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CNN "State of the Union" - Transcript: Interview With Presidential Candidate Julian Castro


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TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

He was a young politician whose speech to the Democratic National Convention raised speculation that maybe he would run for president someday.

No, I'm not talking about a young state Senator Barack Obama. I'm talking about former San Antonio Mayor and HUD Secretary Julian Castro. And it turns out, he is running for president, now, for 2020.

Democratic presidential candidate Secretary Castro joins me now.

Secretary Castro, thanks for joining us.

CASTRO: Good morning.

TAPPER: For weeks now, the Democratic Party has said that President Trump needed to open -- open the government, reopen the government, in order to then allow negotiations on border security.

As you know, the government is now open. You said on Friday that -- quote -- "Everybody should work to keep the government open." How far do you think Democrats should go to be willing to give President Trump at least some money for border security, including money for a fence or a wall, as part of negotiations?

CASTRO: Well, as you know, Jake, the Democrats have made clear that they're willing to negotiate on investing in additional funds for border security.


In fact, they did that in the legislation that they passed earlier this month. I think the difference here is the focus. We have 1,994 miles of border, of southern border. There are already 654 miles that have some sort of barrier or structure, fencing usually.

What Democrats oppose is a concrete wall or any kind of barrier that reaches across the entire border. There are better ways that we can ensure that we have a border that is completely secure.

And, by the way, as many people have pointed out, in many ways, our border is more secure today than ever. But there are investments that we can make in additional personnel at the border, in technology so that we can better monitor what's coming through ports of entry. And we can better secure those ports of entry.

TAPPER: Mm-hmm.

CASTRO: Nancy Pelosi said this the other day. She laid out where they're willing to negotiate.

So my hope...

TAPPER: Right.

CASTRO: ... is that we're not going to get back into this situation on February 15 where you have 800,000 families that don't get a paycheck.

TAPPER: Right.

Earlier this month, Speaker of the House Pelosi said that the wall was -- quote -- "immoral." As you know, as you just stated, there are roughly 650 miles of existing wall, barrier, fencing at the border. Are they immoral?

CASTRO: Well, I don't think it represents the best of what America stands for.

I think -- I believe that if we were to build the kind of wall that Donald Trump is talking about -- and, admittedly, as you know, sometimes, that's hard to figure out, because, some days, he says it's a beautiful big concrete wall, and, other days, he says it's steel slats, and then he says it's something else.

But I believe, fundamentally, that if we were to build that wall, that it would change the notion of America from the Statue of Liberty that stands for freedom and welcomes immigrants to a country that literally walls itself off from the rest of the world.

And maybe that wouldn't make much of a difference on day one when we do that, but I believe that, as years go by, it would change how we see ourselves as Americans and how others see us and have a real impact on who we are. And that's not a path that we want to go down.

So, yes, I agree that to do so would be immoral.

TAPPER: I don't want to spend the whole time talking about the wall.

But if there are already 654 miles of barrier, fencing, wall, why would adding 100 miles more change the nation of -- notion of this nation any more than -- I mean, we already have that. Why -- why would adding any more change who we are?

CASTRO: You know, I would say two things, number one, that that 654 miles was built out some time ago, and that was built out when the technology to be able to monitor what is happening at the border was not what it is today.

In other words, that's an old style of doing things. And we have a more effective way without that kind of barrier to do it.

The other argument that people have made that I believe is true is that we have addressed where we might -- where you might argue that, OK, you need a physical structure, a physical barrier, well, that was addressed in those 654 miles. And that's not the case for the rest.

TAPPER: Let's move on to your presidential campaign.

You have laid out a very ambitious agenda. It includes a green new deal. It includes Medicare for all. Obviously, you will need to raise revenue to fund some of these priorities.

If you were elected president, would you undo the Republican tax cut law and raise the corporate tax rate back up from 21 percent to 35 percent?

CASTRO: I absolutely would look at undoing the tax cuts that benefited the super wealthy and benefited corporations.

We also -- as you know, Jake, we are going to have to look at other things, other ways of raising revenue. But I have said very clearly that I believe that it's worth it. I believe that, in this nation, the wealthiest nation on Earth, there is no reason that anybody should go without health care when they need it.

And I'm under no illusion that that's going to be easy. And during the course of this campaign, I look forward to putting forth a plan on how we'd pay for that, because I do think that Americans deserve to know from candidates for president how they are going to do that, even though I will point out, as you all have seen, that Donald Trump went through an entire presidential cycle, not only not releasing his tax returns...

TAPPER: Yes. CASTRO: ... but never telling the American people how he was going to

pay for anything or what his plans were. I think that we need to do better than that.

And, during the course of this campaign, we will.

TAPPER: You said earlier this month that you want top earners to pay more in taxes.

And you pointed to the top marginal tax rate during World War II. It used to be 94 percent, the marginal tax rate. Just to clarify for people, that's not 94 percent of the income taxed. It's just the top rate, the top amount that individuals...


CASTRO: Thank you for pointing that out.

TAPPER: Well, I just want to make sure people understand that.

CASTRO: Yes. I mean, you have to point that out...

TAPPER: Right.

CASTRO: ... because people often make that mistake.

They think, well, if somebody is making $5 million, suddenly -- $10 million or 50...



CASTRO: ... they are suddenly going to -- all of their income is -- you get taxed at...

TAPPER: Right.

CASTRO: That's not true. That's a marginal tax rate, the top tax rate.

TAPPER: But would you -- would you support it, raising it to the -- the top marginal tax rate to that level, more than 90 percent?

CASTRO: I would say this, that I support raising it. I think that we would have to negotiate on where that goes.

I also think that it was very telling that, after Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez mentioned the idea that perhaps the marginal tax rate could be as high as 70 percent, because it used to be -- in fact, if you think about it, Donald Trump often says that he wants to make America great again, which means we want to go backward.

I don't believe in going backward. I want to go forward. But if you did go backward, you would go right into a time where the marginal tax rate was higher. They did a poll. And 45 percent of Republicans said that they believe

the idea of that kind of top marginal tax rate was a good idea. So, I believe that we should increase it. Now, where it goes to, I think that would be a subject of negotiation.

TAPPER: Mm-hmm.

I want to ask you about Howard Schultz, the former Starbucks CEO, who says this weekend he's seriously exploring a self-funded independent bid for president. He told "60 Minutes" that he thinks both parties are engaged in what he called revenge politics and not acting in the interest of the American people.

Do you have any concerns that a very wealthy independent with a message like Schultz's could play spoiler in 2020?

CASTRO: Well, you know, first, I would say that I have tremendous respect for Howard Schultz.

When I was HUD secretary, I had an opportunity to visit with him. I know that, you know, he's done some impressive things in business. Obviously, if he runs, it's going to make an impression on the race.

But I do share that concern. I have a concern that, if he did run, that, essentially, it would provide Donald Trump with his best hope of getting reelected.

Just the other day, there was a fairly comprehensive poll taken that showed, essentially, right now, that the president has a ceiling of about 41 percent or 42 percent in terms of support for him, no matter which Democratic candidate they polled against him.

So his only hope, if things stayed the same -- and that's a big if -- is essentially to get somebody else, a third party, to siphon off those votes. And I don't think that that would be in the best interest of our country. We need new leadership.

And so, you know, I would suggest to Mr. Schultz to truly think about the negative impact that that might make.

The only other thing I will say about that is that we can't both-sides this to death. It's not -- yes, I agree that there are things that Republicans and Democrats do need to improve upon, but there's a real difference between any of the folks who have said that they want to run on the Democratic side and Donald Trump.

I mean, that's become so clear. So, it's not all the same thing.

TAPPER: All right, Secretary Castro, we hope we will have you on back -- back again sometime, talking more about the issues.

Thanks for joining us today.

CASTRO: Thank you.


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