Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonAmbassador's sister: I don't blame Clinton for Benghazi Clinton to Trump supporters: 'Don’t look for easy answers' Seven key findings in the Benghazi report MORE slammed the GOP field on immigration, defended her use of a private email server while secretary of State and pushed back at suggestions she is distrusted by large portions of the public in her inaugural national TV interview as a 2016 presidential candidate.
Clinton moved back and forth from offense to defense during the approximately 20-minute interview, saving her strongest comments for GOP candidate Donald TrumpDonald TrumpDem Suozzi wins NY primary to replace Israel Dems separated by 29 votes in NY House primary Sanders-backed candidate wins NY House primary MORE, whose assertions that illegal immigrants from Mexico were “rapists” bringing drugs and crime to the U.S. have created a political firestorm.
Clinton also criticized former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s approach to immigration, linking him and the rest of the GOP field to Trump.
“Well, he doesn’t believe in a path to citizenship. If he did at one time, he no longer does. And so pretty much they’re … on a spectrum of, you know, hostility … all the way to kind of grudging acceptance but refusal to go with a pathway to citizenship.”
The remarks were clearly a play for the support of Hispanic voters, with whom the Democratic Party has enjoyed a considerable advantage in recent presidential elections.
The most tense moments of the interview — and Clinton’s most defensive tone — came when Keilar asked her about her use of a private email server during her time at the State Department.
Clinton insisted that that “everything I did was permitted” and that “I didn’t have to turn over anything.”
Under further challenge from Keilar, Clinton shot back: “You know, you’re starting with so many assumptions. … Again, let’s take a deep breath here. Everything I did was permitted by law and regulation. I had one device. When I mailed anybody in the government, it would go into the government system.”
On the broader issue of her trustworthiness, Clinton sought to dismiss recent polls that show a large number of voters saying she’s dishonest. She blamed the “constant barrage of attacks,” which she said had “largely been fomented by, and coming from, the right,” for dragging her numbers down.
“I have every confidence that during the course of this campaign, people will know who will fight for them when they need them, and that’s the person who I am and what I will do if I am president,” she said.
At another point she insisted starkly: “People should and do trust me.”
Clinton repeatedly alluded to “unfounded” attacks against her, but didn’t specify which attacks she believed were unfair. She did appear to allude at one point to the book Clinton Cash, which alleges her family’s foundation took millions of dollars from foreign entities that could have benefited from decisions she made at the State Department.
“People write books filled with these kinds of unsubstantiated attacks and even admit they have no evidence, but of course it’s your job to cover it so of course it’s going to raise questions in people’s minds,” Clinton said to Keilar. “But during the course of this campaign, just as in my two prior campaigns, I have a lot of confidence that the American people can sort it all out.”
Clinton fiercely defended the Clinton Foundation but sought to diminish the time she spent there, saying she played a “very small role” over the course of about “a year and a half.”
“It produced results,” Clinton said. “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.”
Clinton took a question about the rise of Vermont Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFormer Gillibrand aide wins NY House primary Sanders-backed candidate wins NY House primary The Trail 2016: 11 hours, 800 pages, 0 changed minds MORE (I) in stride, saying she “always thought this would be a competitive race.”
Sanders, her closest rival for the Democratic nomination, has been attracting huge crowds to his events and eroding Clinton’s massive leads in the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire. On Monday, Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri called Sanders “a serious force” that her team is worried about.
But on Tuesday, Clinton touted the strength of her organization in Iowa, where she continues to lead Sanders by more than 20 points, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls.
“I feel very good about where we are in Iowa. We are signing up thousands of volunteers, people committed to caucus for us. We have a committed supporter in every one of the 1,600 precincts, and one of things that I learned last time is … organize, organize, organize,” Clinton said. “You’ve got to get people committed and then you bring more people. So I feel very good about where my campaign is.”
Clinton’s 2008 bid for the presidency went into a tailspin from which it never really recovered after she finished third in the Iowa caucuses behind then-rivals Barack Obama and John Edwards.
Updated at 8:14 p.m.