Both former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders may differ on a number of topics, but Sunday night during the Democratic presidential debate in Flint, Michigan, they agreed on at least one thing: The Flint water crisis that tainted the city's water supply with lead shouldn't result in immediate, or perhaps even eventual, criminal charges.
CNN's Don Lemon asked each White House hopeful if they thought jail charges were warranted from the ongoing health crisis that prompted Clinton earlier in the debate to say in part, “it is raining lead in Flint and the state is derelict in not coming forward with the money that’s required.” But when pressed over potential legal repercussions from the fallout, Clinton, who was asked first, hedged.
Clinton & Sanders say they're unsure if leaders should face jail time over Flint crisis. For legal system to decide pic.twitter.com/Clq94kkpdY
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Criminal charges for the water crisis should be left to the legal system, Clinton said without carving out a particular stance on the topic. Sanders went barely a step further in declaring that “there has to be an absolute accountability” but said he would support whatever legal actions are taken.
Clinton was also very vocal early on during the debate about wanting Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to "resign or be recalled," something Sanders had also called for.
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Flint resident Nakiya Wakes suffered a miscarriage as a result of the tainted water, CNN reported Saturday. Wakes, and many other city residents, want to see those who knew about the water crisis punished. "I really feel like they should be incarcerated," Wakes told CNN. "I think they should be put in jail. Everybody. The governor and all the elected officials who knew about this."
Both candidates entered Sunday night's debate eyeing an opportunity to make further inroads with African-American voters, as the city of Flint is nearly 60 percent black. Clinton has been enjoying a hefty lead among that voting bloc, as well as in the state of Michigan, where the latest poll showed the former secretary of state with a 56 percent to 31 percent lead over Sanders.
The topic of the city's water crisis -- in which lead was found to have tainted Flint's water supply, a situation that its residents continue to grapple with today and still cannot drink water from their faucets -- was expected to be front and center during Sunday night's debate.
City residents have been very vocal about how much they want the candidates to discuss the ongoing health issue they are facing and their solutions to the problem.
"It's a landmark city, and everyone who lives here has lots of memories they don't want to see vanish," Jami Santee told MLive.com. "So many of us grew up here and want to stay here. We need to know how they plan to continue to fix Flint."
Sanders has gone on the record and said Snyder, a central figure in the water crisis, should step down from public office. The Vermont senator made his position on the topic known once again Sunday hours ahead of the debate in the city of Warren.
“We are going to win here in Michigan,” Sanders said to an audience at Macomb Community College, reported the Detroit Free Press. “I think the governor should do the right thing and resign.”
Clinton hasn't been quite as pointed in her opinion on Snyder, and instead took aim at his administration during a speech Sunday to a predominately black church in Detroit. "Your state government wanted to save money more than they wanted to help keep young kids' lives whole," she said at the Russell Street Missionary Baptist Church, according to Louisiana CBS affiliate WAFB.