Former first lady, U.S. senator, secretary of state, and 2016 Democratic nominee for president Hillary Clinton had a dark message on Thursday about the state of domestic and international affairs for students at the University of Michigan.
Clinton said she supports the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, who she faced in the last presidential election, but takes no joy in doing so.
“This particular impeachment inquiry is not anything anybody should be happy about. Nobody should celebrate,” Clinton said. “It’s a solemn, sad moment for our country. But we have to enforce our laws and our Constitution, and we have to hold leaders accountable, and we have to protect the separation of powers and the rule of law.”
Clinton’s lecture was part of the Weiser Diplomacy Center’s launch series of speakers and was attended by U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn).
Clinton said the United States is having a constitutional crisis, with its very democracy is being threatened.
“The Trump administration’s letter that their White House Counsel sent saying they weren’t going to cooperate and that the [U.S.] House had no right to investigate the president and all of that is totally out of bounds,” Clinton said. “If you were to believe that no president could be investigated for wrongdoing while in office, if you were to believe that the president was above the law, we would lose our democracy right then.”
The Democratic-led U.S. House launched on Sep. 24 an impeachment inquiry after a whistleblower reported the president had extorted the Ukrainian government, withholding military aid until they investigated former Vice President Joe Biden, who is running for president in 2020.
But Clinton said that the impeachment inquiry shouldn’t overshadow struggles in Ukraine.
“It’s a scandal; it’s an absolute, appropriate scandal and it should’ve triggered the impeachment inquiry, but let’s not lose sight of the larger issue,” Clinton said. “It’s a real country with real people who thought they were going to get a real chance to have a better future, and now they are caught between our political games here in the United States and Russian aggression.”
Clinton also raised concerns over the way the Trump administration withdrew U.S. troops from northern Syria, abandoning Kurds who have long been allies of the United States.
“I think the brutality and the conflict will only intensify and I fear that it will contribute to a resurgence of ISIS,” Clinton said. “A certain number of them were captured along with their women and their children, but by no means was that movement or that ideology defeated.”
But Clinton said that the challenges faced domestically and those faced internationally cannot be isolated from one another.
“I think you have to look at both the domestic and the international scene and try to answer that question the best,” Clinton said, noting that faith in both domestic and international institutions has been falling. “There’s a natural rhythm to this that I think we are watching unfold, but I would add there’s also a concerted effort to undermine our faith in these international institutions. There is a real effort by some to create dislocation and disruption.”
One key example of the two intersecting is election interference, Clinton said, citing a bipartisan U.S. Senate report urging the Trump administration to take steps to protect the 2020 election.
“Here’s what I tell the candidates who come to see me or call me on the phone, the ones running on the Democratic side: You could run the best campaign; you could be the nominee and you could lose for four factors that are not in your control,” Clinton said.
Clinton said those four factors are voter suppression and purging voters, information being stolen from the campaigns, fake news amplified on social media, and interference from foreign governments.
“I’m very worried because those four factors are alive and well,” Clinton said. “All I want is a free, fair, transparent, honest election not interfered with by Russians or anybody else, so that the choice of the American people is actually the choice of American people.”
But Clinton did offer a sliver of hope, saying that whoever the next president is will have the immense responsibility of restoring America’s prominence on the world stage.
“We have to do a lot of repair work. This is a moment in history when I think the voices of others – the voices of other elected officials, the voices of citizen leaders, the voices of prominent business leaders – all need to be heard so that people around the world will know that the America they used to count on, that was there, that represented the values they aspired to, will be back. We’ll find our way back,” Clinton said.