TRANSCRIPT: ABC News Anchor David Muir Interviews Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine
— -- On Monday, September 5, 2016, ABC News "World News Tonight" anchor David Muir interviewed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and running mate Tim Kaine.
The following is a transcript of the interview:
MUIR: It’s Labor Day as we mentioned, 63 days to go until Election Day. And you mentioned Donald Trump in this country, Secretary Clinton, and people know he wants to build a wall, tough on immigration, he has called himself the ‘law and order’ candidate. I’m curious, when a voter is asked what Hillary Clinton stands for, with 63 days to go, what do you hope they’ll say?
CLINTON: I hope what they’ll say is that I stand for the kind of future that will help them and their families. In fact, Tim and I are issuing a book today because we care so much about voters knowing-- we want to get the economy to work for everyone, not just those at the top, we’re going to make college affordable and help people pay back their debt. We’re going to help people balance family and work, something that I care passionately about, because it’s really hard for young families. We’re going to keep America safe and we’re going to lead steadiness and strength and unify our country.
MUIR: We sit here in Ohio, key battleground, and we’ve seen the ads in these battleground states. They start with I’m Hillary Clinton and I approve this message and the rest of the ad is entirely about Donald Trump. Are you making this about Donald Trump?
CLINTON: No David, I think that if you’ve seen all of our ads, we have a lot of very positive ads. We have an ad running about my vision for jobs, something Tim and I care a lot about. Half a billion more solar panels, it’s jobs in manufacturing, jobs in infrastructure, jobs in clean energy. So we have a positive agenda. In fact that’s what this book is about, anyone who’s interested can follow it.
The best I can tell is Donald Trump is for building a big wall, which we now know after his unfortunate trip to Mexico. The Mexicans have said they’re not paying for it. And he’s for tax cuts that would only help millionaires and billionaires and would actually cost Americans three and a half million jobs. We’re at that point in the campaign where people have a choice and we think it’s a very stark choice between what we represent and what we will do to help America and the very dangerous tract that he is on.
MUIR: You talk about the trip to Mexico, Donald Trump said they did not discuss who would pay for that wall. The Mexican president afterward said they did discuss it and that Mexico would not pay for it. Your campaign said, ‘It turns out Tump didn’t just choke, he got beat in the room and lied about it.’ Is that what you believe?
CLINTON: Well, that’s what it sounded like, because what happens is what we call a diplomatic incident, because he came out saying one thing and the Mexican president contradicted him almost immediately. So it is clear that he went down with a mission, it’s been the mission of his whole campaign, from the very first day, to demonize immigrants to call mexicans rapists and criminals, to do everything he could to stir up all kinds of bad feelings about hard working people. And he didn’t raise it, so he did choke. He didn’t know how to even communicate effectively with a head of state and I think that’s a pretty clear outcome from that trip.
KAINE: David, if I could just say, HIllary’s been secretary of state, and I’m on the foreign relations committee in the senate. This is a centerpiece of Donald Trump’s entire campaign, so even if you just take him at his words, he walked into a meeting with an issue that was just front and center to his whole campaign, when he looked the president of Mexico in the eye he couldn’t bring up the issue about the wall and that he was gonna force Mexico to pay for it. You can’t cave when you are with an ally, if you are gonna cave when you are with an ally, and Mexico is an ally, what are you gonna do when you are with an adversary?
MUIR: But the Trump team will say, listen, there was an agreement that we wouldn’t go there, we wouldn’t talk about the cost of the wall, and who is gonna pay for it.
KAINE: I just find that pretty much impossible to believe. It’s the kind of thing that’s just, it’s a rookie mistake. And you shouldn’t leave the safety of America and our diplomacy in the hands of a rookie who on his one visit with a foreign leader has already created kind of an international embarrassment for us.
MUIR: Secretary Clinton, the Mexican president has invited you. Will you travel to Mexico before Election Day?
CLINTON: David, I have met with the president. My campaign team, my top national security advisors are in contact with not only his staff and ambassador but really people representing a lot of countries around the world. So, I am going to continue to focus on what we are doing to create jobs here at home, what we are doing to make sure Americans have the best possible opportunities in the future.
MUIR: So no trip before Election Day?
MUIR: You’ve made a handful of appearances in the last couple of weeks. It seemed to the media at least there were more visits with donors than with voters. We did see Donald Trump out there, about 20 different appearances, among them the trip to Louisiana after the floods, the trip to Mexico, and I’m just curious, is the Trump campaign out-campaigning you right now?
CLINTON: No. Not at all. We had such a successful convention in July, and we came out of that convention with an enormous amount of energy and enthusiasm. I was with the American Legion last week. I’m here in Ohio. I’ll go onto Iowa. We are now in full campaign mode, all the way to and through Election Day. And I feel very good about the organization we’ve built. We have a team in every state. We have more than 400 offices. We have more than a million volunteers. And we have 10 million more people somehow connected with our campaign. So we’ve been building very steadily over the course of the last months, and I’m very, very happy with where our campaign is.
MUIR: You talked about momentum coming out of the convention, making history and joining the ticket. The polls afterward showed, you know, a convention bounce. But they have tightened significantly in recent days? What do you account for that?
HRC: David, I’ve always said this is going to be a close race. That’s the story of modern presidential elections, that’s why I don’t want any of your viewers or any American taking anything for granted. We sure aren’t. We’re going to reach out to everybody we possibly can. That’s why we have this book out there and we hope people will buy it because if you have any questions about what we stand for, I’d love to see Donald Trump put out something similar--
KAINE: Right. You can get answers from us.
CLINTON: Yeah. You can get answers for what we stand for, how we will pay for it, who we’re fighting for. And so I know these are always tough. I feel good about our organization but we’re just going to work as hard as we can between now and election day.
MUIR: On those trips, those recent trips Donald Trump tweeted, ‘Hillary Clinton didn't go to Louisiana, she didn’t go to Mexico, she doesn’t have the drive or stamina to make America great again.’ He goes on to say, ‘Does she look presidential, fellas? Give me a break.’
KAINE: Well can I just-- ’Does she look presidential, fellas?’ That’s an idiotic comment from Donald Trump.
I got added to this ticket about 11, 12 weeks, 100 days from the election. This great public servant has been on the field for 17 or 18 months. It’s hard to keep up with her. The day he tweeted out, ‘Hillary didn’t come to Mexico does she have the energy?’ She was here in Ohio talking to the American Legion. And he was making light of that, suggesting that, oh that’s not energetic enough to go talk to one of America’s preeminent veterans group. We are working very hard, Hillary Clinton is-- and look, Hillary Clinton has been willing to share with the American public all the information about her health in a way that Donald Trump won’t. All the information about her taxes in a way that Donald Trump won’t. So that kind of a tweet shows just a character that isn’t fit to be in the office.
MUIR: But Secretary Clinton, when he gets to your stamina and what his surrogates have said about your health. You’re 68 years old, he’s 70 years old. The New York Times has looked at both of your campaigns and has said in recent years compared to other presidential candidates both of you could release more when it comes to your medical records. Do you think the American public deserves to hear more about both of your medical histories?
CLINTON: Well David, first let me say that what we have released is commensurate with what others who have been nominated for president have release. And we followed closely what the format was, we put out the information. We now have the doctor who signed his letter basically saying he did it in five minutes, because the ‘limousine was waiting.’ It is devoid of information.
MUIR: You don’t think his doctor’s credible?
CLINTON: I’ll -- I’m just telling you what he had said. I don’t know anything about the gentleman. But I’m telling you what he said, which is that he did it in five minutes while the ‘limousine was waiting.’
And look, it’s what Tim said. I’ve released 40 plus years of tax returns. He hasn’t released any. I think that’s a big question mark that people need to ask themselves. Why wouldn’t he? What does he have to hide that he won’t release his tax returns? And every time he says, ‘well I can’t, you know, I’m under audit.’ We know that’s, that’s just fallacious. You can release your tax returns. The IRS has said that. Other people have done it. So, there’s a lot there that he will not level with the American people about. And I think it’s fair for people in the press, and we will certainly in the campaign, to keep asking those questions.
MUIR: You talked about building the wall a moment ago, and I’m sure your book talks about how you will move forward on immigration. But Senator Kaine, I wanted to ask you about something one of Donald Trump’s top surrogates said in the last 24 hours. Rudy Giuliani said that Donald Trump doesn’t wanna break up immigrant families. He said Trump would, ‘find it very difficult to throw out a family that’s been here for 15 years, and they have children, some of whom are citizens. That’s not the kind of America Donald Trump wants.’ Is he moving in your direction on this?
KAINE: Rudy Giuliani said that, but that’s not what Donald Trump said in Phoenix last week, you know? He-- people were waiting to see if he would pivot. Instead, he got up on stage and in the harshest terms possible, right in the opening minutes, they’ll be gone. ‘They’ll be gone,’ is what he said. People characterize that speech as it’s gonna be deportation nation under Donald Trump. Deportation of the 11 million who are here without documents.
And because he wants to take away citizenship of children who were born here to parents with documents, that number swells to 16 million. Trying to turn us into a deportation nation of 16 million people would be an absolute disaster. We want to have a comprehensive immigration reform that will deal with all kinds of issues from a path for hardworking citizens to earn their way to citizenship if they are here, to border security, to helping employers. But this notion of deporting 16 million people, it will make us weaker not stronger. And he hasn’t changed one bit.
CLINTON: I think that’s really important, David, it’s clear his advisors are scrambling to try to present a new and different Donald Trump. But the fact is, there is no new or different Donald Trump. What he has said about immigration from the first day of his campaign to that speech in Phoenix, is consistent. A deportation force to round up 16 million people to get rid of them, now he says it in a slightly different way, they would have to leave before they come back. Well, how do they leave? I mean this is the kind of games that he’s playing.
He won the Republican nomination in large measure because he appealed to people who were quite attracted to that message. The big wall that Mexico is going to pay for, which we now know is a sham, and deportation, which they are trying to somehow soften and move away from. You know, Maya Angelou said it so well, ‘When someone shows you who he, is believe him.’ Trump has shown us repeatedly who he is, and what he would do if he were president and that includes deporting 16 million people.
MUIR: But we’ve seen presidential candidates pivot or move in the general election--
CLINTON: He gave a speech in Phoenix. It was just as harsh, just as bullying and bombastic as any of his other speeches. It was in front of a crowd of people who cheered him on because they love that message, but his advisors look and say you know, there aren’t enough of those people to get you elected. So let’s do a little bob-and-weave here, to pretend that what you’ve said for 14 months is not what you mean and we’ll speak for you because we can’t really trust you to speak for yourself.
KAINE: And remember, David, some were thinking that speech was gonna be a change, he had met with the Hispanic advisory council group, they were hoping it would be a change, but after he spoke some of the members of that advisory group have said we are distancing ourselves from the campaign, because it’s clear he is not going to change.
CLINTON: This is the centerpiece, the centerpiece of his campaign. From that very first day when he so shockingly accused mexicans immigrants of being rapists and criminals, when he questioned the credibility of a federal judge born in Indiana of Mexican heritage, those of kinds of comments and attacks that he has made consistently have placed him where he is today.
He’s got the support of those who unfortunately, I think, have been misled by him. But they supported him, and they still do, and when he gets in front of a crowd, like he did in Phoenix, it doesn’t matter what Rudy Giuliani or anybody else says, he’s gonna say what he thinks and what he believes, and it that’s what people believe, they’ve got the same Donald Trump from the very beginning.
MUIR: Let me ask you about your emails.
MUIR: It was a year ago, Secretary Clinton, you sat across from me and you said not only it was a mistake--
MUIR: But that you were sorry--
MUIR: A year later, we sit together again and the issue hasn’t gone away. The FBI just released documents on its own investigation into your emails and you are aware that in the report you told FBI investigators that you were either unaware or misunderstood some of the classification procedures. We also read about an aide who got rid of old Blackberries using a hammer, taking a hammer to a Blackberry. When Americans hear that do you think that feeds into what the FBI director said when he said about you that you were extremely careless with your emails?
CLINTON: Well, I hope not, because I take classification very seriously. Always have. Ever since I was on the Senate Armed Services Committee some years ago. And what I want people to understand is really two things. I take responsibility, I have learned that trying to explain what happened made it sound to some people like I was trying to excuse it. There are no excuses. I take responsibility, I made a mistake, I’ve apologized and obviously I wish I could do differently what happened. I certainly would never do that again.
With respect to classification, on classified documents there is what’s called a header. It says this material is top secret, secret or confidential. There were no headers on the thousands of emails that I sent or received, there just weren’t and the FBI has not in any way contradicted that. There were a couple of emails with a tiny C in a parenthesis, which did not have a header saying that means confidential in this circumstance and which the director of the FBI has said, and the state department has said, those couple of emails were improperly marked even with that. So yes, I take classification seriously and I think the record shows that I have.
MUIR: But authorities say that C stood for confidential.
CLINTON: Well, but the C--this is very arcane for most people. There was no header that the document that the little C appeared in was marked confidential, which is the lowest form of classification.
MUIR: So what you’re saying, it was deeper in the email.
CLINTON: Oh, of course. Absolutely. And that’s what the director said and what the state department said is that those couple of documents -- we’re talking about two three documents out of thousands of documents -- were improperly marked. In other words, that should not have even been on it.
So I’m glad that the FBI has released this material. Our campaign called for them to release it. Because we didn't want selective cherry picking and leaks coming from Republicans on the Hill. We wanted people to be able to see it and at the end of all of their investigation the FBI concluded there was no basis for any further action.
MUIR: The director also though you were extremely careless. Do you agree with him?
CLINTON: Well, I respectfully disagree because what that really comes down to is whether material that was not marked classified in someone else’s opinion in retrospect should have been. And I think the people in the state department, professionals with lots of experience and expertise who were handling this material and sending it to me, they made their best judgements.
KAINE: David, I think just real quick, an important-- two important things about that FBI report that came out was, it was a lengthy report that basically demonstrates why they did not think this was a matter that deserved any additional steps, any additional action, first. And second, the report only came out because Hillary said, well look, if Congress wants it, let the American public see it. Contrast that, give this to the American public, with what the American public has been asking of Donald Trump for months now: commit to do what you promised to do in 2014. If you run for president, he said, if I run, I promise I’ll release tax returns.
And so this is out there because Hillary said put it out there, let the American public see it. It explains what the FBI thought, that no additional steps were needed. And it’s in sharp contrast with Donald Trump, who had promised to give tax returns and is refusing to do that.
CLINTON: But having said all that, and I obviously agree with Tim. Look, I have absolutely no doubt that, you know, what I did has raised questions for people. And I deeply regret that. And that’s why I said there’s no excuses. I took responsibility a year ago. I take responsibility today. I made a mistake. I’ve apologized for it. And I’m just happy it’s over, because that’s, you know, the end of what’s been, you know, a very difficult period.
MUIR: Senator Kaine, let me ask you though, what would you say to American voters who have heard Secretary Clinton apologize -- sitting across from me a year ago -- and her explanation here today, but who still find her untrustworthy? You have 63 days to go. How do you change voters’ perceptions?
KAINE: I know Hillary Clinton, and I know I can count on her as our next president. And I meet people all over the country who’ve worked with her since before she was first lady of Arkansas. And they’ve worked with her on child welfare issues or programs in the Senate. I talked to Republican senators who worked with her when she was an Armed Services Committee member. They know they can count on Hillary Clinton.
MUIR: Can you name names?
KAINE: I have a son in the military who is deployed overseas right now. I care very, very deeply about who the next commander in chief is. I completely count and trust Hillary Clinton to be a great commander in chief and to make the right decisions for the country. And the prospect of Donald Trump making those decisions about the life of my kid and millions of serve scares me to death.
CLINTON: Well I also would add, and Tim has a very personal stake in who our next commander in chief is, we’ve been endorsed by more than 50 national security professionals. Both who served in Democratic and Republican administrations. More than 50 generals and admirals who have all said the same thing, that they do trust me, they count on me, they have faith in me and they do not believe that Donald Trump is temperamentally fit to be president or commander in chief.
And I think, David, some of this is because, as Tim has pointed out, we really know so little about Donald Trump. We see the guy on TV firing people, and we see the guy running for president standing in front of crowds. We don’t see his tax returns, we don’t get details about the 650 million dollars he owes to foreign banks and interests. We are now faced with our own national security and intelligence community saying there are credible reports that Putin and the Kremlin are actually interfering with our election. And we know that Trump has adopted Putin’s talking points, getting out of NATO, kind of being a very big booster of Putin, talking about a lot of the ways that he agrees with Putin on Ukraine. He didn’t even know Putin invaded Crimea. The financial entanglement that many people believe he has with Russian interests.
I mean, this is serious stuff. And, yet, we don’t have information, because Trump won’t provide it. He won’t-- the press asks, the public asks, and it’s very troubling. Now there is a credible investigation going on that Russia is trying to influence our election.
MUIR: Let me ask you, we read that in the Washington Post, the reporting the last 24 hours, that there could possibly be some sort of Russian operation, hackers, trying to interfere with the upcoming election here in America. Should voters be concerned about this?
CLINTON: Yes, voters should be concerned about this. We never faced something like this. We know, based on our own intelligence analysis, that the Russians were behind the hack of the DNC and the providing of information for it to be disclosed from the DNC.
What I found very troubling but also revealing is when Putin was specifically asked that, he didn’t deny it. He said, well it’s good the information got out. Which, having dealt with Putin, I took as an admission.
CLINTON: Because there is no doubt in my mind, given the close relationships between certain people, present and past in Trump’s campaign, with Russian interests all the way up to Putin himself, that there is something going on. And every American should be concerned about Russia doing anything to try to tilt and influence our election.
KAINE: And David remember just how serious this is, I mean as a nation, we once had a presidential candidate who like Donald Trump encouraged crooks to undertake espionage against the DNC in a presidential year to gain an edge in an election and that led to the impeachment and resignation of that presidential candidate, President Nixon. So when Donald Trump goes publicly, not privately, publicly and encourages Russia to engage in cyber attacks against the DNC or anybody to come up with material that he can use to gain an edge in an election, it’s got an eerie similarity to a very painful chapter in our history.
MUIR: Secretary Clinton, I have to ask about the Clinton Foundation. You said the Clinton Foundation would have no influence when you were secretary of state but newly released state department emails obtained by ABC showed direct contact between leaders of the Clinton Foundation and top aides when you were secretary of state. In one instance, a top foundation official offers names for a state department lunch when the president of China, another asking for a seat at the vice president’s table. Does that not sound like special access to you?
CLINTON: No. It doesn’t, David. I’m very proud of the work that the Clinton Foundation has done. It’s a world renown charity because of the work that my husband started and many many people helped him with.
Eleven and a half million people in the world get HIV/AIDS medicine at an affordable rate, the cost of the drugs to treat and prevent malaria has been dropped by 90 percent. And here in our own country, thanks to the work of the Clinton Foundation we are getting the cost and the availability of the drugs that reverse heroin overdoses more widely distributed and trying to get them into every high school in America.
This charity was highly praised by leading Republicans, from George W. Bush to Mitt Romney to John McCain, because of the work it's done here at home and around the world. And you know we have an open door in the government. We want to hear from people. I thought it was really good that we would hear from people like the late Elie Wiesel, but did he also support the foundation? Yes he did. Or Melinda Gates. Yes she did. Or Muhammad Yunus the Nobel Prize winning economist and humanitarian. Yes.
So I feel very good about the work of the foundation. I feel very good about my service as secretary of state. No decision I ever made was influenced by anybody. What I made a decision was based on what was good for the United States, what was good for our values, our interests and our security and the state department has confirmed, there is no evidence of any such influence at all.
MUIR: Even the Trump campaign has said the Clinton Foundation did good work. Donald Trump was a donor himself. But I’m just curious about the American voters who request to sit with Vice President Biden or to have a seat at lunch with the president of China.
CLINTON: People stop you all the-- people stop you on the street.
KAINE: I get that in my senate office too. People are very interested in these kinds of things.
CLINTON: And if somebody knew somebody who knew somebody who’d never been to China, they might want to come to the lunch. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t treat anybody who said something like that respectfully. It doesn’t mean that they got it either. So, there’s no evidence.
And, let’s look at the Trump foundation that was just fined by the IRS for its behavior, another area that nobody is paying adequate attention to. The Clinton Foundation has just been judged by an independent watchdog called the Charity Navigator to have the highest score that they give. That’s the third such independent watchdog. You have the Trump Foundation so called, being fined by the IRS for taking foundation resources and making a $25,000 contribution to the attorney general of Florida when she was about to investigate Trump University.
KAINE: And then reporting that donation as it was to a charity rather than it was to the attorney general of Florida, masking what the intent of the donation was. It’s illegal and they had to pay a fine for it.
CLINTON: It’s flatly illegal and all these questions about the Clinton Foundation, I am more than happy to answer. But I do hope that people will take a look at what the foundation has done, what charitable enterprises it’s involved in, made clear that there is a great deal of good work that has been the work of the foundation. And that no decision I made was influenced by anything other than doing what was best for the United States. And contrast that with Mr. Trump and his activities.
MUIR: Former President Bill Clinton has said he would step down if you were elected president. Do you think he should step down now, as some have suggested?
CLINTON: No. I do not. I mean, look--
MUIR: You don’t think that would send a message to people who are concerned about possible conflicts of interest?
CLINTON: First of all, I don’t think there are conflicts of interest. I know that that’s what has been alleged and never proven. But, nevertheless, I take it seriously.
The foundation is working through a very delicate process to be able to find people, find partners, organizations, to continue its work. I don’t want those eleven and a half million people getting low cost AIDS drugs to be cut off. I don’t want the project to get the antidote to heroin overdose to stop. There’s so much work that I personally think is life-saving work, life-changing work, so the foundation has announced it’s in the midst of a process. My husband is instrumental to that. He started this great work. He has made it his life’s work after the presidency and he has said, if I am so fortunate to be elected, he will not be involved. And I think that is appropriate.
MUIR: I know we sit here in Ohio, you’ve got to run, you are here in a battle ground one the last question for you, the debate is 20 days away, the first one.
CLINTON: Yes. So I hear.
MUIR: Are you nervous?
CLINTON: Well, I’m certainly focused because, you know, Donald Trump announces he won every debate in the Republican primary, I take that very seriously. I’m going to be as well-prepared as I can to make my case to the American people.
MUIR: Who’s playing Donald Trump?
CLINTON: Oh, we are working hard to get me prepared, that’s the most important piece of this.
MUIR: Any names we would know?
CLINTON: I’m sorry this is, you know, this is above my paygrade.
MUIR: Donald Trump has said about you and the debates, I know how to handle Hillary, do you know how to handle Trump?
CLINTON: Well, we’ll see won’t we, on September 26th. I think it’ll be quite the show for people to tune into and I hope 100 million or so will do.
MUIR: And Senator Kaine, let’s say we are backstage right now at that first debate, what do you say to Secretary Clinton as she walks out into that stage?
KAINE: You know, I don’t need to coach her, but I tell you this, the American public is gonna see a vast difference, this is an election about-- between a person who really is the best-qualified nominee to be president in a very long time, possibly ever, and somebody who’s basically coming in with a campaign of division and without the judgement to do the job, and America is gonna see that and I think American voters, having seen that, are gonna be very well equipped to make the right choice and support Hillary to be president.
CLINTON: And David, if I could just conclude, and invite viewers starting tomorrow to pick up a copy of our blueprint for America’s future because what tim and I wanna do in the administration is embodied in this book and we believe in telling the American people what we want to achieve the results we hope to get if we are given the great honor of serving.
MUIR: Secretary Clinton, Senator Kaine, thank you. We wish you a safe journey on the trail.
CLINTON: Thank you very much David.
KAINE: Thanks David. Appreciate it.