Bill and Hillary Clinton launched their 13-city paid speaking tour in a Canadian hockey arena Tuesday evening, where there were banks of empty seats and the power couple accused President Trump of joining a Saudi ‘cover-up.’
The Clintons riffed on issues ranging form the U.S. elections to the Iran deal, the killing of Osama bin Laden, and the murder of Saudi dissident Khashoggi, and got a warm reception from the crowd as they jabbed at the Trump administration from north of the border.
‘What makes this so troubling is how much commercial interest both the president’s family and business and his son in law’s family and business have with the kingdom,’ said Hillary Clinton in one of a series of shots at President Trump, who defeated her in 2016.
In an unexpected twist, the Clintons, who suffered throughout 2016 for making millions on paid speeches, were interviewed by Canadian politician and diplomat Frank McKenna, the Deputy Chair TD Bank Group.
McKenna, a former Canadian ambassador to the U.S., was also a major Clinton Foundation donor, and was featured in the book, ‘Clinton Cash.’ McKenna touched on hot topics and blasts from the past, but rarely challenged his subjects.
‘It seems almost offensive to ask you but why does Putin hate you so much?’ he asked the former first lady. ‘You seem like a very nice person,’ he quipped.
‘I think he saw me as someone who had stood up to him and would stand up to him,’ Clinton responded.
Bill Clinton said the U.S. had ‘compromised’ its moral leadership in the world under Trump, and defended his NAFTA free trade agreement.
He said of the recent elections: ‘We got a chance to become a democracy again and reclaim a debate,’ adding that there were Republicans of good will ‘who don’t want to make America a single homogenous authoritarian country. We got a chance to have a debate again now.’
The former president apologized for Trump’s angry clash with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau during his last trip here, setting off a trade clash, though the U.S., Canada, and Mexico ultimately reached a deal.
‘All the rhetoric was just for consumption, it was just rhetoric. And we did some real damage I’m afraid to our relationship and if we did I ask for your forbearance because we do love you, most of us, in America,’ said Clinton, who inked the NAFTA agreement during his tenure.
The Clintons riffed on issues ranging form the U.S. elections to the Iran deal, the killing of Osama bin Laden, and the murder of Saudi dissident Khashoggi.
Hillary had a brief return of the cough that trailed her during the 2016 campaign after the pair had been splitting questions for about an hour.
‘You need another?’ her husband asked, offering her a bottled water. She also took what looked like a cough drop after about an hour on stage.
Her husband filibustered while her voice recovered, and Clinton participated during the event’s final 30 minutes.
McKenna kicked off the event by addressing the ‘elephant in the room’ – by which he seemed to mean politics, as well as why the American political bigs were here in the first place.
‘Is that because you guys just want to hang out together or is it because you’re testing the waters for a run of being president of the United States?’ he quipped.
‘Actually Frank I’m thinking about standing for parliament here in Canada’ joked the former first lady and senator.
‘We love coming as often as we can and we’re starting the tour right here in Toronto,’ she said.
The kickoff event was supposed to be held in Las Vegas but was postponed until spring for scheduling reasons that were not otherwise explained.
Some of Hillary Clinton’s toughest language came in regards to the killing of Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. President Trump issued an extraordinary statement last week that included Saudi talking points and stressed the importance of oil prices and the Saudi relationship.
‘We have a president who is the part of the cover-up as to what happened in that consulate or embassy when Mr. Khashoggi was murdered,’ said Hillary Clinton.
‘We have a president and those closest to him who have their own personal commercial interests,’ she continued. She said there is always a ‘balancing act’ of competing interests in diplomacy, but said: ‘What’s unique about what’s going on now is there isn’t any balancing going on.’
‘What makes this so troubling is how much commercial interest both the president’s family and business and his son in law’s family and business have with the kingdom,’ Clinton added, referencing Jared Kushner.
In another shot at her former rival, Clinton said: ‘He said today that his gut and his opinion is a lot smarter than peoples’ brains. Literally you can’t make this stuff up. A dozen times your head is spinning.’
She was referencing Trump’s interview with the Washington Post, where he said: ‘I’m not happy with the Fed. They’re making a mistake because I have a gut, and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me.’
Clinton recounted for attentive listeners details of the raid that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden. She described the dramatic crash of a SEAL helicopter, having been asked a question about lessons learned from the failed raid to free the Iranian hostages under President Carter.
‘Apparently the barbed wire was slightly higher than it appeared in the pictures so the helicopter was disabled,’ Clinton said, after describing how the U.S. produced models to prepare for the raid.
‘In order to leave they had to blow up the helicopter,’ she said, noting that it had ‘advanced technical abilities we did not want falling into the wrong hands.’
Clinton blasted Trump for going after former special forces commander Adm. William McRaven, who oversaw the raid, following McRaven’s criticism of the president.
‘it just absolutely dumfounds me. I’ve never ever imagined that you would have a president personally attacking people who’ve put their lives on the line year after year after year, for no cause,’ Hillary Clinton said.
The Clintons launched their paid 13-city speaking tour in Toronto in an ice hockey arena Tuesday night.
Organizers blocked off the upper deck of seats. Officials said the Clintons sold about 3,300 seats in a venue that can hold about 19,000 for a big hockey game when the Maple Leafs play.
There were still plenty of tickets available 30 minutes before showtime, and a secondary market appeared to be dropping.
The cheapest ticket available on Stubhub was going for $6.55 Canadian, or less than $5.
On the official site, there were still seats up front on the floor available for $325, with other floor seats going for $83 plus a hefty service charge.
Officials told DailyMail.com organizers were expecting 3,300 people, with about 1,000 buying up close seats on the floor.
Live Nation, which is promoting the event, described it as a ‘one-of-a-kind conversations with the two leaders as they tell their stories from some of the most impactful moments in modern history.’
As billed in advance, the paid event ‘will feature joint on stage conversations with the two leaders sharing stories and inspiring anecdotes that shaped their historic careers in public service, while also discussing issues of the day and looking towards the future.’
The power pair were seated on two upholstered chars on stage, with low lighting and a mixing board in the back – a simple setup that keeps costs down.
The Clinton’s took heat during Hillary’s 2016 campaign for their $153 million in paid speeches dating back to 2001, drawing fire from Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and in media reports. But those events were bankrolled by major corporations, not individual donors who are ponying up to see the famous pair together on stage.