Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and 2016 presidential candidate, responded with laughter on Tuesday to assertions by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh that she played a role in the political maelstrom that unfurled from allegations of sexual assault against him.
"In his extraordinary presentation in the Senate, Brett Kavanaugh said that the 'political hit job' directed at him was being done on behalf of the Clintons, among other people," Jeffrey Goldberg, editor-in-chief of The Atlantic, said to Clinton during an event. "Your response?"
Clinton paused, laughing loudly with the audience at The Atlantic Festival, and said, "I mean, really, yes, it deserves a lot of laughter."
"I thought it was just part of the whole -- of his very defensive and unconvincing presentation. And I told someone later, 'Boy, I will tell you -- they give us a lot of credit. Thirty-six years ago, we started this against him,'" she said, referring to California professor Christine Blasey Ford's allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while the two were in high school more than three decades ago.
It was Clinton's first public comments on the matter since Kavanaugh and Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
During his time as a deputy to independent counsel Ken Starr, Kavanaugh pushed questioning then-president Bill Clinton about graphic details concerning his sexual relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky, according to a memo.
"This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars in money from outside, left-wing opposition groups," he said in his opening statement.
Clinton called Kavanaugh's behavior "quite out of bounds," and joked about knowing what the pressure of testifying before the Senate is like.
"I don't ever remember anything like that, as somebody who has testified under difficult circumstances," Clinton said, to laughter from the audience. In 2015, she faced 11 hours of questioning before the House Select Committee on Benghazi to answer questions about a 2012 terrorist attack while she was secretary of state.
"You were never so emotional," Goldberg said.
"Well, look, for 11 hours, you couldn't have been," she replied. "But for whatever period of time -- there is something you seek in judges, of a judicious temperament. People who are able to discipline themselves, to be open to the evidence, wherever it might lead, to be fair to all the litigants who are appearing before them. I am a recovering lawyer. I used to practice law. And I was in different kinds of courts. And this was quite unusual, what we saw the other day. And certainly, the senators should on both sides of the aisle take that into account."
Clinton also spoke about the president, who, as she put it in a recent essay for The Atlantic, "won enough Electoral College votes to become president of the United States." Clinton won the popular vote by around 3 million votes.
In discussing her essay, "American Democracy Is in Crisis," and the new epilogue to her book, "What Happened," she described what she sees as Trump's efforts to undermine national unity, "pitting us versus them."
Asked if she thinks Trump is a racist, Clinton said, "I think he has thrown his lot in with many people and groups whose stated objective is white nationalism, white supremacy. I mean, how could you explain what he did, and why, after Charlottesville?"
She called Charlottesville "one of the most troubling episodes in this presidency." Goldberg pushed Clinton on how to define Trump, then, as someone who "consorts with racists, takes advantage of racists to elevate him ... How do you define this?"
"Well," Clinton continued, "what he is doing is broader even than that, because he has been racist, he has been sexist, he has been Islamophobic, he has been anti-LGBTQ. There is a long list."
That said, she added that it wasn't "useful" to say "we have figured it out, this is who he is" because "he has a view of America that is incredibly constricted. He talks to that America. He talks to them all the time. It is by no means a majority, as we know. But it is a very hard core who are responding to him and supporting him for a variety of reasons. Whatever they might be -- economic reasons, Supreme Court reasons, or some of these other more troubling biases and prejudices."
Another headliner of the first day of the festival was Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president and an integral part of his 2016 victory as campaign manager. She described the president as "lots of fun and a great boss, particularly to the women in the White House."
"And those who don't want to believe that don't have to, but why else would I be there?" Conway added.
Conway also rehashed comments she made on CNN in the days after the Kavanaugh and Ford testimonies, when she said she's a victim of sexual assault. She declined to go into further detail, but said the decision to publicly reveal her experience was not planned ahead of time and wasn't "newly revealed where it matters."
"As I said during the same TV appearance, I'll repeat myself, I have great empathy for victims of sexual assault, sexual harassment, rape and the like. And I want everyone to hear the full sentence. I didn't say I'm a victim of sexual assault and leave it there. I said, but I don't hold responsible Brett Kavanaugh or Jake Tapper, who happened to be sitting there or Jeff Flake ... The people who should be held responsible are the perpetrators," Conway said.
Conway also warned against politicizing sexual assault, a point she also made in the CNN interview.
"We can't judge people's harm or grief or impact or experiences," Conway added, "based on their politics."