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Clinton, denouncing Trump, calls herself ‘part of the resistance’

Hillary Clinton spoke Tuesday at a Planned Parenthood event in New York.
Andrew Toth/Getty Images
Hillary Clinton spoke Tuesday at a Planned Parenthood event in New York.

NEW YORK — Hillary Clinton on Tuesday sharply questioned President Trump’s conduct in office, criticizing his foreign policy pronouncements and penchant for posting on Twitter, and described herself as “part of the resistance.”

Clinton, who has kept a relatively low profile since her defeat in the presidential race, repeatedly characterized Trump as struggling in the presidency during a public interview with Christiane Amanpour, a CNN correspondent, in midtown Manhattan.

At an event hosted by Women for Women International, a nonprofit group, Clinton voiced disbelief at what she cast as the White House’s slapdash approach to issues like health care policy and the North Korean nuclear program.

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She specifically criticized Trump’s suggestion in a television interview that he would be prepared to meet with Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, mocking Trump’s comment as impulsive and naive.

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North Korea, Clinton said, has long tried to lure US leaders into direct contact “to elevate their status and their position, and we should be very careful about giving that away.”

“You should not offer that in the absence of a broader strategic framework to try to get China, Japan, Russia, South Korea to put the kind of pressure on the regime that will finally bring them to the negotiating table,” she said, adding of direct talks: “They have to be part of a broader strategy, not just thrown up on a tweet some morning: ‘Hey, let’s get together, see if we can’t get along.’ ”

Clinton’s rebuke of Trump, just after his administration passed the 100-day mark, was a remarkably blunt dressing-down of a new president by his adversary in the last election.

Her remarks came amid a new wave of criticism of Trump from emboldened veterans of the last administration: Former vice president Joe Biden visited New Hampshire on Sunday to rally his party and castigate Republicans in Washington, and former president Barack Obama told attendees at a private event in New York last week that his signature health care law was now more popular than Trump, according to CNN.

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But Clinton, as her party’s most recent standard-bearer, has a special status as an adversary of Trump. And while she described herself as merely a private citizen, she placed herself publicly on the side of the popular backlash against her former opponent.

In an almost casual aside, she effectively endorsed the explosion of activism on the left, in the language activists have embraced.

“I’m back to being an active citizen,” Clinton said, “and part of the resistance.”

Throughout her remarks, Clinton emphasized how thoroughly she had prepared to assume the presidency, strongly implying that Trump had not matched her preparation.

But for the actions of Russian-backed hackers and the FBI, Clinton said, she would have been president.

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She said Trump appeared to be struggling to fulfill his campaign promises.

“Health care is complicated, and so is foreign policy and other stuff,” Clinton said, drawing laughter and applause from a supportive audience. “If it’s easy, it doesn’t get to the president’s desk.”

She also called on the administration not to cut international development initiatives, including aid programs aimed at supporting women.

And she questioned whether the missile strikes Trump ordered in Syria would have a meaningful effect on the conflict there.

Clinton appeared to be enjoying herself as she served up crowd-pleasing lines in a dry and knowing tone. She won a loud ovation from the audience, which included actress Meryl Streep, when she observed that Trump seemed irked by the fact that she won the popular vote by several million ballots.

The president, she said, “should worry less about the election and my winning the popular vote” than about more urgent matters of policy confronting the country.

Pressed by Amanpour to reflect on the campaign, Clinton said she took “absolute personal responsibility” for her defeat. But she said she believed she would have won if not for the actions of Russia and a surprise announcement in late October by James B. Comey, the FBI director, that the agency was conducting an additional review of e-mails linked to Clinton.

“The reason why I believe we lost were the intervening events in the last 10 days,” she said, suggesting that based on the available data, “if the election had been on October 27, I’d be your president.”

In pointed language, Clinton said Trump seemed to be tightly aligned with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, whom US intelligence agencies believe ordered an extensive campaign aimed at influencing the 2016 race.

“He certainly interfered in our election,” Clinton said of Putin. “And clearly interfered to hurt me and to help my opponent.”

Clinton said that if you “chart my opponent and his campaign’s statements,” they appear “quite coordinated with the goals of that leader, who shall remain nameless.”

In another jab at Trump’s policies, Clinton pointed out that she had criticized Putin for conducting “rigged” elections during her tenure as secretary of state. In an apparent allusion to the Trump administration’s lack of interest in human rights issues, Clinton said that for secretaries of state, chastising strongman tactics “kind of goes with the territory — at least, it did.”

Clinton, who said she believed sexism also played a role in the 2016 race, promised she would offer a fuller reflection on the campaign in a book next fall. She said she was working on the manuscript now.

“It’s a painful process, reliving the campaign,” she said.