Presidential hopeful Cory Booker on impeachment, and why he’s not worried about lagging in polls

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Cory Booker at a press conference on expanding social security, February 2019. Credit: AFGE (CC BY 2.0.).

The Trump-Ukraine saga continues as former Ukraine Special Envoy Kurt Volker released text messages on Thursday showing the administration considered withholding aid and canceling a meeting with Ukranian officials unless Ukraine investigated Trump’s potential opponent in the 2020 presidential race, Joe Biden. 

In July, Trump spoke by phone with Ukranian president President Zelensky, asking him to investigate Biden and his son Hunter. Hunter was on the board of a Ukranian natural gas company while his father was vice president. 

Does Cory Booker, U.S. Senator from New Jersey and Democratic presidential hopeful, believe there was anything untoward on the Bidens’ side? 

“The accusation that he [Joe Biden] has done anything untoward is outrageous and unacceptable to me -- that this president is trying to change the subject, and he was willing to put national security interests at stake in order to pursue his petty political agenda… It's unacceptable, and if it proves true, then I think it's also an impeachable offense,” Booker tells Press Play. 

Catching up in the polls?

When it comes to the 2020 presidential race, polls consistently show this as a three-person race between Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders. They’re followed by Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Andrew Yang, Beto O’Rourke, and then Cory Booker (in that order). 

Does Booker have a plan to jump into the top three? “Let’s be clear that there has never -- in your and my lifetime -- been a Democrat who is leading in the polls right now this far out that has ever gone on to be president of the United States,” he responds. “It's usually people just like me who have strong operations in early primary states. Remember I lead in endorsements from local elected officials in Iowa and New Hampshire.”

He adds that people who go on to the White House tend to be “dynamic unifying voices in our party.” He points to Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama as people not leading in polls so far out of the election. 

“We're still many, many months out from the earlier caucuses. And we're doing the kind of things that have shown the ability to win in the past, which is working on grassroots organizing,” he says. 

Shedding the ‘us v. them’ mentality

Booker contends that the Democratic Party would be making a mistake if members define themselves by what they’re against -- rather than what they’re for. 

“I don't think this is an election that's a referendum on Donald Trump. I think it's a referendum on who we are. And my message is about healing this country,” he says. “And I know there's people that want to fight Trump with Trump-like tactics. I remember going into a town hall in Iowa, a big guy sees me and put his arm around me and says, ‘Dude I want you to punch Donald Trump in the face.’ And my response to him is that's a felony.”

Booker says the Democrats won’t beat Trump by showing the worst of who they are. “In fact, we beat demagogues and bigots and fear mongers in the past by showing the best of who we.”

Reducing child poverty: Just give cash?

Earlier this week, Booker unveiled a child poverty plan that includes giving $300 cash per month to most families for each child under age 5. He also wants to give every American child a $1000 savings account at birth. 

How exactly would he pay for this? Booker points to repealing the Trump tax cuts as a way to fund the program: “Child poverty we know fundamentally costs this country about $1 trillion each year… For every dollar we spend in actually combating child poverty, it actually saves us as a nation $7 down the road. So my plan is actually the fiscally prudent plan where we can pay for it by reversing these toxic Trump tax cuts.”

--Written by Amy Ta, produced by Brian Hardzinski