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U.S. Politics Hillary Clinton won’t rule out questioning Trump’s legitimacy if Russian interference deepens

Hillary Clinton signs copies of her new book "What Happened" during a book signing event at a Barnes and Noble bookstore in New York, on Sept. 12, 2017.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton says she won't rule out questioning President Donald Trump's legitimacy depending on what official inquiries uncover about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

But the 2016 Democratic nominee said Monday during an NPR interview that she knows of no constitutional grounds to challenge the actual election results, regardless of what investigators find.

Clinton told "Fresh Air" host Terry Gross that "there's no doubt" Russian propaganda efforts "influenced the election," and she said she's sure that Trump's inner circle communicated with Russian agents during the campaign.

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She was asked specifically whether she would rule out questioning the legitimacy of the election if the U.S. learns that Russian interference is deeper than what is known now. Clinton replied, "No, I would not."

She added, however, that she doesn't "think we have a mechanism" to challenge the results.

Clinton's interview is part of a publicity tour surrounding the release of her campaign memoir, "What Happened," which looks back at her second failed presidential bid.

During the 2016 fall campaign, with Clinton leading in national polls and nearly all Electoral College projections, it was Trump who drew attention for suggesting he may not accept election results.

At his raucous campaign rallies, Trump suggested the election process was "rigged." He blamed the "dishonest media" and predicted widespread voter fraud. During the third and final presidential debate, Trump refused to say whether he'd accept the results if he lost. "I'll keep you in suspense," he said.

Clinton shot back, calling Trump's answer "horrifying."

Clinton ultimately prevailed in the national popular vote, but Trump claimed the key battleground states of North Carolina and Florida while nipping Clinton in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin to secure an Electoral College majority.

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Just as in her book, Clinton also told NPR that she still believes that then-FBI director James Comey helped tip the election by telling Congress in a late-October letter that he was still looking into her e-mail practices at the State Department. Voters did not learn that the FBI had begun its investigation into the Trump campaigns potential ties to Russia in early 2016, she said. Trump fired Comey as FBI chief on May 9, but a special counsel, Robert Mueller, has since been appointed to continue the investigation.

In her NPR interview, Clinton also chided the media for focusing too little on the alleged Russian involvement in hacking the e-mails of her campaign leader, John Podesta. She noted that cache was released soon after disclosure of a 2005 audio tape in which Trump can be heard boasting of having made sexually aggressive advances on women.

"The press fell for it," she said, shifting attention away from the Trump tape and onto the Podesta e-mail dump as a window to peek inside Clinton's world.

"What I would like to have seen is, 'You know what? These were stolen e-mails,"' Clinton said. "Every story should start with, 'These were stolen e-mails, and the best judgment from our intelligence professionals and independent analysts is they were stolen by Russia."'

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