Andrea Mitchell to Hillary: Are You ‘Sorry’ About E-Mail Scandal?

In an exclusive interview with Hillary Clinton on Friday, NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent and MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell began by gently wondering if the former Secretary of State was “sorry” about the e-mail scandal: “You said recently that using your personal e-mail while you were secretary of state was not the best choice and that you take responsibility. Are you sorry?”

After Clinton repeated the line that it “was not the best choice,” Mitchell followed up: “But this has created what even your own campaign manager said are some headwinds. A lot of noise out there....are you sorry? Do you want to apologize to the American people for the choice you made?”

Clinton stuck with her talking points and refused to apologize.

Minutes later, Mitchell noted negative views of the Democratic front-runner:

But does it concern you that people don't trust your answers on this? I mean, there was a Quinnipiac – I know this poll was everyone, Republicans and Democrats – but the first words that came to mind when asked about you were “liar,” “untrustworthy,” “crooked.” How does that make you feel?

Clinton replied: “Well, it certainly doesn't make me feel good.”

Later, Mitchell sympathized: “Does it hurt you when people say you're too lawyerly, you parse your words, you're not authentic, you're not connecting?”

At the end of the interview, Mitchell fretted the election could be “slipping away” from Clinton:

I think back to 2008, you were in the coffee shop in New Hampshire, and people really saw a different side of you. Perhaps you felt that it might be slipping away after what happened in Iowa. Do you think back about that and do you worry about that this could be happening again, that what happened with your e-mail has created so much controversy that you could be losing this opportunity a second time?

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In addition to the e-mail scandal, Mitchell spent some time fondly reminiscing over a 1995 speech Clinton delivered in China:

MITCHELL: We've got the president of China coming later this month, in only a few weeks, for a state visit. And 20 years ago, 20 years ago tomorrow, you were leading the delegation and gave a speech that accused China of human rights abuses implicitly. You said that women's rights are human rights and human rights are women's rights. And I'm wondering whether you feel 20 years later that women have any more rights, have made progress in China and indeed around the world?

CLINTON: You know, Andrea, it feels like it was yesterday. You were there. You were there in Beijing.

MITCHELL: We were just kids.

(...)

MITCHELL: And I didn't know this at the time, but you kept that speech very secret.

CLINTON: Yes.

MITCHELL: Because you knew that the State Department and the White House national security advisers did not want you to deliver that strong a message. Never before had a First Lady taken the world stage and shaken things up. Did you get a lot of blowback? Did your husband or others respond?

CLINTON: No. Before I went there was a lot of hand-wringing and concern, in the Congress as well as in the administration.

MITCHELL: I remember it well.

Here is a transcript of all of Mitchell’s questions to Clinton in the September 4 interview:

12:00 PM ET

ANDREA MITCHELL: Welcome, Secretary Clinton. Thank you so much for doing this interview. You said recently that using your personal e-mail while you were secretary of state was not the best choice and that you take responsibility. Are you sorry?

(...)

MITCHELL: But this has created what even your own campaign manager said are some headwinds. A lot of noise out there. So let's get through some of it. First of all, are you sorry? Do you want to apologize to the American people for the choice you made?

(...)

MITCHELL: Well, since 1995, the State Department foreign affairs manual said that all e-mails, all records had to be preserved. In 2005, the manual was updated to say, quote, “Sensitive but unclassified information should not be transmitted through personal e-mail accounts.” Eight months after you took office, the U.S. code of federal regulations was updated to say that, “Agencies that allow employees to send and receive official electronic e-mail messages using a system not operated by the agency must ensure that federal records sent or received on such existing systems are preserved by the appropriate agency recording system.”

So there were a lot of advisories, no laws, correct, but a lot of advisories, including White House guidance, against using personal e-mail. And especially using personal e-mail exclusively. You say that – just now you said, people in the government knew you used personal e-mail.

HILLARY CLINTON: Right.

MITCHELL: The recent e-mails that were released indicated that the help desk at the State Department didn't know, they couldn't recognize what your e-mail address was.

(...)

MITCHELL: Well, a few quick points. There was an inspector general's report last March that said that in 2011 only 61,000 e-mails at the State Department out of more than a billion were preserved because they archival system for five years was so bad and people didn't know how to use it, people were not trained properly. So things weren't captured at the receiving end.

(...)

MITCHELL: But does it concern you that people don't trust your answers on this? I mean, there was a Quinnipiac – I know this poll was everyone, Republicans and Democrats – but the first words that came to mind when asked about you were “liar,” “untrustworthy,” “crooked.” How does that make you feel?

CLINTON: Well, it certainly doesn't make me feel good.

(...)

MITCHELL: A couple of other quick points. Why did you wipe the server clean even after you knew that a congressional committee or more committees were investigating and why delete the 30,000 or so e-mails that were deemed personal? And how were – how did you decide what to delete, what not to delete?

(...)

MITCHELL: Do you know what a lot of people are asking? Why? Why have just a personal system? You've said that it was because it was convenient.

CLINTON: Yes.

MITCHELL: Clearly from the e-mails that were released it wasn't convenient. There were a lot of, you know, confusing things, there were breakdowns, there were outages. Why do that? Were you trying to keep reporters or investigating committees away?

CLINTON: No.

MITCHELL: What was the defensive mode?

CLINTON: Well, I had a personal e-mail. I had a personal e-mail when I was in the Senate, as the vast majority of senators do.

MITCHELL: Understood.

CLINTON: It was very convenient. I did all my business on my personal e-mail.

MITCHELL: But you’re a member of the national security cabinet.

(...)

MITCHELL: You have said that Colin Powell did the same thing. He actually had a personal e-mail and a state.gov official e-mail system. So he didn't just rely on a personal system. I don't think there's any precedent for anyone just relying on a personal e-mail system at your level of government.

(...)

MITCHELL: Did anyone in your inner circle say, “This isn't such a good idea, let's not do this”?

CLINTON: You know, I was not thinking a lot when I got in. There was so much work to be done. We had so many problems around the world. I didn't really stop and think, what kind of e-mail system will there be.

MITCHELL: Does it raise judgment questions?

CLINTON: Well, I don't think so.

(...)

MITCHELL: Looking at the campaign now, you see huge crowds for Bernie Sanders and for Donald Trump and people talking about Joe Biden having an opening if he decides to make a difficult choice on an emotional level, which we understand. They talk about how authentic these candidates are. Does it – does it hurt you when people say you're too lawyerly, you parse your words, you're not authentic, you're not connecting?

(...)

MITCHELL: Are there real differences, big differences between you and Joe Bidens on domestic or foreign policy?

(...)

MITCHELL: You're going to be giving a big speech on Iran next week. At the same time, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are going to be holding a rally on Capitol Hill against the Iran deal. What do you say to your friends, many of them in the Jewish community, who think this is a terrible deal?

(...)

MITCHELL: And Donald Trump, among other things that he's done, has really personally attacked one of your closest aides, Huma Abedin, what was your feeling about that?

(...)

MITCHELL: Do you think he had a point in raising the question of whether it was appropriate for her to be taking a State Department salary and also be paid by an outside company, closely associated with your husband, by you?

(...)

MITCHELL: As someone who has such a record in foreign affairs, what do you think, what do you feel when you see these thousands and thousands of migrant, men, women, and children, caught between two worlds, unable to get to Germany and Austria with open arms willing to receive them?

CLINTON: Right.

MITCHELL: Should the United States raise its quotas and permit more people from Syria to come in?

(...)

MITCHELL: Was this a failure of the President's policy?

CLINTON: Well, it's the world's policies. I mean, it's not only the United States. I advocated for, as I say, a more robust policy.

(...)

MITCHELL: We've got the president of China coming later this month, in only a few weeks, for a state visit. And 20 years ago, 20 years ago tomorrow, you were leading the delegation and gave a speech that accused China of human rights abuses implicitly. You said that women's rights are human rights and human rights are women's rights. And I'm wondering whether you feel 20 years later that women have any more rights, have made progress in China and indeed around the world?

CLINTON: You know, Andrea, it feels like it was yesterday. You were there. You were there in Beijing.

MITCHELL: We were just kids.

(...)

MITCHELL: And I didn't know this at the time, but you kept that speech very secret.

CLINTON: Yes.

MITCHELL: Because you knew that the State Department and the White House national security advisers did not want you to deliver that strong a message. Never before had a First Lady taken the world stage and shaken things up. Did you get a lot of blowback? Did your husband or others respond?

CLINTON: No. Before I went there was a lot of hand-wringing and concern, in the Congress as well as in the administration.

MITCHELL: I remember it well.

(...)

MITCHELL: I think back to 2008, you were in the coffee shop in New Hampshire, and people really saw a different side of you. Perhaps you felt that it might be slipping away after what happened in Iowa. Do you think back about that and do you worry about that this could be happening again, that what happened with your e-mail has created so much controversy that you could be losing this opportunity a second time?

(...)

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