Hillary Clinton defends telling Wall Street that politicians need a private and public position on issues

Wikileaks released the speeches on Friday.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton answers a question during the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016. CREDIT: AP Photo/Julio Cortez
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton answers a question during the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016. CREDIT: AP Photo/Julio Cortez

In Sunday night’s debate, Hillary Clinton was pressed on the content of a trove of emails Wikileaks released on Friday, which were allegedly hacked from the account of her campaign chair, John Podesta. Those e-mails included excerpts from her paid speeches to Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street entities, in which she dismisses Americans’ concerns about a “rigged” financial system, says bankers are best equipped to be their own regulators, expresses a desire for free trade in the hemisphere, and asserts that it is often necessary for political leaders to take one position in public and another one in private.

Debate moderator Martha Raddatz pressed Clinton on that final point, reading a question submitted online that asked, “Is it okay for politicians to be two-faced? Is it acceptable for you have have a private stance?”

Clinton responds that she made the comment about public and private positions when talking about the movie Lincoln, in which Abraham Lincoln uses back room deals to secure the constitutional amendment to end slavery. The document revealed by Wikileaks corroborates this account.


Clinton explained Sunday that she was speaking of her admiration for Abraham Lincoln’s effectiveness in office. “It was principled and strategic and I was making the point that it is hard sometimes to get the Congress to do what you want to do,” she said. “You have to keep working at it and yes, President Lincoln was trying to convince someone and he used some arguments, and convincing other people, he used other arguments.”


Clinton then pivoted to focus on how Wikileaks got the documents in the first place — citing a recent announcement from U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia is behind a series of politically-motivated hacks targeting the Democratic Party.

“Russians hack information and we don’t know if it’s accurate information,” Clinton said. “We have never in the history of our country been in a situation where an adversary or foreign power is working so hard to influence the outcome of the elections and they are not doing it to get me elected. They are doing it to influence the election for Donald Trump.”

Clinton’s campaign has refused to confirm the authenticity of the e-mails and speech transcripts, and has suggested in interviews that they may have been doctored.

Over the last year, Clinton has pressed to release the transcripts of these speeches by the press, by her primary opponent Bernie Sanders, and by Donald Trump, but refused to do so in all instances. While the coziness with Wall Street portrayed in the speeches may have damaged her during the primaries, almost nothing in the leaked speeches differs from her public positions on economic issues.

The speeches were also given before Clinton ran for the Democratic nomination against populist firebrand Bernie Sanders — a heated primary campaign that pulled Clinton further to the left on on a host of issues and forced her to publicly commit to policies that crack down on misbehavior on Wall Street. These commitments have earned her enthusiastic endorsements from both Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who has built her career on a vow to rein in Wall Street.


Editor’s note: John Podesta was the founder and former president of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the parent organization of ThinkProgress. ThinkProgress has guaranteed editorial independence from the Center for American Progress, and while Podesta remains on the board of the think tank he is no longer its president.