Elizabeth Warren on Big Banks and the Democratic Party: 5 Takeaways

WASHINGTON — Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts positioned herself as an alternative to the standard-bearers of the Democratic Party, refusing to classify herself within the party during an hourlong interview on Thursday.

In a TimesTalks conversation with Andrew Ross Sorkin, the editor at large of DealBook, Ms. Warren also took aim at Gary Cohn, Amazon and Facebook, and efforts to impeach President Trump, maintaining her signature critical stance on big banks and Wall Street while sparing Obama-era administration officials her previous denunciations.

And while she brushed off a question asking if she was running in 2020, she offered a glimpse into what such a platform could hold.

Here are the takeaways.

‘This is who I’ve been all along.’

As speculation mounts over whether Ms. Warren will enter the presidential race in 2020, she was asked where she sees herself within her own party.

She argued that her economic views — like raising the minimum wage, expanding Social Security and regulating big banks — are ones that most Americans share. She places herself “right in the middle of America,” she said.

“How I see this is, this is a lot less about political parties and a lot more about where America is,” Ms. Warren said. “There are issues on which we are divided. I understand that. But on these core economic set of issues, America is a progressive country.”

Is it unfair to argue that she has shifted her views compared with where she had initially established herself within the larger party?

“This is who I’ve been all along,” Ms. Warren said.

She rebuked Gary Cohn’s relationship with Goldman Sachs.

Ms. Warren was withering in her criticism of Gary Cohn, President Trump’s former chief economic adviser.

Pointing to the $285 million package he received from Goldman Sachs after he left as the company’s president to work for Mr. Trump, she accused Mr. Cohn of working on behalf of the company instead of the American people.

“What he did was help Goldman Sachs,” she said, adding that the tax overhaul that he helped push through last year saved corporations billions of dollars.

What angered Ms. Warren the most, she said, was imagining the response of the American people.

“Is he working for us,” she imagined someone thinking, “Or is he working for Goldman, or is he just working for himself?”

She doesn’t support impeachment efforts — and told the billionaire Tom Steyer so.

Ms. Warren said that she had spoken to the Democratic megadonor Tom Steyer — who is said to be considering a presidential bid in 2020 — and told him she did not support his efforts to impeach the president. Instead, she is intent on protecting the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

The investigation into possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia’s election interference “has resulted in more than two dozen indictments or guilty pleas already,” she said.

“I want protection for the special prosecutor,” she said. “Every time Donald Trump starts tweeting again or attacks someone else in government, I get very worried about the special prosecutor.”

What Congress could do, Ms. Warren said, is pass a law that says the special counsel cannot be fired by the president.

“Once the investigation is completed,” she said, “then we’ll know what we have in front of us.”

She’s ready to crack down on Amazon and Facebook.

As tech giants like Facebook and Apple come under continued scrutiny by Congress, Ms. Warren weighed in on the subject, stating that the issue was more about their anti-competitive business models and less about “breaking up” big companies.

She expressed concern that Amazon serves as both a marketplace for businesses and a competitor to those same businesses, noting that the company now sells its own private-label brands, and can use the information it collects about its customers to help push those products.

“You’ve got to pick one business or the other,” Ms. Warren said. “If you’re getting a huge competitive advantage from being a platform provider because of all this information you’ve been scraping, then we no longer have competition going on.”

She doesn’t take the tweets personally.

Ms. Warren, who has been the target of the president’s name-calling on Twitter, offered a challenge to Mr. Trump’s taunts.

“Donald Trump isn’t going to change. But he’s not going to change me, either,” she said. “I’m in the fights I’m in and I’m going to stay in them. But I stay in them not because of him, I stay in them because of the people and the urgency I feel in this moment.”