Elizabeth Warren

Interview with Wall Street Journal's CEO Council - Nov. 15, 2016

Elizabeth Warren
November 15, 2016— Washington, D.C.
Wall Street Journal's CEO Councils Annual Meeting
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INTERVIEWER: We all lived through a bit of an earthquake on Tuesday night. A couple days after the election you said—you gave a speech to the AFL-CAO—you said this, “If we’ve learned nothing else from the past two year of electioneering, we should hear the message loud and clear that the American people want Washington to change. It was clear in the Democratic primaries, it was clear in the Republican primaries, it was clear in the campaign, and it was clear on Election Day,” So how do Democrats show that they heard that message? What do they do now?

WARREN: Well, I think the interesting question is going to be both halves, how are the Democrats going to show it and how is Donald Trump going to show that he actually heard that message? That’s the message he ran on. But right now what Donald Trump is doing is putting together a transition team that is full of lobbyists and the kind of people that he actually ran against. Part of what we have to access here is what is the mandate coming out? I think that the clearest point that comes out of this election is the American people do not want Wall Street to run their government. They do not want corporate executives to be the ones who are calling the shots in Washington. And you can shake your head no to that, but I think that is exactly what this election shows. It shows – look at the polling from this—that about three quarters of all Americans do believe that the game is rigged, and that’s Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. They believe that it is rigged in favor of the people in this room, and that it is rigged against them and their families and their children. They want to see change. They want to see that connection between Wall Street, and giant corporations, and our government broken. They want that not to happen anymore. They want a government that runs for the people. That’s what I think this election is about.

INTERVIEWER: So, how do the two parties show that? If that’s what it’s about. What do the Democrats do? What does the Trump transition/administration do that it’s not doing now, in your opinion?

WARREN: Well, it doesn’t start by hiring a bunch of lobbyists to run the transition. It doesn’t start by floating names of people who’ve run giant hedge funds, or have been a part of that, to run the Treasury. Or people who come from Industry be able to run regulatory agencies. You know, the Americans people understand the revolving door, and I think they’re really sick of it. The notion that someone is in industry and makes a bunch of money, and goes into government for a few years, regulating the very same industry, and then spins right back into industry again.

INTERVIEWER: But, you know, elections have consequences, as they say, he won. He gets to pick his administration.

WARREN: He won, but I’m just making the point, you better look at what he won on. He did not win on a Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, business as usual, how can we help the giant corporations in America. Look, I know the K-Street lobbyists are absolutely out there salivating. They’re dancing in the streets, they’re saying, “this is our big chance! We’re going to get to slash regulations. Man, look for the tax cuts for those at the top.” That’s what the K-Street lobbyists may be thinking this morning, but that’s not what the people who elected Donald Trump are thinking this morning.

INTERVIEWER: If you look at that populist part of the Trump message, one would think—and I think you’ve talked about this—there are things where frankly Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump started together and proceeded together: trade, Wall Street—as you said—college cost, childcare, infrastructure spending. Is there a place there on any of those, or all of those, subjects where populists in the Democratic Party and the Trump administration could come together? Can you see that happening?

WARREN: Well, the question, I mean this keeps coming back to what is Donald Trump going to do? It’s been a week, and he’s now given us at least the first tangible sign of his vision of how to run a Trump presidency. And a big part of that are lobbyists and Washington insiders. And the other part of it is to bring someone who is a white supremacist into the White House to be a senior strategist. I think this is going to be an important part of the mix going forward. You know, what Donald Trump is doing right now is that—let’s face it, was going along a lot in the election—of a toxic stew of bigotry and attacks on Americans all across this country. That Donald Trump started his campaign on Mexican-Americans, then he rode the elevator down. And he did attacks on women, he did attacks on African-Americans, he did attacks on Muslims, he did attacks on immigrants, he did attacks on-on-on people with disabilities—everybody who didn’t look like people who showed up at his rallies. There were a lot of people who were attracted to that, but there were also a lot of people who were not attracted to that yet voted for Donald Trump. There were a lot of people who didn’t like that part of what the campaign was about, but they said, “We want someone who will shake it up.” But one of the first things Donald Trump has done is that he has brought Steve Bannon in as a senior strategist. This is a man who has white supremacist ties. That’s what he does. This is a man who told his ex-wife that he didn’t want his children to go to school with Jews. This is a man who ran a news organization, who ran headlines like, Would you rather your children have feminism or cancer? This is a man who says, by his very presence, that this is a White House that will embrace bigotry. Here I am with the business leaders of America, and I just want to underline something that all of you already know, bigotry is bad for business. Bigotry is not what your employees expect. Bigotry is not what your customers expect. And if that is the direction that this administration goes, that creates a real problem for everybody. What I believe about this is that there is no longer the possibility on this question on someone like Bannon in the administration of where Donald Trump goes next. I don’t believe that it is possible to stand on the sidelines and be quiet about this. There are a lot of people in this room who lead the charge to make workplaces open and accepting places, to say we’re open to all customers, we want to make sure that we serve all Americans, that we treat everybody with dignity and respect. If this White House goes in a different direction, that damages every one of us. And I think it calls on the business community for leadership, I think it calls on the Democrats for leadership. But I think that’s the problem we’ve got, and one of the one’s that we have to deal with going forward. We can’t ignore this.