Full Transcript: ABC's David Muir Interviews Hillary Clinton

During the interview, Clinton said she was "sorry" for private email use.

ByABC News
September 9, 2015, 6:04 AM

— -- On Tuesday, September 8, 2015, ABC News' host of "World News Tonight" anchor David Muir interviewed Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The following is a transcript of the interview:

DAVID MUIR: Secretary Clinton, thank you.

HILLARY CLINTON: Thank you, David.

DAVID MUIR: Here we sit, five months into your campaign and there are some eye-opening poll numbers out there, and I'm sure you're aware of them, when it comes to how Americans see you. Our ABC poll, Gallup, Quinnipiac showing your favorability numbers taking a sharp dive.

In one poll, the lowest ever. And when voters were asked, "What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of Hillary Clinton?" Words like liar, dishonest, untrustworthy were at the top of the list. Does this tell you that your original explanation about the private server, that you did it to carry one phone out of convenience, that this didn't sit well with the American people?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, David, obviously, I don't like hearing that. I am confident by the end of this campaign people will know they can trust me. And that I will be on their side and will fight for them and their families. But I do think I could have and should have done a better job answering questions earlier.

I really didn't perhaps appreciate the need to do that. What I had done was allowed, it was above board. But in retrospect, certainly, as I look back at it now, even though it was allowed, I should've used two accounts. One for personal, one for work-related emails.

That was a mistake. I'm sorry about that. I take responsibility. And I'm trying to be as transparent as I possibly can to not only release 55,000 pages of my emails, turn over my server. But I am looking forward, finally, to testifying before Congress. Something I've been asking for nearly a year.

DAVID MUIR: You have said you would apologize for the confusion but not say, "I'm sorry." But I did hear a word in there just a moment ago and I'm curious. Would you acknowledge that you made a mistake here? Because you wrote in your own memoir last year just how important using the word mistake is in politics. You, you wrote, "In our political culture, saying you made a mistake is often taken as weakness when in fact it can be a sign of strength and growth." And so as you sit here, millions watching tonight, did you make a mistake?

HILLARY CLINTON: I did. I did. As I said, it was allowed and there was no hiding it. It was totally above board. Everybody in the government I communicated with -- and that was a lot of people-- knew I was using a personal e-mail. But I'm sorry that it has, you know, raised all of these questions. I do take responsibility for having made what is clearly not the best decision. And I want people to know that I am trying to be as transparent as possible so that, you know, legitimate questions can and will be answered.

DAVID MUIR: You mentioned everybody in the government knew that you were using this private server. It-- did fellow members of the cabinet know? Did the president know?

HILLARY CLINTON: Everyone I emailed with, and I'm not going to go into names, but let me say I emailed with many people in the White House and the rest of the government, of course, across the State Department, knew that I was emailing from a personal account.

It appeared, you know, as my address. But I emailed two people on their .gov accounts. And that's why I believed and I think it's been proven to be accurate, that the vast majority of everything that I was emailing would be captured on the State Department system. Or on the government system that I emailed into.

DAVID MUIR: You see the new headlines every day, just as we do. The New York Times just today reporting on a second review now of two of the emails in particular sent to you. The Times reporting they contain classified information. The intelligence community's Inspector General telling ABC today that after reviewing those emails, that two of them carry the classification of top secret.

That both of emails were classified when they were created and remain classified now. One was about drones, one was about North Korea's nuclear program. And I'm curious, does this mean classified information passed through your private server?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, there is still, as you know, a dispute. The State Department disputes that. I understand why different agencies have different views and I respect that. It does not change the fact that I did not send or receive any information that was marked classified at the time.

Now, I know that it's hard for people who haven't been in these systems, perhaps, to understand exactly how this works. But in the State Department, you had an unclassified system So, David, even if I had used a government account on the State Department-- government system and I had said I wanted emails released, we would be going through the same process.

And that is a very typical process that takes place when information is requested. Or somebody asks that it be made public. So these same kinds of disagreements between different parts of the government would be occurring. But I think even the Inspector General of the Intelligence Committee as well as-- community as well as others have said I did not send nor receive any information that was marked classified at the time.

DAVID MUIR: Right, at the time marked classified. But let me ask you, for the rest of us, the average voter and average viewer out there who might wonder, how can some of these emails be classified and labeled as top secret today? What changed in them so significantly that you wouldn't have seen red flags even just a couple of years ago as Secretary of State? That you, of all people, would've known.

HILLARY CLINTON: Yeah, that's a very fair question. And I think there are a couple of answers. One, sometimes events do proceed in a way that maybe there's a case being brought against somebody. Maybe even a terrorist. And all of a sudden everything is classified until the trial attorneys go through it to figure out what should or shouldn't be public.

Maybe there is a backward-looking effort to see, okay, maybe that wasn’t classified. Or maybe that was unclassified on the State Department system. But we had it on a different system and we treated it differently. Something that we wouldn't have known about in the State Department. So--

DAVID MUIR:But North Korea's nuclear program? Wouldn't that be classified?

HILLARY CLINTON: There's a lot of public information about their nuclear program. I don't know the specifics about the one that they are claiming is classified. I can only repeat what happens to be the case-- that I did not send nor receive information that was marked classified at the time that it was sent or received.

DAVID MUIR: Let's go bigger picture here for a moment, because many who quite frankly wanted to support you have now learned of this F.B.I. investigation, have learned of the I.T. guy who helped set up the server planning to plead the Fifth.

And many who have said to themselves, you know, "Hillary Clinton of all people who's been in the public eye for so long that she should have known." And perhaps the more important question they're asking is, "Can Hillary Clinton survive this?" Can you?

HILLARY CLINTON: Yes, of course I can. I, as you might guess, have been around a while and there've been lots of, you know, attacks and counter-attacks and questions raised. And I can survive it because I think I'm running to be president to do what the country needs done.

And I believe the American people will respond to that. You know, with respect to the two points that you made, this is a security investigation. And that's why I turned over my server. It's not, as has been confirmed, a criminal investigation. Again, that needs to be explained to people because they may not understand the difference.

And I, I think on all of this, I'm looking forward to testifying before the Congress in public, which is what I demanded to be able to do. I'll answer all their questions for as long as they wish to ask them. But at the end of the day, at least in the campaigning that I'm doing around the country, people wanna know what I'm gonna do for them.

What I'm gonna do for their families. They want a president who will take care of the big issues that are in the headlines, whether it's ISIS. or climate change or Syrian refugees. But they also want a president who's gonna care about the problems that keep them up at night. And they know that I will and that I will work hard to try to make America work again for people.

DAVID MUIR: We saw the voters out with you this weekend. We also saw voters out with Joe Biden. He was jogging along the way and, and we heard them shouting, "Run, Joe, run." And you've said everyone should give him time to decide--

HILLARY CLINTON: That's right.

DAVID MUIR: --given what's happened recently in his family. But you were once on the same team inside the White House. You would often have breakfast with the vice president. Would he make a good president?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I like Joe Biden a lot. And I think he is a great vice president. If he gets into this election, there’ll be lots of time to talk about, you know, what he--

DAVID MUIR: But would he make--

HILLARY CLINTON: --wants to do.

DAVID MUIR: Would he make a good president?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, you know, I think he could be a good president. There's no doubt about that. But I think he, you know, we shouldn't get into the politics of this back and forth because I don't think it's fair to him. He's testing the waters. He deserves to test the waters.

He deserves to kind of feel it. It's such an emotional decision. At the end of the day, this is a grueling, difficult journey that anybody who decides to run for president subjects themselves to. And you have to be really ready and prepared.

And Joe has said himself he's got to find out whether he's got the fortitude, given everything that's happened to him. So I'm not gonna comment on his campaign in waiting. Or whether there even is a campaign.

DAVID MUIR: And then who does the president choose? Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I think the president will have to wait to decide who the candidates are. And I know he wants to be succeeded by a Democrat and I very much hope that happens because I think the country and the economy do better when we have a Democrat in the White House.

DAVID MUIR: Let's talk about the speech you plan to give tomorrow. A major speech laying out your support for the Iran nuclear deal. As you know, Republicans have come out swinging, even some Democrats, too about what happens when the deal is done.

And I wanted to ask you about a recent Brookings analysis that says after 15 years, Iran would be allowed to produce reactor-grade fuel on an industrial scale using far more advanced centrifuges. And that the warning time, if Iran decides to race for a bomb, would shrink to weeks. Does that concern you?

HILLARY CLINTON: Of course it does Everything about Iran concerns me. I do not trust them. You know, to paraphrase President Reagan, you know, "Don't trust. And yes, verify." I intend to lay out tomorrow why I think this agreement is in the best interest of the United States.

Of our allies, including Israel. But that we have to remain very vigilant. And I will talk about some of the steps I would take as president to enforce to the absolute letter the agreement to hold Iran accountable. And to re-affirm that we can never, ever allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.

DAVID MUIR: You say don't trust, verify You've also said cheat and you will pay. Your former senate colleague, Chuck Schumer, against the deal, saying inspections are not anywhere, anytime. And that the 24-day delay before we can inspect is troubling. Does that 24-day waiting period trouble you, too?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, there's a lot of other inspections going on. This is an element of the inspections, which I will address tomorrow. Anything about Iran and whether or not it will comply with the agreement it signs I think has to remain an open question. There's no doubt about that. The real--

DAVID MUIR: But does it give it ti-- does it give the Iranians time to move things out of the way?

HILLARY CLINTON: You know-- we now have very advanced detection equipment. I think one of the most important contributors to the agreement was Secretary Moniz the Secretary of the Department of Energy a nuclear physicist from M.I.T. I take very seriously what he says.

Because I know of his expertise in this arena. Tomorrow, I will be very much addressing the skeptics. Because they make some good points. They, I don't reject their concerns out of hand. I think they are totally legitimate.

The real bottom line is, what's our better alternative? I put together the coalition that brought the world to the place where we imposed global sanctions on Iran. It took me 18 months and then it took me another year to make sure that they were being followed. I know how hard this is to get the world together to stand up to anybody, let alone Iran.

We did that. We got them to the negotiating table. Now, of course, if the United States walks away, the rest of the world is going to think, wait a minute. We got the best deal we could. And given the constraints, I think that is the case. And the sanctions would be gone in any event. The United States can keep imposing them, but that's what we did during the Bush administration.

So that when we came in, President Obama and I came in as Secretary of State, the Iranians had already mastered the nuclear fuel cycle under the Bush administration. They had built covert facilities. They had stocked them with centrifuges. They were proceeding. So our sanctions, everything we did as the United States in those eight years of the two Bush terms did not stop Iran. We now have the opportunity, if vigilantly enforced, to stop them.

And to prevent them. Now, we have to begin to look at what happens at the end of ten years, what happens at the end of 15 years. But this gives us time. It puts a lid on their nuclear weapons program. It allows us, frankly, David, to turn, to deal with some of their other very troubling behavior.

Their support of terrorism. Their constant support of Hezbollah and Hamas Their interference with the countries in the, their region from Yemen to others. So we've got other problems with Iran. This gives us the chance to keep that lid on their nuclear weapons program and to turn to build the same kinda coalition against them when it comes to their support for Assad and so much else.

DAVID MUIR: Back here at home, Donald Trump. I wanna read you something Jeb Bush has recently tweeted. "Can't wait for this summer reality TV show to be over."


DAVID MUIR: But is it a reality show? Or are we witnessing something real here?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, that's gonna be up to the Republicans and the Republican primaries to determine. You know, I'm always a little amused when people get into politics and they think that all you have to do is give speeches and the more colorful you are, the more dramatic, the more vehement you are that's leadership.

Well, in fact, if you're running to be president of the United States, you have to know every single day that people all over the world really pay attention to what you say. They make decisions, markets rise and fall, armies get bigger or smaller. Things happen with real consequences.

And if we have people whose view of leadership is the kind of rhetoric that gets, you know, lots of applause, gets lots of attention, then I think we sell ourselves short. So we have made the turn into the post-Labor Day period. And it's going to be up to the Republican voters who decide, you know, who they want to support.

DAVID MUIR: Do you think Donald Trump is just a leader of rhetoric and speeches?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, he won't tell you how he would do anything. You know, you try to question him about, "Okay, tell me, you wanna deport 11 or 12 million people. How are you gonna do that?" "Well, we're, you know, we're just gonna tell 'em to leave and then they can get in line to come back." You know, that's, that's hardly a policy.

DAVID MUIR: Something else he said, "That I will take care of women's health and women's health issues better than anybody. And far better than Hillary Clinton who doesn't have a clue."

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, that's just absurd It's laughable, if it weren't about a serious issue. Women's health is really an important issue to me, personally, as well as the work that I've done for many decades. And if that's his position, I look forward, if he is the nominee, to debating him about it.

DAVID MUIR: But privately, as you're traveling with your campaign team, I mean, when you hear something like that what's your first reaction?

HILLARY CLINTON:There he goes again. And I've addressed that. I raised that particular issue when I was in New Hampshire Saturday. And at the rally of Women for Hillary, where Senator Shaheen endorsed me. And, you know, we just look at each other, we just shrug.

I mean, it's just more of the same. And we're gonna be held to a high standard about, you know, what I would do as president. How I would do it. What policies I would promote. What's my vision. How do I get things done? Everybody else should be asked the same.

DAVID MUIR: We sat down with the pope just last week and he's made--

HILLARY CLINTON: I'm jealous. I wish I could've been there.

DAVID MUIR:It was extraordinary. Extraordinary. And he made news again today radically transforming the process for Catholics when it comes to divorce and annulment within the church, speaking of a more inclusive church. Fast-tracking the process. And I'm curious what you make of this pope and some of the changes he's making in the church.

HILLARY CLINTON: I am not a Catholic but I am a great admirer of the pope because I think what he's trying to do is to take this venerable institution, the Roman Catholic Church, and really, once again, place it on a firm foundation of the scriptures, of Christ's words.

One cannot read the Sermon on the Mount without thinking that we all have to be more humble. We all have to be more kind and respectful. We all have to try to do more to help our fellow men and women. And I think that the pope is emphasizing the words of Jesus Christ. Emphasizing the high priority given to the poor. The priority of caring for those who are in trouble. Whether they are on the side of the road or whether they are in prison. It's hard when you are in the world we live in to be as good a messenger of Christ's words--

DAVID MUIR: With the pa--

HILLARY CLINTON: --as we would like.

DAVID MUIR: With the partisan divide, though, in this country, is he going to make people feel uncomfortable during that joint meeting with Congress? That first ever joint meeting? He doesn't hold back.

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I think leaders of conscience, particularly leaders of faith, who say what they believe in their heart and what they are called to say often make people uncomfortable. And we need that. We need more of that. You know, the kind of mean-spiritedness that I see too much of in our politics, turning our backs on the poor.

Trying to prevent people from, you know, having the opportunities they need to have by cutting programs, by making college literally unaffordable for hardworking low income kids. There's a lot that's wrong in America. And it's not just wrong politically, it's really wrong in our hearts.

And I hope what the pope does is to prick the conscience of everyone. I'm not talking right, left, Republican, Democrat All of us have to do better. And if he can summon that heart of America. You know, de Tocqueville was absolutely right when he said, "What sets us apart in addition to the being the longest democracy, our Constitution and so much else, are the habits of the heart of Americans."

He noticed that way back in the 1830s. We've gotta be reminded of that. You know, that’s in large measure what the fight over the Confederate flag was about. Really? Do we need a symbol of divisiveness? A battle flag that was a symbol of racism to be flying on our state grounds? No, we don't. But there's so much else we can do better together. And I hope the pope really calls us to do that.

DAVID MUIR: And helps spur the conversation. Just a couple of light questions before you head back out on the campaign trail after us today. I understand you're a fan of House of Cards.


DAVID MUIR: I'm just curious who you relate to more, Robin Wright as First Lady or Kevin Spacey as Commander in Chief?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, honestly, neither. You know, I think I know enough about our political system and the vigilance of the press that neither of them would be in that position. But it's great drama and I-- they're just such superb actors.

DAVID MUIR: Charlotte turns one in just a couple of weeks.

HILLARY CLINTON: She does. She does.

DAVID MUIR: I'm curious, what is she going to call you when she starts talking?


DAVID MUIR: Is it Grandma Clinton? Is it--

HILLARY CLINTON:I don't know, David. We're waiting. You know, she doesn't talk yet. She makes lots of sounds. She's got a few words but I wanna wait to see what she does call me. Grandma's fine. Madame President's fine. Whatever she chooses.

DAVID MUIR: Uh-huh. She'll be talking before then, though. Well before then, right?

HILLARY CLINTON:Yes, she will. She will.

DAVID MUIR: She'll have to watch the process with you. And let me, let me finally end the interview by asking about something you made a reference to with Joe Biden. In talking about Joe Biden, you said it takes, it takes a lot to run for president.

Americans have watched you as First Lady, they watched you run for Senate, they watched you run for president the first time. You served as Secretary of State. And now you're running for president a second time. And I, I wanna know in your most private of moments, is there ever an instance when you ask yourself, "Why am I doing this again?"

HILLARY CLINTON: Yes. Of course. Because it really is hard. And it's, it's something that you know, just demands everything. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. It is just 24/7. And you have to be fully present. Everybody that I meet I want to give them my best.

So, yeah, at the end of a very long day you go, "Wow, this is really hard." But then you do a town hall in a place like Newton, Iowa. And a young mother stands up with her four-and-a-half-month old baby in her arms. And she said, "You know, why is it so hard being a mom in this country? I need paid leave. I, I don't wanna leave my baby too early."

I want other people to have the same opportunities. These are issues that I have fought for my entire adult life. I cherish and love this country. It gave me, you know, opportunities far beyond anything my mother or my father could have had. I wanna make sure that everybody has those same opportunities. Not just our granddaughter, the granddaughter of a former president. But every single child in America can feel what I felt. You know, yeah, do we have to do better? Do we have problems?

I grew up in the Civil Rights era. Of course we did. You know, we still have a long way to go. But no nation has ever done more to be more inclusive, to try to overcome the problems of human nature that we all are afflicted by. And I think that our nation deserves a president who will be focused on guiding us through the big problems we face. But also remembering, you know, what those people have told me all my life about the difficulties they encounter just trying to raise a family. Just trying to make it in America again. So it's hard but--

DAVID MUIR: So you do wake-up--

HILLARY CLINTON: --it's absolutely worth it.

DAVID MUIR: --you wake-up like the rest of us every once in a while and think--

HILLARY CLINTON: Yeah, it's hard.

DAVID MUIR: --"Am I really doing this again?"

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, yeah, of course. You know, I, I never, you know, I, I was a girl. I never thought I would run for president when I was growing up. I never thought I'd be in political life. I never really believed I'd run for anything. And it was a long journey to get me to agree to run for the Senate the first time. And it was a young woman who persuaded me when she basically embarrassed me by saying, you know, "You go around telling people to compete. Well, dare to compete, Mrs. Clinton." So I did.

DAVID MUIR: Is, is your mother's voice in your ear? And if so, what's--


DAVID MUIR: --give me the, give me one line that you repeat to yourself.

HILLARY CLINTON: You know, as, as you probably know, my mother had a terrible childhood. She was abandoned by her parents. She was rejected by her grandparents. She was literally working as a housemaid at the age of 14. And she told me every day, "You've gotta get up and fight for what you believe in no matter how hard it is."

And I think about her a lot. I miss her a lot. I wish she were here with me. And I remember that. And I don't wanna just fight for me. I don't, I mean, I can have a perfectly fine life not being president. I'm gonna fight for all the people like my mother who need somebody in their corner. And they need a leader who cares about them again. So that's what I'm gonna try to do.

DAVID MUIR: Are you having fun?

HILLARY CLINTON: I am. It's hard but it's fun. Most of the things that are hard in life are fun. And, you know, one of my great favorite lines from A League of Their Own when Tom Hanks, playing the broken down drunken coach, you know, confronts you know, the player that, you know, says, "Look, it's just so hard." And he says, "Supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, anybody could do it."

DAVID MUIR: Secretary Clinton, we thank you.


DAVID MUIR: See you on the trail.

HILLARY CLINTON: Yeah, you bet.

DAVID MUIR: Thank you. Thank you.

HILLARY CLINTON: Look forward to it.

DAVID MUIR: That's excellent. Thank you.


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