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Hillary Clinton talks about election tampering during visit to the University of Michigan The Detroit News

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Ann Arbor —  Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told an audience Thursday at the University of Michigan that she believes the United States is facing a constitutional crisis under President Donald Trump, and that his actions rise to the level of impeachment.

"The Ukraine phone call, the whistleblower report, the additional information now coming out certainly in my view meets the definition of an impeachable offense if it's proven," said Clinton. "I will not prejudge it. But from my own experience in looking at it, it’s certainly seems to meet the definition of impeachment.”

Clinton, who worked as a young lawyer on an impeachment inquiry of President Richard Nixon in 1974, criticized how the Trump administration has responded to the proceedings thus far.

"The Trump administration's letter that their White House counsel sent (says) that they weren't going to cooperate, the House had no right to investigate and all of that is totally out of bounds," she said. "If you were to believe that no president could be investigated for wrongdoing while in office, if you were to believe that  the president was above the law, we would lose our democracy."

Clinton, a Democrat who ran against Trump in 2016 as the first woman nominee of a major party, said the Founding Fathers put impeachment into the U.S. Constitution for a reason.

"They knew we have elections," said Clinton. "They assume that we have fair elections without British, French or Russian interference, and if you didn't like someone in office, including the president, you would vote them out. But they put impeachment in because they knew human nature and they understood the potential for abuse of power. And they concluded you needed a remedy in the Constitution to remove dishonest, abusive officeholders."

The impeachment inquiry is nothing to be happy about, Clinton said.

“It’s a solemn, sad moment for our country,” she said. “But we have to enforce our laws and our Constitution and we have to hold our leaders accountable."

Clinton's visit was part of the launch of the Weiser Diplomacy Center — funded by a $10 million gift from UM Board of Regents Chair Ron Weiser and his wife, Eileen — aimed at being a hub for the foreign policy community.

Her appearance came a week after UM hosted former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who did not comment on impeachment proceedings against Trump but did offer the president advice.

"Mr. President, don't always try to be your own best adviser," Rice said. "That's why you have advisers."

Clinton's wide-ranging conversation was moderated by Michael Barr, dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and included comments on foreign policy in many countries, including Russia, women's issues, microfinancing and what America should do to avoid foreign interference in elections.

"First, accept the fact that it happened. Don’t argues about it,” Clinton said, drawing applause. “The Mueller report, if you can bring yourself to read it … explains what they call the sweeping and systematic attack by the Russians on our election system.

"First, let’s accept the fact that a foreign adversary used their military intelligence assets to interfere with our election in hoping to elect someone more malleable or more favorable to their goals. And right now, we are in a real quandary because the only institution capable of stopping this is the federal government.”

“There seems to be very little appetite by the federal government to do anything about it,” said Clinton. “It’s going to take a concerted effort … All I want is a free, fair, transparent, honest election not interfered with by Russians or anybody else so the choice of the American people is the choice of the American people."

Asked what students, the next generation of policy leaders, need to be focused on and how can they prepare themselves to be the best leaders in the upcoming decades, Clinton pointed to empathy.

"If you are a leader who wants to make a positive difference rather than a feather in your nest or stroke your ego ... empathy is key," she said. "You can't really help people unless you can relate to them ... We've got to get back to listening to each other, empathizing with each other, working with each other.

"We cannot solve our problems here or around the world if we continue to be so divisive, so divided and so mean to each other. Whatever we can do to try break out of that."

Weiser, who attended Clinton's talk with family and other UM Regents, said the launch of the center has "brought leaders from both sides of the aisle here"and helped expose UM students "to what diplomacy is all about."

"That's very, very important," he said. "Diplomacy is an important part of us being able to as a country be able to coexist in this world."

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