Hillary Clinton: Russian interference 'certainly had an impact' on the 2016 election

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NEW YORK — Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that Russian meddling “certainly had an impact” on the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

“It's pretty hard to argue against that,” Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee, said at the Time 100 Summit in Manhattan. “Because it was such a full-throated attack that was aimed at propagandizing people, dividing our country, creating all kinds of disruptions, from phony protests and demonstrations to all kinds of agents and bots acting as though they were Americans debating politics.”

Clinton specifically noted the polling information shared with a Russian associate by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s servers by the Kremlin.

“It certainly had an impact,” she said. “To what extent, it’s hard to tell because we haven’t really investigated that.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s two-year investigation concluded that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election “in sweeping and systemic fashion” in an effort to boost Donald Trump’s presidential campaign — and to disparage Clinton. A redacted version of Mueller's report, released last week, found no conspiracy with Trump’s campaign, and drew no conclusions about charging Trump with obstruction.

Clinton said Congress needs to see the full, unredacted version.

“What I want is for the country and the Congress and the press is to come to grips with what did happen,” she said, “not get distracted by an effort to either move on or diminish the impact of this attack.”

Hillary Clinton speaks at the Time 100 Summit in New York City on Tuesday. (Photo: Brian Ach/Getty Images)
Hillary Clinton speaks at the Time 100 Summit in New York City on Tuesday. (Photo: Brian Ach/Getty Images)

Clinton's comments come amid a debate among Democrats whether Trump's repeated attempts to obstruct justice — chronicled in the Mueller report — justify pursuing his impeachment.

“So I have a kind of weird personal history about impeachment — and not what you're thinking,” Clinton said.

Her husband, President Bill Clinton, was impeached for lying during a deposition about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern. Hillary Clinton served as a staff attorney for the House Judiciary Committee in the impeachment of President Richard Nixon during Watergate.

“It took several years for the slow acquisition and then publication of information to show the level of corruption that was existing in that White House,” Clinton said. “By the end of it, the evidence was overwhelming that the president had committed high crimes and misdemeanors.” The Judiciary Committee subsequently voted out articles of impeachment. But Nixon resigned before he could be impeached.

“I know what it looks like and I know what is required to do it in a way that wins the trust and the confidence, not only of the Congress but of the American people,” Clinton said. “But I certainly think that the roadmap, as some call it, of the Mueller report raises so many serious questions.”

Clinton also cautioned that impeachment “shouldn't be a preordained conclusion.”

“It shouldn't be what you do for partisan political purposes almost outside the framework of the Constitution,” she said. “It should be something undertaken in a really serious, diligent way, based on evidence, not on partisan advantage.”

At the same time, Clinton said that additional public hearings are necessary to determine whether there's an impeachment case to be made against Trump. Earlier this week, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Don McGahn, who is prominent in the Mueller report.

“It's fully appropriate for this Congress to call Don McGahn,” she said.

Earlier at the Time summit, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and White House senior adviser, sought to downplay the effectiveness of Moscow’s election meddling.

“If you look at what Russia did, you know, buying some Facebook ads to try to sow dissent, it’s a terrible thing,” Kushner said. “But I think the investigations and the speculation that’s happened for the last two years has had a much harsher impact on our democracy than a couple of Facebook ads.”

Russia did more than buy a “couple of Facebook ads,” U.S. investigators have determined. Last year, the Department of Justice charged 13 Russians and three Russian entities for allegedly carrying out an elaborate plot to interfere in the 2016 election. The Russian operatives allegedly used fake social media accounts, created false advertisements and even traveled to the United States in an effort to support Trump’s White House bid.

Sounding like his father-in-law, Kushner said the investigations into Russian interference in the election were an excuse by Trump’s opponents to try to explain his improbable victory.

“All these people thought Trump was going to lose. They all predicted Trump was going to lose. They were wrong,” Kushner said. “The American electorate in this great democratic system chose the opposite. And I think that instead of saying, ‘Oh wait, we got it wrong,’ they said, ‘Well, maybe it was Russia.’ And I think we’ve spent two years going through that nonsense.”

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