U.S. Senate seats seem to have changed Elizabeth Warren, left, and Hillary Clinton.

Story highlights

Elizabeth Warren told Bill Moyers in 2004 that she briefed Hillary Clinton about bankruptcy

Clinton helped veto a bankruptcy bill. "I never had a smarter student," Warren said

Warren said as senator, Clinton changed position because of the financial services industry

The 2004 exchange shows how Warren's changed, too -- she's now less candid about Clinton

Washington CNN  — 

In the context of 2016, Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren are rivals for the Democrats’ presidential nomination whose every word about each other is scrutinized and picked apart.

But Warren and Clinton have been on the national stage for years, and before they were ever considered rivals, they met each other in the late ’90s.

Warren spoke about the meeting in a 2004 interview on Bill Moyers’ “NOW on PBS” show. Warren reflects glowingly of Clinton as first lady but also bluntly talks about how Clinton’s election to the Senate in 2000 changed the former secretary of state.

In 1998, Warren – an expert and professor on bankruptcy law – wrote an op-ed for The New York Times titled “Bankrupt? Pay Your Child Support First,” about how the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2000 would disproportionally hurt women and families trying to collect alimony checks from their ex-husbands.

The piece, Warren tells Moyers, was eventually read by then-first lady Clinton, whose office subsequently set up a meeting with the professor in Boston.

“After she’s finished her speech, we’re ushered into a tiny, little room somewhere in the bowels of this hotel, and just the two of us. They close the door. Mrs. Clinton sits down. We have hamburgers and french fries,” Warren says.

Warren adds: “And she (Clinton) says, ‘Tell me about bankruptcy.’ And I got to tell you, I never had a smarter student. Quick, right to the heart of it. I go over the law. It’s a complex law. Went over the economics. Showed her the graphs, showed her the charts. And she got it.”

According to Warren, at the end of the briefing, Clinton stood up and said: “Professor Warren, we’ve got to stop that awful bill.”

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The first lady went back to Washington and became a strong proponent of killing the bill.

In “Living History,” her memoir about her time as first lady, Clinton writes: “proposed bankruptcy reform moving through Congress threatened to undermine the spousal and child support many women depended on.”

She writes, “Missing from this debate, I discovered, was any discussion of what happens to women and children who depend on legally required child and spousal support that is not being paid.”

President Bill Clinton would go on to veto the measure, a win that Warren says Hillary Clinton “rightly should” take credit for.

But then Warren’s interview with Moyers takes a turn as the professor reflects on how Clinton changed when she won a U.S. Senate seat in 2000 and voted in favor of a similar bankruptcy bill in 2001.

“As Senator Clinton, the pressures are very different,” Warren says. “It’s a well-financed industry. … She has taken money from the groups, and more to the point, she worries about them as a constituency.”

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Clinton is not the only one who was changed by the U.S. Senate, however. Warren, who since 2004 has gone on to become a senator from Massachusetts, was far more candid about Clinton in her 2004 interview than she was in an interview with Yahoo’s Katie Couric this week.

“You know, I worry a lot about the relationship between all of them: regulators, government and Wall Street,” Warren said when asked if Clinton was “too cozy” with Wall Street.

Couric then pressed Warren: “But what about Hillary Clinton in particular?”

“Well,” she responds. “I worry across the board.”

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