Bloomberg, in campaign event, calls Trump an 'existential threat'

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg launched his campaign in Norfolk on Monday.

NORFOLK, Va. -- Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg formally kicked off his presidential run Monday by taking aim at President Donald Trump, who he called an "existential threat" to the country.

"We cannot afford four more years of President Trump's reckless and unethical actions," Bloomberg told reporters after his first campaign stop at a diner in Norfolk, Virginia. "Everyday it seems to bring another example of just how unfit he is to serve as our president and commander-in-chief."

Bloomberg, 77, said he was entering the race because he sees it as necessary to oust President Donald Trump from the White House, saying he is a danger and threat to the nation's future.

Asked if his last minute entry into the already crowded Democratic primary field is because he thinks the current field "can't get the job done," Bloomberg said he believes there's "a greater risk of having Donald Trump re-elected than it was before."

"I think I know how to beat him. I’ve beat him a number times before," he added. "I think I know what this country needs."

Bloomberg highlighted his work in business, government and philanthropy, which he argues all qualify him for the Oval Office. He laid out his laundry list of campaign promises, saying he'd tackle everything from stopping gun violence to fighting climate change to increasing taxes on the wealthy, including himself.

He reiterated his campaign's stance that he will not plan on accepting donations, saying he will be the only candidate "who isn't going to take a penny from anyone and will work for a dollar a year, just as I did for 12 years in New York City Hall."

Bloomberg launched his campaign on the heels of a nearly $40 million TV ad buy over the weekend. Early last week, Bloomberg also launched a $100 million digital ad buy targeting President Trump. He said he also plans to spend between an estimated $15 million and $20 million on a voter registration effort to challenge Trump in five key battlegrounds that could define the outcome of next year's election.

As the requirements stand right now, candidates hoping to be on stage for a Democratic primary debate need to get a certain number of individual donors -- 200,000 for December's debate. Bloomberg said it's up to the Democratic National Committee to determine how candidates qualify, and that while he would debate if the rules were changed, he's more focused on engaging with voters.

His unconventional campaign is only made more so by his decision to skip early caucus or primary states, like Iowa and New Hampshire, to focus on delegate-rich Super Tuesday states, like California.

"What I want to do is talk directly to the public and explain what I've done and what I would do and give them some comfort that because of what I did in the past, I will deliver in the future. They're not just empty promises," Bloomberg told attendees. "And if you say that in a debate, okay, although it's hard to do that, I think I'd be much better off talking to the public just like I'm doing now."

Bloomberg was asked about his controversial stop-and-frisk policing policy he implemented during his time as mayor, which he recently apologized for, and the difficulties he may face in gaining support from voters who are minorities.

"I think that I've done an awful lot of things that would-- should-- attract people. I've worked very hard to make sure that we tackle discrimination wherever I saw it. New York City has a record that-- not perfect, but I think is-- we should be proud of, in terms of making it a city open to everyone," he said. "I've been a very big support of gay rights and of going against any kind of discrimination that I've seen in any place."

He was also asked about criticism from some of his competitors over the weekend, like Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, that he is trying to buy the election.

"I'm disgusted by the idea that Michael Bloomberg or any other billionaire thinks they can circumvent the political process and spend tens of millions of dollars to buy our elections," Sanders said. "It's just the latest example of a rigged political system that we are going to change when we're in the White House."

Bloomberg argued that he has used his resources to support causes that matter to him.

"I was lucky enough to build a successful company. It has been very successful, and I've used all of it to give back, to help America," he said.

Bloomberg told the crowd that he is committed to working on issues like gun safety, climate change and flipping congressional seats, but he is fully committed to defeating President Trump, who he called an "existential threat to our country."

He said he chose Norfolk for his first stop on the trail because the area exemplifies how the right Democrat can turn a red district blue, much as did Rep. Elaine Luria did in her 2018 congressional bid.

Bloomberg is the founder of super PAC Everytown for Gun Safety Victory Fund, which donates heavily to candidates who support gun reform. In the 2018 midterms, the group spent $5.3 million. In June of this year, he launched Beyond Climate, a campaign to tacke climate change.

Bloomberg also weighed in on impeachment.

After two weeks of public hearings, Bloomberg said that "nobody knows" whether impeachment will backfire on Democrats come 2020's election, but even so, he said that from what he's seen in the hearings, he would vote for impeachment if he was in Congress.

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