Hillary Clinton, at Sundance, says Trump impeachment vote ‘will haunt’ Republicans

(Sean P. Means | The Salt Lake Tribune) Hillary Clinton answers questions Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020, at The Ray theater in Park City, Utah, after the premiere of the four-hour Hulu documentary series "Hillary" at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

Park City • What does Hillary Clinton, who wrote legal briefs for one impeachment case and watched her husband go through another, think of the ongoing impeachment trial of Donald Trump?

“Do we have 35 hours?” Clinton, who lost to Trump in the 2016 presidential election, told a friendly audience at The Ray theater in Park City, after a screening of a four-hour documentary series about her, “Hillary,” premiered Saturday at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

“The House managers did a really comprehensive, excellent job in presenting the evidence and weaving it together in a narrative that clearly demonstrated that the kind of behavior they included in the articles of impeachment was exactly what the [Founding Fathers] were worried about,” Clinton said.

Clinton worked for the House Judiciary Committee as a young lawyer in 1974, and was one of the authors of a memo that laid out what would be considered “high crimes and misdemeanors” during the impeachment investigation of President Richard Nixon. And Clinton was first lady when her husband, President Bill Clinton, was impeached in 1998 but later acquitted in the Senate trial.

The nation’s founders, Hillary Clinton said, placed impeachment in the Constitution because they knew that eventually there would be “a leader whose behavior would be so egregious, so threatening to the republic, that there had to be a remedy.”

She’s not expecting the Senate to vote for Trump’s removal from office, though.

“I’m obviously realistic enough to understand that the House Republicans and the Senate Republicans don’t want to hear this, don’t want to have to think hard about it, don’t want to have to make a decision, and are probably going to default to basically deriding the case … and move as quickly as possible without any more evidence or witnesses called,” Clinton said.

“I hope that this will haunt them, not only politically but historically,” she said. “I find it absolutely beyond my understanding why they are so cowed, so terrified, to do what most of them know they should do.”

Audience members at The Ray, including feminist icon Gloria Steinem, gave Clinton a standing ovation before the post-screening Q&A. This was after they sat for more than four hours (minus an intermission) watching director Nanette Burstein’s in-depth look at Hillary Clinton’s life and work, intercut with behind-the-scenes footage from the 2016 campaign.

The series was produced by Hulu, which will stream all four episodes in March.

Clinton sat for 35 hours, over a week, with Burstein, with the stipulation that no question was off-limits. In the series, Clinton talks about her marriage, her tenure as first lady both in Arkansas and the White House, the scandals involving the Whitewater real-estate deals, her husband’s sexual indiscretions with Monica Lewinsky, and the private email server that bedeviled her 2016 campaign.

“You sit in that chair, and you’ve told the filmmaker, ‘Yeah, nothing’s off-limits and you can ask anything you want.’ And then she does,” Clinton said with a laugh.

Clinton said she was surprised that Burstein found footage that she either had forgotten about or never seen before. For example, when the film discusses Clinton’s work championing health care reform in her husband’s first term, it shows Clinton being burned in effigy in Kentucky.

“I knew that there [were] people [who] weren’t happy with me about universal health care,” she said, “but I had forgotten that I had been burned in effigy.”

Clinton said Trump has done damage within the federal government and in the United States’ status in the world that could be irreparable if he is reelected in November.

Looking over the Democratic presidential race, she praised the two women who are still in the running — Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota — but has committed to support whichever Democrat wins the nomination.

“People can support who they want to support,” she said. “But once we have a nominee, close ranks.”

Clinton said she has enjoyed her first visit to Sundance. She has been seeing a few films, including “The Dissident,” a documentary about the Saudi-born journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whose murder has been blamed on agents of the Saudi government.

“It’s been fabulous,” she said. “I can’t thank all the Sundance people enough for doing this, and I wonder what took me so long.”

“Hillary” will screen again Sunday at 12:30 p.m. at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City.