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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Hillary Clinton Campaign Update

Brian Fallon, Press Secretary, Hillary for America
Philadelphia, PA
July 27, 2016

Date: 07/27/2016 Location: Philadelphia, PA Description: Brian Fallon, Press Secretary at Hillary for America, updates foreign journalists on Hillary Clinton's campaign at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. - State Dept Image

2:00 P.M. EDT


MODERATOR: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to the Foreign Press Center’s briefings here at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. This afternoon, we are very pleased to welcome Brian Fallon, who, as you know, serves as national press secretary for Hillary of America. As with all of our briefings this week, Mr. Fallon’s remarks represent those that are his own and of the campaign and not of the United States Government.

Without further ado, Mr. Fallon. Thank you.

MR FALLON: Thank you very much. I’ll just open with a couple brief comments. Firstly, we were very pleased with how the convention took place last night. For us there were three clear takeaways.

Number one, after facing a lot of questions about how unified our party would be this week, I thought that the display of unity was remarkable last night, especially in the sense that Senator Sanders, our primary opponent, spoke up at the end of the roll call and personally moved that Hillary Clinton be announced as the nominee of our party. I think that was an extraordinary gesture on his part that was a good window into the unity that we’ve been building this week.

Secondly, we felt very pleased with the speakers and the consistent theme of the fights that Hillary Clinton has waged throughout her career. And obviously, the best possible messenger for that was her own husband, President Clinton, who gave a really remarkable speech to cap off the evening.

And then lastly, I think we appropriately took note of the historic nature of Secretary Clinton’s nomination as the first woman nominee in American history to be at the top of a ticket of a major party for a presidential election, and I think that the reaction by the crowd when she was announced in that live satellite feed at the conclusion of the evening was probably the high point of the evening.

So tonight, we’re going to be focused on foreign policy and national security issues. Hillary Clinton, obviously, is probably the most qualified individual to ever seek the presidency, or so says our own President Barack Obama, but obviously, we will be telling the story of her tenure as secretary of state, her record of accomplishment there, and explain how that in addition to all her other experiences as first lady and as senator from New York has uniquely equipped her to lead our country in these challenging times where we face the increasing threat of terrorism from abroad and here at home.

And we’ll be also talking about the contrast about why Donald trump is uniquely unfit to serve as the president of the United States, and just today with the comments that Donald Trump made where he seemed to be openly inviting the Russian Government to continue to sponsor acts of cyberterrorism and intrusions against United States interests, that was very troubling. It was certainly unprecedented in the history of American politics to see a major party presidential nominee engage in that type of rhetoric, openly suggesting that espionage be conducted against any U.S. interest. And I think that you’re seeing a bipartisan rejection of those comments. Speaker Paul Ryan, the top Republican in the House of Representatives in Washington, has issued a statement in reaction to that distancing himself from Donald Trump.

And I think that that speaks to the fact that this issue of the potential breach of the DNC by Russian interests perhaps, that’s a matter of national security. It should not be treated as a matter of politics. It should not be an issue where Democrats and Republicans retreat to their sides or seek advantage of one side or the other. It should be something where we could come together and say that there should not be any outside influences on our election one way or the other. And so I think that that’s just the latest example of why Donald Trump is reckless, dangerous, and unfit to be president, and we’ll tell the larger parts of that story in our speaking program tonight.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks for doing this. My name is Renzo Ruf*. I’m here with Swiss newspapers. The other topic everybody is talking about is trade. I have a question. Do I understand that correctly that Hillary Clinton is now against a trade deal with the pacific states, completely against it? And what is the implication when it comes to a possible trade deal with European nations? Is she also against a trade deal with the EU? Thanks.

MR FALLON: What Hillary Clinton has said throughout her career is that we have to be mindful in the United States that we are representing only about 5 percent of the world’s population and it would not be at all in the business interests of the United States of America to be foregoing 95 percent of the world’s consumers. So we need the rest of the world in order to export our goods and create demand for U.S. products that we want to move overseas.

So she is not against trade in all forms, and her career and her record shows that she’s taken a very specific approach by looking at each potential trade deal one at a time. So when she was in the Senate, the one trade deal that came before her as a senator was CAFTA. She opposed it. When she was running for president in 2007 and 2008, she opposed the Colombian Free Trade Agreement. She then, as secretary of state, based on changes that were made to that deal, carried out President Obama’s agenda with respect to the Colombia agreement and got improvements there and ended up vouching for his support for that agreement.

But with respect to TPP, as secretary she talked open-mindedly about the goals that should be sought in structuring that agreement. But since it was not completed in her tenure there, as a candidate for office she said that she would be awaiting a finalization of that agreement and the final language to review to see if it met the tests that she has laid out. And when the final agreement was revealed, she found that it did not meet the standard that she set out in terms of being able to validate that it would increase wages here in the United States and protect American jobs. And so for those reasons, she said that she couldn’t support this deal.

Now, Governor McAuliffe of Virginia, who is a longtime friend of hers, has suggested in the last day or so that even though she’s against the TPP in its current form that perhaps with a couple tweaks here or there she could be convinced to support it as president. And I’m here to tell you that that’s just not the case, that with respect to TPP her position is very clear and consistent. She’s against it now, she’d be against in any interim period between the election and her being sworn in, and she’s be against it in January when she gets sworn in as president. She’s not interested in tweaking this particular agreement and seeking to make some tinkerings around the edges to try to improve it. The reopening of that agreement is not part of her agenda as it concerns jobs and increasing wages here in the United States.

QUESTION: Hi, Claudia Trevisan from the Brazilian newspaper Estado de Sao Paolo. Last night, President Bill Clinton presented Secretary Hillary as a change maker. At the same time, she says that she’s the candidate that will hold the legacy of President Obama, and she’s portrayed by her adversaries as the candidate of the status quo. How shall we all manage to reconcile these two views?

MR FALLON: Well, I think that what she means when she talks about not going backwards but rather going forwards is that she doesn’t think that we should reverse the progress that we’ve made under President Obama. Obviously, he took office at a time of deep economic turmoil here not only in the United States but across the world, and it took a lot of hard work by President Obama and Vice President Biden to help dig us out of that ditch, if you will, to get the economy going again. We had deep turmoil in the auto industry that required a major piece of legislation to be passed. We passed the Recovery Act in 2009 to help spur growth again in the United States. And so there was a lot of efforts that needed to be undertaken to improve the economy.

And what she talks about is not wanting to revert to some of the failed economic policies of the past that got us into that trouble to begin with. And so when Donald Trump goes along and suggests that he wants to implement a tax policy that would lavish disproportionately tax breaks on the wealthy, when he goes along and suggests rolling back Dodd-Frank which were – which is a law that imposes important regulations on the financial industry. These would represent steps that would take us backwards, and she wants to build on the progress that the President has made and take us forwards.

But she understands that we still have a long way to go, that even though we’ve made a lot of improvements under President Obama with respect to the economy that wages are still very stagnant here in the United States. We have not seen significant wage growth since the 1990s, and she wants to fix that. And so when she talks about her ability to make change and when President Clinton attests to her ability to effect change as president, we’re referring to things like what types of policies can she get enacted even potentially with a Republican-led House of Representatives, in order to get wages rising again. So that’s change yes, but it’s change that builds atop the progress that we’ve made rather than reverting to some of the failed policies of the past.

QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Sabrina Buckwalter. I’m here with France Television. One of the things that Trump said earlier today in his press conference, or rather one of the claims that he made, was that Mrs. Clinton hasn’t had a press conference in over 250 days. And so one of the things I was curious about was whether or not we might see an uptick in press access in the lead-up to Election Day.

MR FALLON: Thank you. So from the earliest days of our campaign we have made a priority to do interviews and interactions with the media in different styles of formats. We have made admittedly a big priority out of doing interviews with local media; that is to say, the newspapers and television stations that are concentrated in the states that were voting in the primary when we were running against Senator Sanders, and now that we’re in a general election in states that are the, quote/unquote, battlegrounds, the 10 to 11 states that where the race is the closest and where we’ll be spending the bulk of our travel time.

So Hillary Clinton will be doing no shortage of interviews. They’re just far likelier to occur with newspapers like the Des Moines Register in Iowa or newspapers in Ohio like the Columbus Dispatch or the local television affiliates in Roanoke, Virginia as we seek to communicate as directly as possible with the voters in those particular states. At the same time, we continue to do national interviews, and so that’s why from time to time you will see or hear Secretary Clinton dialing in and giving an interview with the cable television stations here in the U.S.

And in addition to that, from time to time, not as often admittedly as our traveling press corps would like, we do entertain questions at the conclusion of events when we’re on the road. Again, I would caveat that by noting that if any of our regular traveling reporters were here, they would note that that occurs less frequently than they would wish, so I – I know that they will say that so I want to register that for the record. But we do incorporate that as well in terms of another opportunity to be heard and to take questions and grant access.

So I expect that we will continue to do that and then probably build in even more interactions over time, perhaps in the style of a formal press conference like this one. But I think that there will be no shortage of opportunities for her to take questions on any number of subjects.

QUESTION: David Smith of The Guardian newspaper from the UK. Do you think that Donald Trump is actually working in cahoots with the Russian Government? Is there actual collusion between his campaign and these hackers?

MR FALLON: I couldn’t say. We don’t have any evidence of that to date. I know that there is an FBI investigation into the DNC hack. All the experts that have independently weighed in, including the company CrowdStrike that was retained by the DNC to investigate the breach initially, have all suggested that they’re fairly confident it was indeed the Russian Government that was behind the hack. But whether that is being done at all in coordination with Donald Trump himself, I don’t think there’s any evidence of that to date.

I do think that there’s a troubling pattern of Donald Trump making statements and taking positions that seems to align with Putin’s interests rather than the U.S. interests. For instance, last week there was a last-minute change to the Republican platform that softened language dealing with Ukraine and took a more pro-Putin stance. That was the outcome of removing that language. And then of course, he gave that interview to The New York Times last Thursday suggesting that even if any of our Eastern European allies came under threat from Russia that we might not necessarily live up to our obligations under NATO. So all of these things add up to a very troubling pattern of him showing affinity for Putin’s Russia. Whether that arises to him at all being in the loop on any of the activities that we’ve seen with the DNC, I think it’s premature to speculate to that effect.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. My name is Fouad Arif from the Moroccan newswire MAP. How confident are you with regard to defining Donald Trump in the eyes of the American people, and how much of a balance are you expecting after – in the polls after the convention? Thanks.

MR FALLON: Thank you. So as many of you know, Donald Trump enters this general election with historically high unfavorability numbers, the worst in recorded history. And those numbers are well-earned and well-deserved based on the way that he has needlessly provoked and offended huge swaths of the U.S. population in his comments and the positions he’s taken over the first few months of this campaign.

That said, while the majority of the U.S. public is fully aware of his pattern of offensive and insulting statements, we do see the need to continue to educate the public about his business record and what that says about who he would truly fight for as president when it comes to managing the economy. This was not an issue that was well-litigated in the Republican primary. There was some attention at the very end of the primary raised by Marco Rubio during that brief period where he challenged Donald Trump directly. And he raised questions about some of his business ventures like Trump University, and for the first time you saw some of this business skills questioned. But largely, this issue was not litigated in the Republican primary, and so coming into the general election, I think by virtue of the image that he has sought to cultivate over many years that he is indeed a successful businessman, I think that that leaves us with some education to do of the public about how he went about pursuing his business interests and at whose expense he profited. And the reality is that in his business career he frequently put his own bottom line ahead of his workers, his creditors, and small businesses that he contracted with. In the many bankruptcies he declared throughout his business career, he frequently left small businesses holding the bag. Painters, architects, other individuals that did work for various real estate projects of his, ended up getting pennies on the dollar. And we’re going to tell that story because we think it opens up a larger window into showing who he’s in this for and why Americans should not take him at his word when he says that he’s going to put his skills to work for the middle-class voters here in the United States.

In terms of a bounce from the polls, I think that that is largely a relic of years gone by where you would have seen traditionally sometimes a double-digit spike in polling in the aftermath of the parties’ conventions. I think that the impact is a lot more reduced just because of the polarization that exists in the electorate today. A lot of people are going into these conventions already sort of decided. But we do know that there is a slice, however narrow, of those persuadable voters that are still making up their minds, and we feel quite confident that at the end of this week we’ll have done a good job of laying a foundation of what the contrast is between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. And I would expect that in a week or so’s time, you’ll see the race settle having taken proper account of both parties’ conventions. The upshot I think will be that the race will remain very close and will stay that way all the way through November. We don’t expect otherwise. We don’t expect any major separation in polling in some of the battleground states between now and November, but we’re built to win a contest that is going to be close. So that does not put any fear in us – the idea that the polling will remain tight. We’ve made the investments and organized ourselves in a way to win a race that is extremely close.

QUESTION: Thanks so much. Michael Mathes from Agence France Presse, AFP. You addressed this a little bit, Brian, but I’m wondering if you could walk us through some of the themes that Hillary Clinton will be addressing tomorrow in her main speech. And also, how is she going to square this notion that Bill Clinton mentioned yesterday that she’s a catalyst for change when she’s been in the public eye and a national figure for more than 30 years? And also, is she going to modify her remarks to address specifically these claims by Donald Trump about Russian hacking? Thanks.

MR FALLON: So she is still working on her remarks and I expect that that will remain true right up until tomorrow. I think generally speaking that you can expect her to hit on many of the same themes and notes that she sounds on the campaign trail. Fundamentally, this convention and her speech as well is devoted to setting out the contrast between her and Donald Trump. She believes that we’re stronger together. That’s the slogan that you see in many of the materials throughout the hall. And what that means is that in building an economy we think that we should ensure that the growth and the rewards of an improved economy are shared and that more people are doing well and we see fewer – less wealth concentrated at the top.

From a foreign policy standpoint, it means standing together with our allies, not abandoning them as Donald Trump has proposed with respect to NATO. And also more generally, it means not insulting and demeaning entire swaths of the U.S. population, but rather embracing our diversity. That has been in keeping with the traditions of the United States that we embrace the idea of the U.S. as a melting pot and we realize that when we draw upon the richness and the diversity of the American population, that’s when we innovate, that’s when we come together and achieve great things.

And I think that those principles stand in stark contrast to the message that you heard in Cleveland last week, so I would expect generally speaking that her remarks will hit those same notes.

With respect to the question about how she can be a catalyst for change, I somewhat addressed it earlier but I would just say that we will grant that she has been in public service and in public life for a series of years now. What we have argued is that throughout her career she has proven a unique ability to get results and figure out what pressure points, what ways to bring people together from dueling factions, how to reach out across the aisle, get things done with Republicans. She entered the Senate and was very skeptically viewed at first by many of her Republican colleagues and ended up getting a veterans Tricare proposal passed working together with Lindsey Graham, who as many of you know when he was in the House in the 1990s was a manager for the impeachment case in 1998.

So she has proven at various stages throughout her life an ability to reach across the aisle, surprise people with her doggedness, her tenacity. And so our point is that if you actually want someone who has detailed plans that will actually make a difference in your life and has the know-how to get it done and get it pushed across the finish line, Hillary Clinton is the candidate for you. That’s why she can effect change.

QUESTION: Hi, I’m Anna from Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paolo. Governor Tim Kaine is going to speak today, and how do you respond to critics that he is one of the least progressive voices in the party today and that he is a positive voice for the TPP trade deal?

MR FALLON: So as we have explained in the days since his selection, if you look at the arc of Senator Kaine’s career, he is somebody that’s been committed to fighting on behalf of progressive causes throughout his life. And his progressivism, his progressive streak, comes from a very genuine place in that it comes from this wellspring of moral conviction based on his deep religious faith. And so this is somebody who took a year off from law school to go to Honduras to do work alongside Jesuit missionaries, and then when he went back and returned to Harvard Law School and graduated, decided to go to work in Virginia as a civil rights attorney. And one of his landmark cases was a housing discrimination case against Nationwide Insurance which was engaging in discriminatory practices with respect to who they offered insurance policies to.

And ever since then, whether it was as mayor of Richmond of lieutenant governor or governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia or now as senator, he’s been on the right side of many of the issues most important to progressives. To take one example in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shooting, he happened to be governor at the time. He embarked at that time in an aggressive push to try to enhance gun safety measures in Virginia, and that is no small feat considering that Virginia is the headquarter state for the National Rifle Association, which has cowed many a would-be crusader on that issue. He stood up to them, enacted an executive order on that issue, pursued even further measures, and didn’t shy away from that fight. And so we’re going to continue to tell that story. He personally is going to tell that story in his remarks tonight.

With respect to TPP, that was an issue that came up in the course of conversations leading up to his selection as the running mate. And he indicated to her that she – that he shared her view that TPP did not meet the standards necessary to be supportive of that deal. So both the top and – the top of the ticket and our running mate, Senator Kaine, are now completely aligned on that issue both in opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

QUESTION: Hi, my name is Grigory Dubovitsky. I’m from Russian news agency RIA Novosti. So do you – how do you think, does this scandal, email scandal would make impossible for Russia and United States to set a new reset in relations?

MR FALLON: No, I think that Hillary Clinton has proven during her tenure as secretary of state that she is able to work the skills and practice the skills of diplomacy and represent U.S. interests abroad even with those nations whose interests are not always 100 percent completely aligned with our own. However, I think that she has a very fundamental difference in her viewpoint with respect to Vladimir Putin and how Russia has conducted its affairs on many fronts, and I think that she wholeheartedly disagrees with the continued expressions of admiration that we hear from Donald Trump with respect to Mr. Putin.

So I think that she would approach Russia much more skeptically. Donald Trump seems obsessed with gaining the admiration and respect of the singular individual of Mr. Putin and seems to be willing to forfeit our decades-old alliances with nations across the European continent just for the sake of currying favor with Mr. Putin. That strikes us as odd, to say the very least, and not necessarily at all in the interest of the United States to be doing that. So I think that she would approach a relationship with Russia from a fundamentally different standpoint, but that’s not to say that she couldn’t practice the work of diplomacy with respect to Russia or any other nation. I think she’s shown that in many facets during her tenure as secretary of state.

QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Priscilla Imboden from Swiss Radio. I have a question about the strategy of Hillary Clinton’s now going forward into the fight against Donald Trump. When he attacks her, does she intend to sort of respond to him at the same level? Or is her strategy more to stay above the fray and play out her experience and show sort of a serene image?

MR FALLON: Thank you. That’s a question we get often, and I actually would associate myself with what the First Lady said on Monday night. She described the approach that she and President Obama take as when they go low, go high. And that’s for the most part the approach we’ve taken. We know that Donald Trump will take to Twitter on any given day and engage in petty insults and name calling. We are not going to engage in kind with Donald Trump. We’re not going to try to come up with demeaning nicknames for him. We are not going to engage in personal style attacks.

In many instances, we have been unyielding in pointing out our criticisms of Donald Trump, but for the most part it relies on his own words. She gave a very high-profile speech in San Diego, California several weeks ago where she talked about why he was uniquely unfit to be president of the United States, and the speech largely consisted of holding up a mirror to Donald Trump and reciting his own words to make the case for why he had disqualified himself from being capable of being trusted with the nuclear launch codes as president of the United States.

So we will not be shy about explaining why we think Donald Trump is no ordinary candidate; that unlike previous Republicans where you could have a good-faith policy disagreement between the Democratic nominee and the Republican nominee, that this is a unique and rare case where the individual doesn’t just have a different world view, doesn’t just have a different outlook on the world, but would fundamentally put our nation at risk in a way that we just can’t tolerate or accept. And she’s gone ahead and made that case. Others from Donald Trump’s own party have joined her in making that case. So we’re not going to be shy about pointing out the huge stakes of this election and the unique threat that Donald Trump represents, but we’re not going to do that or make that case by engaging in petty taunts or insults.

Thanks. Thank you all. Appreciate it.

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