BUFFALO — Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders rocked a Buffalo basketball arena Monday by slamming Democratic foe Hillary Clinton as a pawn of Wall Street and by promising that Republican front-runner Donald Trump will get thumped.
In wide-ranging pronouncements in Buffalo and earlier in Binghamton, Sanders promised to rein in corporate America, raise the minimum wage, and ban hydrofracking for natural gas nationwide.
The Vermont senator used the news of a $5 billion settlement on Monday following a federal investigation of fraudulent practices by Goldman Sachs to criticize Clinton and her millions in campaign donations from big banks. Sanders painted Wall Street as the source of a “corrupt campaign finance system” and “a rigged economy.”
“The business mode of Wall Street is fraud,” Sanders said to cheers from the standing-room-only crowd. “We are going to break up the largest financial institutions.”
He returned to his theme of Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, being aligned with Wall Street. Sanders said she not only collects large donations from Wall Street firms, she also gave a private speech to Wall Street executives for $250,000, but won’t reveal what she said.
“It must be a brilliant, earth-shattering speech,” he said. “It must be a speech written in Shakespearean prose and if that speech was so great, I think she should release the transcripts.”
Then Sanders, stressing his Brooklyn roots in campaigning for the April 19 New York primary, tried to portray himself as the front-runner for November’s general election.
“I know many of you are worried about the possibility of a Donald Trump presidency,” Sanders said, pausing for prolonged boos. “It ain’t gonna happen.”
“But it is also not going to happen because the American people understand that our strength is in our diversity,” Sanders said.
As the crowd stomped and cheered, Sanders noted polls show him beating Trump more handily than Clinton would.
A Quinnipiac University poll earlier this month had Clinton leading Sanders 54-42 percent as Sanders started to gain momentum by winning small states, but remaining far behind in the delegate count. But the poll found what many previous ones have found, that Sanders would beat Republican front-runner Donald Trump more soundly than Clinton. The poll found Clinton would win over Trump 54-33 percent, while Sanders would match up against the billionaire developer 56-32 percent.
He called Trump’s past effort to question Barack Obama’s birthplace, a requirement to be president, as “a very ugly, vicious thing to do.”
“What the great religions have always taught us is that love trumps hatred,” Sanders said.
Earlier in Binghamton, Sanders took on Clinton’s top surrogate in New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, saying grass-roots movements made him do the right thing on hydrofracking. Sanders called for phasing out fracking nationwide.
Cuomo has been criticizing Sanders on gun control and other issues on Clinton’s behalf.
“I want to applaud you for standing up to Gov. Cuomo and demanding that New York State ban fracking,” Sanders said to applause.
Environmentalists in the Southern Tier actively opposed the proposed hydrofracking for natural gas deep in an upstate shale deposit as a threat to drinking water. After four years of delays and studies, Cuomo eventually continued a ban on the fracking process, which shoots chemicals into shale to release the gas.
“What you have done is prove to the world that when you stand up and form a grass-roots movement of environmentalists, public health advocates, working families and religious leaders, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish,” Sanders told the crowd that packed a downtown hockey arena.
Cuomo declined to comment Monday.