NEW YORK — Hours after Robert Mueller, the special counsel, broke his silence and said that Russia had sought to damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, Clinton said that the “systemic efforts to interfere” in the 2016 election “deserves the attention of every American.”
Clinton made the remarks as part of a commencement address Wednesday afternoon to more than 2,400 Hunter College students inside New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Amid a sea of purple caps and gowns, she also leveled fresh criticism at the Trump administration for what she said was its “complete refusal to condemn a foreign power who attacked our democracy” and its failure to protect the country’s voting systems against future attacks.
“It seems absolutely clear that we’ve got to deal with what has been investigated and reported,” she said.
Earlier in the day, Mueller held a 10-minute news conference — his first public characterization of the investigation since it began more than two years ago — in which he discussed central elements of his report, including the decision to not explicitly clear President Donald Trump of obstruction of justice.
He reiterated allegations previously laid out in an indictment that Russian intelligence officers had “used sophisticated cybertechniques to hack into computers and networks used by the Clinton campaign,” and that their release of that information was “designed and timed to interfere with our election” and to “damage” Clinton.
Clinton also used part of her 30-minute commencement speech to criticize what she called “the big social media platforms,” which she said “know their systems are being manipulated by foreign and domestic actors to sow division, promote extremism and spread misinformation.”
“But they won’t get serious about cleaning up their platforms unless consumers demand it,” she told the graduates.
She specifically rebuked Facebook for its refusal to remove altered videos of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which first appeared online last week and spread widely. In one of the edited videos, Pelosi’s speech was slowed down and slurred, making her appear drunk.
Pelosi herself sharply criticized Facebook earlier Wednesday, telling a public radio station in Northern California that the company’s refusal to take down altered videos of her demonstrated how the social network contributed to misinformation.
“It wasn’t even a close call,” Clinton said of Facebook’s decision not to remove the content. “The video is sexist trash.”
Clinton’s comments come four weeks after she sharply criticized Attorney General William Barr, Trump, members of the Republican Party and some findings of the Mueller report in a wide-ranging interview on “The Rachel Maddow Show.” She has also recently appeared in a comedy sketch in which she performed a dramatic reading of the Mueller report, and has spoken out on Twitter about the recent state abortion bans.
On Wednesday, she continued to obliquely attack the Trump administration, saying, “We are witnessing an assault on the rule of law and the foundations of our democracy,” and that democracy “feels far from secure.”
But she sought to keep the mood mostly uplifting and occasionally light.
Clinton opened her remarks by thanking the Hunter College president, Jennifer J. Raab. “Madame president — that has a nice ring to it,” she said, to laughs and cheers.
Then she mentioned that last year’s commencement speaker was actor Vin Diesel.
“We’re going to star in a movie together,” she said. “It’s called ‘The Fast and the Still Really Furious.’”
2019 New York Times News Service