CNN Exclusive: Hillary Clinton’s first national interview of 2016 Race
CNN senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar spoke exclusively with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for the first nationally televised interview of her presidential campaign. The full interview with Hillary Clinton will air Tuesday on CNN’s “The Situation Room” at 5 p.m. EDT and again on “Anderson Cooper 360” at 8 p.m. EDT.
MANDATORY CREDIT // CNN
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Secretary Clinton, thank you so much for talking to us today. You’re here in Iowa for a couple of events. You’re the front-runner in this state but we’re also seeing Bernie Sanders attract a lot of attention. He has had big crowds here, 10,000 people in Wisconsin last week, 7,500 people in Maine last night.
Why is it, do you think, that someone who is a self-described Democratic socialist is really attracting this organic interest that your campaign seems to be struggling a little bit with?
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, first of all, I always thought this would be a competitive race. So I am happy to have a chance to get out and run my campaign as I see fit and let other candidates do exactly the same.
I feel very good about where we are in Iowa. We are signing up thousands of volunteers, people committed to caucus for us. We have a committed supporter in every one of the 1,600 precincts. And one of the things that I learned last time is it’s organize, organize, organize. And you’ve got to get people committed. And then they will follow through and then you bring more people.
So I feel very good about where my campaign is. It’ll be three months and a few days that we’ve been at this. I think I’ve learned a lot from listening to people in Iowa. And it’s actually affected what I say and what I talk about on the campaign trail.
So I couldn’t be happier about my campaign.
KEILAR: Senator Sanders has talked about how, if he’s president, he would raise taxes. In fact, he said to CNN’s Jake Tapper, he would raise them substantially higher than they are today, on big corporations, on wealthy Americans.
CLINTON: I will be laying out my own economic policies. Again, everybody has to run his or her own campaign. And I’m going to be telling the American people what propose and how I think it will work and then we’ll let voters make up their minds.
KEILAR: Are — is raising taxes on the table?
CLINTON: I’m going to put out my policies and I’ll other people speak to their policies because I think we have to both grow the economy faster and fairer so we have to do what will actually work in the short term, the medium term and the long term. I will be making a speech about my economic proposals on Monday. And then I look forward to the debate about them.
KEILAR: I’m wondering if you can address a vulnerability that we’ve seen you dealing with recently. We see in our recent poll that nearly six in 10 Americans say they don’t believe that you’re honest and trustworthy.
Do you understand why they feel that way?
CLINTON: Well, I think when you are subjected to the kind of constant barrage of attacks that are largely fomented by and coming from the Right and —
KEILAR: But do you bear any responsibility for that?
CLINTON: — well, I — you know, I can only tell you that I was elected twice in New York against the same kind of onslaught. I was confirmed and served as secretary of state and I think it’s understandable that when questions are raised people maybe are thinking about them and wondering about them. But I have every confidence that during the course of this campaign people are going to know who will fight for them, who will be there when they need them and that’s the kind of person I am. And that’s what I will do, not only in a campaign but as president.
KEILAR: Trusting someone to fight for them and trusting someone, these are two different things.
Do you see any role that you’ve had in the sentiment that we’ve seen, where people are questioning whether you’re trustworthy?
CLINTON: I can only tell you, Brianna, that this has been a theme that has been used against me and my husband for many, many years. And at the end of the day, I think voters sort it all out. I have great confidence. I trust the American voter. So I trust the American voter 100 percent because I think the American voter will weight these kinds of accusations.
I mean, people write books filled with unsubstantiated attacks against us. And even admit they have no evidence. But of course, it’s your job to cover it. So of course that’s going to raise questions in people’s minds.
But during the course of this campaign, just as in my two prior campaigns and in my other years of service, I have a lot of confidence that the American people can sort it all out.
KEILAR: Would you vote for someone that you don’t trust?
CLINTON: Well, they — people should and do trust me. And I have every confidence that that will be the outcome of this election.
I cannot decide what the attacks on me will be, no matter how unfounded. And I’m well aware of the fact that it’s your job to raise those and we’ll do our best to respond to them.
But I think what people talk to me about — and that’s all I can go on — is the literally thousands of people that I’ve seen in the course of this campaign. They want to know what I’m going to do for the economy, what I’m going to do for education, what I’m going to do for health care. And they trust me to have a plan and to be committed to carrying out that plan and they should, because I will.
KEILAR: One of the issues that has eroded some trust that we’ve seen is the issue of your email practices while you were secretary of state. I think there’s a lot of people who don’t understand what your thought process was on that.
Can you tell me the story of how you decided to delete 33,000 emails and how that deletion was executed?
CLINTON: Well, let’s start from the beginning. Everything I did was permitted. There was no law. There was no regulation. There was nothing that did not give me the full authority to decide how I was going to communicate. Previous secretaries of state have said they did the same thing. And people across the government knew that I used one device — maybe it was because I am not the most technically capable person and wanted to make it as easy as possible.
KEILAR: But you said they — that they did the same thing, that they used a personal server and —
KEILAR: — subpoena deleted emails from them?
CLINTON: You know, you’re starting with so many assumptions that are — I’ve never had a subpoena. There is — again, let’s take a deep breath here. Everything I did was permitted by law and regulation. I had one device. When I mailed anybody in the government, it would go into the government system.
Now I didn’t have to turn over anything. I chose to turn over 55,000 pages because I wanted to go above and beyond what was expected of me because I knew the vast majority of everything that was official already was in the State Department system.
And now I think it’s kind of fun. People get a real-time behind-the-scenes look at what I was emailing about and what I was communicating about.
KEILAR: Wearing warm socks, you said to John Podesta.
CLINTON: Exactly and — or, you know —
KEILAR: Working a fax machine —
CLINTON: — yes, a secure fax machine, which is harder to work than the regular.
So yes, this is being blown up with no basis in law or in fact. That’s fine. I get it. This is being, in effect, used by the Republicans in the Congress, OK. But I want people to understand what the truth is. And the truth is everything I did was permitted and I went above and beyond what anybody could have expected in making sure that if the State Department didn’t capture something, I made a real effort to get it to them.
And I had no obligation to do any of that. So let’s set the record straight. And those 55,000 pages, they will be released over the course of this year. People can, again, make their own judgments.
I know you say you were permitted. I just am trying to understand some of the thought process behind it. One former state attorney general, a Democrat, told CNN that they know of no lawyer who would advise someone, a client, facing the kind of scrutiny that you’ve been facing to wipe their server.
I mean, what do you say to that?
CLINTON: Well, what I say to that is turned over everything I was obligated to turn over. And then I moved on. People delete their personal emails, their work-related emails, whatever emails they have on a regular basis. I turned over everything that I could imagine.
Now being — sitting in a meeting in the State Department, asking for iced tea, may not rise to the level of negotiating peace, but I went above and beyond. That’s why there’s 55,000 pages of my emails.
And so I think people have an interesting time behind the scenes. And all I can tell you is that the law, the regulation did not in any way stand in my way of being permitted to do what I did. And as I said, prior secretaries of state — I mean, Secretary Powell has admitted he did exactly the same thing.
So I think both Secretary Powell and I are viewed as public servants. We do our very best to serve our country and he’s — he has such a distinguished records. You know, I have served my country as well.
We both did the same thing. Now years have passed, so he clearly doesn’t have anything left. I did everything I could to make sure people got anything that was related that I had.
KEILAR: There has been a lot of controversy surrounding your family’s foundation, The Clinton Foundation, corporate and foreign donations that have gone to the foundation and the work that it does.
Has it made you think, seeing this controversy, that it’s come about, has it made you think about if you are president, what will happen to The Clinton Foundation?
Have you thought about perhaps shutting it down?
CLINTON: Well, let me start by saying I am so proud of The Clinton Foundation. I am proud of the work that my husband started, that my daughter continued. I’m proud of the very small role I played in being there for about a year and a half.
And I’ll give you an example of why, what The Clinton Foundation has done is so critical.
When I became secretary of state, the United States government was using our tax dollars to treat 1.7 million people around the world with HIV/AIDS. I looked at the contracts that The Clinton Foundation had been negotiating to buy medicine and pass it through, working with foreign governments who provided the funding to buy the medicine to treat more people.
So we negotiated lower prices. By the time I left, thanks to contracts and work that The Clinton Foundation had done, the United States was treating 5.1 million people. That’s just one example.
Now maybe it’s because my husband knows so many people in the world and he’s so creative and he’s so smart. But he was able to put together solutions to problems whether it was HIV/AIDS or childhood obesity in our country or expanding farm productivity in Africa, that was hard for others to do. And, yes, did people say, that’s good work, that’s a charity we want to support — and they should have because it produced results.
I have no — I have no plans to say or do anything about The Clinton Foundation other than to say how proud I am of it and that I think for the good of the world, its work should continue.
KEILAR: Let’s talk now about Republicans. There are so many of them. Right now, the front-runner —
CLINTON: It is a big crew.
KEILAR: It is a big crew. Right now the front-runner is Jeb Bush.
Can you believe that a quarter century after your husband was elected, there could be another Bush-Clinton race?
CLINTON: Well, we’ll see. That’s up to, first, the Republicans on his side, the Democrats on my side. What’s great about America is anybody can run for president. That is literally true. And you have to go out and you have to do what everybody else does. You have to make your case. You have to have your agenda. You have to raise the money. You have to work really hard.
So whoever is nominated by their respective parties will be the nominee and then we’ll see who’s on the other side.
KEILAR: Donald Trump is also creating quite a lot of commotion on the other side. He’s a friend of yours, has been over the years. He donated to your Senate campaign, to The Clinton Foundation.
What’s your reaction to his recent comments that some Mexican immigrants are rapists and criminals?
CLINTON: I’m very disappointed in those comments and I feel very bad and very disappointed with him and with the Republican Party for not responding immediately and saying, enough, stop it.
But they are all in the — you know, in the same general area on immigration. They don’t want to provide a path to citizenship. They range across a spectrum of being either grudgingly welcome or hostile toward immigrants. And I’m going to talk about comprehensive immigration reform. I’m going to talk about all of the good, law-abiding, productive members of the immigrant community that I personally know, that I’ve met over the course of my life, that I would like to see have a path to citizenship.
KEILAR: But what about Jeb Bush’s approach to that?
It’s different, certainly, than Donald Trump’s and —
CLINTON: Well, he doesn’t believe in a path to citizenship. If he did at one time, he no longer does. And so pretty much they’re — as I said, they’re on a spectrum of, you know, hostility, which I think is really regrettable in a nation of immigrants like ours, all the way to kind of grudging acceptance but refusal to go with a pathway to citizenship.
I think that’s a mistake. I think that we know we’re not going to deport 11 million or 12 million people. We shouldn’t be breaking up families. We shouldn’t be stopping people from having the opportunity to be fully integrated legally within our country. It’s good for us. It’s good economically. It’s good for the taxes that will be legally collected. It’s good for the children, so that they can go as far as their hard work and talent will take them.
So I am 100 percent behind comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship.
KEILAR: Last week an undocumented immigrant who had been deported five times killed a 32-year-old woman, Kate Steinle, in San Francisco, a sanctuary city where local law enforcement does not enforce federal immigration laws.
When you last ran for president you supported sanctuary cities.
In light of this terrible incident, does that change anything about your view on this?
CLINTON: Well, what should be done is any city should listen to the Department of Homeland Security, which as I understand it, urged them to deport this man again after he got out of prison another time. Here’s a case where we’ve deported, we’ve deported, we’ve deported. He ends back up in our country and I think the city made a mistake. The city made a mistake, not to deport someone that the federal government strongly felt should be deported.
So I have absolutely no support for a city that ignores the strong evidence that should be acted on.
However, there are — like if it were a first-time traffic citation, if it were something minor, a misdemeanor, that’s entirely different. This man had already been deported five times. And he should have been deported at the request of the federal government.
KEILAR: Just a couple quick questions before we go.
What’s changed when it comes to your approach with the media?
We’ve seen now — you’re doing this interview here today. It’s been since you declared that you’ve done a national interview like this. We saw sort of a visual representation of the arm’s length with the rope incident this weekend in New Hampshire.
What’s changed? Why now?
CLINTON: Well, nothing’s really changed. I just have a different rhythm to my campaign. I’m not running my campaign for the press. I’m running it for voters. I totally respect the press and what the press has to do. But I wanted and was determined to have the time that I needed to actually meet and listen to people.
You know, I had not been involved in domestic politics while I was secretary of state and I just wanted to get my own feel, my own time, face-to-face with people, and I learned a lot, Brianna. I mean, if I had not been listening in those small groups where people told me about substance abuse and the toll it was taking on their families or untreated mental health problems or the struggles of just to get paid sick days, I would have been concerned about them, but I wouldn’t have made them as absolute front and center in my campaign. And there are number of other issues that are like that.
So I’ve always believed that I would spend the first 90 days and that — it’ll be 90 days on Sunday — kind of getting my feel of what was going on in the country, feeling that I understood what people wanted and how they perceived this election so that as I began to roll out my policies, I’m doing it in a way that really connects with where people are thinking and what they’re expecting.
So obviously I’ll be doing a lot more press. I did local press all along, the last three months because, again, it was interesting to see what questions the local press would be asking me.
So you know, everything has its own time and I’m on my own rhythm and I feel very good about it.
KEILAR: Have you given any thought to the woman who should be on the $10 bill?
CLINTON: You know, I am very torn about it. I want a woman on a bill. I don’t know why they take the $10 bill. Some people are now agitated for the $20 bill —
KEILAR: $20 — do you think it should be the $20?
CLINTON: You know, I want a woman on the bill. And I think that it might be easier to change the $20 than it is to change the $10. But we’ll see. And I don’t like the idea that as a compromise you would basically have two people on the same bill. One would be a woman. That sounds pretty second class to me. So I think a woman should have her own bill. And it may be more appropriate to look at the $20 than the $10. I don’t know. We’ll see.
KEILAR: And finally, I know you’ve seen your new doppelganger on “Saturday Night Live,” Kate McKinnon. She plays you and she plays Justin Bieber.
CLINTON: Yes, that’s pretty good. I wish I could sing.
KEILAR: Quite some range. I know. I know you do.
Who’s the better Hillary Clinton, Kate McKinnon or Amy Poehler?
CLINTON: Oh, you know, Amy’s a friend of mine. And Kate’s doing a great job. You’re not going to get me to pick one or the other. I think I’m the best Hillary Clinton, to be honest. So I’m just going to be my own little self and kind of keep going along and saying what I believe in and putting forth changes that I think would be good for the country and, you know, I’m not looking for ratings. I’m looking for votes.
KEILAR: Secretary Clinton, thank you so much for talking with us.
CLINTON: My pleasure, thanks.
KEILAR: Thank you.