TAPPER: We’re joined right off the bat by Democratic candidate for president and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Madam Secretary, thanks so much for joining us.
On Saturday, you called for new sanctions against Iran for its ballistic missile program. That prompted a response from another American who was once held prisoner in Iran, Shane Bauer, one of the hikers released in 2011. He had some tough words for you on Twitter, writing—quote—”Seriously, why would Hillary call for more sanctions now? As far as we know, four of the Americans are still in Iran. Totally irresponsible”—unquote.
He also said, whenever he was in Iran, whenever he heard your voice, his heart would sink, because—quote—”All she ever does with Iran is inflame tensions.”
I want to give you awe chance to respond.
CLINTON: Well, look, I appreciate what he went through when he was held prisoner in the infamous Iranian prison.
And we were very happy that we were able to get him and the two other hikers back home. But we have a very clear path we are pursuing with Iran. I am pleased that we do have an agreement that is being implemented. And I was part of putting that in place by getting the sanctions imposed on Iran that the entire world went along with.
But we also have made it clear from the beginning that their missile activity is still subject to sanction. That is part of the overall approach that the administration has taken toward Iran, and that I support.
So, when we became aware of missile activity that is under U.N. supervision and is prohibited, it would be a mistake not to make clear to Iran that we are very, very happy to see us implementing the agreement to put a lid on the nuclear weapons program and the way that they have complied, but that doesn’t mean they can now go off and invest and test a lot of missiles that would eventually be able to be intercontinental that could reach the United States and maybe carry a very dangerous weapon.
So, I think there might be a misunderstanding of what our whole agreement consists of, because, certainly, I have made clear I’m proud of the role that I played in getting that agreement in place, but, as president, I will enforce it.
And there have to be consequences if Iran veers away from what it has agreed to or what it has been mandated to do or prohibited from doing by the international community.
TAPPER: Let’s turn to politics, obviously a big night tonight, a Democratic debate.
You will be facing off with Bernie Sanders in this new, more contentious phase of the election, with just a week and a—two weeks and a day until the Iowa caucuses.
One of your top allies, David Brock, is calling on Bernie Sanders to release his medical records. The Sanders campaign—campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, he called this—quote—”one of the most desperate and vile attacks imaginable.”
Who’s right there, David Brock or Jeff Weaver? [laughter]
CLINTON: Well, I don’t know anything about it, but I have released my medical records.
And I remember being asked frequently for me to do so. And, so, obviously that’s, you know, something I will leave up to the Sanders campaign.
But this is a spirited debate, because, although we share some very similar goals for our country, we have differences. And Senator Sanders has been pointing them out.
One of my biggest differences has been on guns. And I’m very pleased that he flip-flopped on the immunity legislation. Now I hope he will flip-flop on what we call the Charleston loophole, and join legislation to close that, because it’s been a key argument of my campaign that we Democrats, in fact, Americans need to stand up to the gun lobby and pass comprehensive commonsense gun measures that will make America safer. And that’s what I intend to do.
TAPPER: One of your major lines of attack against Bernie Sanders, in addition to the gun one that you just leveled, has been on his proposal for single-payer health care.
Back in 1994, you said a single-payer system administrated by the states would actually lower health care costs. Take a listen.
[begin video clip from 1994]
CLINTON (in 1994): Single-payer would have lower costs. And one of the reasons that the president has a provision in his approach that guarantees states can go single-payer is to permit states that are able to do that to start down the single-payer road.
[end video clip]
TAPPER: Now, I know that was a long time ago, but you said in the Q&A single-payer would not be politically feasible.
In a perfect world, do you believe that single-payer would ultimately lower health care costs?
CLINTON: Well, I believe in universal health care. And I think we have now, finally, after many decades of efforts, thanks to President Obama, a plan that will get us to universal health care. It’s the Affordable Care Act. So, I’m not interested in what the Republicans are trying to do, which is to repeal it, as they consistently vote to do. And I also think it would be a mistake to really thrust our country into another contentious national debate about how we’re going to provide quality, affordable health care to everybody. So, I’m…
TAPPER: Right, but just on the merits.
CLINTON: … very focused on—well, the merits are we need to get to universal health care. That is the merit.
The merit is, how do we get to universal health care, where everybody’s covered, where everybody can afford it? We have had some experimentation with states. Actually, Vermont tried to do single-payer. They found that the cost and the taxes that were required were prohibitive.
Colorado now has a referendum on its ballot, so it’s going to also pursue it. I’m a big believer in letting states experiment. But when it comes to where we are right now, in 2016, I’m going to defend, protect, and improve the Affordable Care Act.
TAPPER: For years, you have been very protective of your daughter, Chelsea Clinton, especially when she was a child, of course, and now she’s a grown woman.
This week, she surprised a lot of people when she unleashed one of the most scathing attacks of the cycle, accusing Bernie Sanders of wanting to empower Republican governors who might then cut people’s health care.
PolitiFact called Chelsea’s remarks mostly false. Former Obama adviser David Axelrod said it was not an honest attack. And liberal columnist Mark Shields said the attack turned your daughter into a—quote—”political hack.”
Do you think it was a mistake to muddy up Chelsea like that?
CLINTON: Look, she was asked a question. I love my daughter. And she answered a question.
And all I can say, Jake, is that the only health plan we know of from Senator Sanders is what’s described in the legislation that he has introduced nine times in the Congress, in the Senate. And it does turn all of the programs we know of that provide health care over to the states.
The federal government would provide a big portion of the cost, but states would be mandated to also pay considerably, about 14 percent of the cost. That’s what’s in his bill.
So, I think anyone who wants to compare and contrast, since we don’t have any more current plan from Senator Sanders, has to look at the legislation that he introduced.
And, yes, if it were going to be state-run, then governors, Republican and Democrat alike, would bear responsibility for appropriating the funds and administrating it, according to Senator Sanders’ own legislative proposals.
TAPPER: So, no regrets about using Chelsea that way?
CLINTON: Oh, I didn’t use her. She answered a question.
And, you know, she gave a factual answer, based on the legislation that is the only way we know what Senator Sanders is actually proposing, because he introduced it nine times in the Congress.
TAPPER: OK. PolitiFact said it was mostly false, but let’s move on.
A new movie opened this weekend. It’s called “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.” It’s a cinematic version of a book, a nonfiction book, telling the story of the six private security contractors who defended the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, from an attack by Islamic militants.
Are you planning to see it at all?
CLINTON: I’m just too busy campaigning. I am still very focused on making sure we do everything we can, as I did when I was secretary of state, as I testified to over 11 hours, to make sure that nothing like that happens again, insofar as we are able to prevent it.
And that’s my focus when it comes to the continuing obligation that the United States government has whenever we send anyone into harm’s way.
TAPPER: Let’s talk about ISIS. It’s a big concern among many Americans.
I know that you’re very reluctant to criticize President Obama, and I understand that. But I want to ask you about the situation in Syria on the ground, because Anne-Marie Slaughter, who is the former director of policy planning at the State Department under you, she told me on my show “THE LEAD that, if President Obama had listened to you about arming the Syrian moderates years ago, there’s a—quote—”very good chance that we would not be facing ISIS like we are now.”
Do you agree?
CLINTON: Well, we will never know the answer to that question.
Obviously, I thought, at the time, it was the right approach. And I advocated for it, along with then Secretary Panetta and CIA Director Petraeus, because I was worried about what would happen if there were a very vicious civil war, when, on one side, you had Assad’s army backed by Iran, and now we know also backed by Russia, against a group of people who wanted more freedom, wanted to live in dignity, not the continuing oppression from the Assad regime, that it would be a pretty uneven match, to be understating that, and it could open territory for terrorist groups, foreign fighters, and others to come in.
So, let’s talk about where we are now. And I have laid out a plan to deal with ISIS about airpower that is being used now, with more nations joining the United States, which is in the lead, to try to go after ISIS leadership, infrastructure, other assets, also to support Iraqi and Syrian fighters who are on the ground trying to take territory back from ISIS, and what else we need to do to build up those forces, the Iraqi army, which has had some success taking back Ramadi, Sunni tribal fighters, which we have to get back into the fight, and that is beginning to happen, and supporting the Kurdish fighters, who have been extraordinary brave on both sides of the border, by helping to equip and support them.
So, we have a clear mission to deprive ISIS of territory. And there is some movement, positive movement on that. And then we have to cut off their foreign fighters, their foreign funding, and take them online—take them on online, so that they are no longer able to recruit and propagandize, which keeps their flow of fighters and money coming.
TAPPER: I’m told we’re out of time. I just have one last question for you.
In terms of the status of the FBI investigation into your private e-mail server, have you been interviewed by the FBI yet?
TAPPER: You haven’t.
All right, Secretary Clinton, thanks so much. Really appreciate your time. Good luck with the debate tonight.
CLINTON: Thanks. Thanks, Jake.