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MSNBC "The Rachel Maddow Show" - Transcript: "One-on-One with Senator Warren (D-MA)."



MADDOW: Senator Warren last night at the biggest campaign event of her campaign thus far. Joining us now for "The Interview" is Elizabeth Warren, senator from Massachusetts, candidate in the Democratic primary. Senator, it`s great to see you. Thank you.

WARREN: It`s good to be here.

MADDOW: I keep expecting you to be hoarse.


MADDOW: You`re fine.

WARREN: No, I`m fine.

MADDOW: I have to ask you about the selfie line thing.


MADDOW: I realize that this is now a thing that you do at every event, every town hall.


MADDOW: You stay afterwards. You take pictures with everybody who wants a picture taken with you.


MADDOW: Last night at that gigantic event --

WARREN: Uh-huh.

MADDOW: -- it was like four hours?

WARREN: Yes, a little over.

MADDOW: I assume this is something you cannot do forever because of the amount of time that it takes, because of the energy it takes. Also, I imagine security concerns. I mean, are you thinking about that?



WARREN: Because this is how I see it -- look, we know in this country what is broken. People know this. We`ve got a government that works better and better and better for a thinner and thinner slice at the top and it`s just not working for everyone else. We know it`s broken. We know how to fix it. We`re going to attack the corruption head on. We`re going to make some structural changes in our economy. And we`ve got to protect our democracy. We know what we need to do. But the third part is we`ve got to build a grassroots movement to make it happen. And -- you know, yes, I was there four hours, but I`ll tell you what? So was the last guy in line, and he`s in. He`s all the way in this fight. He`s in to volunteer his hour. He`s in to put in his 5 bucks or his 25 bucks. He`s in this to talk to everyone else and to bring more people into it. Because when things are as badly broken as they are right now, when we`ve got this much corruption right at the heart of our government, it`s going to take a huge movement, it`s going to take millions of people pushing from the outside. It`s going to take somebody leading from the inside to make the kind of big structural change we need to make.

MADDOW: And that was really the plot of your speech last night.


MADDOW: Talking about the Triangle Shirtwaist factory and the fire that killed 140 women in 1911.


MADDOW: I was struck by the parallel with the start of your campaign. You launched your campaign in Lawrence, Massachusetts, at Everett Mills, right? Huge, historic labor strike there in 1912. And so, you`ve had these two, sort of, tent pole moments, 1911 and 1912. Is that because you see us as sort of -- I mean, that was the time when the Gilded Age was yielding the progressive era.


MADDOW: Do you see us in that kind of transition again or is that what you`re trying to make happen?

WARREN: I see it as we have this moment in history that if we get out there and fight, we can turn it around. But it`s not guaranteed. It really is about whether we get out and fight. And that`s how I see pulling all these moments together. You know, the Triangle Shirtwaist factory, it is a story of power. It`s about the power of the factory owners. Who knew? There had been one parade after another. There`d been one protest march after another. There had been plenty of press about it about the terrible conditions, the dangerous conditions in their factories. And then the moment came when over 140 people died in that fire, when Frances Perkins stood on the street and watched as one woman jumped to her death and then another and another and another. In 18 minutes, 143 people died their bodies lying on the ground, their blood running into the gutters. People piled up at the fire exit that was locked because the owners were so worried that those workers might steal a scrap of cloth. But this time, the plan was different. It was to say we`re not just going to have one more protest. We`re going to have a huge protest. We`re going to build a grassroots movement from the outside. And at the same moment, we`re going to have somebody leading it from the inside. And that was Frances Perkins. So, think about this: 1911, you know what she does following this fire? She goes to Washington -- to Albany. She`s 30 years old. She goes to Albany. Remember, women can`t even vote.

MADDOW: She couldn`t vote at the time. Right.

WARREN: She could not vote. She shows up and she leads the fight from the inside. She gets appointed to a commission. They change the rules around fire. But that`s not enough. She goes from fire safety to the labor laws. And New York state rewrites its labor laws top to bottom. Roosevelt becomes governor, then Roosevelt becomes president. And when Roosevelt is president, he brings Frances Perkins to be the first woman to be a cabinet secretary. She`s secretary of labor. And here`s how you see it. One very persistent woman backed up by millions of people, and what did they get done? Social Security, the minimum wage, unemployment insurance, the end of child labor, the very existence of the weekend, the right to join a union. It was a transformative moment that took two things -- the fight from the outside and the fight from the inside, the leadership from the inside. We had that opportunity now. And too many people say, it`s just too hard, we can`t do it. But think of it this way: here in America, we`ve engaged in big structural change before. We did it then. The suffragettes that were told: too hard, give up now, right? The foot soldiers in the civil rights movement: too hard, give up now. The early union organizers: it`s too hard, give up now. The LGBTQ activists, gosh, barely a decade ago: too hard, give up now. But they didn`t give up. They got organized. They built the grassroots movement. They persisted, and they changed the course of American history.

MADDOW: How do you map that model of social change, of big structural change, as you say, to an electoral campaign for president? I mean, Frances Perkins was not running for president. She didn`t have the right to vote when she was doing these things. Presidential campaigns now are about partisan mobilization and they are about competition in the primary before you ever get to the general. How do those things map together?

WARREN: Now, I think it`s there, because I think that`s what this moment is. I think the reason 20,000 people showed up last night is 20,000 people are not only ready for change, they are so ready for change that they`ll show up and get in the fight. They are so ready for change that they`re saying, call on me. I will be part of this. That`s why I say this is our moment and we can`t spend it afraid. We can`t spend it under the covers. We can`t spend it nibbling around the edges of whatever is broken. We have to use it as the moment to root out the corruption, the moment to make some big structural change, just a couple in this economy -- to strengthen the rights of workers, give unions more power, make it easier to join a union, pass that two-cent wealth tax so we can invest in our young people and cancel student loan debt and provide universal child care and protect our democracy. We make those changes and then we`ve got a government that doesn`t just work for those at the top. It`s a government that works for everyone.

MADDOW: Stay right there. We`ll be right back with Senator Elizabeth Warren right after this.


MADDOW: We`re joined again live by Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat who is in the Democratic contention for president for 2020. I want to ask you about what you were just talking about before the break, this idea of change from the inside, from a person inside government being made possible and being essentially effectuated by a big movement supporting outside.


MADDOW: That is something that I`ve had a lot of conversations with Senator Bernie Sanders.

WARREN: Uh-huh.

MADDOW: And you and Senator Sanders agree a lot when it comes to policy. You clearly have mutual respect among you two as individuals.

WARREN: Uh-huh.

MADDOW: A lot of overlap in your supporters and admirers. You`re both so popular right now in this primary that it`s possible that you two may split the progressive vote down the middle, thus resulting in a more centrist candidate winning the nomination instead of either of you. How do -- how do you and Senator Sanders avoid that fate?

WARREN: So, look, I`ve been friends with Bernie what feels like forever and forever, certainly long, long before I ever got into politics at all. The first town hall I ever did was for Bernie up in Vermont when I was still teaching. But I see this as -- where we are right now is we`re just out there, everybody is, making your case for your vision of what it would mean to have -- for you to be in the White House, what your case is for the argument for what we need to do as a country. And I think that`s a good and healthy thing to happen, to get a lot of people into this discussion, and to get a lot of people to say, wait, what, and start paying attention and start making a decision that, wait (ph), this -- this is my democracy.

MADDOW: Uh-huh.

WARREN: And I`m going to get in this fight, and I love seeing this. I mean, like I said, that`s what the selfie lines are all about, that`s what the town halls are all about. You know, I have been now to 27 states and Puerto Rico. I`ve taken thousands of unfiltered questions. Done, gosh, over 60,000 selfies now. But what it`s really about at these town halls is the chance to be able to make a thoughtful and coherent argument about what`s going on. A little chance to be able to tell who I am and where I came from, about growing up out in Oklahoma and being the baby and, you know, as my mother -- always called me, the surprise, to be able to talk through this, so that more and more people have a chance to say, we are going to make a big decision in 2020, and here`s where I`m ready to invest in our future and who I`m ready to have to lead it.

MADDOW: When you said last night in that clip that I just played from your speech -- we can`t choose a candidate we don`t believe in just because we`re too scared to do anything else. Democrats can`t win if we`re scared and looking backward. I think, broadly, that was perceived as you talking there about Vice President Biden. Was it?

WARREN: No. It`s talking about whether we`re going to turn backwards and just say, the only problem is Trump. If we get rid of Trump, everything is going to be just fine.


MADDOW: What (ph) Democratic choice would imply that?

WARREN: Right? But we can`t do it and we can`t even think of the problem that way. The way I see it, is things have been broken for a very long time, for decades now, an inch at a time. The giant corporations have taken the legs out from underneath labor and they have captured our government. They have poured more and more and more money into controlling not just part of government. This isn`t just campaign contributions, although that`s huge. It`s every part of it. It`s the bought and paid for experts. It`s the PR firms. It`s all the pieces, so that most of it never makes a headline but just inch at a time. The world works just a little better for all the giant corporations. And when they are ready for a big one, like, trillion and a half dollars in tax breaks, it took, what? Five weeks to get it done. This ain`t going to work. It`s not working for America. Let me give you an example that two-cent wealth tax that I`ve been talking a lot about. Think about this: we say just people who have more than $50 million in accumulated wealth, your first $50 million free and clear -- right?

MADDOW: Safety net, you know?


WARREN: Yes, safety net. But your $50 millionth and first dollar, you`ve got to pitch in 2 cents, and 2 cents on every dollar after that. And then to look at what it means now for 2 cents, we could then pay for universal child care, every baby in this country age zero to 5, universal pre-K, every 3-year-old and 4-year-old, raise the wages of every child care worker and preschool teacher, universal technical school, two-year college, four-year college. Really level the playing field, put $50 billion into our historically black colleges and universities, and cancel student loan debt for 95 percent of the folks who`ve got it. Think about the difference in an economy where you leave 2 cents with the top 1/10 of 1 percent, the richest of the richest of the richest. Or you say, guys, you`re doing fine. Pitch in that 2 cents and we can invest in every young person in America. That fundamentally changes our economy -- or as I like to say, big structural change.

MADDOW: Senator Elizabeth Warren is our guest. We`ll be right back right after this.


MADDOW: Welcoming back, Senator Elizabeth Warren, 2020 presidential candidate. Senator, thank you for sticking around.

WARREN: It`s good to be here.

MADDOW: I wanted to ask you about something that`s going on tomorrow that we have learned. The EPA is going to say that California can no longer set fuel economy standards for cars. The Trump administration is going to assert that the federal government trumps anything that any one state wants to do better on that issue. What`s your reaction to that?

WARREN: Well, it`s terrible. You know, this is -- the urgency of the moment on climate change cannot be overstated. A warming planet threatens every living thing. And so, we`re running out of runway on this. So, the direction we need to be going, obviously, is to have tougher emission standards, and in fact, I think we`ve got to go way beyond that. I very much support what Governor Inslee proposed when he said, we`re going to use our regulatory tools here, where you`ve got to -- and we can do this. By 2028, no more carbon emission from new buildings and homes. By 2030, we`re not doing any more cars that have any emissions. And by 2035, we`re going to produce electricity, none of it with emissions, right? It`s all going to be green and renewable. And think about that, because that would reduce our carbon, just those three things, by about 70 percent. And that`s a powerful step in the right direction. I also have a green manufacturing plant where we invest heavily in the science and technology and then produce about 1.2 million new green manufacturing jobs here in America, good union jobs. And then we take that technology all around the world, because even if America cleans up, we`re only about 20 percent of the problem. So, we`ve got to think of this globally. That`s the direction we need to be going as a world leader. Instead, Donald Trump is trying to pull us in the opposite direction, and I -- the irrationality of this one, the danger that this man poses, it`s like every day, you think, OK, that`s as low as it can go -- it goes lower. And this is one of them. You know, this is something that not even the industry is asking for, and yet it seems to me -- I mean, this is just how I read it from the outside, because President Obama tried to help make it cleaner, tried to help strengthen those emissions standards because California, which is not friendly to Donald Trump, is the one trying to clean up its own air and water, that that just means he wants to somehow prove that he`s the biggest guy and he can prove it by trying to break everything. This man -- I -- this man is dangerous. And we need a new president.

MADDOW: Senator Elizabeth Warren, trying very hard to become that next president.

WARREN: It`s good to see you.

MADDOW: Senator, it`s really, really good to see you.

WARREN: Thank you.