New ethics questions test Hillary Clinton's campaign

Clinton camp pushes back on foreign donation questions
Clinton camp pushes back on foreign donation questions

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New York (CNN)Thursday is shaping up to be the rockiest day yet for Hillary Clinton's newly minted presidential campaign amid new questions about possible conflicts of interest between the former secretary of state, her family's foundation and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

The morning saw stories from The New York Times, ABC and other outlets raise ethical questions about the Clintons. The articles -- some of which were tied to a soon-to-be released book -- also provided Republicans with an opportunity to attack Clinton, the prohibitive favorite for the Democratic nomination in 2016 who declared her campaign earlier this month.
Reuters reported Thursday that the Clinton Foundation will conduct a "voluntary external review" of their 2010, 2011 and 2012 tax filings to determine whether they need to refile those reports due to grants being reported incorrectly. Multiple foundation officials confirmed the review to CNN.
"None of our overall revenue or expense numbers on any year's form will change upon refiling, and all donations to the Foundation were properly accounted for as overall revenue in each year's tax form," one official said. "Our tax preparers at the time accidentally reported grants on an incorrect line on tax forms for three years."
    Reuters wrote that the audits resulted in major errors due to "under- and over-reporting, by millions of dollars." Clinton Foundation officials said that was not true, arguing that although the grants were reported incorrectly, "total revenue was reflected accurately on each year's tax forms, and there was no under- or over-reporting."
    "While each year our revenue, expenses, and top-line numbers were all accurate and not impacted by this, we are committed to transparency and accountability, and as such, we expect to refile," one official said.
    Hillary Clinton joined the family foundation -- joining her daughter and husband -- shortly after she left the State Department in 2013. On the same day she announced her presidential campaign, however, the former first lady left the board of directors.
    News of the Clinton Foundation audit came at the same time that Clinton's campaign team was preparing a response to "Clinton Cash," a new book by Peter Schweizer, a conservative author who alleges Clinton's State Department did favors for donors to the Clinton Foundation.
    On Thursday, The New York Times reported that Clinton's State Department was "among the agencies" to eventually sign off on a deal that allowed a Russian energy company to buy the rights to one-fifth of the United States' uranium deposits. Significant donors to the foundation, according to the Times, stood to benefit from the deal, which was eventually approved.
    The piece also notes how donations from the Canadian company flowed to the Clinton Foundation around the time of the deal and how "shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock."
    "Whether the donations played any role in the approval of the uranium deal is unknown," the Times writes.
    Thursday's story was part of a deal between Schweizer and the Times. "Mr. Schweizer provided a preview of material in the book to The Times, which scrutinized his information and built upon it with its own reporting," the paper reported.
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    Clinton's sizable communications team worked into the wee hours of Thursday morning on their response to the "Clinton Cash" story. Clinton "friends and allies" received talking points on the book from Brian Fallon, the campaign's press secretary, at 2 a.m. on Thursday.
    "Simply put: his accusations are proving to be completely devoid of evidence, even by the author's own admission," Fallon writes in the talking points, which were obtained by CNN from someone who received them. "The bottom line remains that the book fails to produce a shred of evidence supporting the theory that Hillary Clinton ever took action as secretary of state for the purposes of supporting the interests of donors to the Clinton Foundation."
    The talking points went on to cite different media reports that questioned the book and its author.
    Adding to the bad news for Clinton on Thursday, ABC reported that Bill Clinton's speaking fees "doubled or tripled" after Hillary Clinton became secretary of state.
    "Where he once had drawn $150,000 for a typical address in the years following his presidency, Clinton saw a succession of staggering paydays for speeches in 2010 and 2011, including $500,000 paid by a Russian investment bank and $750,000 to address a telecom conference in China," during Hillary Clinton's time as America's top diplomat.
    The ABC report also stems from Schweizer's "Clinton Cash."
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    Republicans used the stories to attack Clinton.
    "These new revelations continue to raise serious questions about Hillary Clinton's judgment as secretary of state," Allison Moore, the Republican National Committee's spokeswoman, said in an email to reporters.
    Outside the Metropolitan Republican Club in New York City, Republican hopeful Jeb Bush that although he hasn't "seen the contents of the book," he thinks Clinton will "have to be held accountable like all of us about dealings. That is part of the process, right?"
    But Chelsea Clinton, the former first daughter and vice chair of the Clinton Foundation, defended her mother and the foundation Thursday in the face of the mounting criticism.
    "What the Clinton Foundation has said is that we will be even more transparent, even though Transparency International and others have said we're among the most transparent of foundations," Clinton said during a panel at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. "I very much believe that that is the right policy. That we'll be even more transparent. That to eliminate any questions while we're in this time, we won't take new government funding, but that the work will continue as it is."