2020 Democrat presidential contender Amy Klobuchar took the stage at a Fox News Channel Town Hall on Wednesday evening in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the Minnesota senator began by hammering Attorney General Bill Barr, saying "he should come before the House" and warning that "a lot of pushback and subpoenas" are likely coming.
Klobuchar's remarks came hours after House Democrats voted to hold Barr in contempt. Republicans called the move a politically motivated effort to "destroy Barr," noting that existing law prevented Barr from releasing grand jury materials and other sensitive information currently redacted from the public version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report.
But Klobuchar said she agreed with the contempt vote, adding, "the president should be held accountable -- and that's what this is all about."
The one-hour Town Hall, co-anchored by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, also offered Klobuchar a chance to explain why she hasn't embraced proposals popular with her party's left wing, including the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, free four-year college tuition, and abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
"Progressives should support me because I am a proven progressive. The last time I checked, if you want to be a progressive and support progressives, then you're supposed to make progress," Klobuchar said, asked by an audience member why far-left liberals should back her candidacy. "That's what I've done my whole life."
"May the best woman win," Klobuchar said at one point, asking about the potential role of sexism in the presidential race. She noted that she supports free two-year community college.
Universal health care, Klobuchar said, is a "privilege and not a right" -- but "the way I think you get there is to build on the Affordable Care Act," not necessarily Bernie Sanders' sweeping and expensive Medicare for All proposal.
Klobuchar said a public option, plus a concerted effort to "take on the pharmaceutical companies," would round out her plan.
On marijuana legalization, Klobuchar said states should make that decision, and that "systemic racism" in the justice system means that "drug courts" should be used, and sentences for non-violent offenders should be "reduced." Klobuchar praised the First Step Act, a Trump administration initiative passed by Congress on a bipartisan basis, but called for a "Second Step Act."
Separately, Klobuchar said there were "some things" in President Trump's tax bill that she "would keep," but added that she would not have lowered the corporate tax rate as much as Republicans did. Klobuchar also said Trump shouldn't take credit for booming economic numbers.
"This all didn't just happen when Donald Trump got elected," Klobuchar argued. "It happened because of some incredible businesses, including some that we have here in Wisconsin ... workers that did their jobs. It's a trajectory that we've been on for a while."
Hours before the Town Hall, Klobuchar, 58, told Fox News in an interview she wasn't worried about former Vice President Joe Biden's decision to run, even though he has assumed frontrunner status by most polls and fundraising metrics.
“I welcome the vice president to the race," Klobuchar said. "I’ve worked with him for years, but I’m running my own campaign and I bring something that’s different to the race."
At the Town Hall, Klobuchar said "long odds" haven't historically been an obstacle for several former successful presidential candidates, including Barack Obama.
"If I thought to myself, oh well, everyone who discounted me -- well, I won't be able to do it, I'd never be where I am today," Klobuchar said, before recounting a personal anecdote about her daughter's birth: "I went to the legislature, when no one thought I could do it, guaranteeing new moms and their babies a 48-hour hospital stay," she said to applause.
Klobuchar is one of three candidates from the Midwest, along with South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio.
And Klobuchar, again and again, emphasized that aspect of her biography. Asked what nickname she would choose for herself at the end of the Town Hall, Klobuchar replied, "Heartland Amy."
Buttigieg is slated to appear at Fox News Channel Town Hall on May 19, followed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in Iowa on June 2.
“I’m running my own campaign and I bring something that’s different to the race,” Klobuchar said, adding, “I’m from the heartland. My grandpa was an iron ore miner, he worked 1,500 feet underground his whole life. I am the only candidate in the race that is a granddaughter of an iron ore miner and the daughter of a teacher and a newspaperman, the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from the state of Minnesota, and a candidate for president.”
Klobuchar, at the Town Hall, again responded allegations that her "Minnesota nice" persona may be only skin-deep. In February, Klobuchar responded to multiple reports that she mistreated staffers in her Capitol Hill office by acknowledging that she's been a "tough boss" -- and did not flat-out deny a report she had thrown a binder at one point.
According to a Buzzfeed News report, "one aide was accidentally hit with a flying binder, according to someone who saw it happen, though the staffer said the senator did not intend to hit anyone with the binder when she threw it."
The outlet also cited numerous staffers claiming Klobuchar routinely sent late-night emails and berated her subordinates over minor details and missteps. Some critics have charged that the insinuations in the reports were sexist against women in managerial positions.
"I don't know, it's all anonymous. I will say that I'm proud of our staff," Klobuchar told Fox News' "Special Report with Bret Baier."
"Yes, I can be a tough boss, and push people -- that's obvious," she continued. "But, that's because I have high expectations of myself, I have high expectations of those who work for me, and I have a high expectation for our country. My chief of staff has worked for me for six years, my state director for seven years, my campaign manager for 14 years."
Asked at the Town Hall whether media reports on her management style were sexist, Klobuchar responded that she doesn't care about news coverage, and turned to her campaign's new focus on mental health.
Earlier this month, Klobuchar released a plan to spend $100 billion over a decade to improve mental health care and fight substance abuse, an issue she faced firsthand as the daughter of an alcoholic who struggled with addiction for years before getting sober.
"I believe that every person in this country has that right to be pursued by grace, if they've got problems with an addiction -- whether it's opiods, or meth ... or whether they have a problem with mental illness," Klobuchar said. "And that's why I put out a plan that's paid for. We don't have enough beds in this country right now for people with mental illness to get treatment."
The New York Times reported in February that Klobuchar allegedly berated a staff member for failing to bring her a fork with her salad while the senator was traveling to South Carolina in 2008.
Klobuchar not only chastised the aide, but reportedly proceeded to eat the salad using a comb from her bag -- then handed the comb to the aide and told him to clean it.
She later explained the bizarre story, saying she was "doing a mom thing."
“The comb story was me, sort of doing a mom thing. I didn’t have a fork, I used a comb to eat a salad very briefly on a plane,” she said at the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas, in March.
Fox News' Paul Steinhauser and The Associated Press contributed to this report.