Hillary Clinton on ‘Campaign HQ with David Plouffe’

We have transcribed parts of two segments of a David Plouffe podcast (alternative link) featuring a Hillary Clinton interview. The segments provide critical context for a fact check conducted by fact-checking organization Lead Stories.

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We have underlined references to Russian election interference for our readers’ convenience. Mistakes in the transcript belong to Zebra Fact Check and we will eagerly correct any brought to our attention (see the “Report an Error” button on the right sidebar).

Segment one, starting at about 12:34

DP

How concerned are you that what happened in ’16, the disinformation, the lies, some suppression, that now you have an incumbent president, well-funded, who’s probably more obsessed with re-election than any president we’ve ever had–they’ve all had a passing interested in getting re-elected–

HRC

Right.

DP

But clearly putting press(ure) on our allies. Do you think there’s a chance they could perfect this in this election cycle? And what do we do about that?

HRC

I think they are perfecting it as we speak, David. You know, I’ve told all the candidates I’ve spoken with, and I’ve spoken to–I mean there are so many of them, but I’ve spoken to a majority of them, I’ve said look, you can run the best campaign, you can have the best plans, you could get the nomination, and you could lose. Because of four factors. Number one, voter suppression, and purging. We need to marry those up because people don’t understand the many millions of voters who were purged between 2012 and 2016 and the purging goes on. The theft of material, through hacking, cyberwarfare, and then the weaponization of that information. The actual propaganda on social media, you know, the phony news studios in Macedonia and Ukraine and St. Petersburg, they’re pumping phony stories about me dying and Pope Francis endorsing Trump on a, you know, hourly basis. And people believe it because they’ve been able to get enough data points about enough Americans to be able to profile those who would be vulnerable to hearing these kinds of totally false stories. And then actual interference in the election. You know, we, we don’t really know to what extent the election was interfered in because nobody will look for it. We do know that, in Florida, a lot more happened than has been admitted publicly. A member of Congress, a Democrat from Florida, Stephanie Murphy, wrote a really chilling piece in I think the Washington Post where she said she went with a Republican colleague to be briefed by the FBI, and it was terrifying, and then the FBI said you can’t tell anybody. So we know, we know the Russians were in at least four systems, we know we’re really vulnerable every hack-a-thon that happens, you know, 10-year-olds are hacking our voting system and the networks that connect them, so, we have four big problems. And, when we don’t have a government that is interested in protecting our elections it’s really hard for any campaign to do that, any national committee or anyone else.
So, we know from Trump officials, Dan Coates, who used to be the Director of National Intelligence being the most prominent, who literally went to the briefing room of the White House and said the Russians are still in our election system. We know from the bragging of the Trump campaign, particularly Brad Parscale, that they are spending tens of millions of dollars to harvest even more data, to get more information, to manipulate more voters’ minds, and we know that they are working with people who were in Cambridge Analytica, we know there still are contacts with the Russians, we know these things. So, we have to assume that since it worked for them, why would they quit? Donald Trump is Vladmir Putin’s dream. You know, he said that the biggest catastrophe I think in history was the collapse of the Soviet Union. As a former KGB guy, he is intent upon undermining democracies and trying to lay the groundwork for a resurgence of Russian greatness, as he posits. And Donald Trump is delivering that to him on a daily basis. I don’t know why, exactly. I don’t know what Putin has on him, whether it’s both personal and financial, I assume it is, but more than that there is this bizarre adulation Trump has for dictators and authoritarians. He dreams of being able to order people to do things and make them do it. He has no democratic instincts, really. And I saw that when I was Secretary of State and traveled to 112 countries one of our big problems were people who got themselves elected and then became authoritarian. And then did everything they could to rig elections, everything they could to make sure that they were never forced out of power. That is his game plan. That is what he’s trying to achieve. And it’s terrifying to me because, you know, scholars like Professor Timothy Snyder who wrote that great little book “On Tyranny,” they’ve told us what the game plan is. But I still think people have a hard time believing that, David. It’s like really oh c’mon, you know that can’t really be true. And so part of what we have to do is alert the campaigns, try to protect them, work with people like Eric Holder and others, who are trying to protect the voter registration and the actual voting process, try to raise the alarm about the breaches of our election systems, try to stand up against the misinformation, weaponization of information, the propaganda. But they’re going to have unlimited money. I think the amount of money the Trump campaign and the RNC is raising right now will be really hard to compete with.

DP

And the Russians.

HRC
Yeah, and the Russians. It’s not that money’s everything, but you do have to have enough. And so what I’m seeing is Microsoft just announced Iran was messing with somebody’s campaign, a Democrat this time. You saw Trump asking for China’s help. I made a joke on Rachel Maddow last Spring that Democrats should just say “China, if you’re listening, find Trump’s tax returns, our media would richly reward you.” I said where does this end? If every adversary of ours is gonna mess with our elections, you know, I think they did affect the outcome this past election but more than that they sowed so much divisiveness and distrust. You can’t have a democracy that is functioning, making decisions, which we’re not right now, if people are so divided and so angry. And we have the left and the right and everybody mad at each other, and that just benefits somebody like Trump and his allies.

Segment two (20:35)

DP

So you tried to warn us.

HRC

I did.

DP

I’m curious, and I think you made this point, that people don’t want to fully believe it, although a casual student of history would tell you that umpires are strong till they’re not. But, even as low expectation that you had of Trump, are you surprised the degree to which, you know, he’s calling foreign leaders from the Oval Office asking them to get involved in his campaign, so as much as you warned us it seems like this even goes beyond you most wildest nightmares about what was possible.

HRC

You know, I thought he’d be a bad president and I he’d be, you know, a little out of control. But I didn’t–between the election, which, you know, was a devastating surprise, but between the election and the inauguration I had that hope that, okay, there’s some of the people that he was putting in to high offices that I knew and I thought, okay, they’ll be a good kind of, you know, constraining influence. But when I sat there listening to his inaugural speech, and the carnage in the streets, and continuing to divide us, I mean, we had a close election, a contested election, real leaders try to bring people together they say okay, even if you didn’t vote for me I’m going to try to be the best president for you that I can be. And I was sitting there thinking this is like a declaration of war on half of America. I mean the kinds of things that he’s saying. And then lying about the size of the inauguration crowd, it just snowballed further downward than even I had anticipated. So, the corruption, using the White House to make money to, not only for himself but his family members, corporate interests, his disregard for the rule of law, his demeaning of institutions, I mean, going after the intelligence community, Defense Department, all that he’s done, all of that is really troubling but this tendency he has to basically give away whatever the other side wants in return for help, financial help, personal help, political help, that’s where you just have to draw a line. You know, the founders were really worried about leaders seeking favors from foreign governments. They knew that the British were still fomenting problems and trying to buy people off and, you know, they had the War of 1812, so you know that became an actual, you know, fighting war because the Brits were still trying to manipulate things. An impeachment provision is meant for exactly the kind of behavior that Trump is engaged in right now. Abuse of power. Obstruction of justice. Contempt of Congress. But with the added twist of this alliance that he has with these foreign leaders. I was doing an interview the other day and I was talking about the tragedy of the Kurds and this impulsive decision he made. I mean, if we’re gonna withdraw troops you can have a process, try to figure it out, what would the best way to do it, how would you secure the Kurds. A lot of tough questions, if that’s the direction you wanna go. But this was all just on the south lawn here’s what I’m saying and here’s the tweet to back it up. (garbled) call to Erdogan, how do we know he didn’t say to Erdogan “You know what? I’m gonna withdraw my troops. You go ahead do what you want with the Kurds. And by the way can you help me in my election?” We don’t know. We have no idea.

DP

There has to be something.

HRC

We know. I mean, well, we know the Russians were pushing him to do it. We know the Russians sold defensive military equipment to the Turks. So there’s always a a below the surface reason why Trump is doing things. And one, it took me a while in the 2016 campaign until I realized everything he accused me of he was doing. I, at first I thought this is so crazy and wild. I mean, corrupt? I mean, you got 40 years of my tax returns, and, you know, all the rest of it, what are you talking about? It was always projection. And, you know, now he has taken it to the next level because he wants the help that he knows he got. He’s an illegitimate president and he knows he’s an illegitimate president because he knows he got unprecedent(ed) help from Russia, their cutout Wikileaks, from Cambridge Analytica, you know, from suppression, all the things that, you know, added up to give him those votes that he got. So, he understands that at some level of his psyche.

DP

Right. But despite that, he’s going to double down.

HRC

Yes he is.

DP

So I, one question for you I have about this is, he’s doing all these things, most likely high crimes and misdemeanors, and he’s not even faced the voters again for re-election. How worried should we be if he wins re-election? That all bets are off and there are no boundaries around this guy. It doesn’t seem like there are now. But if he doesn’t have to face the voters again in a second term how dangerous could that be?

HRC

I think he’s done a lot of damage to our country but I think the damage would be incalculable if he were to serve another term. You know, I know a lot about the State Department. What he has done to the State Department, to experienced diplomats who have served for many years under both Democratic and Republican administrations, is going to set the State Department back. Many years. Because people are not applying to be foreign service officers, experienced ones are quitting, nobody can work in that type of atmosphere and it doesn’t bother Trump and it doesn’t bother Pompeo because they’ve got different agendas. Trump has a solely personal agenda. If he thought tomorrow becoming pro-choice and anti-gun would get him re-elected he would become pro-choice and anti-gun. He doesn’t care about anything other than his own personal fortunes. Pompeo is an ideologue, a religious ideologue along with Barr, who gave this incredibly worrisome speech at Notre Dame going after secularists and liberals and blaming everything that goes wrong in the world on people that he labels. They would be able to consolidate their power. So, you’d have Trump, being in many ways a figurehead, the guy, the crazy guy that says anything and does anything but you would have these other men ensconced in power to take actions that would turn the clock back on so much of what we’ve achieved in the last years. Getting those two appointees on the Supreme Court, it’s not just about abortion or guns, it’s about economics. You know, I remember having studied in law school, you know, the time back in the late 19th, early 20th century when the Court was totally in the bed of corporations. Whatever corporations want, the Courts just said sign me up, here I am. That is the unfortunate cycle that we could be re-entering. And another term of Trump would just nail that down. And it wouldn’t be just him, it would be all the others who are doing his bidding but also their own mission to change the country back.

DP

Two more Brett Kavanaughs, potentially. (inaudible/overlaps Clinton’s response)

HRC

Absolutely.

DP

So, let’s talk about the campaign. I’m not going to ask you to handicap the primary campaign, unless you’d like to, but this ultimately the debates and the campaign themselves are about who’s going to be squared off on the stage with him. And you’re the only person in the world who has that experience. So I’m just curious, one of the things I reflect on in ’16 is I think by any objective measure you won the big moments. You had a better convention, you won all three debates, but the national news spent 32 minutes on the whole campaign covering policy.

HRC

Right

DP

He, you know, lies and tweets and sort of dominates the oxygen in a way we haven’t seen we talked about social media and he’s, in a way for all his craziness has sort of perfected that art. So, how, do you have any advice for someone, whoever comes out of our primary, how do they deal with that? Like, even if they win the debates and they have a great convention and get a great VP, those big moments which are undeniably important, the day-to-day execution of the campaign against him seems really difficult.

HRC

It is really difficult. Um, because he knows if he can keep the spotlight on him no other voice will break through. So it’s not only that, uh, he’s doing things that seem disqualifying, at least in my view, he just cares how much airtime he gets. He just cares how dominant he is in people’s living rooms and their earbuds and all that he is counting on. And he knows that he’s not gonna lose his hard core. His hard core is with him no matter what. They like the fact that he insults people, they like the fact that he’s rude, they like all of that. I think it’s, you know, their own frustrations but however one explains it, it has very little to do with economic anxiety and a lot to do with cultural anxiety. And so they are very much behind him. And then you’ve got the religious element, and you’ve got religious, so-called religious leaders saying things like “Well, he’s not a religious man but he’s protecting what we care about.” And, you know, that’s abortion, for example, trying to push the clock back against gays, uh, you don’t have to bake them a wedding cake, you don’t have to hire them, you can fire them, all the things that the religious right wants, which he is trying to deliver because they’re a loyal voting bloc. So, I think it’s going to be hard no matter who our nominee is to break through and there’s gonna be the below-the-radar screen battle being fought out. As we talked earlier, online in particular that will be hard for us to compete with. So, I, I think you’ve got to have the grit and the toughness to be able to go day after day pushing in as emotional and, you know, positively-delivered way that you can, what it is he will do that’s bad for the voter, the promises he made that he has not kept, the dangers that he’s put our country in, while you’re still trying to, on the separate parallel channel talk about what you would do. It’s a really difficult balancing act. And what he’s counting on is that, whoever our nominee is, will have made some promises in the primary, taken some positions, that they will be able to blow up out of all proportion to beat that person. Because what they’ll try to do is say, “Yeah, I may be bad, I am bad and I admit it and love it and so just live with it, but this other person’s gonna take your insurance away. And this other person is going to give health care to illegal immigrants. And this other person is gonna take your gun away.” You know, the whole panoply of horrors, and try to piece together getting back some of those suburban voters, particularly women suburban voters, Republicans and Independents, who went for Democrats in 2018. So, that’s how they see this and they’re also gonna force the Democratic nominee to defend places that should not have to be defended. So, watch what happens in Oregon. Watch what happens in Colorado. Watch what happens in New Mexico. They’ve been pretty open that, you know, those are places they’re going after. And New Hampshire. And so, they’re gonna have more money than they can possibly ever spend and they’re gonna really put financial pressure on whoever our nominee is. And they’re already kind of boiling the waters. You know, look at Oregon in particular. Everybody thinks it’s a very reliable blue state and our big advantage in Oregon is they vote by mail, so it’s really hard to suppress it, really hard to tinker with it, but they are also stirring up a lot of cultural antipathy toward the Democratic Party, and I don’t think they’ll be successful, but they’re gonna spend money there. And they’re gonna force our nominee to spend money there, which will be harder for to come by for our nominee. So, I just think that they have a game plan. And, you know as well as anybody, that you get the nomination when you’re a Democrat and then you basically have to get a game plan for the general election. When I became the nominee, I inherited a bankrupt organization and Donald Trump inherited a well-funded, well-prepared organization. The day he got the nomination, having done nothing for Republicans his entire campaign, was a day that he already had, there already were like 21 offices in Florida. I had to do all of that. There was nothing. I had nothing. So, from my perspective, I think we’ll be a little better off than what we were back then, but we’re gonna be outgunned, outspent, outlied, I mean, we’re gonna have a lot of problems. And the thing we have to do is get enough people to turn out so that they can’t, you know, steal those votes through suppression in Wisconsin, or convince blacks not to vote in Michigan, all this stuff they did this last time, which was very effective. And the Russians played a big role in.

DP

Right, and they’ll double down on this time. No, and, and you know Trump had his advantages but he was not an incumbent, so as we know, whether it’s Ronald Reagan, your husband, Barack Obama, those first 18 months of the election cycle were as important as the last six months. I think that should give us pause. So, one, it’s, it’s connected to the discussion we just had, and actually about social media earlier in our discussion, you know, Donald Trump, as you know better than anyone in the world, only got 46.1 percent of the vote nationally. You know, he got 47.2 in Wisconsin, 47(.)7 Michigan. If you had said those before the election, you would have said he’s gonna lose in a landslide. But one of the reasons he was able to win is the third-party vote. And what’s clear to me you mentioned, you know, he’s gonna just lie. I mean, you forgot what he’s gonna say whoever our nominee is, we’ll ban hamburgers and steaks and you can’t fly, and infanticide, and people believe it. So, how concerned are you about that? I, I, for me so much of this does come down to the win number. If he has to get 49 or even 49.5 (percent) in a bunch of (states?) I don’t think he can. He’s gonna try and drive people not to vote for him, but just to say, you know, you can’t vote for them either. And that seems to be, I think, to the extent that I can divine a strategy, their key strategy right now.

HRC

Well I think it’s gonna be two parts and I think it’s gonna be the same as 2016. Don’t vote for other guy. You don’t like me, don’t vote for the other guy because the other guy’s gonna do x, y and z or the other guy did such terrible things. I’m gonna show you in these, you know, flashing videos that appear and then disappear and they’re on the dark web and nobody can find them. But you’re going to see them, and you’re gonna see that person doing these horrible things.

They’re also gonna do third party again. And I’m not making any predictions, but I think they’ve got their eye on somebody who’s currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third party candidate. She’s a favorite of the Russians, they have a bunch of sites and ‘bots and other ways of supporting her so far, and that’s assuming Jill Stein will give it up, which she might not because she’s also a Russian asset. Yeah, she’s a Russian asset. I mean, totally. And so they know they can’t win without a third party candidate. And so I don’t know who it’s gonna be but I guarantee they’ll have a vigorous third party challenge in the key states that they most need it.

(end segment 2)

The third (short) segment of Plouffe’s Clinton interview has little that is explicitly about Russia, but Clinton may well have had Russia in mind when she said, regarding the 2016 election (48:45) “He (Trump) had a lot of help fooling us.” That interpretation falls easily in line with Clinton’s comments earlier in the interview about Russian election interference.

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