Story highlights

Clinton spoke at the 'Women in the World' summit in New York City

"A foreign power meddled with our election"

New York CNN  — 

Hillary Clinton referred to Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential election as an “act of aggression” on Thursday, in her most extended comments yet about a controversy that has consumed the earliest days of Donald Trump’s presidency.

“I am deeply concerned about what went on with Russia,” Clinton said at the “Women in the World” summit in New York City. “A foreign power meddled with our election and did so in a way that we are learning more about every single day.”

The Russian hackings, she said, appeared to be a “more effective theft even than Watergate.”

Accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of wanting to “sow distrust and confusion, as well as influence, our election,” the former secretary of state also said she supports an independent investigation into whether there was collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Russians “will be back time and time again” if the United States doesn’t take bipartisan “action together to hold whoever was involved accountable,” Clinton warned.

Thursday marked Clinton’s first public interview since Election Day. The wide-ranging question-and-answer session was conducted by the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof. In front of a friendly audience at a packed auditorium at the Lincoln Center, Clinton was forthcoming about the parallel universe in which she had hoped to be president.

“You know what? I’m doing pretty well, all things considered,” Clinton said, when Kristof asked how she was doing. The past few months, she said, have been filled with long walks in the woods, spending quality time with friends and family, and at times, convincing herself to “get out of bed.”

“The aftermath of the election was so devastating,” she said.

She reflected on what it has been like to observe the climate that has surrounded her former political opponent: “As a person I’m OK. As an American, I’m pretty worried.”

“I don’t take any pleasure in seeing the kind of chaotic functioning,” she said.

But one moment of dysfunction for the Republican Party was an exception: The GOP’s failure to take a vote on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

“You know, health care is complicated. Right?” Clinton said in a jab at Trump. “That was somewhat gratifying.”

Clinton also had sharp words on the situation in Syria, where a chemical attack – believed to be perpetrated by Bashar al-Assad – killed more than 70 people earlier this week.

“I really believe that we should have and still should take out (Assad’s) air fields and prevent him from being able to use them to bomb innocent people and drop sarin gas on them.”

The lingering disappointment among her supporters in the room was clear. Comedian Samantha Bee, who introduced Clinton onto the stage, said, “It’s actually hard to know what to say today. I should be lauding Hillary for making time to be here despite her busy schedule as president.”

In the immediate aftermath of her loss to Trump in November, the two-time presidential candidate largely stayed away from the limelight.

But in recent weeks, Clinton has appeared increasingly willing to speak out in public, even wading into politics.

At a diversity conference hosted by the Professional BusinessWomen of California last week, Clinton took on what she said were “indignities,” “sexism” and “structural barriers” that women confront today.

One person Clinton singled out in that speech: Sean Spicer. The White House press secretary had had a contentious back-and-forth with American Urban Radio Networks correspondent and CNN political analyst April Ryan, culminating in a condescending request for Ryan to “please stop shaking your head.”

“She was patronized and cut off as she tried to ask a question,” Clinton said of Spicer’s comment to Ryan.

Days after the California appearance, Clinton delivered pointed criticism of the Trump administration. In remarks at Georgetown University, she blasted the President’s budget blueprint, which proposed deep domestic spending cuts and reductions in foreign aid.

While Clinton’s closest associates are inclined to reject speculation of the former candidate’s interest in pursuing public office again, rumors have continued to swirl nonetheless. Local media have floated her name as a possible New York City mayoral candidate.

Clinton aides say that she is still mulling over what she would like to do in the coming years, and has been reaching out to friends, donors and other associates to keep the lines of communication open.

Asked if she would ever run for office again, Clinton said more than once that she is set on finding “interesting things” to do with her life – without outright rejecting the suggestion of another political campaign.

“I am looking at doing interesting things. I don’t think that will ever include running for office again,” Clinton said. “I have no plans. I have no plans at all other than trying to find some interesting things to do.”