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CNN "CNN Newsroom" - Transcript: Interview with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez



HARLOW: All right, gentlemen, I hate to cut you short but I have a very important woman joining me next. Thank you both for being here.

Joining me now is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Congratulations. What a night.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Thank you. Thank you very, very much, Poppy.

HARLOW: I don't know what I did by 28 years old but it certainly wasn't this. So congratulations to you. You said leading up to last night in the election, women like me aren't supposed to run for office. You did, you won. You were outspent 10 to 1, why did you win?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I think that really -- I mean we won because we organized. We won because I think we had a very clear, winning message and we took that message to doors that had never been knocked on before. We spoke to communities that had typically been, I think, dismissed and they responded.

You know, when people feel like they are being spoken directly to, I do feel like they are willing -- they'll do things like turnout in an off-year midterm primary.

HARLOW: You are clearly saying that your party -- that the Democratic Party has dismissed factions of society, has dismissed groups of people. Who is that?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, I think what we really need to talk about it is we need to be talking about reaching out to young people, people that we think are usually nonvoters, communities of color, people who speak English as a second language, working class people, people with two jobs that usually are too busy, quote-unquote, "to vote." People who have never voted before. A lot of time --


HARLOW: But is the Democratic Party not doing that? Is the Democratic Party not doing that? Is that what you're saying?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I think that -- I think that here in New York, the historical wisdom is to go after your triple prime and you know, nationally I think there are probably some folks doing some good work and some really exciting candidates like Ayanna Pressley out of Massachusetts doing that work, but here in New York and here in this district, I feel like it wasn't being done.

HARLOW: So you have called for a number of things, one of them being to abolish ICE and you recently traveled to the border, to Tornillo, Texas, to see the shelters, to see where some of these separated families are being held. What would you replace ICE with and do we not need protection at the border?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, we absolutely do need to make sure that our borders are secure, to make sure that people are safe in passage, but what we need to realize and remember is that ICE was established in 2003 right at the same time as the Patriot Act, the AUMF, the Iraq war, and we look back at a lot of that time and legislation as a mistake now and I think that ICE is right there as a part of it. It has -- its extrajudicial nature is baked in to the structure of the agency and that is why they're able to get away with black -- you know, with black sites at our border with the separation of children.

We are committing human rights abuses on this border in separating children from their families and that, you know, is part of the structure of the agency. We can replace it and we can replace it with a humane agency that is directed towards safe passage instead of the direction of the criminalization.

HARLOW: What do you mean black sites? What do you mean by black sites?


HARLOW: What do you mean about black sites?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well -- so I was just -- yes. Yes, so actually we're just hopping off MSNBC and they were talking about it. Basically, what we have is that people are not able to access, even our own members of Congress are not able to access what is happening in these sites.

[09:10:06] And that in and of itself, the secretive nature, I mean, we know that children are being kept and that human rights abuses are happening and without any sort of transparency or accountability, that is where we're at right now. That is simply what is happening.

HARLOW: I would note those facilities run by HHS but I know some of the lawmakers who have even gotten inside have not been able to see some of the children.

Let me ask about a few things that if you make it to Washington, if you win in November, would you support Nancy Pelosi for House speaker should the Democrats take control of the House? OCASIO-CORTEZ: I think it's far too early to make those kinds of

commitments right now. I think we just need to look at what the options are. You know, it's entirely possible but we also just need to see what the landscape of -- of the leadership, and I think we need to just focus on winning November first and then we'll have this conversation about our leadership.

HARLOW: That's not -- you know, certainly anything but a resounding yes. It sounds like you have some questions about the Democratic Party's leadership overall right now?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, I think -- I think really what this is just about is we need to see what Congress we elect in November. And it's entirely possible that she -- that her leadership may stay but it's also entirely possible that we can look at other options. I just don't think that -- I think it's far too premature to have this conversation.

HARLOW: You -- look, it's notable that you defeated a man, Representative Crowley, that was the heir apparent, right, to Nancy Pelosi. There are some Democrats as you know who have been pushing for impeachment proceedings against the president should Democrats retake the House in November.

There are other Democrats like Representative Jerry Nadler of New York as well who have warned against that, and said that is a dangerous path for Democrats to run on. Where do you fall? Would you push for a Trump impeachment should you win?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, I would -- I would support impeachment. I think that, you know, we have the grounds to do it. I think what really we need to focus on is making sure that we are advocating for the policies to win in November, but ultimately I think that what we need to kind of focus on is insuring that we can -- you know, when people break the law, potentially break the law that we have to hold everyone accountable and that no person is above that law.

HARLOW: Do you see yourself, Alexandria, as more of a Democrat or a progressive? Would you say I am a member of the Democratic Party this morning?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I'm absolutely -- I'm proud to be a Democrat. I was raised in a Democratic family with Democratic values but it also means that the Democratic Party is a big tent and there are so many ways to be a Democrat and I'm proud to bring to Congress an additional perspective and a lens towards what the future of the Democratic Party may be.

HARLOW: In 2020, should you win in November, in 2020, can you say right now that you will unequivocally back the Democratic nominee in opposition to President Trump? Meaning, you know, if this were 2016 --


HARLOW: Would it be a guarantee that Hillary Clinton would have gotten your vote?


HARLOW: Or do you foresee a reasonable scenario in which that wouldn't happen?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: No. I mean, I think that we're just at a moment where we absolutely have to support the Democratic nominee against President Trump, absolutely, without question.

HARLOW: Here in New York as you know there is a gubernatorial race that's getting a lot of attention. Governor Andrew Cuomo running against Cynthia Nixon. She's called for some similar things as you. She's called for the abolition of ICE as well. Who are you backing? Who should win?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Oh, well, I was proud to receive the endorsement of Miss Nixon yesterday and in return that support, you know, I think that there were a few people that took major, major risks in supporting this campaign and in charting that path forward and she was one of them, Zephyr Teachout was another, and, you know, they really took a major risk and I think that that is -- you know, it's a great form of leadership.

HARLOW: So that's an endorsement for Cynthia Nixon? Correct? Let's go back to the question.


HARLOW: You said, you're a Democrat who said I would -- I would favor proceeding with impeachment against the president, Articles of Impeachment against President Trump if you win in November. On what ground should the president be impeached?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, I think that there are serious grounds in violations of the emoluments clause from day one. And, you know, I think that that is first and foremost one of the basic elements and violations on that and then -- you know, once again, it's hard to predict what's going to happen over the next few months. There are several investigations -- one or more investigations happening, but I think from day one we had violations of the emoluments clause here in -- with the presidency.


HARLOW: As we know there is not equality, gender equality or equality on the base of race when it comes to representation in Congress and that is slowly changing, but I just wonder if you could reflect a bit on your win as a woman, as a 28-year-old Latino woman and the year we're in, the #MeToo movement, sort of what you believe this says about the country?

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I think it says right now that women are at a time where they are feeling emboldened and that we know that justice and we know that representation is not going to be handed to us. We have to fight for it. We have to earn it. We have to fight for every single vote, every single scrap. And not only is that necessary, but that women are ready to do that this year now more than ever.

HARLOW: Finish this sentence for me, Alexandria. Should I be elected to Congress in November, I will accomplish blank?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yes. So, I think should I be elected to Congress in November, I'm hoping to accomplish not just my own election, but a caucus of progressives in the primaries to come, so that we can come in to this legislation - I mean, come into Congress and be able to cosponsor really a profound legislation that not only fights for economic and social and racial dignity for all Americans, but advances healthcare as a human right, advances higher education, the expansion of higher education, including trade schools to all working class Americans and more.

HARLOW: All right. And the name that is top of mind for you when it comes to the Democrat you think should run against President Trump in 2020? I want one name, what is it?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Man, I do not have one right now. There are a lot of great ones.

HARLOW: That's a problem. That's a problem for your party, isn't it, that you don't have a name?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: I mean, I think healthy - we're used to voting for the lesser of two evils instead of the better of the two options. And I hope that, in the future, in 2020, we realize that having more than one amazing candidate is not a problem.

HARLOW: Is there a better option? I mean, not a lesser of two evils. I mean, if you think of a Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand, are any of those names top for you right now? Do you think they can and should win against President Trump?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: For me, I think that any candidate right now in 2020, my bar, my first bar is the rejection of corporate lobbyist PAC money in financing our campaigns. I think we have several excellent candidates that have taken that important bold first step.

And I'm looking forward to seeing how their policies evolve and develop. I think there's a lot of jockeying over the names, but we need to really take a look at some of the policies and the proposals that earn that kind of front-runner status.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, congratulations. Let this soak in for a moment.


HARLOW: Thanks for being with me. Thank you.