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CNN "Erin Burnett Out Front" - Transcript: "Interview with Beto O'Rourke"



BURNETT: Tonight, a major reversal by Joe Biden. The former vice president says he is now open to accepting donations from super PACs. The shift coming after Biden discovered he had far less cash on hand than four of his rivals.

Just to give you a sense of the scope, right in all of the way down with the 9 million. Look at Bernie Sanders, 33.7, Elizabeth Warren, 25.7. You get the picture.

So, it's a major move from Biden. It goes against much of his party. Eight of his rivals, eight, has sworn off big PAC money. Bernie Sanders campaign slamming Biden in a statement, saying, quote:

The former vice president has been unable to generate grassroots support and now his campaign is endorsing an effort to buy the primary. That's not how we defeat Trump.

OUTFRONT now, Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas congressman, Beto O'Rourke.

And, Congressman, thanks for being with me.

I want to make it clear. You said you're not taking donations from corporations or super PACs. Do you agree with the sentiment from Sanders that Biden is trying to, quote, buy the primary?


BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We see far too much influence from those who can buy access and increasingly outcomes in our legislation and in our elections. So, I agree. There is no room for political action committees, or super PACs.

There is no truth to the idea that corporations are people and money is speech, and they can spend unlimited amounts of money to involve themselves in change and undermine our democracy. I haven't taken PAC money for more than five years.

We're running a grassroots campaign. Everyone who has gone to betoorourke.com and donated to us has fueled this effort to make sure that we can get out to voters. That's way that our democracy should work, and I'm going to stay with my commitment not to take PAC money or super PAC money in this race.

BURNETT: All right. Obviously, Joe Biden now no longer doing that. I mean, CBS just released a clip of an interview with Joe Biden where he was asked about the Trump administration. I wanted to play one clip.

This just came in, Congressman. So let me play it for you.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Think of all the really solid people that were left, that started off in that administration. They've all left. They've all left. All the talent is gone. They've left or great, Americans like Rudy Giuliani is still engaged. What's going on? People see this. They're thugs.


BURNETT: Do you agree with the vice president, his word, this administration full of thugs?

O'ROURKE: I think the place I hope that we agree on is that the president has broken the law of this country, has committed crimes in secret that he's tried to cover up, and then committed them out in the open for the entire world to see. And if we allow this to stand with impunity, then we will have set the precedent that some people are above the law in this country.

So I hope that our focus in common will become on insuring the president is impeached, that there is accountability and justice at the end of the day, that the members of the Senate, Republicans and Democrats alike are armed with the facts and do the right thing not for their party, not for their president, but for this country and for our future.

That's what I'm focused on right now. Donald Trump has broken the law, must be held accountable.

BURNETT: And, Congressman, obviously people can see where you are tonight. We have it up on the screen. You're in Des Moines, Iowa. And CNN, our Miguel Marquez went there just the other day. He spoke to voters about impeachment.

And, you know, what they had to say is perhaps surprising to some. I wanted to play just a couple of them for you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me, things seem kind of minor, I guess.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Minor in that all politicians do this sort of stuff?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'm sure they all do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It all becomes a hum.

MARQUEZ: Background noise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It all becomes a drone, a background noise. And we've also come to expect it.


BURNETT: Does that give you pause? They expect this kind of behavior. They're not -- by the way, both of those are people who had voted for President Obama before they voted for Trump. So they're not -- they're not the core Trump base as some may define it.

Does that give you pause when you think about pursuing impeachment as opposed to doing this as the polls?

O'ROURKE: No, it doesn't. It just raises the urgency that we pursue impeachment, accountability and justice.

We've known for years now that the president has been working with foreign governments, has been trying to cover up his actions and obstruct justice in the process. And so perhaps those that your correspondent spoke to, having seen that we've done nothing over the last three years to hold him accountable might wonder whether he really has committed crimes or if there is anything wrong in his behavior. That's why it is so important to send the unambiguous signal through impeachment and in a trial in the Senate that this is not something we condone or accept in the United States of America.

And furthermore, we have to come to the conclusion that regardless of how this polls or how politically popular it is, the future and the fate of this country hangs in the balance. We've got to do the right thing while there is still time to do the right thing.

BURNETT: You rolled out plan today, Congressman, about the opioid epidemic. You wants to give states $100 billion to help states who to help people who are struggling with that horrific addiction. At a debate last week in Columbus, you surprised a lot of people when you said you supported decriminalizing possession of opioids for personal use.

Why do you think that will help this crisis?

O'ROURKE: When someone fears that if they come forward with an addiction or substance use disorder, that they will be arrested and incarcerated, then they're less likely to come forward and they're more likely to die. We've lost the lives of hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans over the last decade. There are some simple steps that we can take to stop that.

Number one, removing the stigma and making sure that you will not become justice involved if you try to get the help you so desperately need. Number two, making sure that we fund the resources necessary for treatment and long-term recovery. And the number three, and that is important, we hold Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, the pharmaceutical corporations responsible for the devastation and death accountable for their actions.


If we fail to do that, then we can expect to see the same kind of effect and consequences in our communities.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Congressman O'Rourke. I appreciate your time.

O'ROURKE: Thank you.