NEW YORK — Without saying his name, Hillary Clinton assailed President Donald Trump during a commencement speech in New York on Wednesday, saying the president should be held accountable for defying Congress and ignoring special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings on Russian attempts to interfere in U.S. elections.
Clinton’s bluntly political speech to members of the class of 2019 at Hunter College was delivered at Madison Square Garden hours after Mueller made his first public comments about his probe into election meddling.
Referencing Mueller’s remarks, Clinton said the allegation that Russians had attempted to sway U.S. voters “deserves the attention of every American,” and she condemned Trump for largely dismissing Mueller’s work as a witch hunt.
“What we’ve seen from the administration is a complete refusal to condemn a foreign power who attacked our democracy,” she said. “We’ve got to deal with what has been investigated and reported.”
Trump has said Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied any such interference.
Clinton also condemned the administration for rejecting requests for testimony and documents from Democrats in Congress, and posed a question to graduates that she didn’t answer herself.
“What do we do when people in positions of authority are not held accountable? When they defy requests from Congress? When they spread misinformation online?” the Democrat said, suggesting it was up to the graduates to find solutions to such problems.
Clinton also invoked a dark chapter in the history of Madison Square Garden. She reminded the audience that on February 20, 1939, Nazis held a hate-filled rally at the arena.
“Today, I wish that felt like ancient history,” Clinton said. “Over the past two years, we’ve seen people wearing Nazi symbols once again marching in American cities, carrying torches and chanting hate.”
Clinton, a former secretary of state and senator who lost to Trump in 2016, accused the administration of passing up a chance to stand up against bigotry and white supremacy, and instead favouring policies that “tear down hard-won civil rights.”
She cited Trump’s ban on U.S. travel by citizens of several Muslim nations and his policy of separating children from their parents at border crossings.
Trump has defended the travel restrictions and border policies as motivated by security concerns, not bigotry.
Trump campaign spokeswoman Erin Perrine said Wednesday that “Trump Derangement Syndrome is real and, in Hillary’s case, apparently chronic.”