Sanders Apologizes As Democrats Spar Over National Security, Guns and the Islamic State

Sanders Apologizes As Democrats Spar

MANCHESTER, N.H., Dec. 19 (UPI) — Sen. Bernie Sanders kicked off the third Democratic primary debate with an apology to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It came during Sander’s answer to a question from moderator David Muir about a staffer who accessed her campaign’s polling and donor data last week.

Clinton and Sanders also took direct aim at each other during the debate, sparring about Libya, campaign fundraising, and health insurance, as well as looking to clarify their differences on foreign policy and the economy.

Sanders outlined plans for moving the country to a single-payer health insurance system, offering free college and a $1 trillion proposal for infrastructure projects. Clinton questioned how the country would pay for the programs without raising taxes on the middle class.

Throughout the debate, Clinton, Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley sought to draw distinctions between themselves and the Republican party’s field of candidates, though only singling out Donald Trump — specifically his statements on Mexicans and Muslims. Trump’s statements about Muslims, the three Democrats said, are helping recruitment efforts by the Islamic State, also identified as Daesh and by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL.

The first question of the debate, however, was about the Democratic National Committee data breach Thursday. Audit files from the company NGP VAN show four email accounts linked to the Sanders campaign conducted searches of Clinton campaign data.

Sanders said his campaign has “quietly” reported two previous firewall breaches by a Democratic National Committee contractor. In this case, at least one staffer reviewed files a firewall breach allowed access to, who Sanders said has already been fired. Following the debate, Sanders reportedly suspended another two employees who may have accessed the Clinton campaign data.

“Not only do I apologize to Secretary Clinton,” Sanders said when asked about a staffer looking at Clinton’s campaign information, “I want to apologize to my supporters. This is not the type of campaign I run. If I find more people involved with this, they will be fired.”

The DNC cut off Sanders’ campaign’s access to the entire party donor database, including his own campaign information, in response to the breach, but restored it after the campaign filed suit in federal court.

“What the DNC did was cut off access to our own information, crippling our campaign. That was an egregious act,” Sanders said, saying he’s “not convinced” his own campaign’s information hasn’t ended up with Clinton’s campaign, which he also criticized for a stream of press releases on the breach. “We need an independent investigation about all the breaches that have happened since day one.”

Noting the range of issues facing Americans, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley pointed out that the last 24 hours are an example of “why things don’t done in Washington.”

People are “wondering how they’re going to even be able to buy presents for their kids, instead we’re listening to the bickering back and forth.”

Syria, the Islamic State, and foreign policy

Clinton outlined a plan for the United States to lead an air campaign in the region, starting with strongholds in Libya and Syria. She said improving intelligence gathering and sharing with allies, specifically in Muslim countries would be the key to defeating ISIS. While advocating for an increased air attack and more special forces, Clinton said ground troops were not necessary, preferring to build up the Iraqi army, work with tribal sheiks, and turn the attention of Turkey toward the Islamic State.

Sanders focused on building an international coalition for the fight, including air strikes, emphasizing that he felt Muslim countries must do more to push back against the Islamic State, singling out Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Sanders was also critical of Clinton’s support for regime change, referring again to his vote against the invasion of Iraq. Clinton reminded Sanders of his vote in support of regime change in Libya.

Domestic terrorist attacks in light of the San Bernardino shooting

Sanders said he is “among the 77 percent” of Americans who think the government can prevent a lone shooter attack.

Sanders said if people see something they should report it — neighbors of the San Bernardino shooters have reported seeing packages and other strange things at the couple’s house.

Meanwhile,  Clinton called Trump’s demonization of the Muslim community damaging and the Islamic State’s greatest recruiting tool.

“‘He is becoming ISIS’ biggest recruiter. They are showing video of him insulting Muslims and Islam to recruit,” Clinton said, saying more needs to be done to work with Muslim-American communities. “They will be our early warning system. That’s why we need to work with them, not demonize them.”


Clinton and Sanders both said more guns would not make Americans safer, either against terrorism or in response to the now-routine mass shootings in the United States. Although she called reducing gun violence in the country a complex issue, Clinton expressed hope for gun legislation to help stop the flow of some weapons, saying she would “welcome” Sanders to embrace such legislation.

Sanders defended himself against attacks from both Clinton and O’Malley that he is against gun control measures, pointing out he lost his first race for Congress after supporting limits on assault weapons and listed gun control measures he has supported in the past.

Wall Street, health insurance and the economy

Sanders reiterated his intention to “break up the big banks,” while increasing taxes on the highest earners and increasing the minimum wage. He said 13 million new jobs could be created with his $1 trillion infrastructure proposal and pay for college education for all by taxing “Wall Street speculation.”

Clinton expressed skepticism at paying for Sanders programs without raising taxes on the middle class, saying her debt free tuition plan would make college affordable for families without requiring the $15 to 20 trillion she thinks Sanders would need to make college free.

Sanders called the big banks the “elephant in the room,” explaining that Clinton is susceptible to Wall Street investors and bankers because they contribute to her campaign. “There are two hedge fund billionaires running ads against me in New Hampshire,” Clinton said. “Why me? They know I will go right after them.”

Both Clinton and Sanders also talked about reducing spending on healthcare and insurance, including methods of lowering drug costs.

Clinton questioned the massive cost of moving control of health insurance to government control. Sanders said that while tax revenue would be required to pay for single-payer insurance, it would be cheaper for Americans than the current cost of private insurance.


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