Hillary Clinton Talks Trump's "Embarrassing, If Not Illegal" Call With Ukraine President

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and guests Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton - Publicity Still - H 2019
Scott Kowalchyk/CBS

The former Secretary of State also weighed in on Mike Pompeo's reported involvement in the call and Rudy Giuliani's dealings in the country, which she called a "big problem."

Stephen Colbert didn't waste much time when he had former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on The Late Show on Monday night.

During her appearance with daughter Chelsea Clinton (promoting their co-authored Book of Gutsy Women), the CBS show host dug into the most pressing news story of the last few weeks: President Trump's phone call with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky. During the call, which was first brought to light by a whistle-blower and then through a redacted transcript of the call released by the White House, Trump asked the president to conduct two investigations in exchange for additional military support for Ukraine's defenses against Russian-backed separatists. Trump's requested "favor" was that Ukraine investigate rumors that Hunter Biden, Joe Biden's son, had corrupt dealings with a Ukrainian prosecutor, and that the country holds a Democratic email server. The call has set off a firestorm in Washington, with Democrats moving forward an impeachment probe and Trump vigorously denying the call contained anything unlawful or impeachable. 

Colbert kicked off the conversation by asking if the U.S. should "lock him up," re-purposing the campaign refrain that Trump often uses to refer to Hillary. Hillary then expressed her support for the impeachment inquiry, which is "exactly what should be done," she said. "I believe strongly that this particular incident has had such a huge impact," she added, "to see him in the office of the president putting his own personal and political interests ahead of the national security of our country just pierced through whatever confusion or denial people had."

When asked how she felt about Trump's continued calls to "lock her up" at his campaign rallies, Chelsea joked, "Well, I think some days he thinks about her more than I do." In a more serious tone, she added, "I do feel the need to protect her, [and] I do worry about her because of what we continue to see at his rallies, the rabid 'lock her up' chants, that it's still his greatest hit is troubling to me."

On Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was present during the Ukraine call; Pompeo has opposed releasing the audio of the call. The revelation gave Colbert the opportunity to draw upon Hillary's expertise as a former Secretary of State herself. "How many times when you were Secretary of State with President Barack Obama did you say, 'You can't extort foreign countries to get dirt on your political enemies?'" he asked the politician.

"Yeah, that never happened, no," Hillary laughed in response.

Later on in the conversation, Hillary addressed what the Secretary of State's role should have been during the Ukraine call. First, she said, the Secretary of State should know what the president will say in calls to foreign leaders, which are usually heavily prepped. "Because you've got a president who doesn't listen to anybody and doesn't follow instructions whatsoever, I don't know if they've even given up on trying these sorts of preparation because they don't know what he's going to say," she speculated. However, once Trump had asked for a "favor" from the president in exchange for military aid, the attendees on the call seemed to understand the gravity of the situation: The transcript was stored in a secure computer system usually used for highly sensitive documents, not calls to foreign leaders.

"The president's behavior was at least embarrassing, if not illegal and impeachable. So I think if the Secretary of State was on the call, as is now being reported, he should have been one of the very first people to say, 'Wait a minute, we've got to clean this up. You can't let that stand.' But we don't know what he did," Hillary added.

She also addressed the recent admission from Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani that he had also worked to push Ukrainian officials to investigate Hunter Biden's dealings in their country. When asked how she felt about Giuliani doing international business on behalf of the United States, she responded dryly, "Yeah, that would be a big problem."

Explaining that Cabinet members sometimes use envoys or special advisors to deliver messages on their behalf, she added, "It is supposed to be thought through. And from what we've seen on television, carefully thinking through is not one of Rudy's strong points."