WHEN: Today, Friday, March 4th
WHERE: CNBC's "Closing Bell"
Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC EXCLUSIVE interview with Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and CNBC's Chief Washington Correspondent John Harwood on CNBC's "Closing Bell" (M-F, 3PM-5PM ET) today, Friday, March 4th. Following are links to the video on CNBC.com:http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000499128, http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000499133, http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000499131 and http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000499132.
All references must be sourced to CNBC.
Kelly Evans: The race for the White House is heating up ahead of Tuesday's Michigan primary. Democratic Presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton holds a large lead in the polls over rival Bernie Sanders as she tries to lockdown her party's nomination. She joins CNBC's Chief Washington Correspondent John Harwood for an exclusive interview from Detroit. John?
John Harwood: Kelly, thanks so much. Secretary Clinton, thanks so much for being with us.
Hillary Clinton: Thank you, John. It's good to be with you.
John Harwood: Let me start by asking you this. The Conservative writer Peggy Noonan the other day wrote a piece saying the real divide in America is not partisan, but it is between those who feel helpless and unprotected against social and economic dislocation and those kind of people live in Washington and New York, for whom it's going to come out okay whatever happens with our debates on trade and immigration and taxes. I think Bernie Sanders when he says oh, I want to see her speeches at Goldman Sachs is suggesting maybe there's a little rhetorical, don't worry about it, it's going to be okay kind of nod to them. Do those people who keep coming out on the short side have a right to be angry at the people who have been in charge like you?
Hillary Clinton: You know, John, I think there are a lot of reasons why people are angry and fearful because I think underneath some of the anger is a real sense of insecurity. The economy has been really tough, the great recession not so many millions of Americans down. 9 million jobs lost, 5 million homes lost, $13 trillion in family wealth wiped out. A lot of folks haven't recovered, but even before that, Americans haven't had a raise for like 15 years. After the great economy when my husband was President, we went back to trickle down economics and we saw the results and we went back to letting the financial markets and the mortgage markets basically do whatever they want. I was against that and I was very vocal in being against that. Not just against the Bush administration. I was the one who went to Wall Street and said they were wrecking the economy. So I felt frustrated because you could see a lot of this happening, almost like a slow motion train wreck. Where we are now, and I don't think President Obama gets the credit he deserves, he inherited the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and it could have been even worse. We've had 70 months of job creation, good jobs report today. We're standing, but we're not yet running. And I think a lot of Americans are really worried that it's not going to get better. That's why I'm running on specifics, on policies, on what I think I can do.
John Harwood: Well, speaking about standing and not yet running, the middle class really hasn't been running for a long period of time, 40 years really. If you're a voter out there and you look at someone like Donald Trump who's running, totally outside the system, businessman, looks like he's been successful, pretty aggressive. And then they look at you, who's been at the very top of national politics for most of the last generation, 25 years really. Jim Webb, your former colleague in the Senate – Democratic colleague said today, I don't know if I'm going to vote for Trump, but I can't vote for Hillary Clinton because we would just get the same stuff. Isn't that a problem?
Hillary Clinton: Well, let's talk on a factual basis. I was part of an administration in the 90s where incomes went up for everybody, not just people at the top, where the median family income went up 17%, the median African-American family income went up 33% and more people were lifted out of poverty than at any time in recent history. I think that's a good record. Now, did that solve all of the problems of globalization and technology and dislocation? No. But were we on the right path? I would argue we were.
John Harwood: Some people say well that was a tech bubble.
Hillary Clinton: No, well, you know what, I would say it also matters whether you've got good leadership and you can look around the world and see the difference and you can certainly see it here because when the Republicans came back in, we got the same old snake oil of trickle down economics. And even now when you listen to the Republicans who are vying for their nomination, it's the same thing. It's cut taxes on the wealthy. In fact, Trump says wages are too high in America. The others are all playing the same game. Appealing to special interests, appealing to their donors. They don't have an agenda for the middle class, working people, poor people trying to get ahead. So I think it's imperative that I do everything I can in this election to make the case that we can get back to a growing vital middle class. We can build those ladders of opportunity. That's why I talk about breaking down barriers and I'm going to keep talking about it because I know that's what we have to do.
John Harwood: Tax Policy Center analysis group, not unsympathetic to your point of view, has analyzed both your plan and Sanders' plan over the last couple of days. He said Sanders' plan – the Senator said Sanders' plan would raise taxes $4700 on middle quintile families. You would not do that. But the center also said that your plan to try to encourage longer term investment may not work, that you would make the tax code more complex and that the tax increases that you would have would discourage savings and investment. Given where we are economically, to actually deliver and improve the lives of the people you're trying to serve, don't we need more savings and investment?
Hillary Clinton: Well actually, that's not how I read the TPC analysis. I was very pleased that they found that I pay for what I am proposing, that I am focused on raising wages , that I will not support a middle class tax increase, and that I have a comprehensive plan. Now they raise questions about how best to deal with capital gains income and investment income and I've laid out what I think would battle what one of our problems in the economy is and that's short termism. And it's the emphasis on quarterly earnings, which I think has prevented investment and savings particularly where we need it – getting into paychecks, helping to train workers, investing in research and experimentation and the like. But I think that their analysis pointed out my main concern about Senator Sanders' plan, which is that it would raise taxes across the board on middle class families. It would also probably disadvantage working folks, people on Medicaid even because they would have a hard time paying for his taxes. So I think I have a proposal that is sensible, defensible. It is far more responsible than anything the Republicans are proposing.
John Harwood: Now you have come out with a proposal today to try to claw back tax benefits for companies that go overseas. You put out an ad this week, very tough against pharmaceutical companies saying you're going after what you consider predatory pricing. There are a lot of people in business who think that you're chasing Bernie Sanders rhetorically, if not in policy, and think that you are making them targets. Do you want both business and voters to hear the message that you're going to be bad for business?
Hillary Clinton: Oh, I don't think what I'm arguing is bad for business at all. It certainly is focused on bad behavior of some businesses. And yes, when I was a Senator, I had the same positions. You know, I called for reigning in CEO pay, I called for closing the carried interest loophole, I called for a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures. So anybody who has followed my career knows that I support businesses that create jobs and that invest in their employees and their communities. But when you see a company like Nabisco, which has taken a lot of government benefits and now are picking up and moving a production line out of our country, when you look at and Johnson Controls, which came hat and hand to Washington to be bailed out along with the rest of the auto industry, and now wants to take advantage of an inversion and pretend to buy a company and move their headquarters in order to avoid paying American taxes when the American taxpayers bailed them out, that's bad behavior, John. That is the kind of behavior that we do have to go after because we're in a company right here that has great productivity, has a great reputation, invests in their workers, the biggest woman owned company in Michigan and it's a place that I want more companies to look at and be part of. It has unionized labor. They work together. So I have a very strong commitment to doing what I can to encourage behavior that is for the long term and that invests in Americans and gets the middle class growing again.
John Harwood: Let me ask about quickly about e-mail. Your Republican opponents have openly begun to suggest that you could be prosecuted, you could go to jail as a result of this issue. When the average person out there hears there's an FBI investigation and some guy who worked for her has gotten immunity from prosecution, shouldn't they be tempted to conclude like, well, maybe she could get prosecuted?
Hillary Clinton: No, not at all. This is the same security review that has been going on since last Spring. I'm happy that everybody now has been cooperating and giving information because I think that will finally end this and show that only appropriate steps were taken. So I know that the Republicans are engaging in a lot of wishful thinking, but this is not anything people should be worried about.
John Harwood: Well, in terms of your own reflection on this, though, assume – let's say you're right and there's no legal case. Given the fact that more than 1,000 e-mails, and I recognize there's a dispute, have been described as classified, some even top secret. Would you concede that you and the people who worked for you at State Department were sloppy in the way you handled top secret information?
Hillary Clinton: No. No, because let's be clear about this. There wasn't a single one of those that was marked classified, either sent or received. That hasn't changed. Now, what I think the public may not understand is that when a process is undertaken to determine whether e-mails should be made public – and remember, I asked, nobody told me to. I said make them all public. I've been the most transparent public official in modern times as far as I know. When that process is undertaken, then other agencies get to weigh in and get to say, hey, wait a minute, I don't think that should come out now, whether or not the State Department or if I were in some other agency agrees. That is par for the course. Now whether it should be or not, is a whole separate issue. But it doesn't change in any way. Nothing was marked classified and you know, that is just a fact. And it's, I think, one that bears repeating.
John Harwood: Secretary Clinton, thanks very much.
Hillary Clinton: Good to talk to you.
With CNBC in the U.S., CNBC in Asia Pacific, CNBC in Europe, Middle East and Africa, CNBC World and CNBC HD , CNBC is the recognized world leader in business news and provides real-time financial market coverage and business information to approximately 371 million homes worldwide, including more than 100 million households in the United States and Canada. CNBC also provides daily business updates to 400 million households across China. The network's 15 live hours a day of business programming in North America (weekdays from 4:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. ET) is produced at CNBC's global headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., and includes reports from CNBC News bureaus worldwide. CNBC at night features a mix of new reality programming, CNBC's highly successful series produced exclusively for CNBC and a number of distinctive in-house documentaries.
CNBC also has a vast portfolio of digital products which deliver real-time financial market news and information across a variety of platforms. These include CNBC.com, the online destination for global business; CNBC PRO, the premium, integrated desktop/mobile service that provides real-time global market data and live access to CNBC global programming; and a suite of CNBC Mobile products including the CNBC Real-Time iPhone and iPad Apps.
Members of the media can receive more information about CNBC and its programming on the NBC Universal Media Village Web site at http://www.nbcumv.com/mediavillage/networks/cnbc/.