Hillary Clinton, appearing Monday night on The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, expressed “profound sadness” that a former president has been accused of terrible crimes.
Maddow was already scheduled to host Clinton Monday when news broke that a grand jury in Fulton County, Ga., had returned a new indictment in the probe of interference in the 2020 presidential election — and attempts to overturn the results — by Donald Trump and his associates. The nature of the charges had not yet been announced, but naturally the many charges pending against Trump (78 counts without the Georgia charges) became the main subject of Maddow and Clinton’s conversation.
Maddow asked if Clinton felt satisfaction regarding the charges, but Trump’s rival in the 2016 presidential election said she did not. “I don’t know that anybody should be satisfied. This is a terrible moment for our country to have a former president accused of these terribly important crimes,” said Clinton, also a former U.S. senator and secretary of State. “The only satisfaction may be that the system is working. That all of the efforts by Trump and his allies and his enablers to try to silence the truth and undermine democracy have been brought into the light. And justice is being pursued.”
“We don’t know yet what the charges coming out of Georgia are,” Clinton said, “but if you stop and think about what the public evidence is … he set out to defraud the United States of America and the citizens of our nation. He used tactics of harassment, intimidation, he made threats. He and his allies went after state officials, local officials responsible for conducting elections. Now we know they even went into voting machines in order to determine whether or not those voting machines had somehow been breached when they were the ones actually doing the breaching.”
Trump and his allies have tried to undermine trust in our system of government, she continued. “The lack of trust, the divisiveness, the undermining of faith in ourselves, in each other, respect for our institutions, the rule of law, all of that has been deliberately inculcated within our body politic,” she said.
The lies by these elements, she added, “are all the hallmarks of authoritarian, dictatorial kinds of leaders. … Everything we have worked on to make this a more perfect union has been in the target of the antidemocratic forces unfortunately led by a demagogue for four years in the White House.”
“Holding him accountable can happen in a number of ways,” Clinton said. Prison, if he is convicted, is one of the ways, she said, but there are others. One is for the Republican Party to move away from Trump, as former Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, himself a Republican, has suggested, she said.
There was a bipartisan vote to bring articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon in 1974, when Clinton was a congressional staffer, and three Republican senators told him to resign, which he did. “That’s almost impossible to imagine today,” she said, as the party has “thrown in with all of the lies and the divisiveness.”
But Clinton remains hopeful that some Republicans will reject this approach and hold their party accountable. “We don’t know, we hope, because it would be for the good of the country if that were to happen,” she said. If not, the only way to defeat it is through the rule of law and through elections.
That comes back to what was scheduled to be Maddow and Clinton’s topic for the evening, an article Clinton wrote for The Atlantic on the so-called epidemic of loneliness. Disconnected populations are primed for extremism, Maddow noted, and she asked Clinton what the solution is.
“I think it’s cultural, political, and probably economic as well,” Clinton said. There need to be more opportunities for Americans to work together on civic projects, she said. Also, “we have to do a better job of trying to stand up against the divisiveness.” That’s a task for political leaders and everyone else, she said.
She said she doesn’t think President Joe Biden gets enough credit for modeling responsible leadership — his legislative achievements, rebuilding infrastructure, and more. Meanwhile, Democratic governors are making school lunches free, but Republican governors are lowering the age for employment and ripping away social support programs, she noted.
Maddow added that Biden is presiding over the lowest peacetime levels of unemployment and poverty, but still Biden doesn’t have a high approval rating. Clinton blamed “a splintered information ecosystem” in which people get news from social media or not at all. “We have a lot of work to do.”
Maddow went on to point out the “weird spectacle during the Women’s World Cup” in soccer in Trump tearing down the U.S. team, along with tearing down Americans in general. “He just talks about how much he hates America and how terrible America is,” she said.
Clinton replied that in Trump’s eyes, the women’s team consisted of “a bunch of pushy women.” In her own eyes, they are outspoken, proud, and confident athletes and activists for equal pay and social justice. Trump’s comments were among his many dog whistles against people he considers different.
“At the core of it is a set of beliefs about Americans who are entitled to rule and the rest of us,” she explained. “And the rest of us is a pretty big group.”
“Democracy wins, or else,” Maddow said, to which Clinton responded, “2024 will be a critical moment in whether or not that happens.”
The interview ended with them speculating that another indictment against Trump will come down the next time Clinton is scheduled to appear. “I was going to say, just tell me when to show up the next time, we’ll see what he’s charged with then.”