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Hillary Clinton: Trump’s actions ‘direct threat’ to national security

As an impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s actions on Ukraine begins, Hillary Clinton says that it appears "that there is evidence of abuse of power and obstruction of justice and contempt of Congress." The former secretary of state and daughter Chelsea sit down with Judy Woodruff to discuss the decision to withdraw troops from Syria, Trump's tweet attacks, and their new book, “Gutsy Women.”

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    They are a family that has captured the American political spotlight for decades.

    Now former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her daughter, Chelsea, are out with a new book, "Gutsy Women."

    We will discuss that in a moment, but when I sat down with the two earlier today in New York City, I began by asking Secretary Clinton about today's developments in the impeachment inquiry, if the Trump administration has the authority to block the American ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, from speaking with Congress.

  • Hillary Clinton:

    I don't believe they do.

    I think that there's quite a bit of precedent in legal decisions that the Congress has an inherent power to seek evidence from witnesses with respect to their investigations and, most particularly, an impeachment inquiry.

    I understand that the Trump administration doesn't want people talking to the Congress. But I recall, Judy, that back in the Nixon impeachment, one of the articles of impeachment against President Nixon was his contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with the investigation.

    So I think they can slow-walk it. They can try to block it. There's already enough evidence about what former Ambassador Sondland was saying about the effort to threaten and extort the president of Ukraine through text messages and e-mails, that, certainly, the House can go on that.

    But I also think that, at some point, there needs to be a reinforcement of the legal precedent that the administration must cooperate.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You have said that the impeachment process should go forward.

  • Hillary Clinton:


  • Judy Woodruff:

    You have also said that you think what happened in that phone call, where President Trump was asking the leader of Ukraine, in effect, to investigate Joe Biden and his son, implicitly in return for receiving U.S. military aid — why not just go ahead and say whether or not you favor impeaching the president?

  • Hillary Clinton:

    Well, because I served on an impeachment inquiry staff as a young lawyer back in 1974, I think it is really important to respect the process and to support the opening of the inquiry, which I do, and the gathering of evidence, and then the weighing of that evidence.

    From my perspective, it appears as though what the House is doing is very much in line with the appropriate use of the impeachment power. So, I — they don't want to jump to a conclusion.

    It appears to me that there is evidence of abuse of power and obstruction of justice and contempt of Congress. But we do want the House impeachment inquiry to proceed in a way that tries to build credibility with the American people and also with Republican members of the House and the Senate.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, can you think of a non-impeachable interpretation or a benign interpretation of what that call was about?

  • Hillary Clinton:

    No. No.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, I also want to ask you, because you're the former secretary of state, what about the role of Secretary Pompeo, being on that call at the time?

  • Hillary Clinton:

    Well, he, first of all, didn't admit that he had been on the call. Eventually, he did.

    And there were a number of people on the call. Part of the telling evidence in this case is that, immediately after the call, the people who were either listening in or listening to Trump's end of the call knew that they had problems, which is why they tried to basically conceal the call within a highly classified system.

    So, Pompeo was in on it. He knew from the beginning that this was a problem. It's really a shame that he has substituted the defense of Trump for the defense of diplomacy, the defense of our country, literally doing the job that a secretary of state should do.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Former Vice President Joe Biden, clearly a part of this, his name came up during that call.

    Whether he did or didn't do anything wrong — and there's no proof that he did — President Trump keeps bringing that up — is there an optical problem for Joe Biden, because his son was in a position to be making a lot of money from a company in — that was in a foreign country?

  • Hillary Clinton:

    You know, Judy, this is the goal of the Trump strategy. It is to raise questions.

    There is no evidence that either one of them did anything wrong. Could there be a question of judgment about his son? Well, that's fair game.

    But there is absolutely no evidence, and there will not be any evidence, that Joe Biden did anything wrong. Enough with these wild, unfounded conspiracy theories, using the help of foreign governments to interfere in our elections and to undermine people who have been in the public eye for a long time.

    And I hope that the American public rejects this, as they should.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Secretary Clinton, as I'm sure you know, there are plenty of Republicans and even some Democrats who are saying, despite all this, that it is crazy to be pursuing impeachment, because whatever the House does, there just are not going to be enough votes in the Senate.

  • Hillary Clinton:

    I understand that argument, but I don't buy it.

    And the reason I don't buy it is that the founders put impeachment into the Constitution for a purpose. It was put there for a purpose, and I think Speaker Pelosi has been very careful not to rush to that.

    There were many things that came up, you know, obstruction of justice, as outlined in the Mueller report, emoluments, all of these things that were circling around.

    But I think she rightly waited for something that not only was understandable by the American public, but really went to the heart of our national security, of the role of the president, to protect and defend the American people and the Constitution.

    So, yes, will there be a decision? Well, that's up to the House. But I recall, back in '74, the full vote never went to the House. The House committee voted to impeach Richard Nixon.

    And, at that point, after the evidence had been presented, after several Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee voted for the articles of impeachment, Republican senators went to Richard Nixon and said, you need to resign.

    So we don't know, sitting here today, what the outcome will be. Unfortunately, I don't know that we have Republicans with the same level of patriotism, putting country over party, that we did back in '74. But we don't want to prejudge that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You have both through impeachment in your own family, President Clinton.

    How is this time different from what President Clinton went through?

  • Hillary Clinton:

    This is a much more serious set of charges than anything that was ever put forward against Bill. And I think the American people got that. This is a very different time.

    And, as a former secretary of state, I just want Americans to stop and think, why are we allowing this president to, in effect, undermine our sovereignty, turning over foreign policy to foreign governments, what he just did with the Kurds, empowering Turkey and Russia against our staunchest allies in the Middle East?

    Why are we sitting silently by and watching this president do Vladimir Putin's bidding? I mean, there is no happier man in the world right now than Putin.

    Why are we watching this unfortunate trade battle with China now being infected with his plea that China investigate Biden? This is no longer just about the crazy stuff he says and does that everybody shrugs at or worries about. This is a direct threat to the national security of America.

    And I think that's what has gotten people's attention. So, certainly among Democrats, but now increasingly among self-identified independents, and even growing numbers of Republicans are saying, wait a minute, this must go forward.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    As all this is going on, President Trump continues to come after you in his speeches, in his tweets. You have been tough on him as well.

    I think you called him recently a corrupt human tornado.

  • Hillary Clinton:


  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, he's come back at you several times.

    In fact, he tweeted just this morning. And I'm going to quote.

    He said: "I think that crooked Hillary Clinton should try to enter the race to try and steal it away from uber-left Elizabeth Warren. Only one condition: The crooked one must explain all of her high crimes and misdemeanors, including how and why she deleted 33,000 e-mails."

  • Hillary Clinton:


    You know, it truly is remarkable how obsessed he remains with me. But this latest tweet is so typical of him. Nothing has been more examined and looked at than my e-mails. We all know that. So he's either lying or delusional, or both.

    There was no subpoena, as he says in a tweet this morning. So maybe there does need to be a rematch. Obviously, I can beat him again.

    But, just seriously, I don't understand, I don't think anybody understands what motivates him, other than personal grievance, other than seeking adulation.

    I said during the campaign, there was no other Donald Trump. What you saw was what you were going to get. And I think a lot of Americans understandably thought, oh, no, come on. That can't possibly be the case. Once he's in the office, he will certainly moderate his behavior.

    Well, we have seen, no, he hasn't.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Secretary Clinton, yesterday, President Trump made big news by announcing that his policy was going to be to clear the way for the Turkish government to send its troops into Syria, that the U.S. troops were going to get out of the way, so, essentially, they can go in after the Syrian Kurds, who they view as terrorists.

    Of course, the Syrian Kurds have been very helpful to the United States in the conflict in that region.

    What's at stake here for the United States?

  • Hillary Clinton:

    Well, I thought that the announcement that President Trump made that he was ordering the withdrawal of American troops from Northern Syria and, in effect, giving a green light to the Turks under President Erdogan to go in with their military, was a betrayal, a betrayal of the strongest allies that we have in the region.

    We wouldn't have defeated ISIS by this time if it had not been for the Kurds, who were our partners and allies.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Even though Turkey, longtime U.S. ally, NATO ally, you're saying the Kurd — the interests of the Kurds should be placed above the relationship with Turkey?

  • Hillary Clinton:

    In this instance, the Turks have made very clear that they are going to engage in a broad-based attack on the Syrian Kurds.

    It's a direct threat to our national security, to the blood, sweat, and loss that Americans have already committed to trying to beat the Islamic State.

    So they are certainly a NATO ally, but they have been, you know, taking weapons from Russia. They have been using the Kurdish problem to bolster the reign of Erdogan. So it's more complicated.

    And if there were to be a decision about withdrawing American troops, it should have been subjected to the kind of careful deliberation that we made in the Obama administration or that I know from prior administrations before being announced, after the president has a phone call with Erdogan.

    For all we know, in that phone call, he asked the Turks to investigate Joe Biden. I mean, we can't trust anything he says. But the consequences of this decision are incredibly damaging for the United States.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Do you think he might have asked him?

  • Hillary Clinton:

    I have no idea. Who knows what he says to people. He is a loose cannon now in an even more dangerous way than he was.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let's talk about the book, "Gutsy Women."

    The two of you came together. You both talked about how you had discussed, as Chelsea was growing up, strong women, gutsy women as role models, in effect.

    Chelsea, I was struck by your mother, when — I think it was her comment about Abby Wambach in the book, the star American soccer player.

    And you said — I'm quoting — "She's powerful, and she knows it. She doesn't apologize for it, the way women are so often taught to do."

    Is this still a problem, do you think, for young women today? Do they still feel the need to apologize for being themselves?

  • Chelsea Clinton:

    I think, unfortunately, yes.

    I think we know, actually, how sadly effective so much of what still exists in the zeitgeist, telling women that we need to modulate our voice, be aware of how we dress, kind of pay more attention to how we present ourselves in the world, vs. kind of the substance of what we feel compelled to say or do.

    One of the reasons we felt so compelled to write "The Book of Gutsy Women" was to share stories of women who are unapologetically themselves, and then who use their stories to help propel progress for other women behind them.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Secretary Clinton, you have been advocating for women, I think, your entire career.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Did you think, at this stage of your life, you would still be having to fight this fight?

  • Hillary Clinton:

    Well, I hoped not. But I agree with Chelsea that it is still a very big challenge to women of all ages, but particularly young women.

    And this book truly is meant to spark a conversation about gutsy women, trying to get people to think about who are the women they know in their own lives, in their own workplaces, their education, wherever it might be, who they admire, who they think has not only stood up for herself, which is the first step, but, more importantly in our eyes, standing up for others, trying to open doors for others to come behind.

  • Chelsea Clinton:

    And, Judy, I would just say, today, we have the Trump administration arguing at the Supreme Court that employers should be permitted to fire people based on who they love or their gender identity.

    And the fact that they're arguing this kind of while we're in the midst of just an epidemic of violence against particularly black trans women is horrifying to me, that our government is on kind of the side of exclusion and segregation, and not on the side of kind of human rights and human dignity and, I'd argue, history is particularly troubling to me.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    As you grew up, you obviously saw your mother doing this kind of advocacy.

    Did you think, at this stage in your life, you would still be making these arguments?

  • Chelsea Clinton:

    I wish that I could say, when I was a little girl, I was kind of projecting forward a couple of decades.

  • Chelsea Clinton:

    But I don't think I was, although it was pretty shocking to me, Judy, when my dad ran in 1992, how many largely older white men attacked me for my appearance, and called me awkward or ugly, or compared me to the family dog.

    And, you know, it was on the kind of conventional right and left. It was Rush Limbaugh and "Saturday Night Live."

    And, thankfully, my parents and my grandparents had kind of instilled enough in me that I knew that that was bonkers. Like, why were these old men attacking a little girl?

    But it did shock me, because I realized, wow, like, I'm being judged by how they're kind of perceiving my appearance. And they know nothing about me.

    And I would like to say that we have moved beyond that, but we see what's happening to Greta Thunberg and other young women kind of in the public eye.

    And, sadly, we haven't moved beyond that. And adults are still behaving deplorably when it comes to young women who are putting themselves out there or who have kind of been put into the public arena by choices their families have made.

    And so I think, unfortunately, we still have a lot of work to do.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Chelsea Clinton, Secretary Hillary Clinton, thank you both very much.

  • Hillary Clinton:

    Thank you.

  • Chelsea Clinton:

    Thank you very much, Judy.

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