Why Hillary Clinton's campaign surrogates are talking 'trust'
The Clinton campaign says the presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee was interviewed for 3 1/2 hours Saturday at FBI headquarters in Washington.
Washington — The Clinton trust campaign is turning to powerful advocates, chief among them President Barack Obama, to vouch for the Democratic candidate shadowed by an FBI investigation on the brink of her presidential nomination.
Hillary Clinton herself acknowledges that she has "work to do" to earn the trust of voters after nearly four decades in public life as she faces Republican Donald Trump in the general election. And she's called in help from advocates to attest to her "good heart," as Sen. Elizabeth Warren put it — whatever the results of the FBI probe into Clinton's private email server while she was secretary of state.
On Sunday's news shows, Sen. Sherrod Brown, R-Ohio, and Labor Secretary Tom Perez — both potential running mates for the Democratic ticket — explicitly talked about Clinton and trust.
On Tuesday, Obama is set to join Clinton in a campaign event in battleground North Carolina meant to personalize the "I trust Hillary" theme. It's the president's first appearance with his former secretary of state during the 2016 campaign. Vice President Joe Biden will reinforce the message Friday in his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, with Clinton at his side.
"Trust" is on the lips of Democrats because it's a remarkable vulnerability that persists for Clinton, despite and because of her decades of public life. And the timing of her credibility campaign is no accident.
Her husband, former president Bill Clinton, met last Monday with the FBI's boss, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, on the tarmac in Phoenix in a session both say was innocent but regrettable. Then, on Saturday, the FBI interviewed Hillary Clinton for more than three hours about whether she exposed government secrets by blending personal and official business on a home email server.
She immediately gave an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" in which she denied wrongdoing and repeated an acknowledgment she had slipped into a speech last week on the same day Warren vouched for her.
Clinton told NBC she will do "everything I can to earn the trust of the voters of our country" and added: "I know that's something that I'm going to keep working on, and I think that's, you know, a clear priority for me."
After Warren had endorsed her, Clinton acknowledged she'd "made mistakes. I don't know anyone who hasn't."
And she defended her sometimes too-cautious style.
"The reason I sometimes sound careful with my words is not that I'm hiding something. It's just that I'm careful with my words," she said at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition's event in Chicago.
Questions about Clinton's ethics have dogged her from her days as first lady of Arkansas and later the United States during Bill Clinton's governorship and presidency, through her service a senator from New York, her failed 2008 presidential campaign and as Obama's secretary of state. So pervasive has the image been that her opponents have only to utter buzzwords like "Whitewater" — the name of the Clintons' failed land deal in which neither was implicated in wrongdoing — to invoke the image of what Trump terms, "Crooked Hillary."
Not helping the trust campaign: the Bill Clinton-Loretta Lynch meeting. "I learned about it in the news," Hillary Clinton told NBC on Saturday just hours after the FBI session. "They did not discuss the Department of Justice's review."
Was the visit inappropriate, she was asked?
"Well, I think, you know, hindsight is 20/20."
Clinton's supporters leapt in with defenses of her overall character.
"I trust Hillary Clinton in part, because, for a whole lot of reasons," Brown said on "This Week" on ABC. "I know how she started her career advocating for the Children's Defense Fund. She didn't go off to Manhattan or to Washington to make a lot of money."
Perez repeated Clinton's own reasoning that in the quarter century since her husband was first elected president, some accusations against her have stuck, rightly or wrongly.
"The Hillary Clinton that I've gotten to know well and the Hillary Clinton that the voters of New York got to kick the tires on very well, they have always said and consistently said that we trust her," Perez, another vice presidential possibility, said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
He urged voters to look at the public service work Clinton has done during her career. "That really gives me, and I think the American people, a window into her moral compass. And her moral compass is about helping those who are in the shadows."
Added Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., another potential vice presidential pick: "The secretary has made it very clear she understands she's got to earn people's trust. She's going to work very, very hard to do that. And I give her credit for saying she's made some mistakes," he said on "Fox News Sunday." ''She's going to try to show the American people that she's going to work hard, especially for working families in America, to earn their trust."