Senator Amy Klobuchar was elected as county attorney for Hennepin County, Minnesota in 1998. In 2006, she became Minnesota’s first elected female United States senator from the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. Klobuchar remained in office until 2018. During this time, she served as the president of the Minnesota County Attorney’s Association. Currently, Klobuchar is serving as the senior United States Senator from Minnesota. She is a member of the Congressional NextGen 9-1-1 Caucus. She is on several committees such the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and forestry, and she is a ranking member of the Committee on Rules and Administration. She announced her candidacy for the 2020 Democratic Party Presidential primaries on February 10, 2019.
On the Issues
AAI tracks the official and campaign-trail statements of each presidential candidate on the issues we care about most.
Scroll the issues to read what Amy Klobuchar has said on the campaign trail.
For our take on why these are the 12 issues that are most important to our community, read here.
- "Of course, I don’t [trust] him when it comes to protecting our elections, it’s been in his interest to have chaos every step of the way and that’s what he likes to foment. Imagine if we have a close election, and which I do not plan on having, but if we had one and one of the states had one or two counties that got hacked into there were no backup paper ballots, then he would have kept the chaos of no conclusion in a democracy, and this makes no sense when we can incentivize these remaining 14 states that have partial paper ballots or don’t have them at all to get there by 2020." (5/29/19, Pod Save America)
Dan Pfeiffer: Do you – I take it from that that you do not support some of the ideas floating around about changing the composition of the court?
Amy Klobuchar: I am happy to look at that. I’m just looking at reality even with, even if we take back the Senate, do you get everyone on there? And can you get the votes for that? I know that’s what’s called the court packing idea right? You bring in more —
Dan Pfeiffer: We call it court reform at Pod Save America here.
Amy Klobuchar: No, no, no. Oh no, I violated the Pod Save America rules. So the … the court reform. Yes. I am not opposed to that. I just think you’d have to look at your numbers and your votes and if you could get something like that done, but my immediate practical answer would be to put forward judges immediately to get them in place. (5/29/19, Pod Save America)
Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
- "This is the most diverse generation that we’ve ever seen in American history. It is the most global generation, and I mean that in terms of caring about the world around them, caring about people and how people are treated, and that people aren’t discriminated against based on their race or ethnic background or where they live or where they worship or who they love. A case has to be made for this generation that they are going to have to stand up and pick up the mantle of this election against this mean-spirited rhetoric. Against a president that tweets whatever he wants, but doesn’t respect the amendment that allows him to do it. Against a president that is constantly saying racist and xenophobic things, including against four congresswomen, telling them to go back to the country where they come from, when they are in fact American citizens, including saying that there’s two sides when it comes to Charlottesville. What I love, having a daughter who is 24, is seeing the world through her lens and seeing it through the lens of her friends. His views are inimical to everything they stand for." (7/15/2019, Bustle)
Securitization and Surveillance
SWISHER: Do you trust these tech companies?
KLOUBUCHAR: No, no, I don’t; I mean, I like that they are incredibly successful for America. I like that they employ so many people. I like that they brought in new ideas and new innovations, but I don’t like that they’ve been saying “trust us” for so long, and we did it. I think we have to have, as we’ve always had in this country, we have not always just embraced business and let them run the show. We have said, we love business; we want to have them employ people, this is part of why we’re great as America, but we always have a check and balance. The biggest goal of government in my life, and I said this when I was a newly minted county attorney, was protecting people’s safety. Well, right now, they did not protect our safety. Not the safety or our privacy, not the safety of our national security. And I would also add, our government has to learn a little bit of the Austin way here, okay? We have to upgrade our cybersecurity, right? And one of the things that I put in with Senator Thune of South Dakota, I always work hard to make sure we got bipartisan support on big things like this, the idea is you give people a tour of duty, two years in Washington, from the private sector. And our people then can take a tour of duty with the companies. And it is a way of bringing some high-tech expertise into the government. We’re not like China and Russia, we can’t requisition people and say, “You’re gonna work in a warehouse for five years.” Okay, we can’t do that because it’s America. But what we can do is create incentives to get the best of the best into our government, and the best of our best in our government to learn in the private sector.
SWISHER: So that’s been a difficult thing; that still remains very difficult, because they make more money working in other places.
KLOUBUCHAR: Yeah, I know, but we found a way to do this in this bill.
SWISHER: All right, so when we’re talking about the idea of China, one of the things, I did a recent podcast with Mark Zuckerberg, and one of his arguments of why we should continue to trust them is that the choice is what’s going on in China, which is essentially a surveillance economy. They’re doing all kinds of things like facial recognition, social scoring, all kinds of things where you can see it going in any country, it’s like an episode of Black Mirror. And one of the things, when I talk to tech people, is I said, “Imagine your creation is an episode of Black Mirror. Then don’t do it.” If it becomes that, like imagine what could happen. Which I think is excellent advice. But one of his arguments was, well, China gets to do all these things, and they’re gonna collect more data, have better AI, have better robotics. The government’s running it. And his argument was essentially, “it’s Xi or me.” And I don’t like the choice at all. I don’t like either of them. You know, I like him better than Xi, but it’s kind of a low bar. So when they do make that argument, though, in that argument there’s a very cogent thing, is that tech has been innovative, has created jobs. How do you keep innovation, and at the same time throttle some of this behavior, which is careless at best and malevolent at worst?
KLOUBUCHAR: Right. And you’re always going to get those arguments that you are gonna, you know, stop everything from innovation. That’s why I like the idea of doing it through FTC antitrust, moving it and putting some very basic privacy rules in place that will save us from where we are right now. But this idea that we’re just gonna do nothing, which they were saying as recently as a year ago, right?
SWISHER: They’re saying it today, but...
KLOUBUCHAR: Pre Cambridge Analytica, they’re saying it in different ways. It’s just not right. This is not how our country has been run. I go back to even the colonists in the Boston Tea Party, that was about taxation without representation, but it was about that the colonists didn’t want to have to buy tea and sell their tea to the East India Tea Company, to one monopoly, right?It literally is part of the founding of our country that we wanted to have entrepreneurs.... (3/16/2019, Vox)
SWISHER: And section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which gives them broad immunity, which has I think led directly to this sloppiness in the platforms in terms of not managing them properly. Should that be changed so that they have some, they remove immunity?
KLOUBUCHAR: Right. It is something else that we should definitely look at as we look at how we can create more accountability. That is our goal. We do not want to destroy these companies, right? But what we want to do is to put more accountability in place and we have been failing at that effort, and that’s why we need all of your help to get to a better place.
SWISHER: Does tech like you? Do you get ...?
KLOUBUCHAR: Well, they did not like that, which I thought was so crazy, they did not right out of this part, they complained about the Honest Ads Act. How can you complain about something called the Honest Ads Act? But they did not like that and that really made me mad, honestly. They did not like the privacy legislation I keep trying to push them. I think the fact that I’ve been outspoken makes them not like me. (3/16/2019, Vox)
TAPPER: The shooter broadcast the attack [in New Zealand] for 17 minutes on Facebook Live. And now social media companies such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, they are under fire for failing to halt the spread of that gruesome video, even hours later in some cases. Should any punitive action be taken against those companies, do you think?
KLOBUCHAR: Those companies for so long have said, we have your back. Meanwhile, your data is getting shared. You send an e-mail to someone, and the next thing, you see an advertisement about the thing you sent the e-mail on. So that's why I want privacy legislation to basically say, hey, we have a right over our data. Stop messing around with us, and then also put in plain language what your rights are, instead of 50 pages. And then, finally, notify us when there's breaches. And when it comes to hateful violence like this, they should have to get this off the Internet immediately. There is no place on the Internet for people watching murders." (3/17/2019, CNN)
- TAPPER: Let's start on that terrorist attack in New Zealand. Your fellow Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal suggested on Friday -- quote -- "I think the public discourse from the president on down is a factor in some of these actions." Do you agree?
KLOBUCHAR: I don't think you can actually take each of the murderous acts and say what role Donald Trump played, but I can tell you this. His rhetoric doesn't help. And many of these people, whether it was the person who tried to bomb Barack Obama or this murderer in New Zealand, have cited Donald Trump along the way. So, to me, that means, at the very least, he is dividing people. They are using him as an excuse. And he, at the very least, should be giving strong statements, public speeches defending Muslims in this world, because I can tell you, having the biggest Somali population in the United States of America, I know they get hit all the time. And one of our jobs, as a leader, is to stand up, whether people are Jewish, whether they're Muslim, no matter how they worship, no matter what they look like. We have to remember that they are all part of a country of shared dreams. And that's the United States of America. So making that point -- as the leader of the most famous democracy in the world, you have to make that point all the time. And he has not been doing that.
TAPPER: President Trump said after the attack that he did not see a rise in white nationalism around the world. He called it just a small group of people. Data from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe shows reports of hate crimes are up in many countries worldwide. The ADL says that the rise of white nationalism, white separatism in the United States is also happening here in the U.S. What would you do as president to fight this?
KLOBUCHAR: We have to make a major effort to figure out what's going on with these groups. There has been an increase in hate crimes. There has been an increase in very negative rhetoric at groups. And, like the congresswoman said, no matter how someone looks, it happens to them. They could be Orthodox Jews. It happens to them. They could be Hispanics. It's been happening to them. There was a little girl that went out to dinner with her parents in Minnesota, and these guys walked by -- Muslim family. A guy walks by and says: "You four go home. You go home to where you came from." And the little girl looks up at her mom -- this is in Minnesota -- and says: "Mom, I don't want to eat dinner at home. You said we could eat out tonight." Jake, you think of the innocent words of that little girl. She only knows one home. And that's my state. She only knows one home. And that's the United States of America.
So, in addition to the murderous acts that we just saw in New Zealand and that we have seen all across the country, every single day, there are these acts, these daggers for people that are just trying to live their lives and trying to make it in our country. So, I think it's on all of us to condemn this hate. Our faith groups in my state have come together. The Muslim groups and the Jewish groups and our Christian groups have come together...
KLOBUCHAR: ... with signs everywhere that say, when it's Ramadan, "Happy Ramadan" and teaching people in the Catholic faith what the Koran is about. We have tried to share that. And that's part of it. But it is also what you do when a crisis happens. People are watching." (3/17/2019, CNN)
Criminal Justice Reform
Our criminal justice system is broken. Today we know that our country has more than 20% of the world's incarcerated people, even though we have less than 5% of the world's population. And we know racial disparities at every level of our system have removed millions of people of color from our society, destroying families and communities for generations.Thanks to the work of countless reform advocates, we have finally started to acknowledge that there is racism in our criminal justice system and that we need to take action to fight it. But the next president will have to do more than just talk about these issues. She will have to take action. Our criminal justice system cannot lose sight of the principles of fairness and compassion -- for victims, yes, but also for offenders. Our Founding Fathers understood this point when they gave the president the power to grant clemency.... As president, I would create a clemency advisory board as well as a position in the White House -- outside of the Department of Justice -- that advises the president from a criminal justice reform perspective.Currently, the Department of Justice includes an Office of the Pardon Attorney, tasked with investigating and reviewing all requests for clemency for federal offenses and ultimately preparing a recommendation for the president. Although the voices of our prosecutors and law enforcement officials are important and should continue to advise the president, there are additional voices that a president needs to hear. A diverse, bipartisan clemency advisory board -- one that includes victim advocates as well as prison and sentencing reform advocates -- could look at this from a different perspective. And a criminal justice reform advocate in the White House will ensure that someone is advising the president on criminal justice reform. That's why I'm committed to making these important changes during the first month of my presidency, should I be elected.One of my top priorities will be to create federal incentives so that states can restore some discretion from mandatory sentencing for nonviolent offenders and reform the unconscionable conditions in state prisons and local jails. We have to do more to reduce inflexible mandatory minimums and add safety valves, building on the federal reforms we made last year. True criminal justice reform includes the cash bail system, expanding funding for public defenders and eliminating obstacles to re-entering and participating fully in society. That's why we also need better educational and job training programs that can help people both before and after they are released. I'm also working to change the dialogue on drug and alcohol treatment and mental health services. I did this in Minnesota as Hennepin County attorney, I've fought for expanded drug courts as a senator, and I'll make this a priority as president....The next president owes it to the people of this country to leave no one behind. Reforming the presidential pardon system through the creation of a clemency advisory board and the addition of a dedicated, criminal justice reform adviser to the White House would move us one step closer to an America that's as good as its promise.(4/5/2019, CNN)
- "And I will say one thing we should know is during my time in that job where I managed the biggest prosecutor's office in our state, we actually did see African-American incarceration -- prison incarceration go down by 13 percent. And a lot of that was that we used drug courts and we tried to find other ways to get justice because I always like to say you don't like to see repeat customers when you are in the D.A.s office. And one way you can insure that you don't is by getting them treatment. So I have been a big believer in drug courts at the state and federal levels. I've lead that effort on the federal level. The second thing is I think that our offices, both police offices, county attorney's offices need to reflect the population we serve.
And I work very hard to bring people of color into our office and we were a lot better for it and a number of them then rose up, big surprise, and became judges. The other thing is the way we handle cases when they come in.
And I worked with the Innocence Project when I was the D.A. not only to review all of our cases but to bring in a new type of doing eye witness I.D. so that instead of looking at each one, one at a time or having them all together; you would look at each picture so you would have to make an evaluation and it's been shown to decrease our racism in the system and discriminatory decisions by witnesses.The other thing we need to do is not just pass the first step back and I was proud to be a co-sponsor of that legislation, which we'll finally reduce our federal drug sentences, the non-violent drug sentences like you're dad had. But it also would work a second step back, would help us to say to the rest of the country hey, 90 percent of the people incarcerated are incarcerated in our state and local jails. So doing something on the federal level is good but we have to create incentives to bring those sentences down as well on the state and local level.
There is racism in our criminal justice system. There has been racism in our criminal justice system for a long time and we must pledge to fix it. One last thing, I have put out a plan for a clemency board so when I am president, yes I want to hear from the Justice Department and what their views are when you look at pardons." (4/22/19, CNN Town Hall)
TAPPER: When you were the county attorney, did you do anything to try to improve these broad, stark racial disparities? And, if so, what did you do?
KLOBUCHAR: Of course I did, Jake. In fact, if you look at the data, you will see there was a 65 percent decrease in incarceration of African-Americans when you go from the beginning of my term to the end. And we worked very hard on several fronts. The first is to diversify the office and to add more people of color to the ranks of prosecutors. And I did that.
The second was to look at how we were handling drug court and make sure that we were doing it in a way that wasn't racist. And you can always do better. I can tell you, you learn in retrospect, when you look back, things you can do better.
The third thing was to up our focus on white-collar crimes. Things that are committed in the boardrooms are just as bad as things that are committed with a crowbar if someone is trying to break in a house. And so I really made a major effort on that. And then, finally, I was one of the first prosecutors in the country to work with The Innocence Project to do a DNA review on our cases, to do something differently when it came to eyewitness identification, so you would have the police officer who was not involved in investigating the crime show the photos. And you would show the photos one at a time, instead of all at once.
And then, finally, we had videotaped interrogations in Minnesota. We were one of the only states that did it at the time to make sure that suspects were treated fairly, Miranda rights were being read. And we actually ended up -- I ended up, I remember, debating the Queens DA about that to defend that practice, to protect individual rights. So, I made this a major effort, because I truly believe that our mission is to convict the guilty, yes, but protect the innocent. And there has been racism in our system, and there still is.
TAPPER: According to "The Minneapolis Star-Tribune," in 2004, you attributed falling crime levels in Hennepin County largely to aggressive police attacks on drug traffic. In light of what we know about how in general crackdowns on drug crime exacerbate these racial disparities in the criminal justice system, what are -- you said you -- on this issue of drugs, you said there are always things you could do better, in retrospect. What do you think you had -- what do you wish you had done better, in retrospect?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, that's a great question. I think one of the things that we are starting to resolve is the federal drug sentences. And I was a sponsor of the FIRST STEP Act, a co-sponsor. And that was the important law that just passed on a bipartisan basis that brought down the federal drug sentences, which were much higher than the local drug sentences for nonviolent offenders. It's called the FIRST STEP Act because there has to be a second step act. And that gets at what you're talking about, which is nonviolent offender drug sentences in localities all over the country. Ninety percent of those nonviolent drug offenders are imprisoned not in the federal system. So, that's got to be the next step, is that, in Washington, we create incentives for all of the local DA's offices across the country to reduce their drug sentences themselves. And I believe...
TAPPER: Right. But that's what -- that -- you are looking -- what do you wish you had done differently at the time, though? I understand you're talking about what you want to do in the future.
KLOBUCHAR: Well, I would have looked at -- yes. I would have looked at those drug sentences and seen what we could have done differently at that time. That's one thing. We had a -- as I said, we had to diversify the office. I did that. I looked at our sentences as much as -- every single case. Now, we had a huge office, over 400 employees. But I would try to make sure we were fair regardless of race. And I am actually close to the people that ran the study that you talked about from the beginning of my term. And I had met with them and talked to them about that back then. And I knew the changes that we need to make. Felony DWI, drunk drivers, a lot of those perpetrators were white, people with 20 DWIs. I made that a major purpose, because I don't think you should have seen that differently than you did drug offenders. (3/17/2019, CNN)
Bigoted Speech: Instances of Condemnation and/or Use
“Well, first of all, there are people that voted for Donald Trump before that aren't racist; they just wanted a better shake in the economy. And so I would appeal to them. But I don't think anyone can justify what this president is doing. Little kids literally woke up this weekend, turned on the TV, and saw their president calling their city, the town of Baltimore, nothing more than a home for rats. And I can tell you, as your president, that will stop.” (7/30/2019 Democratic Debate, transcript, NBC)
This president has been, the rhetoric has been so hurtful and divisive for this country. I always think of this little girl in Minnesota who I met her parents and they said that during the height of his mean-spirited rhetoric. They were Somali, they took their family out to dinner, and this guy walked by and says, ‘Hey you four go home, you go home to where you come from’ and the little girl looks up at her mom and she says ‘Mom, I don’t want to go home and eat dinner. You said we could eat out tonight!’ You think of the words of that innocent child, she only knows one home and that’s my state. She only knows one home and that’s our country. (5/29/19, Pod Save America)
“I would say there is the will to change this in Congress. What's missing is the right person in the White House. I believe that immigrants don't diminish America; they are America. And if you want to do something... ... about border security, you first of all change the rules so people can seek asylum in those Northern Triangle countries. Then, you pass the bill. And what the bill will do is, it will greatly reduce the deficit and give us some money for border security and for border processing the cases. And most of all, it will allow for a path to citizenship. Because this is not just about the border... Donald Trump wants to use these people as political pawns, when we have people all over our country that simply want to work and obey the law.” (7/30/2019 Democratic Debate, transcript, NBC)
- "I know they were trying to do something with children who are already here, the Dreamers, and that is a good thing, but we need a path to citizenship for all immigrants who are here legally already and we need to include refugees who are already in Minnesota like our large Liberian population, many of whom have been here, legally, for decades. Our state's economy is so strong and we rely on legal immigrant employees to work at the turkey farms, out in the farm fields and other places like health care assistance and many other places where their hard work helps their families and helps our state, too. (6/25/18, Klobuchar.senate.gov)
NO BAN Act
- Senator Klobuchar is a co-sponsor of the NO BAN Act, S1123.
- "When I look at the arc of the last year and what we've been through the last two years, you start the day after Donald Trump got sworn in where women and men peacefully marched all over this country. You go to day ten when he put out that horrible anti-Muslim order, remember that? The anti-refugee order where people spontaneously showed up at the airports, including a bunch of young people." (4/22/19, CNN Town Hall)
- “Today’s 5-4 Supreme Court decision isn’t right. Immigrants and refugees strengthen our communities - they are an important part of our economy and society as our police officers, small business owners, students, and teachers. They don’t diminish America, they are America. As Justice Sotomayor wrote in her dissent, the decision was reached ‘by ignoring the facts, misconstruing our legal precedent and turning a blind eye to the pain and suffering... [of] countless families and individuals, many of whom are United States citizens’.” (6/6/18, Klobuchar.senate.gov)
- “As staunch allies of Israel, we must also ensure that harmful movements, like the resurgence in anti-Semitism and the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement are not successful. The BDS movement undermines a two-state solution, and is counterproductive to both Israelis and Palestinians.” (2/11/19, JNS)
"Yes, I think Israel, however, under Prime Minister Netanyahu, has been doing things that are not helpful to bringing peace to the Middle East. The way that he has come out in favor of annexing the Golan Heights, what he has done when it comes to the settlements, the fact that we’re not engaging in serious discussions for a two-state solution, our country and the Palestinians and the Israelis. I think that this is setting us back. What I would do is reach out to restart those negotiations again. I think that President Trump has politicized this issue and has not helped in terms of American support for Israel. Israel is our beacon of democracy in the Mideast, and we have a role to play that is very important, and it shouldn’t be politicized the way the Trump administration has politicized it. And when Israel does things that I think are against public policy and international policy, I will call them out on it, and I will work with them. But again, I think the way President Trump has done this has made it harder and harder to support Israel, and you’re seeing a lot of young people that have fallen away from supporting this beacon of democracy in the Mideast, and I think that needs to change." (06/19/19, The New York Times)
HOLT: All right, Senator Klobuchar, I'd like to ask you to answer that question, because you've said -- you've said you would negotiate yourself back into the Iranian agreement. Can you argue that that nuclear pact as it was ratified was a good deal?
KLOBUCHAR: It was imperfect, but it was a good deal for that moment. I would have worked to get longer sunset periods, and that's something we could negotiate, to get back in the deal. But the point is, Donald Trump told us when he got out of it that he was going to give us a better deal. Those were his words. And now we are a month away from the Iranians, who claim now that they're going blow the caps on enriching uranium. And the Iranians have told us this. And so that's where we are now. He has made us less safe than we were when he became president. So what I would do is negotiate us back into that agreement, is stand with our allies, and not give unlimited leverage to China and Russia, which is what he has done.
And then, finally, I would make sure that if there is any possibility of a conflict -- and we're having this debate in Congress right now -- that he comes to Congress for an authorization of military force. I would do that. And this president is literally every single day 10 minutes away from going to war, one tweet away from going to war. And I don't think we should conduct foreign policy in our bathrobe at 5:00 in the morning, which is what he does."
- “We cannot allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, and as we head into negotiations on North Korea’s nuclear weapons, we cannot be backing away from international agreements and nuclear inspections,” she said. “I also believe we should be negotiating a more comprehensive agreement moving forward that includes Iran’s ballistic-missile tests and destabilizing activity that pose a direct threat to Israel, which we can do without withdrawing from the agreement.” (2/11/19, JNS)
U.S. Presence in the Arab World
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- “I am deeply concerned that prematurely withdrawing American troops from Syria is contrary to the advice of senior national security officials and that the president’s announcement will have negative consequences for our country’s national security interests.... I am also concerned about the implications of U.S. withdrawal for the security of our allies and for innocent civilians in Syria.” (2/11/19, JNS)