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Full Interview: Hillary Clinton on trade pact doubts, dealing with Putin

October 7, 2015 at 6:45 PM EDT
Hillary Clinton says she's "worried" about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, and that she can't support it given what she knows at this point. The former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate sits down with Judy Woodruff to discuss the major Asian trade pact, gun control, Vladimir Putin and her email.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Clintons have had a tough time in Iowa. Candidate Bill Clinton lost the Democratic caucuses here in 1992. Hillary Clinton lost to Barack Obama in 2008.

This time around, she is spending a lot of time in the Hawkeye State, today with students a town hall meeting at Cornell College in Mount Vernon.

And that’s where I caught up with her this afternoon.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Secretary Hillary Clinton, thank you for talking with us.

HILLARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Judy. I’m glad to see you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So let’s start with the big announcement from President Obama this week about a trade deal.


JUDY WOODRUFF: The Trans-Pacific Partnership. The U.S. and 11 other countries covering 40 percent of the global economy, 800 million consumers. It’s already started a big battle between people who love free trade and people who care more about protectionism. Where do you come down?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I have said from the very beginning that we had to have a trade agreement that would create good American jobs, raise wages and advance our national security. And I still believe that’s the high bar we have to meet.

I have been trying to learn as much as I can about the agreement, but I’m worried. I’m worried about currency manipulation not being part of the agreement. We’ve lost American jobs to the manipulation that the countries, particularly in Asia, have engaged in. I’m worried that the pharmaceutical companies may have gotten more benefits and patients and consumers — fewer.

I think that there are still a lot of unanswered questions. Sometimes they look great on paper. I know when President Obama came into office, he inherited a trade agreement with South Korea. I, along with other members of the Cabinet, pushed hard to get a better agreement. We think we made improvements.

Now looking back on it, it doesn’t have the results we thought it would have in terms of access to the market, more exports, et cetera.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So are you saying that as of today, this is not something you could support?

HILLARY CLINTON: What I know about it, as of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So is President Obama wrong? I mean, he’s vigorously defending this. He is saying that it does protect jobs. He says that when it comes to worrying about jobs that automation and technology are more responsible than trade agreements.

HILLARY CLINTON: Look, I think the president has been extraordinarily effective in making as strong a case as could be made. But I do worry that we’ve got an equation here. How do we raise incomes in America?

JUDY WOODRUFF: But just quickly, if this agreement is rejected, Asia experts are saying this is going to influence — it’s going to decrease the influence of the U.S. in Asia, it is going to give a boost to China, which is trying to become more dominant, and doesn’t it conflict with your pivot to Asia when you were secretary of state?

HILLARY CLINTON: I don’t think so, because the best way that we can exercise influence in Asia is to remain the world’s strongest economy here at home and that means we have to have more middle-class jobs, more people being in the middle class, more people being able to get into the middle class, and we haven’t looked at this from a competitive perspective because the Republicans have stood in the way.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You mentioned the middle class. You’ve said you favor middle-class tax cuts. My question is, would yours be bigger or smaller than what the Republicans have put out there? Donald Trump is out there with a plan. Jeb Bush is out there with a plan. What would yours look like?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I want to have families be able to invest in what they tell me they care about: how do they pay for child care? How do they pay for college? How do they pay the daily expenses of health care and the other things that are really straining the family budget.

I’ve looked at the plans produced on the other side by Donald Trump, by Jeb Bush and others, they would explode the deficit, and once again, they are so tilted toward the rich, it’s embarrassing. And we know that doesn’t work. So when I roll out my tax plan, it is very much focused and targeted on the middle class.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Your private e-mail server. The Washington Post fact checker, Glen Kessler, wrote this weekend that when you speak publicly about how you handle the disclosure requests, you don’t include the fact that the first request came just to you from the State Department, based on the Congressional inquiry.

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, my understanding of what happened is that the State Department had e-mails that they gave to the committee that was formed, we now know, to politically, in a partisan way, go after me, not investigate what happened in Benghazi, and that we’d already provided those e-mails because they were already on the system.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But the first request came to you alone in response to the committee, and I guess Glenn Kessler’s point is that this was the indication that the State Department did not realize before that that you were conducting government business on your — solely on your private server.

HILLARY CLINTON: I e-mailed with hundreds of people in the State Department, across the government, some even in the Congress, and so that is just not credible.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Why wouldn’t it have been better at the very beginning of all this to simply say I did this, I wanted a private server because I’ve been through this kind of thing before. I didn’t want Republican Congressmen rifling through my personal e-mails.


JUDY WOODRUFF: Wouldn’t that have done away with the controversy, done away with people now saying they don’t trust you?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, all I can tell you, Judy, is that that’s not what happened. I did not give any thought to it. I had used my own e-mail, I got into the State Department. It was allowed. I did it for convenience. My husband already had a system, I just added onto the system. Now that is what happened.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You’ve commented on what Kevin McCarthy said about the political nature of this committee, but what do you expect from Chairman Trey Gowdy when those hearings get under way on October 22nd?

HILLARY CLINTON: I don’t know what to expect.

I do know that it’s pretty much pulled the curtain back, that this was set up to be a political partisan attack on me. Of course, you know, that probably is something we could have concluded earlier since there had already been seven investigations.

Now, we see the Congress setting up a special committee to look into Planned Parenthood.

You know, it’s really sad to me that whether it’s women’s health or in this case the death of four Americans serving our country, that the Republicans in Congress try to partisanize and exploit these events.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Something else on foreign policy — Syria. You came out and have said you would favor the idea of a no-fly — setting up a no-fly zone to protect refugees and others. But in talking to experts, they say in order to do that, you’d have to take out Syria’s air defenses, most of which, or at least much of which are in urban areas.

In other words, you would have to go into an area with huge civilian casualties in order to set up this no-fly zone. Is that something you’re prepared to take on?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, there are different parts of the country with different levels remaining of air defense. What I want to do is to see if we can’t get a coalition of all the countries that have a stake in this, including the Russians, to agree on three things. One, we have to do as much as possible to end the conflict. We have to stop the refugee flow by helping people have a safe place to stay in, and to get supplies — medical and food and other things.

And we have to begin the process of a political transition.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Would you be prepared to shoot down Russian planes if they flew into this no-fly area?

HILLARY CLINTON: No. The point is to have the leverage of this discussion. The Russians have already invaded Turkish airspace. Turkey is a NATO ally. They are now on notice if they invade the airspace of a NATO ally, there will be action taken. This is in the absence of a no-fly zone.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you mean “action taken”?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, they’ve been put on notice, as I understand it, from NATO. Turkey sent up fighters. That’s a pretty strong sense of notice that, “Russia, get out of our airspace.” So, we need to send a clear message to Russia. They are going after those who oppose Assad under the guise of going after ISIS, which is the common enemy of everyone.

And we need to begin to push back on them so that they don’t engage in behavior that invades Turkish airspace; I think it’s absolutely imperative that Secretary Kerry begin immediate talks with everybody at the table to try to, as they say, de-conflict the airspace and put the Russians on notice.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You’ve dealt with President Putin. You favored the so-called “re-set” with Russia in 2009. My question is: Did you and others in the administration misread Putin and underestimate what he was capable of doing?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, remember when President Obama came into office, Putin was not president, Medvedev was president, and Medvedev turned out to be a good partner.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But Putin was always in the background.

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, he was, but he was letting Medvedev make the decisions backed up by him. Now, when Putin decided, in the fall of 2011 that he wanted to go back and be president and basically announced it, we knew that we were going to have a lot tougher time, because he was taking back the presidency to assert himself, and therefore assert Russia.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So doesn’t that add up to misreading what was going on?

HILLARY CLINTON: No, I don’t think so at all.

When we dealt, in 2009, 2010 and the first part of 2011, with the Russian government sitting across from Medvedev in many meetings, we got results. Putin comes back, of course you have to readjust because he’s coming back with an agenda. You know, it’s an ongoing challenge because of the way he behaves and how he basically wants to, you know, push the boundaries in Europe and now in the Middle East.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me bring you back home to the subject of guns and gun control in the aftermath of this terrible shooting at the community college in Oregon. This week, you came out for tightening controls on guns and you talked about what you would do differently. Is this really laying out the defining difference between you and Senator Sanders when it comes to gun control?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, look, I think this is something I care passionately about. I have been — I’ve spoken out and tried to work on this for more than 20 years. I have a record. I’m going to defend my record. I will let others speak to their record.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Are you saying that’s a contrast with Senator Sanders?

HILLARY CLINTON: I’m saying this is my position and others will state their positions.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You’ve said that the super-PAC that’s out there supporting you, at least one of them, that they are there really to criticize Republicans. But one of the PACs that’s supporting you is now attacking Senator Sanders.

I guess my question is do you approve of this? Going after Senator Sanders by the super-PAC? We know there’s coordination.

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t know anything about what you’re saying. I have no knowledge of what they are doing. I’ve said I want anybody supporting me to go after Republicans because whatever differences we might have on the Democratic side, they pale in comparison to the really substantive differences we have with the Republicans.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Would you call on them to cease and desist and stop criticizing Senator Sanders?

HILLARY CLINTON: I just said I want them to — I want people who support me to go after Republicans. That’s what I — I’ve said it before, I’m saying it again on this show.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well — and just continuing in that vein, the David Brock Group, it’s been reported this week in New York Magazine, is digging through Vice President Biden’s past, his record, in so-called opposition research. My question is do you approve of this?

HILLARY CLINTON: You know, I — first of all, I have no knowledge of it. I have been very clear, anybody who listens to my public statements, anybody who pays attention to what I say, I want to give Vice President Biden whatever space and time he needs to make his decision.

Now, if he gets into the election, then people are going to be raising questions, just like they do about me. That’s what happens when you get into the arena. But I’m not asking and I don’t approve of anybody who is supporting me, or say they support me, to be focusing on anyone other than the Republicans.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But for you to — you’re saying that you weren’t aware that they were doing this and you don’t approve of it, but the fact that they’re doing it, isn’t that really an effort to intimidate the Vice President against getting into the race?

HILLARY CLINTON: Judy, I have no — I don’t know anything about it. I can’t comment on it any further than I have.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you believe that — Vice President Biden is — has made it very clear he’s looking at getting in. How does it change the race if he gets in?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well if he gets in, I will continue to speak positively about him because I feel that way. We’ve been friends a long time. But I will put forth my platform, what I want to do to build on what President Obama has done. And then the Democratic voters will make their decision.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Secretary Hillary Clinton, we thank you very much for talking with us.

HILLARY CLINTON: My pleasure. Thank you.