Jul 7, 2015 8:25 PM

Clinton jabs Republican field on immigration policy

The Associated Press

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) Hillary Rodham Clinton said a Republican in the White House would mark a "big U-turn" for the nation and assailed the GOP presidential field's stance on an immigration overhaul.

Asked about Jeb Bush, the Democratic presidential candidate said: "He doesn't believe in a path to citizenship. If he did at one time, he no longer does."

In an interview Tuesday with CNN, Clinton said the Republican presidential contenders range "across a spectrum of being either grudgingly welcome or hostile toward immigrants."

Campaigning in one of the most liberal pockets of Iowa, Clinton offered herself up as a Democratic standard-bearer at a time when her main Democratic rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, has generated big crowds and stoked interest among progressives. Clinton also addressed criticism that she has avoided scrutiny, taking questions from reporters and then sitting down for her first national television interview since starting her campaign.

Clinton cited her husband's eight years in office as a time of strong economic growth that helped not only the wealthy but the poor as well. She said Republicans afterward left President Barack Obama to tend to an economic crisis.

"Right now our country deserves to keep moving forward, not to do a big U-turn going back to where we came from," Clinton said at the Iowa City Public Library. "That didn't work before. It won't work again."

She told CNN she planned to outline some of her economic policies Monday.

Clinton has said any immigration legislation needs to include a path to "full and equal citizenship." She has defended Obama's use of executive actions to shield millions of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally from deportation.

In the interview, Clinton said she was "disappointed" in Republican candidate Donald Trump for his disparaging comments about Mexican immigrants along "with the Republican Party for not responding immediately and saying, 'Enough, stop it.'"

Clinton demurred in discussing the possibility of another Bush-Clinton campaign Bill Clinton defeated President George H.W. Bush in 1992 but lumped former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in with other Republicans who have opposed immigration overhauls in Congress.

Bush, in his 2013 book "Immigration Wars," called for a process that would allow people living in the U.S. illegally to remain, as long as they take a series of steps. He wrote that withholding citizenship is a suitable penalty for those who have broken the law. Bush's co-author, Clint Bolick, said the former Florida governor would probably bend to support citizenship, if that was necessary to strike a deal on immigration.

Bush spokeswoman Emily Benavides said in a statement that Bush "believes in a conservative legislative solution to fix our broken immigration system that includes earned legal status for those currently in the country after they pay fines and taxes, learn English and commit no substantial crimes while securing our border."

During the CNN interview, Clinton defended her decision to delete some of her emails as secretary of state from her private email server, saying, "Everything I did was permitted by law and regulation." She said she used one device for email, although an email message obtained by The Associated Press earlier this year showed Clinton used an iPad for email, in addition to her BlackBerry, while she was secretary of state.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, responded Tuesday, saying "the committee does not know why or when she chose to wipe clean her personal server, but we do know her way of doing things provided an incomplete public record." The committee sought Clinton's emails as part of its investigation into the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya.

At her Iowa event, Clinton made no mention of Sanders but drew an implicit contrast with his record on gun control. Sanders, a favorite of liberal Democrats, has opposed some gun control measures in the Senate and drew criticism from some Democrats for voting in 2005 to protect gun manufacturers from lawsuits filed by victims of gun violence.

Clinton said she would speak out "about the uncontrollable use of guns in our country" and believes most Americans and gun owners support universal background checks. "Let's not be afraid of the gun lobby, which does not even really represent the majority of gun owners in America," she said.

Sanders says most gun owners in the country obey the law, and he makes a distinction on the gun-control question between rural states like Vermont, where hunting is common and gun-ownership traditions go deep, and big cities.

"I want to see real, serious debate and action on guns, but it is not going to take place if we simply have extreme positions on both sides," he told CNN on Sunday. "I think I can bring us to the middle."

Asked about Sanders, Clinton said she welcomed a contested race. "This is going to be competitive it should be competitive," Clinton said.

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Thomas reported from Washington.

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Follow Catherine Lucey and Ken Thomas on Twitter: https://twitter.com/catherine_lucey and https://twitter.com/kthomasdc

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