Hillary Clinton photo

Interview with Chuck Todd of NBC's "Meet the Press"

September 27, 2015

TODD: Madam Secretary, thank you for joining us.

CLINTON: Thank you very much.

TODD: And a reminder, I know there's all conspiracy theories out there, there are no limitations to this interview.

CLINTON: As far as I know. That's true—absolutely.

TODD: Exactly. So let's get that out of the way.

Let me start with a piece of sound, it's MEET THE PRESS, this is what you said on MEET THE PRESS seven years ago about transparency.

[begin video clip]

CLINTON: I want to have a much more transparent government and I think we now have the tools to make that happen. I want to have as much information about the way our government operates on the Internet. So the people who pay for it, the taxpayers of America, can see that.

[end video clip]

TODD: A year later, Clintonemail.com, this server—started private server. Had every government agency did what you did at the State Department there would be a lot of information that wasn't in the public. Do you see that now as a problem as far as the public is concerned?

CLINTON: Well, Chuck, let me make a couple points. First of all, as I have said very often, all of the e-mails that I sent were intended to be in the government systems if they were work related. That's why I sent them to people at their work a dresses. And, you know, the vast majority of them ended up there.

So I have said also that if I had to do it all over again I would have used a separate e-mail account. I did it for convenience and it turned out not to be that at all. But the bottom line is my e-mails were predominantly in the State Department system or on other government servers and then I said I'm going to give them all after a very careful review and I did so.

TODD: All right. I want to unpack a couple of things there but let me start with just the news of this week. You had said in a written statement under oath that you had turned over everything that you believed you had for the federal records with those 55,000 e-mails but we have now discovered an e-mail chain between then General Petraeus and yourself that took place a couple of months before these records started.

Can you explain the discrepancy there? It was the same e-mail address that you used while at state that you were using with General Petraeus just two months before you said everything was out there.

CLINTON: Well, everything that we had access to was certainly out there and the reason we know about the e-mail chain with General Petraeus is because it was on a government server. And so from my perspective we have a very thorough review process that we conducted and my attorneys supervised it, they went through everything and what we had available at the time was turned over.

TODD: But I guess what I'm trying to figure out is if you said in March that the e-mail system began in March of '09 yet but we have the same e-mail address popping up in January, explain that discrepancy.

CLINTON: There was a transition period. I wasn't that focused on my e-mail account to be clear here.

TODD: Let me stop you there. You say you weren't focused on it except this seemed to be—to put an e-mail server at your house is not a—it's a complicated thing.

CLINTON: Yes, but it was already there. It had been there for years. It is the system that my husband's personal office used when he got out of the White House so it was sitting there in the basement. It was not any trouble at all. I know there are a lot of people who are questioning that.

But the fact is that it was there. I added my account to it. It apparently took a little time to do that and so there was about a month where I didn't have everything already on the server. We went back and tried to recover whatever we could recover.

And I think it's also fair to say that there are some things about this that I just can't control. I can't control the technical aspects of it. I'm not by any means a technical expert. I relied on people who were and we have done everything we could in response to the State Department asking us to do this review because they asked all the former secretaries.

And the reason they asked, Chuck, is because they found gaps in their own recordkeeping. You know, my assumption—because this system was there before I became secretary—it was there when I left—my assumption was anything that I sent to a dot-gov account would be captured.

TODD: But, you know, that's very difficult to capture all of your e-mails by going to perhaps thousands of people and their dot-gov accounts. It would have been easier if it was sent to your dot-gov account.

CLINTON: Well, but when you communicate with people in other parts of the government you're not sending it to the State Department dot-gov and that would have been true either way. I think I have done all that I can to take responsibility to be as transparent as possibly in turning over 55,000 pages, in turning over my server and to testify on October 22, which I've been asking to do before the Congress.

TODD: You had said just now in one of your explanations that you provided these records because State asked of all secretaries of state. As you know there was a report earlier this week in the "Washington Post" that said that isn't quite how it happened. In the summer of 2014 they discovered the discrepancy with your records and they wanted to make a request then it became a formal request of the last four secretaries of state. Can you explain that discrepancy?

CLINTON: Well, we have explained that. The campaign has explained it.

TODD: What is it?

CLINTON: Look, when the committee—the eighth or ninth committee—investigating Benghazi asked for information from the State Department, they were doing a survey and they found discrepancies in their recordkeeping not in my records per se but in their overall recordkeeping. There were gaps and that's why they sent the letter and that's why we did the overall comprehensive search for everything.

And it got us to the same place—we looked through everything, we gave them everything work-related. In fact, we gave them so much they've already told us they're sending back 1,200 because they were clearly personal and not work related.

TODD: Can you respond to an alternative explanation that has sort of—

CLINTON: Another conspiracy theory?

TODD: That perhaps the reason you wanted to have a private server and not a government server is that Republicans have been coming after you for years, you might have—may have been running for president in the future and you wanted to make it a little more difficult for congressional investigators to subpoena your government e-mails and a little more difficult for Freedom of Information Act requests. Is that a fair theory or no?

CLINTON: It's totally ridiculous. That never crossed my mind. And in fact, since more than 90 percent of my work-related e-mails were on the system they are subject to FOIA or any other request. That's how the Benghazi Committee got the e-mails even before we went through our exhaustive process.

Now I have—as you're rightly pointing out—been involved from the receiving side in a lot of these accusations. In fact, as you might remember during the 90s, there were a bunch of them and, you know, all of them turned out to be not true. That was the outcome.

When I ran for the senate the voters of New York, they overlooked all of that, and they looked at my record, and they looked at what I would do for them and I was elected senator after going through years of this kind of back and forth. And it is regrettable but it's part of the system.

TODD: You know, one of the things about this over the last six months that I've heard from supporters is that there's an allegation about your e-mail server. The campaign provides an explanation, you provide an explanation. There's a new allegation, you have to provide a new explanation. There's an addendum that had explanation—it has the feel of a drip-drip-drip. Can you reassure Democrats that there's nothing else here?

CLINTON: Well, it is like a drip-drip-drip and that's why I said there's only so much that I can control. But what I have tried to do in explaining this is to provide more transparency and more information than anybody that I'm aware of has ever served in the government and I'm happy to do that because I want these questions to be answered.

I can't predict to you what the Republicans will come up with, what kind of charges or claims they might make. I have no control over that. I can only do the best I can to try to respond.

The Justice Department has the e-mails, they have the server. They're conducting a security inquiry. They will take whatever necessary steps are required to get this matter resolved.

TODD: Can you say with 100 percent certain that the deleted e-mails that the FBI is not going to find anything in there that's going to cause you to have to explain again?

CLINTON: All I can tell you is that when my attorneys conducted this exhaustive process I did not participate.

TODD: Why?

CLINTON: I didn't look at them.

TODD: I would want to know what e-mails. Why wouldn't you want to know?

CLINTON: I wanted them to be as clear in their process as possible. I didn't want to be looking over their shoulder. If they thought it was work-related it would go to the State Department. If not then it would not. As I just said, over 1,200 of the e-mails that we were overly inclusive in trying to be comprehensive the State Department has said we don't want these. These are personal. These aren't work related. They're sending them back.

So when that process finished, you know, my attorney said what do you want us to do with all these personal e-mails? I said I don't need to keep them. I don't need them or want them. So they then talked to the IT server, the technical people who were responsible for maintaining them and said we don't need them anymore.

That's the limit of my knowledge and I know I was a little sarcastic in one exchange with the press for which I—I'm sorry guys. But you know, I'm not a technical expert. I just said I don't need them. Whatever happened to them happened to them and I'm very sure that my attorneys did the most meticulous job that could have been done.

TODD: I'm just curious. Would anything having to do with the Clinton Foundation, would that have been personal or work?

CLINTON: Well, it would depend. I did not communicate with the foundation. Other people in the State Department did in accordance with the rules that have been adopted.

TODD: Any of these deleted e-mails are not going to be foundation related at all?

CLINTON: Well, there might be, you know, there's going to be a meeting or there's this but not anything that relates to the work of the State Department. That was handled by, you know, the professionals and others in the State Department.

TODD: All right. Let me sort of move on from that a little bit. I say sort of move on because obviously you've taken a hit in the polls.

CLINTON: I have.

TODD: There's the New Hampshire poll. Do you believe you have explained this and that there aren't any contradictions here? So is the issue not truthfulness but the issue of how you've handled it?

CLINTON: Well, you know, let me say this Chuck. I have tried to the best of my ability to be able to respond and if people are uncertain, if they have concerns about these questions around the e-mails it's their choice to say that's going to influence, you know, how I think about the election. I understand that, I get it.

But I also hope people will look at my life long advocacy for kids and families and women and look at what I'm proposing, the vision I have for the country to move forward on everything from raising incomes to equal pay for equal work to getting the cost of college down to dealing with high prescription drug costs—that's what I hope people focus on and people get to make their minds up. That's the beauty of our process. People can decide on whatever basis they choose.

TODD: Your distrust deficit—your husband did an interview on CNN and he basically put it all on the Republicans and a little bit of us on the press that this whole thing that has driven down your poll numbers. Do you bear any responsibility?

CLINTON: Well, first of all, I love my husband and he does get upset when I am attacked. I totally get that. But we also get the fact that, look, this is a contest and it's fair game for people to raise whatever they choose to raise. As he said I think in that same interview, they're not giving this job away, you have to get out there, you have to earn it. And that's what I'm trying to do.

And of course I take responsibility. It was my choice. It was a mistake back when I did it and I'm trying to do the best I can to answer all of the questions that people have. And as I said during the 90s I was subjected to the same kind of barrage and it was—it seemed to be at the time endless.

And then when I ran for the Senate people said, hey, we are more concerned about what you're going to do for us. And I trust the voters to make that decision this time around, too.

TODD: All right. I want to play a little comp we've put together of some of the positions where your positions have changed a little bit. Take a look.

[begin video clip]

CLINTON: So it is with conviction that I support this resolution as being in the best interest of our nation.

I've made it very clear that I made a mistake, plain and simple.

I believe that marriage is not just a bond but a sacred bond between a man and a woman.

This morning love triumphed in the highest court in our land.

We've not yet signed off on it but we are inclined to do so.

We're either going to be dependent on dirty oil from the gulf or dependent on dirty oil from Canada.

I oppose it. I oppose it because I don't think it's in the best interests of what we need to do to combat climate change.

[end video clip]

TODD: How do you respond to some critics who say your positions have changed out of political expediency? That you're sort of whatever the majority is at that time, that's the position you have.

CLINTON: Well, I just don't think that reflects either my assessment of issues and I don't think it reflects how people who are thoughtful actually conduct their lives. I mean if we don't learn, if we don't, you know, make decisions based on the best information we have available, well, you know, that's regrettable. And what I've always tried to do is just say ok, what is the best decision that I can think about making?

Now, with those that you did number one on the Iraq war vote, I've written about it, I've talked about it, I said it was a mistake. It certainly became a very clear mistake when you saw the way the Bush administration conducted that war and the decisions that they made. And so I have been very forthright in saying, you know, as I looked at what was happening it was a mistake.

On same-sex marriage, like a lot of people, including our president, I did evolve and I was not raised to even imagine this. And I'm thrilled now that it's the law of the land and I have a lot of good friends who are now able to be married because of the changes we've made legally and constitutionally.

When it comes to Keystone, you know, I was at the beginning of the process of trying to evaluate what was the best outcome. I did feel that I shouldn't jump in before the President and Secretary Kerry and make my views known because they're still in the middle of that process.

But it was frankly uncomfortable to have so many people asking me and my saying I'm waiting and waiting and waiting and it still hasn't happened. I don't know when it will happen. It may have to happen when I'm president, I hope. So I've said I'm against it on the total evaluation.

When I made that statement years ago we did not have the kind of energy profile we have. We did not have the full understanding of how the particular oil that would have been extracted from those tar sands was of a different degree of dirtiness and polluting in terms of greenhouse gases.

So I'm not going to sit here and tell people that I make up my mind—that's the Republicans. They make up their mind, they're never bothered by evidence.

TODD: But Bernie Sanders has been where you are on these issues. Bernie Sanders was there when it came to marriage 20 years ago. Do you think one of the reasons he's doing well right now is some progressives think, well, you know what? He was there when it wasn't popular.

CLINTON: Well he can speak for himself and I certainly respect his views. I can just tell you that I am not someone who stakes out a position and holds it regardless of the evidence or regardless of the way that I perceive what's happening in the world around me.

As I was saying, that's where the Republicans are. They're still believing in trickle down economics even though it was a disaster not once but twice for our country. So I want people—because I think my experience on these issues is much more reflective of how people talk to me about how they, too, have evolved and moved in their understanding and I feel very comfortable saying that.

TODD: Well, I have a lot more questions and the good news is I have a part two interview we're going to do for the new show, my new show "MTP DAILY". So we will get into some foreign policy, domestic policy, a bunch of stuff.

Madam Secretary, thanks for coming back to MEET THE PRESS.

CLINTON: Thank you, glad to be here.

Hillary Clinton, Interview with Chuck Todd of NBC's "Meet the Press" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/312789

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