Hillary Clinton photo

Interview with Chuck Todd of NBC News "Meet the Press"

January 24, 2016

TODD: This morning, there is some good news though for Clinton. She won the endorsement of the "Des Moines Register". By the way, as did Marco Rubio on the Republican side but one would argue the "Des Moines Register" will probably have a greater impact among Democratic caucus goers.

So joining me from Cedar Rapids, Iowa is the former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. Madam Secretary—welcome back.

CLINTON: Thank you—Chuck. It's good to talk to you this morning.

TODD: You got it.

Let me just start with this. Your opponent 74 years old, calls himself a socialist, started this campaign with next to zero name recognition. You have 38 of 44 U.S. senators endorsing, 12 of 18 Democratic governors. He has zero.

What happened? What's gone wrong? Save me the "we always knew this was going to be a close race" answer.

CLINTON: Well Chuck—look, I think it's actually good for the debate that we're having that there is so much interest and energy that I feel on my side and I know, obviously so does senator Sanders on his.

We have a big choice to make. And it's exciting. I had a great couple of events yesterday. I'm enthusiastically pursuing the opportunity to reach every single voter in Iowa and we're going to see what happens. I feel good about where we are. Obviously, we'll find out a week from tomorrow.

But if you look at the differences between Senator Sanders and myself, I just don't think we can't wait. We can't wait to make progress on the myriad of issues that I think we're going to be facing in the next administration. I want to build on the progress that President Obama has made and he has a different approach. And that's what voters are trying to determine, which they prefer.

TODD: Look, as you know, the caucuses sometimes are about passion, enthusiasm. Let me read you something that was in the "New York Times" from Gayle Collins. "Nevertheless, you can't ignore the fact that Hillary Clinton is now the candidate of the aging Democratic establishment whose supporters pray for a low turnout on the Election Day. That might get her nominated in the long run but it's not really the kind of image that makes you go whistling into the election booth."

By the way, she wrote that in 2008. By the way, she wrote that in 2008, Madam Secretary. Is there a deja vu happening here?

CLINTON: No, there isn't. I just have to tell you, can only react to what I'm doing, feeling, getting responses from people. And you know, I feel great that we have the level of enthusiasm that we do and we also have a really good team on the ground that has been working for months to make sure that it's not just here today, gone tomorrow. But people are involved. They are really reached out to and yes, we believe they're going to come caucus. So, you know, the speculation and all the rest of it is entertaining, I admit that. But we're just going to keep moving forward and do the work that we think is going to be successful on February 1st.

TODD: Are you worried that experience, your long resume, is not an asset in this wild year?

CLINTON: No, I'm really not. Because I think at the end of the day people take this vote seriously. They know they're voting for who they prefer to be the next president and commander in chief, and I believe that when I am out there talking with people about what we have to go up against here at home, get the economy working for everybody, not just those at the top, begin to raise incomes, which hasn't happened, deal with health care, going from 90 percent coverage, which is what we have under the Affordable Care Act now, to 100 percent and I lay out what intend to do to get there.

I can only tell you they see people nodding. I know people are signing up as they leave my events. That's what matters here. It's very personal, and people look and they think, can we imagine this person to be president and commander in chief? And because of my experience, particularly my years as secretary of state working with President Obama, I think that's something that people really take into account.

TODD: What are you willing to—you know, it's interesting, your husband used a lot of political capital—you and your husband used a lot of political capital to do health care. President Obama, arguably, used all of his political capital to get health care passed.

What is it? What is the one issue you are going to be willing to use all your political capital to focus on? You and I both know you basically have one big shot at one big issue. What is it that you're willing to use all your political capital to do with?

CLINTON: Well, Chuck, first of all, I don't agree with you on that. I think that there are several really important issues, health care being one of them. We've got to get costs down. I met a man on Friday who no longer can afford to pay for his HIV medication. I met a woman yesterday whose bill for the drugs she must take and has taken for 25 years has gone from a couple hundred to over $14,000 for the same amount of the drug.

That really hits my heart. I know what people are going through. I'm going to use whatever tools I can to get us lower prices, cap those prescription drug companies and take that on.

But I'm also going to focus on the economy because unless we create more jobs and get incomes rising and fix the tax system so that it doesn't in so many ways tilt toward the wealthy, people are not going to get ahead, they're not going to feel they're getting ahead and they're going to still believe that the government, the economy is rigged against them which is bad for our democracy. TODD: As you know, your opponent Senator Sanders has been hitting you on Wall Street contributions and including some paid speeches that you did for Goldman Sachs among other banks. Let me ask you this—why do you think one of these big banks paid you over $200,000 for a speech?

CLINTON: Well, look, I gave speeches to a wide array of groups from health care groups to auto dealers and many, many more, and I think what they were interested in because what we talked about was the world coming off of four years as secretary of state in a complicated world, people were interested in what I saw, what I thought, they asked questions about matters that were on their minds. A lot of interest in the bin laden raid, how such a tough decision was made and what I advised the President. You know, I think Americans who are doing business in every aspect of the economy want to know more about the world. I actually think it's a good conversation for people to be having.

TODD: You don't think they expect anything in return?

CLINTON: Absolutely not. You know, first of all, I was a senator from New York. I took them on when I was senator. I took on the carried interest loophole. I took on what was happening in the mortgage markets. I was talking about that in 2006. They know exactly where I stand.

And I'll tell you, Chuck, it's really interesting to me that now Karl Rove has taken money from the financial interest to run an ad against me to try to influence Democrats not to support me. Why? Ask yourself why.

Because he knows number one I know what must be done, and number two I know how to get it done to make sure that Wall Street writ large, not just the banks but the investment banks, the hedge funds and everybody else, no longer can wreck our economy the way they did in 2008.

TODD: All right. Two more quick questions.

The "Des Moines Register" editorial, in praising you and your experience, did bring up the e-mail issue as one of those things that they're frustrated with how you responded to it.

Let me just ask you this question. Last week you were asked about the FBI investigation. Are you concerned? You said you haven't been contacted by them. Are you concerned this investigation is taking too long? That it's putting an extra cloud over your candidacy and until it gets behind you, you're sort of going to have these issues and Michael Bloomberg even cited it as a reason why he's thinking about running.

CLINTON: No, I'm not concerned because I know what the facts are. I never sent or received any material marked classified. I cannot control what the Republicans leak and what they are contending. And I said it was interesting, Chuck—you'll as a political observer understand why. You know, back a couple of months ago Kevin McCarthy spilled the beans that the Benghazi investigation was all about bringing me down, something that I suspected but I went ahead, testified for 11 hours, answered all their questions, and even they admitted there was nothing new.

And now Senator Grassley shows up at a Trump rally yesterday in Iowa. He's the chairman of the judiciary committee who has—and his staff have been behind and pushing a lot of these stories, and announces he's there for the simple reason, to defeat me.

I can't control what the Republicans are doing. But I know what the facts are and I will just keep putting them out there. This is something that I think is very clear about what happened and I know it will be over and resolved at some point. But I can't control what the Republicans and their allies do. But I think it's important voters know what they're doing.

TODD: And Michael Bloomberg? Your reaction to his potential candidacy?

CLINTON: He's a good friend of mine, and I'm going to do the best I can to make sure that I get the nomination, and we'll go from there.

TODD: So you're not worried about him getting in?

CLINTON: Well, the way I read what he said is if I didn't get the nomination he might consider it. Well, I'm going to relieve him of that and get the nomination so he doesn't have to.

TODD: All right. Madam Secretary—stay safe on the trail. We'll catch up with you soon.

CLINTON: Thank you. Good to talk to you.

TODD: Nice to talk with you.

Hillary Clinton, Interview with Chuck Todd of NBC News "Meet the Press" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/312820

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