Potential independent 2020 White House contender Howard Schultz predicted outright that President Trump will win re-election if Democrats nominate a self-described socialist like Bernie Sanders, during Fox News’ “America’s Election HQ” Town Hall Thursday night in Kansas City, Missouri.
Schultz also said he “took full responsibility” for his disastrous ownership of the former Seattle SuperSonics professional basketball franchise from 2001 to 2006, claiming he lost money on the team that now operates as the Oklahoma Thunder. Mismanaging a basketball team of “13 people” and driving away the city’s first major professional sports franchise, Schultz insisted, should not in any way be seen as a “proxy” for his presidential chops.
The Town Hall, co-hosted by Fox News’ Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, began as Schultz called former Vice President Joe Biden’s behavior around women “concerning,” but also charged that it was similarly “concerning” that the allegations had suddenly surfaced as he prepares to announce a presidential bid.
Earlier this week, members of Biden’s inner circle signaled they were becoming increasingly convinced the Bernie Sanders’ campaign was behind at least one of the explosive accusations of physical misconduct recently leveled against the former vice president — and, in the words of one prominent backer, Biden is now “ready to kill Bernie.”
“There’s no reason for anyone to believe that these women are not telling the truth, but it’s really up to the voters to decide whether Vice President Biden is qualified to run,” Schultz said.
Asked by Baier if Schultz would ever vote for Biden, Schultz said simply that he would “vote for myself.” However, he clarified that he was not announcing a presidential run Thursday.
Schultz additionally criticized Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, which has resulted in the institution of crippling economic sanctions against the country’s virulently anti-U.S. leadership, as well as the planned troop pullout from Syria.
Schultz also characterized Trump’s claims — which are backed up by military assessments — that ISIS had been largely defeated as a “falsehood.” Schultz said he would “discuss with my advisors” whether to re-enter the Iran deal.
Schultz separately denied he would play a “spoiler” in the race — and suggested instead that someone like Sanders could unwittingly play that role.
On abortion, Schultz said to applause, “In my view, there should be no abortion that is in the last trimester. Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.” Later, Schultz said John Roberts would be his model bipartisan Supreme Court pick. Roberts, in February, sided with the court’s liberal wing on abortion, as the chief justice publicly tries to present the court as nonpartisan.
On providing taxpayer-funded reparations to Native Americans and black Americans, Schultz said he would “rather look forward.” Several prominent Democrat candidates have openly embraced the idea of issuing such reparations, including Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, Julian Castro and Tulsi Gabbard.
On immigration, Schultz decried partisanship on the issue, calling the situation a “crisis that can be solved.” He compared what he saw on the border to “internment camps” during World War II.
“Given what’s happening in our southern border … it’s a question of humanity and legal immigration,” Schultz said. “I don’t know how many people are aware in this audience, but President Bush 43 and Obama, both, while they were president, submitted to Congress an immigration bill. In both cases, the opposition took that bill, rejected it, and would not pass it.”
Schultz said those bills, today, would be indistinguishable as Republican or Democrat-sponsored bills, and said they failed simply because of reflexive political obstruction.
“That is the problem that existed then, and that is the problem that exists now. I can promise you that Nancy Pelosi will not, under any circumstances, give President Trump a victory on immigration.”
“What I saw, in my mind, is a fracturing of American values and a fracturing of humanity.”
Schultz also condemned both Republicans and Democrats for their health care proposals — saying there’s a “better way” than simply repealing ObamaCare or enacting a costly “Medicare for All” scheme.
Schultz’s appearance on Fox News came weeks after the Democratic National Committee (DNC) excluded the network from hosting a Democrat primary debate. The DNC has since said it has no problems with Sanders appearing on Fox News.
Schultz similarly bucked Democrats with his decision to attend the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington on Monday, which came as Democrats have been grappling with the left’s criticism of Israel and as most presidential candidates are sitting this year’s conference out.
Prominent Democrats, including Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, have come under fire from several commentators for making purportedly anti-Semitic remarks — with Omar suffering repeated rebukes from her own party.
On Friday, Schultz responded to a tweet from the liberal advocacy group MoveOn, which has been urging Democratic presidential candidates not to attend. He said that the “unwillingness of the far left to even speak with people they may disagree with is one of the worst symbols of the dysfunction in Washington today.”
Fox News’ Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum contributed to this report.