Interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News “This Week”


Spoken by

Hillary Clinton

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you for joining us, Madam Secretary.


Let’s talk about that “Des Moines Register” — that “Des Moines Register” poll that has you in the lead — eight years ago, your hopes were dashed by that surge of new voters for Barack Obama. Are you confident that won’t happen again?

CLINTON: Well, George, here’s what I’m confident about. We’ve run a terrific campaign from the grassroots up. I feel so proud and grateful to the thousands of Iowans who have joined this campaign. And we’re going to keep working as hard as I can and everybody else, until the caucuses conclude tomorrow night. Of course, it’s close. It’s competitive. That’s why I hope everybody who has decided to caucus for me will be sure to come out on Monday night.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You did have that surprise on Friday; the State Department saying they will not release 22 emails of yours deemed top secret. You want them released. Why are you so confident that release would not compromise national security? What do you know about those emails that we don’t?

CLINTON: Well, here’s what I know. I know that this is, I think, a continuation of the story that has been playing out for months. There is no classified marked information on those emails sent or received by me. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, who’s had a chance to review them, has said that this email chain did not originate with me and that there were no classification markings. So I do want them released and of course I can’t be clear about exactly what the reasons might be for some in the government, as part of this interagency dispute, to make this request not to make them public. But I would like to see them disclosed and I think they can. It should be disclosed —


STEPHANOPOULOS: Your supporters —

CLINTON: — that I’m told about them.

STEPHANOPOULOS: — your supporters including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, former governor of Iowa, and Senator Feinstein herself, has suggested it’s political. Is that what you think?

CLINTON: Well, it’s — I’m going to leave that to others who are quite experienced in the ways of Washington to comment on. I just have to point out that the timing and some of the leaks that have led up to it are concerning. And I just want this matter resolved. The best way to resolve is to do what I asked months ago, release these, let the public see them and let’s move on.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, you’ve said many times that the emails were not marked classified. No evidence that that’s not true. But the non-disclosure agreement you signed as secretary of state said that that really is not that relevant. It says classified information is marked or unmarked classified and that all of your training to treat all of that sensitively and should know the difference.

CLINTON: Well, of course. And that’s exactly what I did. I take classified information very seriously. You know, you can’t get information off the classified system in the State Department to put onto an unclassified system, no matter what that system is. We were very specific about that and you — when you receive information, of course, there has to be some markings, some indication that someone down the chain had thought that this was classified and that was not the case. The final thing I would say because clearly the best answer to all of this is release and disclose these materials is that what I’m told is that this chain of emails very well included a published newspaper report. That seems a little hard to understand, that we would be retroactively over classifying a public newspaper article. So let’s just get it out. Let’s see what it is and let the American people draw their own conclusions. This is very much like Benghazi, George. You know, the Republicans are going to continue to use it, beat up on me. I understand that. That’s the way they are. But after 11 hours of testimony, answering every single question, in public, which I have requested for many months, I think it’s pretty clear they’re grasping at straws and this will turn out —


STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally on this matter, you know, a few months back, you told my colleague, David Mir it was a mistake to set up this private server. Yet just this Monday, you said there was no error in judgment. How do you square those two statements?

CLINTON: Well, look, as I’ve said many times, it was permitted. My predecessors had engaged in a similar practice. It was not the best choice. I wouldn’t be here talking to you about it. I’d be talking about what people in Iowa are talking to me about, about affordable health care and jobs and rising wages and all of the concerns that are on their minds. And be, you know, really able to answer their questions as I have been now for so many months.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You and Senator Sanders really going at it right now. And here was — he was on the stump there yesterday, saying this about your attack.

[begin video clip]

SANDERS: Don’t tell me that I’m defending or protecting the gun lobby. Don’t tell me I’m attacking Planned Parenthood. Those are inaccuracies. And we can do better than that.

[end video clip]

STEPHANOPOULOS: He’s calling you on this, says he got a D- rating from the NRA and 100 percent record with Planned Parenthood.

CLINTON: Well, let me tell you what the people who work on these issues every day have said. They say I’m the leader. I’m the leader who has taken on tough issues. I’ve taken on difficult issues like Planned Parenthood, the gun lobby, for many years. And they concluded to endorse me by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. I was very honored to have that. That’s not saying that others haven’t voted with them. But they were looking for a leader and they found it with me. I’ve been endorsed by The Brady Campaign and yesterday in a very emotional event in Ames, Iowa, endorsed by Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, because they believe I’m the leader that they want to stand up to the gun lobby, the same with the Human Rights Campaign. They concluded I was the leader to protect and advance the cause of the rights of the LGBT community. Now that is just the facts. People who have known us, people who have evaluated us, people who have concluded what they want in the next president have sided with me. And I’m very proud of that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, you just mentioned [inaudible] hitting you with the email issue. They’re clearly going to hit Bernie Sanders with the fact that he’s a Democratic socialist if he gets the nomination. Some of your supporters concerned about that, Senator Claire McCaskill, are saying they can’t wait to run an ad with a hammer and a sickle. Steny Hoyer, Congressman Steny Hoyer, saying he calls himself a socialist. I don’t think that’s a good title to be running for President of the United States. Is that what you think? Will the fact that he’s a Democratic socialist make it harder for Democrats to win in November?

CLINTON: Well, that certainly is what a lot of Democratic leaders are saying. And I take them at their word. They know their states. They know the country. They know we have to take back the Senate. They want to make some advances in the House as well as at governor and legislature levels across the country. Here’s what I think. I think I’ve been subjected, as you know so well, to years of scrutiny and I’m still standing, talking to you in the lead here in Iowa for the caucuses and going on after that. And it’s a very tough gantlet to run. And if there are issues, that Republicans and their allies on the Right believe they could use to bring down a Democratic, they’re going to use it. I feel vetted. I feel ready. I feel strong and I think I’m the best person to be the nominee and to defeat whoever they nominate in November.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, I wonder what your response to this quote from your old friend, Robert Rice, Secretary of Labor under President Clinton. He said you’re the most qualified candidate for the political system we now have. But Bernie Sanders is the most qualified candidate to create the political system we should have. How do you respond to that?

CLINTON: Well, look, I’m a progressive who thinks it’s important to actually make progress. That’s what I’ve done my entire life. That’s what I will do as president. Obviously I have big goals. I want to get to universal coverage; I want to get the economy working for everybody, not just those at the top. Get incomes rising, get women equal pay, raise the minimum wage, have a renaissance in manufacturing, move toward clean, renewable energy — I have big goals. And I tell you how I’m going to get there and how I’m going to pay for them. And I think that is what the Americans want. I’m not going to sit here and overpromise and under-deliver. I’m going to tell you what I know we can achieve, and that’s going to take the political system we have right now, and then I intend to bring in more people, as always have, George. When I ran for Senate the first time, you remember, you know, people didn’t give me much of a chance. I won and then when I was reelected, I won with a bigger percentage. And then when I was Secretary of State, even the Republicans said I was doing a good job. So I understand politics. I understand a campaign. I am focused on my mission to make sure this country works for everybody, particularly hardworking middle-class families who rightly feel they’ve been left out and left behind. I think I know how to do that, and I think the voters know that I know how to do that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Secretary Clinton, thanks for joining us this morning.

CLINTON: Great to talk to you, George. Thank you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we will be right back with Bernie Sanders.