This week, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton made the rounds to discuss her new memoir about the 2016 presidential campaign, What Happened. On Monday she interviewed with Terry Gross of National Public Radio’s Fresh Air. Gross asked Clinton about the Russian involvement in the election and asked if she would challenge the results if Trump campaign collusion were proven.
Here’s the audio from that section of the 43-minute interview:
Here’s the transcript:
Terry Gross: You told Susan Page at USA Today that you believe that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. What leads you to believe that?
Hillary Clinton: I was careful with that. I said we know they communicated. We know they tried to hide all of the communications — both phone calls and meetings. We know that they took advantage of very well-timed Russian activities. We know that they had a very clear line of communication that was set up, that, in fact, after the election, the Trump people wanted to continue — and not in the sight of our intelligence providers.
We know that the intelligence community of our country — people who I’ve worked with, people who I have every bit of confidence in — have concluded that this came from the top of the Kremlin and was intended to help Trump.
We know there were all these financial entanglements. We’re learning more all the time. There’s just communication, there’s financial, there’s a lot of breadcrumbs and trails that are now being investigated. It’s up to the special counsel, the Congress to determine what the facts are, but there’s just a lot of smoke there.
Gross: You’ve basically said that you thought the Comey comments about the email investigation is what tipped the election.
Gross: And ultimately caused you to lose. But you’ve also said the Russian bots and Facebook pages and affinity groups and the hacking all contributed to your loss.
Clinton: Yes. I believe that.
Gross: Democrats have said that they think there was Russian interference in the election, but that they’re not challenging the results of the election. As more and more information comes out about the depth of Russia’s interference in the election, do you think, at some point, that it would be legitimate to challenge the legitimacy of the election?
Clinton: I don’t know if there’s any legal constitutional way to do that. I think you can raise questions. In fact, I think part of the reason Trump behaves the way he behaves is that he is a walking example of projection. Whatever he’s doing and whatever he thinks is happening he will accuse somebody else of. And there are examples during the campaign when he did just that, like when he called publicly on Russia to hack my personal emails.
He knew they were trying to do whatever they could to discredit me with emails, so there’s obviously a trail there, but I don’t know that in our system we have any means of doing that, but I just wanted to add to the point you made. There’s no doubt they influenced the election: We now know more about how they did that.
Let me just put it this way, if I had lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College and in my first day as president, the intelligence community came to me and said, “The Russians influenced the election,” I would’ve never stood for it. Even though it might’ve advantaged me, I would’ve said, “We’ve got to get to the bottom of this.” I would’ve set up an independent commission with subpoena power and everything else.
Gross: I want to get back to the question, would you completely rule out questioning the legitimacy of this election if we learn that the Russian interference in the election is even deeper than we know now?
Clinton: No. I would not. I would say —
Gross: You’re not going to rule it out.
Clinton: No, I wouldn’t rule it out.
Gross: So what are the means, like, this is totally unprecedented in every way —
Clinton: It is.
Gross: What would be the means to challenge it, if you thought it should be challenged?
Clinton: Basically, I don’t believe there are. There are scholars, academics, who have arguments that it would be, but I don’t think they’re on strong ground. But people are making those arguments.
First, in the rounds of interviews, Clinton has completed it’ is obvious that she does not want to take any responsibility for her loss.
Second, she is right that there are no constitutional means to challenge the election. The best outcome that Democrats could see coming out of this is if Trump campaign collusion with the Russians was proven and that President Trump had knowledge of it. If that was the case, then he could be impeached and if convicted Vice President Mike Pence would become President. It would give Democrats a platform in 2020, but it still would not put Hillary Clinton in the White House.
Third, her assertion about Trump collusion is just that, an assertion. While I believe President Trump should let the Russian investigation play out without interference, we still have yet to see evidence of collusion. Former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort’s potential indictment may bring more to light, but we have heard it said that “you can convince a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.” Also, evidence brought to light may not prove collusion.
Fourth, we also don’t know how the Russia story impacted the election, at least not with certainty. Polling never indicated a Trump advantage due to the Russia story as Clinton led the polls to the very end.