Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton spoke by telephone Wednesday with The Washington Post’s Anne Gearan. It was Clinton’s first interview with The Post since before launching her presidential campaign in April 2015. Following is the full transcript of the roughly 10-minute interview.
Hillary Clinton: Hello?
Anne Gearan: Hello, Madam Secretary. It’s Anne Gearan.
HC: Hi Anne, how are you doing?
AG: I’m fine. Nice to talk to you. Thanks for being willing to do this on what I’m sure is a busy day for you. We’ll jump right in.
HC: An exciting day.
AG: Yeah. Good. You sounded reflective, I mean, maybe almost quiet at the start of your remarks last night. It must have been pretty emotional. What will you remember most and if you’ve thought about it, what do you think you’ll tell [granddaughter] Charlotte about last night when she’s old enough to hear about it from you?
HC: Uh, that’s a great question because I was overwhelmed. I had been upstairs in that building to do an interview, and the room we were in had a glass wall overlooking the crowd. And I was absolutely stunned by the level of excitement and the incredible enthusiasm, and the energy, and the moment. And how this meant so much to the people who had worked so hard for me in the campaign, so many people who had been, you know, really hoping for this to happen.
And it just was a sense of momentous historic experience that I was part of it, and it really was hard to actually, you know, make sense of it. And I was worried, I was worried that if, when I went out to speak, just the emotion of the moment would be so intense that I might have trouble getting through the speech itself.
So I did have to collect myself and try to get prepared. But going out there and actually being in the midst of it, not just looking down on it like I had a few minutes before, just was an incredible moment for me, and I hope one that many other people could take a lot of joy and pride in.
AG: Did you actually end up choking up? You appeared to get through it without delay.
HC: Well, I worked really hard at that. And particularly, I practiced the part about my mother several times because I teared up every time I practiced it. And I tried to get myself so that I could be, you know, a little more used to saying it. And it still was for me personally one of the most extraordinary and meaningful public experiences I’ve ever had.
AG: With your permission we’ll pivot to, back to hard politics. What do you think it will take to fully include Bernie Sanders in your candidacy and your campaign? Is it important in your view to make him and his supporters feel like they’ve won even as he’s lost?
HC: Well, you know, I called him last night to just congratulate him on running such an extraordinary campaign. We’ve had a tough-fought race and I, you know, admire his energy, his determination and commitment. And I think it [has] been, as I said last night, very good for the Democratic Party and for our country. I am certainly reaching out. Our campaigns are talking about how we can be unified against the threat that Donald Trump poses to our future, and I want to unite the party and the country. We’ve got to do that to run the most effective race we can against Trump, and then we have to keep working to unify the country to get things done. So I’m going to do whatever I can to make that happen.
AG: Are you concerned that he’ll be less than a full partner in that effort as you were with President Obama in 2008?
HC: [Pauses] I certainly hope he will be. I think he and his supporters understand how much is at stake, that we need to join together to defeat Trump. And I’m going to really reach out, do everything I can to persuade him. I will be obviously reaching out to his supporters to make that same case. There’s a lot to discuss. His voters are passionate about many matters, and so are mine. We believe in a lot of the same goals like universal health care coverage. We know that we both want to raise the minimum wage contrary to Trump, who doesn’t think it needs to be. So we’ve got a lot in common, and I would argue that we have much more in common that should unite us in this general election than was perhaps as clear as it now can be coming out of the primary, and that we certainly, whatever differences we might have, are just absolutely against Trump and what he represents.
AG: Going forward, do you think you would favor resisting, excuse me revisiting, the role of superdelegates or reducing the role of superdelegates in future elections?
HC: Well, you know, I think we’re going to always try to look to see what we can do to improve the process and to try to, you know, get as many ideas about how to do that as possible. I’m very proud that, you know, we’ve won 12 out of the last 19 contests and that I’m leading Sen. Sanders by 3 million votes and Trump by 2 million; that I don’t have all the numbers yet from the big wins we had in New Jersey and California and wins in South Dakota and New Mexico yesterday. But we had yesterday a lead of more than 300 pledged delegates. So, you know, we feel that, on the criteria that matter, popular vote, number of states won, number of pledged delegates won, that we did very, very well in the process, but we always want to see what could be done to, you know, to make it better.
AG: It sounds like you don’t rule it out, revisiting the —
HC: I think we’re going to have, yeah, we’re going to have a discussion. I think that’s something that the [Democratic National Committee] does after every convention. And I think some changes were made, I don’t know all the details, I wasn’t involved, but I have heard changes were made after ’08 and I think even after 2012. So there will be an opportunity to discuss all of this.
AG: What does it say about the country at this moment that both you and Donald Trump have the highest negatives of any major party nominees in probably our lifetimes, if not more? And specifically, what does that say about you as you start this head-to-head contest with him?
HC: [Sighs or draws a breath] Well, Anne, I think what it says about me is that when I serve in jobs, like senator or secretary of state, I have, you know, high approval ratings. I think when I was serving as secretary of state, and you covered a lot of that, I had an approval rating of 66 percent. But I’m also the, you know, very favorite target of Republicans, and others who disagree with my positions. And they’ve been running many millions of dollars of ads against me ever since this campaign started. I’m certainly aware of that. In fact, a lot of analysis pointed out that if you took all of the outside groups and all of the Republican campaigns they probably spent more money running ads that are negative against me than they did against each other. I’ve come to accept that, and I intend to do everything that I possibly can to make the case as to why I am not only prepared and experienced, but ready with the ideas that I think will produce results for the American people, provide protection for our country and lead the world and unify us. And it seems to have hit a very positive chord in the primaries because of how well I did overall, and I think it will find a positive audience in the general election.
AG: You spoke last week and again since then about rejecting the politics of fear in this election. But in a way, are you not running a campaign of fear yourself — just the fear of Donald Trump?
HC: I don’t think those are equivalent at all. I think Trump’s campaign is to stoke fear and anger among Americans against each other. His desire to posit ‘making America great again’ raises a lot of anxiety and insecurity in people who feel left out and left behind. He has no real answers. He has slogans. And I think he has basically run a campaign from the very first day, when he stoked fear of immigrants, calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals. And he continues it with his attack on the federal judge presiding over his case at Trump University; claiming that he cannot be fair because he’s of Mexican heritage. When this man was born in Indiana, he’s as American as I am or as American as Trump is. It’s a plain and simple racist attack. So I think that what I’ve said is that we should be confident and optimistic going into the future. I’ve said many times that I think America’s best years can still be ahead of us, but we can’t take it for granted. We’ve got work to do. And I think what you see coming from him is exactly the opposite. It’s all about fear — stoking it and playing to it. And I find that really troubling, and we’re gonna run hard against it.
AG: Do you think Donald Trump is a racist?
[Clinton aide Nick Merrill interjects. The interview had run about 90 seconds over the allotted 10 minutes at this point.]
NICK MERRILL: Anne, we’re gonna, we’re going to have to go —
HC: Well, I’ll just, yeah, I’ll answer that. I don’t know what’s in his heart. I have no way of telling that. I can just say that if you look at what he’s been proclaiming since he started the campaign, he has been engaging in divisive and prejudiced attacks against people. I called him out last summer, for what he said about Mexican immigrants. I think I was the first to call him out for that sort of divisive rhetoric. So even though I can’t say what’s in his heart, if you say someone can’t do their job because of their heritage, that is certainly a racist attack. And it’s just plain wrong. It has no place in our politics. And as we have seen in the last week, a lot of Republicans, prominent Republicans, have rejected that and distanced themselves from it. And I think part of the reason he launched that attack using the racist language he did was to divert attention from the scam that is Trump University. Which has been called a fraudulent scheme by officials on the staff of Trump University. And then he doubled down, saying he wasn’t sure a Muslim judge could be impartial, given his support for banning all Muslims from coming to the country. You know, it’s just a reminder that he has insulted and demeaned women, POWs, Muslims, immigrants, African Americans, people with disabilities. And I just fundamentally disagree. I don’t think you build our country up by tearing people down.
AG: Thank you. I could ask you very super quickly about the FBI interview. Has it been scheduled and would you like to get it over with?
HC: [Laughing] It has not, and I certainly would like to see this wrapped up.
AG: Okay, thank you for your time. I appreciate it.
HC: Thank you.
AG: See you on the road.