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Complete transcript of Hillary Clinton interview

BY   October 7, 2015 at 9:22 PM EDT

Below is the complete transcript from Judy Woodruff’s interview with Hillary Clinton at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa. Above, watch the broadcast version, which aired Wednesday , Oct. 7, on PBS NewsHour.

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, in 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, but for me, it really comes down to those three points that I made, and the fact that we’ve learned a lot about trade agreements in the past years. 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. And there’s one other element I want to make because I think it’s important. Trade agreements don’t happen in a vacuum, and in order for us to have a competitive economy in the global marketplace, there are things we need to do here at home that help raise wages and the Republicans have blocked everything President Obama tried to do on that front.

So for the larger issues — and then what I know, and again, I don’t have the text, we don’t yet have all the details, I don’t believe it’s going to meet the high bar I have set.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So is President Obama wrong? I mean, he’s vigorously descending this. He is saying that is 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 and I think his hard work and that of his team has certainly moved this agreement, again, based on what I read about it because I can’t read the agreement yet, quite a distance. But I do worry that we’ve got an equation here. How do we raise incomes in America?

On the one hand, trade is a part of it, but it’s not the only answer, and on the other, if we don’t get more investments in education and science and research and infrastructure and clean energy the kinds of things that will create jobs here at home, then I’m afraid on net it won’t meet the high bar that I’ve set.

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.

And so for my analysis, I think that there is a strong argument that our leadership, our strength, our influence begins with having an economy that is producing good jobs with rising incomes, and I see the connection there.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Just very quickly, 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? Are you ready to say?

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.

You have referred to it came at a time when all former secretaries of State were asked for information.

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.

In the process of updating and looking at their overall system, they concluded they had gaps, and then they did ask all of us, and I responded and cooperated fully.

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 just don’t think that’s credible. 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.

And look, there is an investigation going on looking into the security of the e-mails. I have full confidence, we are fully cooperating, and I think we should wait and determine what the outcome of that is.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Just one other question on this. 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.

And so for me, it’s, you know, going to continue to be asked and I will continue to answer and I will say the same things that I’ve been saying for many months now. And I think that I’ve been as transparent — in fact, more transparent than anybody has ever been. And I’ll let the American people judge it.

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 testified, as you know, in both the House and the Senate on Benghazi. I commissioned an independent inquiry that came up with conclusions. There have been seven other committees in the Congress looking into Benghazi; they’ve all concluded the same: that, you know, we have work to do to make sure our diplomats are safe, but there is no hidden, you know, e-mail or hidden story or hidden anything. And the fact is that people are in dangerous positions when they represent the United States.

So, 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. There are now parts of the country that are totally outside the control of the Syrian government. They don’t have, if any are still standing, command and control over air defenses in the north and many other parts of Syria.

What I want to do, and I — I saw on CNN that it’s something that John Kerry is now also talking about, 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. So I think that is a discussion worth having. And I — I’m pleased that I heard Secretary Kerry is pursuing that.

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. The Turks are doing it backed up by NATO, which I support, that we know what the game is. They’re supporting Assad. 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; that for all we know can threaten other countries in the region. And that’s why 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: But if it came to it, it could come to shooting down Russian planes, if they’re in that no-fly zone.

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, let’s not talk about a hypothetical no-fly zone that doesn’t even exist. My whole idea is you put together a potential no-fly zone, something the Turks and others have been asking for for some time. You go to the Russians and you say, “Look, we want to do this because here are the objectives we are trying to achieve and we want you on board to do this.” And that’s what diplomacy is.

You know, you push and you push as hard as you can. But if you just take something off the table, then you never know whether the leverage would or wouldn’t work.

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 on a set of issues that we were really concerned about. Number one, how we were going to impose international sanctions on Iran. I worked hard on that, put together the coalition. Russia went along with that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But Putin was always in the background.

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, he was, but he letting Medvedev make the decisions backed up by him. We got the New START Treaty to lower the nuclear arsenals, we got permission to send lethal material across Russia, so we could resupply our troops in Afghanistan. We got some very important results from the reset.

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. And we have seen that, and we have seen it in Ukraine, we’ve have seen it in Syria, so we had to adjust our policies because of that.

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. It was a very clear agenda and I think the administration and others have, you know, had to figure out how best to deal with him and it’s a — 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.

That’s why we need to be clear with him, as NATO was with respect to Turkey and as Turkey was in sending up the fighters, that, you know, we’re not going to let you just do whatever you choose to do in this region.

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. As first lady, I went to see the victims of Columbine families, I have spoken to too many people who have lost loved ones to mass shootings and I voted against, you know, the giving of gun lobby and manufacturers the kind of freedom from liability that they were asking for.

I have a record. I’m going to defend my record. I will let others speak to their record. But my view is this. We cannot stand by, discouraged, frustrated and giving up in the face of this kind of behavior. I am not going to, you know, sit and watch more people being killed. Remember Judy, 88 to 92 people a day get killed by guns in America.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But isn’t that a contrast — are you saying that’s a contrast with Senator Sanders?

HILLARY CLINTON: I’m saying this is my position. You know, we’re going to have a debate next week. I don’t know what we’re going to be asked about. I will state my position and others will state their positions.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You have said there are super-PACs out there in this campaign, as everybody is aware, 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 — and you’ve said you can’t unilaterally disarm, but one of the PACs that’s supporting you is now attacking Senator Sanders. It’s connecting him to the — to the late Venezuelan dictator Jugo Chavez, to the new, very liberal labor leader in Great Britain.

I guess my question is 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.

So whoever is supporting me — individuals, super-PACs, whomever — I want them to be focused on Republicans. That’s where the real political difference is.

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.

There is so much for us to begin to point out about the Republicans because what I fear is the Republicans are counting on a case of collective amnesia. They want people to forget that President Obama inherited the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression from the Republicans. My husband inherited economic problems from the Republicans. When we have a Democrat in the White House, people do better economically.

I don’t want them to get away with their nonsensical talk about trickle-down economics. That’s what I want everybody to be focused on, because I think that’s what this election is going to be about.

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.