Hillary Clinton: Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shoot-down was "terrorism"

In this file photo, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks on stage at the campus of Lehman College for the Dream Big Day at the Bronx Children's Museum on July 25, 2014 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Spencer Platt, Getty Images

Hillary Clinton labeled the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Eastern Ukraine a "form of terrorism" in an interview that aired Tuesday, condemning Russia for aiding the separatists who are accused of taking down the plane.

"They were equipped by the Russians. They were trained by the Russians. There may have even been Russians on the ground with them and the result was this horrible attack," Clinton told Fusion during a wide-ranging interview. "And yes, it is a form of terrorism...When you have armed militants, aided and abetted by a major country like Russia, able to use surface-to-air missiles to bring down a commercial airline."

The former secretary of state defended her handling of the U.S.-Russia relationship, arguing that the now-maligned effort to "reset" relations between the two countries during President Obama's first term actually bore some fruit at the time.

"We got a new arms treaty on nuclear arms -- very important," she said. "We got international sanctions against Iran -- very important. And other things that were of importance to us. But as soon as [Russian President Vladimir Putin] came back on the scene in the fall of 2011 and said he was going to become President again, I warned everybody. I sent a memo to the President. I sent another memo on my way out that I believed Putin was coming back in a much more aggressive way."

Clinton denied that she should bear responsibility for the chaos that was kicked off in Ukraine after Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula in March, saying nobody could have predicted that Russia would "annex and occupy part of another country."

"I don't think it's anybody's fault," she said.

Clinton also addressed the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip between Hamas and Israel, lamenting the "tragic situation" and blaming the violence on the Palestinian group's decision to launch rockets at Israeli territory.

"I think Hamas intended to provoke Israel because that's why they started the rocket fire again," she explained. "Israel made it clear that wasn't acceptable. Hamas kept doing it."

Asked about the lopsided death toll - over 1,200 Palestinians have died, compared with only 53 Israeli soldiers and 2 Israeli civilians - Clinton would not say whether the Israeli government's response has been disproportionate, but she said she hopes a cease-fire can be negotiated "as soon as possible."

Clinton also weighed in on the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, which has been flooded with thousands of unaccompanied minors in recent months. Clinton reiterated her stance that most of the children will have to be sent home eventually, but she said she would like to see a system in Central American countries to handle a greater volume of asylum requests. She said such a system could minimize the number of families who send their children on the dangerous journey to cross the border illegally.

"We should be setting up a system in Honduras, in Guatemala, in El Salvador to screen kids...before they get in the hands of coyotes...or they're raped and terrible things happen to them," she said. "A lot of people are -- understandably, as I am -- upset about these kids, but if we don't have a procedure, it's not going to stop. More kids are gonna come, and I don't know what the percentage is that never make it alive or never make it in good shape. But there's a pretty big percentage of kids who are treated like that, so I want to have a sensible orderly process to try to take care of these children."

And of course, as she mulls a presidential bid in 2016, Clinton couldn't entirely avoid domestic politics. She joined President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder in urging the owner of the NFL's Washington Redskins to change the team's name.

"I think it's insensitive and I think there's no reason for it to continue as the name of a team in our nation's capital," she explained. "I would love to see the owners think hard about what they could substitute."


She again expressed regret for saying she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, were "dead broke" when they left the White House in 2001, saying they've been very fortunate in the years since.

"What I worry about is not my family," she added. "I worry about other families in our country who feel like they are running in place or they're not getting ahead or maybe they're falling backwards."

And when she was asked about the possibility that other Democrats could challenge her for the presidential nomination in 2016 if she decides to run, Clinton didn't bat an eyelid.

"I'm not sure I'm going to run," she said, "but if I do, I think competition is healthy, and if people want to get in and be in a primary, more power to them."

  • Jake Miller

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