Hillary Clinton sought to make Jeb Bush and the entire Republican pay for the sins of Donald Trump in her first national television interview of her second presidential campaign.
“They range across a spectrum of being either grudgingly welcome or hostile towards immigrants,” she told CNN of the vast – and still growing – field of 2016 GOP presidential candidates during a break between campaign events in Iowa.
But Clinton spoke in more specific detail about Donald Trump, whose incendiary recent comments on Mexican immigrants have led to almost a dozen companies to cut ties to the businessman. “I’m very disappointed in those comments and I feel very bad and very disappointed with him,” said Clinton of Trump, who has donated to her past campaigns. And in 2005, Clinton even attended Trump’s wedding to his current wife Melania Knauss.
Clinton added that she was disappointed “with the Republican Party for not responding immediately [to Trump] and saying enough, stop it. But they are all in the, you know, in the same general area on immigration,” she said.Trump has been ranking in the top tier of recent polls of the 2016 Republican presidential field and is poised to potentially make the cutoff for the party’s first debates later this summer. Her comments were a clear attempt to lump all Republicans in with Trump, whose toxic comments have been disowned even by some Republicans.
Clinton has been calling out Trump in recent campaign stops, elevating him as a means to paint the entire GOP field as extremist.
She wasn’t much kinder towards former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the GOP frontrunner who has been more amendable to immigration in the past. “He doesn’t believe in a path to citizenship. If he did at one time he no longer does,” she said.
Bush’s campaign spokesperson Emily Benavides responded to Clinton’s criticism in a statement released on Tuesday. ”Hillary Clinton has once again changed her position on an issue for politically expedient purposes,” Benavides said before faulting her in part for failing to pass immigration reform as a senator. “Hillary Clinton will say anything to get elected and her numerous flip-flops on immigration prove it,” she added.
As for herself, Clinton reiterated: “I am 100% behind comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship.”
Much of the interview focused on controversies that have dogged Clinton for months, and people familiar with the campaign’s thinking say the tough interview may clear the backlog of these thorny issues before Clinton begins to roll out bigger policy issues later this summer.
On her exclusive use of a private email account as secretary of state, Clinton said, “everything I did was permitted.”
“There was no law, there was no regulation, there was nothing that did not give me the full authority to decide how I was going to communicate,” she said.
Federal regulations did make it clear that the government favors employees using an official .gov email account, but regulations mandating it did not go into effect until after Clinton left the State Department. Still, several experts have called her email habits unusual.
Clinton also defended the decision to delete over 30,000 pages of emails after turning over everything she deemed work-related to the State Department. Clinton said that is standard practice and that she went “above and beyond what was expected of me.”
She also briefly addressed another controversial topic, donations to her family’s charitable foundation. “I have no plans to say or do anything about The Clinton Foundation other than to say how proud I am of it and that I think for the good of the world, its work should continue,” she said.
The Clinton Foundation was started by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who has said he might step down from the charity if his wife won the presidential nomination.
The Democratic presidential candidate said that she’s not worried about polls showing large portions of Americans saying they don’t think she’s honest and trustworthy, thanks in part to these controversies. “People should and do trust me,” she said.
She blamed any lack of trust on the “constant barrage of attacks” on her and her husband that she said have been fomented by Republicans for decades. “I was elected twice against the same kind onslaught,” she said.
She added that the controversies are being “being blown up with no basis in law or in fact” and “used by Republicans in Congress.”