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Clinton responds to 'distressing' Brussels attacks: 'Unrealistic' to shut borders

The Democratic presidential candidate reacts to Tuesday's attacks in Belgium.
/ Source: TODAY

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took aim at her Republican counterpart’s reaction to the "deeply distressing" bombings in Brussels Tuesday, describing Donald Trump’s call for tightening American borders impractical.

"It's unrealistic to say we're going to completely shut down our borders to everyone. That would stop commerce, for example, and that’s not in anybody’s interest,” she told TODAY's Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer in her first interview since the attack.

Instead, Clinton suggested U.S. officials do a better job coordinating with Europeans in tracking potential suspects, as well as imposing a firmer passenger record system.

Clinton acknowledged that during her time as secretary of state, "we often had some difficulty with our European friends because they were reluctant to impose the kind of strict standards we were looking for." That changed after the terrorist attacks in Paris, she said.

“This is a time for us to reaffirm our solidarity with our European friends and allies, individually and through NATO,” she said.

Earlier on TODAY, Trump said he would be “very, very tough on the borders" if he were president, and resort to torture techniques on suspects if necessary to obtain vital information.

Clinton rejected that reasoning.

"Our country's most experienced and bravest military leaders will tell you that torture is not effective. It does put our own soldiers and, increasingly, our civilians at risk," she said. While law enforcement and intelligence professionals should be given the resources necessary to do their job to keep the nation safe, she insisted, "They don’t need to resort to torture."

Clinton acknowledged that the chaotic scenes in Brussels, following similar bombings in Paris, have been difficult for Americans conflicted about the best method for fighting Islamic terrorist groups responsible for the attacks.

"I know that Americans have every reason to be frightened by what they see, and what happened to us in San Bernardino” she said, referring to the mass shooting last December in California that left 14 people dead and about two dozen seriously injured.

People are evacuated from Brussels airport on March 22 following twin blasts.DIRK WAEM / AFP - Getty Images

U.S. government officials are locked in a battle with Apple over access to the encrypted iPhone used by one of the shooters in that attack. Clinton said she thinks both sides will be able to find a compromise that balances privacy concerns with national security.

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"We've got to work this through consistent with our values," she said.

The former secretary of state has repeatedly stressed her experience on security and working with foreign leaders.

Security in London following Brussels bomb attacks
Armed British police at St .Pancras International station in London. Euro Star trains have been canceled from London to Brussels following Tuesday's attacks.ANDY RAIN / EPA

During her speech Monday to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Clinton described the nation’s need for “steady hands” in its next leader, which many perceived as a criticism of Trump and his history of contradictory foreign policy statements.

Follow writer Eun Kyung Kim on Twitter.