on the school bus. We were just trying to get to school. But now we have to realize we have to make a change, that there is this unintended consequence called climate change.

    And so for over a decade, I've been leading the charge to make that change and to do it in a way that does two things. That starts with environmental justice, that makes sure that we start with leadership from the black and brown communities where it's unsafe to breathe the air or drink the water that comes out of the tap. And to make sure people know that we can do it. And when we do it, we're gonna create literally millions of good paying union jobs across this country.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    And you've said also that you could win back white working class voters in crucial states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. But some of them have told us that they still remember being called 'deplorables' by the last Democratic nominee and think Democrats look down on them. How do you convince them otherwise?

  • Tom Steyer:

    Well, you'll never hear me say a bad word about people from those states, because I don't feel it.

    What I know is that over the last 40 years, this government has been bought by corporations. They've rigged the system. And the proof is that working Americans haven't had a raise for two generations, for 40 years.

    So you're never gonna hear me blame the victim, to say to working people across the United States, it's your fault.

    What I'm gonna say is this: I've spent a decade fighting and beating corporations on behalf of people in the country. I spent a decade building grassroots democracy so the people's voice can be heard.

    So my point to working people across this country is this: if you think corporations have bought the government and are running it for themselves and not for the people, I know it, too.

    And if you want someone to break that corporate stranglehold, I'm an outsider who's been fighting and beating those corporations for a decade. Who do you trust to really take them on? An outsider who's been doing it or somebody from D.C.?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The Democratic National Committee is gonna be raising the threshold for the next debate in January. Do you think your money gives you an unfair advantage in this field?

  • Tom Steyer:

    Look, to me, Yamiche, the big question in this field is, do you have a message that's differential and important? And do people trust you? And so, I believe I'm saying something different.

    I believe I have a different ability to take on Mr. Trump on the economy, because I built a business from scratch. And no one can ever call me a socialist. And no one can ever say that I don't understand what creates prosperity and growth in the country.

    So as far as I'm concerned, for a decade I've been fighting problems in America with everything I have, including spending money. And if that's the worst thing anyone ever says about me, I'm OK with that.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, thank you so much, Tom Steyer, for joining us from Manchester, New Hampshire.

  • Tom Steyer:

    Yamiche, thank you for having me.

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