Hillary Clinton worked to paint herself as honest and trustworthy in her first national television interview of the 2016 campaign, blaming Republicans for damaging questions about her time at the State Department and her family’s charitable foundation.
“This has been a theme that has been used against me and my husband for many, many years,” the Democratic presidential hopeful told CNN’s Brianna Keilar in Iowa, noting that she’s been “subjected to the kind of constant barrage of attacks that are largely fomented by and coming from the right.”
She added, “[A]t the end of the day, I think voters sort it all out. I have great confidence. I trust the American voter. So I trust the American voter 100 percent, because I think the American voter will weigh these kinds of accusations.”
Clinton’s honest and trustworthy ratings have taken a hit in recent months. In the most recent CNN poll, nearly 6 in 10 Americans said they didn’t believe she was honest and trustworthy. Democrats still maintain a positive view of her, but Republicans believe it will weaken her in a general election.
Some of that skepticism has been fueled by her use of a private email server while at the State Department. Clinton defended that decision, saying she has been transparent in calling for over thousands of emails to be released, the first of which came out last week.
“Let’s take a deep breath here,” Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, said in the interview. “Everything I did was permitted by law and regulation. I had one device. When I mailed anybody in the government, it would go into the government system. Now, I didn’t have to turn over anything. I chose to turn over 55,000 pages, because I wanted to go above and beyond what was expected of me because I knew the vast majority of everything that was official already was in the State Department system.”
That echoed much of what Clinton said earlier this year before she got into the presidential campaign.
“This is being blown up with no basis in law or in fact,” Clinton continued. “That’s fine. I get it. This is being, in effect, used by the Republicans in the Congress.”
Clinton also defended the Clinton foundation, which has faced questions about foreign donations accepted while she was secretary of state. Clinton said the work of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and daughter, Chelsea, should keep going if she wins the presidency.
“I have no plans to say or do anything about the Clinton foundation,” she said, “other than to say how proud I am of it and that I think for the good of the world, its work should continue.”
Of her chief rival, Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton downplayed concern about his rising position in the polls and the record crowds he’s been drawing.
On Monday, her communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, acknowledged that the campaign was somewhat “worried” about Sanders.
“First of all, I always thought this would be a competitive race,” Clinton said. “So I am happy to have a chance to get out and run my campaign as I see fit and let other candidates do exactly the same.”
For those who see shades of her 2008 collapse, Clinton said she’s learned a thing or two from that campaign.
“I feel very good about where we are in Iowa,” she said of the state where she placed a disappointing third in 2008. “And one of the things that I learned last time is, it’s, ‘Organize, organize, organize.’ And you’ve got to get people committed. And then they will follow through and then you bring more people.”
Clinton also declined to answer whether her economic plan would raise taxes, like Sanders has proposed.
“I’m going to put out my policies, and I’ll let other people speak to their policies,” she said, “because I think we have to both grow the economy faster and fairer so we have to do what will actually work in the short term, the medium term and the long term. I will be making a speech about my economic proposals on Monday. And then I look forward to the debate about them.”
Of her potential Republican rivals — and the possibility of another Bush versus Clinton contest — Clinton demurred, emphasizing that the field is wide open.
“Well, we’ll see,” she said when asked about running against former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. “That’s up to, first, the Republicans on his side, the Democrats on my side. What’s great about America is anybody can run for president. That is literally true. And you have to go out and you have to do what everybody else does. You have to make your case. You have to have your agenda. You have to raise the money. You have to work really hard.”
She did take a swipe at Bush over immigration, even though he has been hit within the GOP over his openness to reform.
“Well, he doesn’t believe in a path to citizenship,” Clinton noted. “If he did at one time, he no longer does. And so pretty much they’re — as I said, they’re on a spectrum of, you know, hostility, which I think is really regrettable in a nation of immigrants like ours, all the way to kind of grudging acceptance but refusal to go with a pathway to citizenship.”
“I’m very disappointed in those comments,” Clinton said, “and I feel very bad and very disappointed with him and with the Republican Party for not responding immediately and saying, ‘Enough. Stop it.’ ”
She continued, trying to paint the GOP with a broad brush against immigrants.
“They are all in the same general area on immigration,” Clinton charged. “They don’t want to provide a path to citizenship. They range across a spectrum of being either grudgingly welcome or hostile toward immigrants. And I’m going to talk about comprehensive immigration reform. I’m going to talk about all of the good, law-abiding, productive members of the immigrant community that I personally know, that I’ve met over the course of my life, that I would like to see have a path to citizenship.”
Of her own dust-up with the press this weekend after her campaign roped off reporters trying to cover her in a July 4 parade, Clinton defended the decision.
“I just have a different rhythm to my campaign,” Clinton said. “I’m not running my campaign for the press. I’m running it for voters. I totally respect the press and what the press has to do. But I wanted — and was determined — to have the time that I needed to actually meet and listen to people.”