Clinton: ‘If the election had been on October 27, I would be your president’
NEW YORK (CNN) — Hillary Clinton delivered her most forceful critique of President Donald Trump’s 2016 victory on Tuesday, taking personal responsibility for her failed campaign but also pointed to the timing of a letter from FBI Director James Comey and Russian interference as factors.
“If the election had been on October 27, I would be your president,” she told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour at a Women for Women event in New York.
“I take absolute personal responsibility. I was the candidate, I was the person who was on the ballot. I am very aware of the challenges, the problems, the shortfalls that we had,” Clinton said, before adding that she was “on the way to winning until a combination of Jim Comey’s letter on October 28 and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me and got scared off.”
Clinton, who is currently writing a book that partly reflects on her 2016 loss, added, “The reason I believe we lost were the intervening events in the last 10 days.”
The event marks the latest where Clinton, in a stinging rebuke to Trump, both blames herself for the 2016 loss but also casts the current President as someone aided by outside factors, including the Russian government.
After Clinton noted the 3 million more votes she won than Trump, Amanpour joked that the President would soon tweet about the comment.
“Fine. Better than the interfering in foreign affairs,” Clinton said. “If he wants to tweet about me than I am happy to be the diversion because we have lot of things to worry about. He should worry less about the election and my winning the popular vote than doing some other things that would be important for the country.”
Clinton, aides and friends say, has grown more at peace with her loss in recent months, but is still focused on the interference by the Russian government, especially the fact that WikiLeaks began releasing John Podesta’s hacked emails hours after the damaging “Access Hollywood” Trump tape was released.
Clinton, as she has done in the past, also hung part of her 2016 loss on misogyny.
“Yes, I do think it played a role. I think other things did as well,” Clinton said.
But repeatedly, Clinton came back to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s role in the 2016 election and how he was able to tilt the scale in favor of Trump and against her.
Clinton, aides say, sees her role during the Trump years as a political activist who speaks out when issue she cares about are threatened. And on Tuesday, it was clear Clinton was ready to settle into that role.
“I am now back to being an activist citizen and part of the resistance,” Clinton said, drawing cheers from the crowd that included former aides, donors and celebrities like actress Meryl Streep.
The former secretary of state also pledged to “publicly request” that the Trump administration “not end our efforts making women’s rights and opportunities” central to US policy.
Clinton praised Defense Secretary James Mattis for making the case for maintaining US foreign aid funding, despite a budget request by Trump that would cut it.
“I am hoping that because of voices like Jim Mattis and others that that will begin to influence the administration,” she said.
And on North Korea, Clinton cautioned Trump against giving too much away by saying he would meet with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un under the right circumstances.
“I don’t believe that we alone are able to really put the pressure on this North Korean regime that needs to be placed,” she said. “Now the North Koreans are always interested … in trying to get Americans to try to come to negotiate to elevate their status and their position and we should be very careful about giving that way.”
Clinton said such negotiations could make it harder to work out a solution with countries in the region.
Clinton will also speak on Tuesday at a Planned Parenthood 100-year anniversary gala, where she is expected to slam Trump’s handling of women health issues during his first months in office, including attempts to defund the women’s health organization.
Planned Parenthood has been vocal in their opposition to Trump, slamming many of his appointees and the Republican plan to defund the organization.
Both venues offer Clinton the opportunity to comment on Trump’s first 100 days in office and organizers at Planned Parenthood expect the 45th President will come up in the former Democratic nominee’s speech.
Since spending months out of the limelight after the 2016 campaign, Clinton has re-emerged onto the public stage as the Republican Party grapples with Trump and the Democratic Party searches for a leader.
In a series of speeches, Clinton has shown a willingness to knock the President, as was on display at Tuesday’s interview.
In March, Clinton called the Trump-backed health care bill “disastrous” and knocked the plan for doing away with a maternity care requirement in health care.
“Really? Take away maternity care?” Clinton said during her keynote address at the annual conference hosted by the Professional BusinessWomen of California. “Who do these people talk to?”
And in April, Clinton told another group of women that she is “deeply concerned” with how Russia meddled into the 2016 election.
“A foreign power meddled with our election and did so in a way that we are learning more about every single day,” she said.
She also added that it was “somewhat gratifying” to see Trump mystified about how complex health care is.
“You know, health care is complicated. Right?” Clinton said in a jab at Trump. “That was somewhat gratifying.”
The small group of aides who are still in regular contact with Clinton stress, though, that the recent uptick in Trump criticism does not mean the former secretary of state is on a comeback. Clinton, they say, has remained in touch with an array of groups and while it may appear she is growing more political, the speeches don’t foretell a more forceful jump back into the political fray.
The aides say that Clinton will knock the Trump administration when she sees fit — as evidenced by an April broadside against White House press secretary Sean Spicer after he chided a black female journalist for shaking her head at a news conference.
“Too many women have had a lifetime of practice taking this kind of indignity in stride,” Clinton said.
But they say the former secretary of state is more interested in helping the Democratic Party in 2018 and beyond then resuscitating her own political career.