Full Transcript: Hillary Clinton Sits Down With Rachel Maddow

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign event in La Crosse, Wisconsin, on March 29. She sat down with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow for an extended interview that aired on Wednesday night. Jim Young/Reuters

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton sat down with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Wednesday. Among their discussion points, Maddow asked the Democratic front-runner about her commitment to Wisconsin—which will host the next primary on April 5—and the conversations she has had with foreign leaders about their concerns for a possible President Donald Trump.

The interview will air on a special edition of The Rachel Maddow Show on Wednesday at 9 p.m., after the network's separate town halls with Republican candidates John Kasich and Trump. At 10 p.m. ET, MSNBC will air Maddow's interview with Clinton's opponent, Bernie Sanders.

Below is a full transcript of Maddow's interview with the former secretary of state courtesy of MSNBC:

RACHEL MADDOW: Madam Secretary, thank you for doing this.


RACHEL MADDOW: I really appreciate it.

HILLARY CLINTON : We're live at The Apollo.

RACHEL MADDOW: Live at The Apollo. Which is, you know, you can kinda feel the energy here. You just had a big event here.


RACHEL MADDOW: I thought I was s going to have to chase you all the way to Wisconsin.


RACHEL MADDOW: To find you this week. (LAUGHS) But-- I mean, but that's a strategic decision. So, n-- New York votes April 19th.


RACHEL MADDOW: Wisconsin votes on Tuesday.


RACHEL MADDOW: On April 5th.

HILLARY CLINTON : Right, right.

RACHEL MADDOW: The Sanders campaign seems to think that they are going to win in Wisconsin. Do you share that expectation? What do you think's going to happen?

HILLARY CLINTON : Well, I'm going back to Wisconsin this weekend.


HILLARY CLINTON : So, I will be back in Wisconsin. And I had a great-- day-and-a-half there-- yesterday, day before. And we've got a really good organization, and we're going to just keep workin' very hard to win every vote we can. And I'm-- just committed to doing that. I know that-- you know, so is-- Senator Sanders's campaign. And, you know, we'll see who turns out and votes on Tuesday.

RACHEL MADDOW: I know that you expect to win this nomination. Do you also expect that Senator Sanders is still going to be there fighting for it at the convention?

HILLARY CLINTON : Well, I think it matters-- where we stand in delegates. And, frankly, in popular vote. Right now, I'm-- gratified that I have more votes than anybody in this-- election. Nearly nine million. And that's a million more than Donald Trump, and it's two-and-a-half million more than Bernie Sanders.

And I have a delegate count that is a higher margin between me and Senator Sanders than it ever was between me and President Obama. So, I think we are on a very good path to getting the nomination. But I'm not taking anything, or anyone, or any place for granted. And I'm going to work really hard.

Now, I hope that if I am fortunate enough to secure the nomination-- that we will come together as a party, as I did-- when we ended our very tough-- contest, and I endorsed-- then Senator Obama. I nominated him-- at our convention in Denver, and worked my heart out to get him elected. Because-- that's what I think you do when a primary is over.

RACHEL MADDOW: Senator Sanders's campaign this week has suggested that if heading into that convention-- he is behind in the pledged delegates, and even if he's behind in the popular vote, that he will still try to win the nomination at that convention by persuading super delegates to switch their allegiance to him at that point. Is that a legitimate, reasonable, ethical way to try to get the nomination? Would you-- forswear that sorta strategy yourself if the situation was reversed?

HILLARY CLINTON : Well, I don't understand the argument. If I have more popular votes and more delegates, then I think it's pretty clear that-- the people who turned out and voted-- chose me to be the nominee.

And that's what I would expect-- as I've found. I've been on the other side of this equation. I got slightly more in the popular vote in 2008, but not in the delegates. And so from my perspective, you know, this is about delegates. You have to have-- the right number of delegates to get the nomination.

I'm ahead. I'm ahead by a significant-- number. I believe I'm going to continue to add to that number. And I believe that I will be the Democratic nominee. And I certainly hope that Senator Sanders and his supporters will join ranks, the way that I did-- with President Obama.

RACHEL MADDOW: To be clear on this issue of super delegates versus delegates, the Republican party really wishes they had super delegates right now. Because they'd love to have some manifestation of the establishment worries about their frontrunner, that they could throw a big (COUGH) part of the nominating process.

Back, basically, to the party, and take it away from the voters. Do-- do you make a distinction between the different kinds of delegates that the Democrats have? I mean-- are super delegates an inappropriate thing in terms of the process? That there are these party leaders and elected officials who can make such a big difference?

HILLARY CLINTON : Well, I have more popular votes. And I have more pledged delegates. And we have a system in our party that was set up before I decided to run, or before Senator Sanders even decided to run. And that's the process. And I feel very good about where I am in that process.

RACHEL MADDOW: There have been-- a number of caucus states, recently, where not only has Sanders won-- Senator Sanders won, he's won by a lot. And this seems to be-- a pretty clear pattern in the contest between you two, so far. That you are winning overall-- both in terms of more states, and more delegates, and more of the popular vote. But when there are caucus contests he tends to win, and by a lot. He's won ten of the 12 caucuses, and he's won ten straight. And the ones this weekend were by huge margins. Why is that?

HILLARY CLINTON : Well, you'd have to ask caucus-goers. But, you know, clearly not as many people participate in caucuses as they do in primaries. In fact, if you add up the votes that Senator Sanders got in last weekend's caucuses, I got more votes than he did in the Arizona primary.

So, I think that caucuses are a very unusual way for some states to-- really choose who they want to be delegates, and who those delegates-- are pledged to. That's fine. Every state gets to pick however they want to. But when you get to the general election it's about who gets the most votes, and who gets the most electoral votes.

And I think there's no question, given what I've already achieved, that I'm in a far stronger position when it actually comes to voting in November-- to win, and to become president.

RACHEL MADDOW: It seems like, looking ahead at that general election right now, we're at a-- we-- we've just hit a turning point. Last night all three of the Republican candidates who are left-- seemed to basically abandon what had been their previous pledged that they would support the ultimate nominee at their party, whoever it was. None of them are saying that any longer.

Which means whoever they pick, there's a really good chance that the Republican party is not going to all be in favor of their presidential nominee. Now, as a-- as a Democrat, looking ahead at that general election, do you basically look at the Republican party in this kinda crisis and say, you know, "Good riddance. That party needs to be blown up.

"I hope they come back as something better." (LAUGHS) Or-- or do-- do you worry about that? I mean, we are a country with a two-party system. Do both parties need to be strong and-- and-- and sane, and-- together enough to really contest the ideas that the country needs to fight about?

HILLARY CLINTON : Well, I do favor two strong parties. And at different points in our recent history the Republicans have been stronger, and more unified than the Democrats. At other points we have been. And clearly there is a lot of turmoil going on-- among Republican voters, and elected officials, and party leaders, that they're going to have to sort out.

But if you really look at what the three remaining candidates have said, what they've stood for, I think they are much closer in their ideology and their position on issues than their personal animus perhaps suggests.

So, whoever emerges, I'm going to hopefully be the Democratic nominee to take on where they stand when it comes to how we get the economy going. We're not going back to that trickle-down economics snake oil that doesn't work, and cannot work.

Where they stand on health care. We're not going to repeal the Affordable Care Act, we're going to make it work for people. You go down the list. They have a very strong affinity when it comes to-- ideology and issues. They may express it in different ways. And some are more colorful than others, certainly.

But when you really strip it down they are peddling the same failed policies that they have for the last 30, 40 years. And the country cannot tolerate that. So, whoever emerges, whether it's one of the three, or they engineer some kind of convention coup.

Whoever emerges is going to be on the wrong side of what our county needs to do. How we meet the test that I laid out in my speech today. Can the next President actually produce positive results in peoples' lives, starting with good jobs and rising incomes.

Can the next president and commander in chief keep us safe, and demonstrate strong, effective, smart American leadership in the world. And can the next president bring our country together. I've seen no evidence that these three candidates on the Republican side can meet those tests. So, I'll let them fight it out however they choose. I'm going to keep talking about what I will do as president to make sure we do meet those tests, and that our country is better off because I will have served.

RACHEL MADDOW: It's-- it sounds like you a-- you have a very different take. With that-- with what you just laid out there, it sounds like you have a very different take than sort of-- I don't even want to say the Beltway common wisdom. Just the b-- the broad political common wisdom of what-- what's going on in this race. Which is that on the Republican side there is a very different kind of candidate as their frontrunner.

The country is sort of convulsed in fascination, I think, with-- with Mr. Trump being the frontrunner. Because everybody believes that he's a very different kind of politician, he's a very different kind of Republican. If the Republican party picks him it will somehow change that party fundamentally, if not destroy it. It sounds like you think he's just another Republican politician.

HILLARY CLINTON : Well, he has a different personality, and he presents himself differently. But look at the budget he presented. It would throw our federal government into the biggest deficit hole, and increase the national debt beyond anybody's wildest imagination. Look at his commitment to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Look at how he has basically said, you know, he's going to make decisions, and he's going to try to, you know, solve problems like deporting eleven or 12 million immigrants. He's not that far off from others who are also still in the race, or were in the race before. You go down the list, Rachel, and there may be differences of degree but not of kind, when it comes to comparing where the party is and its leadership, and these candidates.

What I think is going on is that, you know, they know, because of his personality, because of his divisiveness, which is much more out there than what you see among other Republicans, not that it's that different, but the way he expresses it. You know, going after Mexicans as rapists, and criminals. Insulting women. Barring Muslims.

You know, that reflects a certain strain of belief within the Republican party. It's not totally outside the pale of what many of their leaders have been saying, campaigning on, winning elections on. What they've done is to create the environment where someone emerges who is truly, in their view, a personality they don't know what to do with. And yet on issues it-- they should look in the mirror.

RACHEL MADDOW: You, as Secretary of State-- and in other p-- elements of our political career, including be a Sen-- being a Senator from here in New York-- you've had lots of contact with leaders around the world. Mr. Trump, as the Republican frontrunner, is obviously having some success with Republican voters.

He really is way ahead of the field. He does look like he's likely to get the nomination. Whatever he's offering, it is playing in our country, to a certain degree, with the Republican electorate. How do you imagine it will play with world leaders?

HILLARY CLINTON : Well, we already know that. Because we can see public comments from world leaders. And we also-- have a lot of evidence from private communications that-- I and others have received, asking, "What is going on? What does this mean?" Just take two of the points that he has made.

One, around terrorism and barring all Muslims from coming to the United States. We know if we're going to defeat ISIS, which is a very high priority for us, for our partners in Europe and the Middle East, especially Israel and others. We have to form coalitions with predominantly Muslim nations.

I know how hard it is to form a coalition, I formed the coalition that imposed the sanctions on Iran. Got Russia, and China, and others to be part of it. You don't form a coalition by starting with insulting the religion of the people in the countries you're trying to get into the coalition. And then when he turns his back on NATO, the most successful defense alliance in history.

Which has to be a part of our effort to defeat ISIS, and to stop terrorist attacks in Europe and elsewhere. It doesn't show that he's strong, it shows that he is dangerously wrong. He's in over his head. This idea he's been putting out recently that we should withdraw from the Pacific. So, we're no longer a Pacific power.

We're no longer fulfilling our treaty obligations to Japan, South Korea, and others. In fact, off-the-cuff he said, "Let them have nuclear weapons." So, we'd have an arms race under his theory, not just in the Middle East, but also in Asia. I have no idea what that means, other than it scares me.

And it scares a lot of thoughtful leaders around the world. The United States has kept the peace. We have created the conditions for global prosperity. We now have to up our game economically so that more Americans benefit from that global prosperity.

And I have the plans, I think, that will deliver on that. But if we withdraw from the world, if we, in a sense, build a wall around the United States, we will pay a big price. And I think if he decides to continue with that sort of foreign policy, national security ad-libbing, it's going to cause a lot of-- serious questioning among our friends and allies. That could have-- unfortunate consequences for our policies.

RACHEL MADDOW: The criticism that he has raised about NATO, which you were just discussing there-- is obviously raising eyebrows not just around the world but also here at home.

It's seen as a very, very radical proposal-- that we would turn our back on NATO. But there is an element of his criticism which I think is-- is not seen as extreme. And there is widespread concern about it. And that's the fact that NATO countries-- less than 1/5 of them are spending what they are supposedly obligated to spend on defense.


RACHEL MADDOW: This is a mutual defense pact. We count on our allies to be holding up their end of the bargain on this. He's complaining that we're basically carrying other countries' weight in NATO, and that other countries aren't keeping up with us. Isn't there something to that-- that part of the criticism?

HILLARY CLINTON : Well, I think it's fair to say that we do want the countries that are partners in NATO with us to fulfill their obligations. And we will continue to push that. Some countries, as you said, have really stepped up in the last few years to do that. And we want more to step up. But we have to look at what it means to have defense. We have to modernize NATO.

What kind of alliance will NATO be? How does it protect from the non-state threat of terrorism? We've always been an alliance primarily focused on Russia, and aggression. Then moving our eyes toward Iran, and the potential of nuclear-- weapons and the like. We have to take a 360 degree look about how NATO is going to help improve the defense and security of our European partners.

But I would still argue, while we're in that process to get them to do more for themselves, and to change some of their laws so they can be better partners with us. Particularly on sharing information across their own borders, and with the United States, when it comes to potential terrorist activity. I, again, don't think you accomplish that by holding this threat over their heads. Where it a-- you act like you are totally oblivious to the fact that Russia is probing the boundaries of the Baltic states, for example.

You don't, I think, get what you need out of NATO countries, all of them, including the smallest ones, by acting as though you could walk away from it. That could lead to the politicians and the forces within, let's say the Baltic countries, who are favorable toward Russia, like Russian-speaking populations.

To say to their fellow leaders, "Hey, you know what? The U.S. is outta here. We better start making accommodations with Russia." This all is a very complex set of circumstances that I don't think he even has studied, or cares to understand. And so, you know, from my perspective I'm willing, and-- and anxious to take him on on-- this broad range of foreign policy and security issues.

RACHEL MADDOW: Do you think that he's manifestly unqualified to be running for president, given what you just described as his approach to foreign affairs?

HILLARY CLINTON : Well, I'll let voters decide that. But I look forward, if he is the nominee and I'm the nominee, to really going after him on issues. 'Cause remember, the Republicans still have not gone after him on issues, in large measure because they agree with him on so many issues.

So, when they start moaning, and groaning, and gnashing their teeth, and the best they can do is insult each other's wives, and call each other names, they're not dealing with issues. Because they're afraid to deal with him on issues, because he'll turn around and say, "Well, you said this, and you said that, and I know where you stand."

I'm the only one who will be finally taking him on on issues. And I believe once we start doing that the American people who have been watching this like the most ramped-up-- you know, reality-celebrity TV show are going to start saying, "He is scary. He is dangerous. We can't-- you know, we can't let him go forward."

RACHEL MADDOW: I hear your eagerness-- to engage in that general election fight. I have-- I have to just ask you big-picture, if you are-- frustrated that the Democratic primary is-- probably going to go until June, if not July. If you felt when you started this process that by now you'd already be talking general election, and-- and-- and focused on a nomination that you'd already sewn up. Are you surprised that Senator Sanders has-- has been this much of a fight for you?

HILLARY CLINTON : No, I'm really not. I-- I always knew that it would be a contest. It should be a contest. We're going after the most consequential job in the world. And it's like a big job interview. And we're asking the American people to hire us. And remember, I'm the person who went all the way to the end in June in 2008.

So, why would I expect anybody running against me to give up or quit before the process is done? I don't expect that at all. I expect to win it. I expect that I will be the nominee. But I respect the process. And so I'm going to go after every vote in every contest going forward.

And I also believe that when I talk about Trump, or Cruz, I'm not turning my attention to the general election, as though the primary's not still going on. Today in my remarks here at The Apollo I addressed some of the differences that Senator Sanders and I have. You know, we share a lot of the same goals, but we do have differences. We have differences of experiences.

We have differences of approach. And that should be part of the primary contest between us. But I also know how the rest of the world is hearing Trump and Cruz. I know how other Americans are hearing them. And since the Republicans are not taking them on on issues, I feel an obligation to stand up and say, "You know what? NATO's important, I understand that."

I get messages from European leaders saying, "Thank you. Thank you. You know, we-- we just thought, you know, that we didn't believe what we were hearing." Here at home, you've got Trump talking about racially profiling Muslim communities.

And Cruz talking about policing Muslim communities. I can't let that go unanswered. You know, I'm fighting to unite our country. And I don't think you wait and then take on these outrageous, offensive, dangerous statements.

You take them on as they happen. And you give some comfort to Americans who are literally coming up to me, Rachel, all over this country, and saying, "Thank you. Thank you for standing up, thank you for speaking out." More of us need to be doing that. This is outrageous.

And, look, I'm not going to-- you know, join in the chorus of bashing the press. But for a long time, you know, I think the media just was in awe of the ratings spikes, and the amazing number of eyes that were willing to watch Trump do anything.

And so he was basically unchallenged. And now, finally, as he's gotten more and more-- outrageous in a lot of what he's said, where he's gone after large populations of people. Muslims, immigrants, (LAUGHS) women, you name it. I think there are a lot of Americans who are not part of the Republican primary process.

Because, think about it, I've gotten more votes than he has nationwide. He has not demonstrated that he can really broaden his appeal. But I don't want his views to be appealing either. So, I'm going to keep raising my voice about him.

RACHEL MADDOW: Let me ask you about-- a more present issue, in the sense that it's happening right now. Which is that-- President Obama has nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.


RACHEL MADDOW: If you are nominated by the Democratic party, and you are elected president in November, would you ask President Obama to withdraw that nomination in the lame duck so that you could put forward your own nominee? Or, would you be okay with that nomination going forward in the lame duck, if that's what the Republican Senate wanted to do?

HILLARY CLINTON : You know, I-- I really find-- this whole-- line of questioning one that I'm not comfortable with, because I-- we have one President at a time. And I think part of the problem right now is the Republicans are trying to act like he's not really still president.

I was one of the 65 million people who voted to reelect President Obama. So, my voice is being shut out because the Republican Senate won't actually process-- Judge Garland's-- nomination. So, I don't want to-- I don't want any daylight between me and President Obama.

I want to support his Constitutional right and obligation. I want to keep the pressure, as I did in the speech that I gave at-- the University of Wisconsin-Madison, talking about what's at stake in the Supreme Court. So, let's stay focused on what this court has before it. Because there are some very consequential decisions that are pending. And, you know, let's keep the pressure, which you can see is beginning to affect some of the Republican incumbents who have tough races-- for reelection.

I want them to feel as much heat as possible. I don't want to give them any way out. So, I'm stickin' with the President. The President's prerogative, his Constitutional responsibility. And-- that's what I'm going to stand up for.

RACHEL MADDOW: You know, but there is this-- I mean, there is the issue of the radicalism of what's happening right now in the Senate. I mean, to hold a Supreme Court vacancy open for a year-plus.


RACHEL MADDOW: Because, as you say, you know, they may be deciding that they'd prefer that President Obama wasn't President anymore, and so they're going to pretend as if he isn't. I look at that, and I see that as so unprecedented and so radical. It makes me wonder that, whether or not you are the nominee or Senator Sanders is the nominee, if there is a Democratic president elected in November, it makes me wonder why they wouldn't just continue to hold that seat open.

I mean, are we-- have we so broken the norms, have we so-- so broken with precedent that they may decide that Democratic presidents in general are not allowed to fill Supreme Court vacancies?

HILLARY CLINTON : Well, first of all, we need to elect a Democratic Senate. And that's why this-- Supreme Court fight has real-- consequences for this election. Because it's hard to make the Supreme Court a voting issue. I've tried in the past, and, you know, I think people see it as sort of theoretical.

But this is so in front of everybody's eyes, front of mind. About this Senate behaving in such a radical, extreme, partisan way. I actually think it can help us take back the Senate. And I would love to see that.

And if we then have a Democratic Senate-- and we have somebody as creative and vigorous as Chuck Schumer leading it, I think we'll be back on a path of, you know, progress, and problem-solving. Now, if that doesn't happen but we narrow the margin, even that will give us leverage we don't have right now.

RACHEL MADDOW: Let me ask you one-- last question. Which I'm asking in part because we're here in New York. Which is-- the headquarters of The Clinton Foundation, and The Clinton Global Initiative. Is there a case to be made, an ethical case to be made that The Clinton Foundation and the global initiative should essentially be wound down as a family foundation while you run for president?

I ask that because I think about the-- the good works, the good charitable works that The Clinton Foundation has done. But the way that some of that work gets done is by soliciting donations from people in this country, from people around the world, from organizations around the world.

I think it is not unreasonable to suspect that people may give donations to The Clinton Foundation hoping that they will favorably influence your opinion toward them, as a presidential candidate, or eventually as president if you're elected. Is there an ethical concern there that there should be essentially-- a split between you and your family, (COUGH) and-- and-- and this foundation, that has done good work? But now you're in a different position-- with regard to potential donors.

HILLARY CLINTON : Well, look, I-- I think that-- the work that it's done has been extraordinary. And I give the credit to my husband and my daughter, because I haven't been involved-- for that long. And, you know, when I look at what they've accomplished, and what they've been able to amplify in terms of saving lives-- by getting the price of drugs for HIV/AIDS down in sub-Saharan Africa.

It's quite astonishing. And I would hate to lose that creativity, that imagination, that-- extraordinary flexibility. So, I think the answer is transparency. And there is no doubt that there will be-- complete transparency about-- donations.

But when you have hundreds of thousands of people who are donating-- as they do-- I think that-- the best-- answer for that is what we have been doing for the last several years. And that is-- to be transparent about it. And let-- you know, let voters and others make their judgment.

RACHEL MADDOW: Madam Secretary, it's really nice of you to give us this time.

HILLARY CLINTON : It's a pleasure.


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