Hillary Clinton’s running mate and senior campaign aides sought Sunday to play down the significance of apparent remarks she made during closed-door speeches to Wall Street firms and other corporate interests, as a high-stakes second presidential debate with Donald Trump loomed.
The Clinton surrogates, during appearances on the morning talk shows, continued to insist that they could not verify the authenticity of comments from hacked emails suggesting a close relationship between the Democratic nominee and Wall Street and her advocacy of “open trade and open borders.”
At the same time, Clinton’s allies sought to counter Republican critics who have argued that the apparent speech excerpts suggest that she is an out-of-touch elitist whose message changes depending on the audience. The remarks were apparently made between the end of her tenure as secretary of state and the start of her 2016 presidential bid.
“Her public position and what she’s going to fight for as president are one in the same,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said during an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“I can’t speak to whether any of these documents or emails are actually correct,” he added, echoing comments he made several times during the five-minute segment.
The controversy over Clinton’s apparent remarks, which surfaced in hacked emails released Friday by WikiLeaks, has been greatly overshadowed by the firestorm over lewd comments by Trump about women contained in a 2005 video that surfaced Friday.
On that count, Democrats offered a consistent message on the talk shows Sunday as well: that Trump’s words fit a broader pattern of disrespect that should disqualify him from the presidency.
John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, said on “Fox News Sunday” that the video of Trump in which the Republican nominee brags in obscene language about forcing himself on women sexually “isn’t an exception.”
“This is who this guy is,” Podesta said. “I hope every voter actually takes the time to see what is really on that tape, and I hope that all of their children don’t get to see what’s on that tape.”
During the appearance on Fox News, which took place about 12 hours before Clinton and Trump are scheduled to face off at Washington University in St. Louis, Podesta ticked off other offensive things Trump has said since becoming a candidate.
“He’s said the same horrible things about Latinos, about African Americans, about Muslims,” Podesta said. “He’s made fun of a reporter with disabilities.”
During an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.), Clinton’s running mate, echoed those sentiments.
“There is a broad pattern of disrespect, both in word, action and policy, toward all kinds of people, and that is why this issue on Friday just so galvanized people,” Kaine said. “There’s plenty of evidence that this is exactly who Donald Trump is today.”
He argued that the video — in which Trump asserts that he can be sexually aggressive with women because he is a celebrity — demonstrates “much more than words.”
“I think the tape raises an awful lot of questions, and if you take that as Donald accurately describing his actions, then, yeah, it is a pattern of assaultive behavior,” Kaine said.
On the same program, Kaine was pressed about comments attributed to Clinton that were included in the hacked emails released by WikiLeaks. The emails included the apparent excerpts from closed-door speeches that she made to Wall Street and other corporate interests.
Among other things, the apparent comments reflect her “dream” of a “hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders.”
Asked about the assertion, attributed to a Clinton appearance before the U.S. arm of a Brazilian banking group in 2013, Kaine declined to say whether the comment was accurate. During the Democratic primaries, Clinton came out against a pending trade deal that was opposed by her leading primary opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and other progressives.
Kaine said that Clinton had a history as a senator from New York of supporting some trade deals and opposing others, depending on their effects on jobs and national security, and that this kind of calculation would continue if she gets to the White House.
As for the WikiLeaks documents, Kaine said, “Anyone who hacks into documents is completely capable of manipulating them.”
Pressed by host Jake Tapper about whether Clinton had made the comments embracing free trade and “open borders,” Kaine said, “I have no way of knowing that.”
“Well, you could ask her,” Tapper replied.
“But the documents are in the thousands. I haven’t asked her,” Kaine said.
The documents were allegedly hacked from one of Podesta’s email accounts.
During his appearance on Fox, Podesta pushed back on Republican criticism that the emails showed that Clinton was saying different things behind closed doors and as a candidate publicly. In one of the speech excerpts, Clinton apparently talks about the need for “both a public and a private position” when governing.
“They’re not diametrically opposed,” Podesta said, suggesting that the criticism of Clinton that has emerged has resulted from people taking words out of context.
Mook said that the comment attributed to Clinton regarding “open borders” was in the context of talking about the expansion of “green energy” and was not a broader comment about immigration, as some have suggested.
“If the question is, does Hillary Clinton support throwing open our borders, absolutely not,” he said.
During the Democratic primaries, Sanders repeatedly called on Clinton to release the transcripts of her paid, closed-door speeches to Wall Street firms. She declined.
On Sunday, Mook said the transcripts had emerged from emails that appeared to have been hacked by Russians.
“These documents were dumped out there by the Russian government,” he said. “They want us to be bogged down by this.”