Former President Bill Clinton dismissed the controversy over foreign donations to his family’s foundation, saying in a testy interview that the charitable organization has “never done anything knowingly inappropriate.”
“There is no doubt in my mind that we have never done anything knowingly inappropriate in terms of taking money to influence any kind of American government policy,” he said in an interview that aired Monday on NBC’s “Today” show. “That just hasn’t happened.”
The Clinton Foundation’s fundraising practices have drawn scrutiny as Hillary Clinton launches her second run for president. Critics have raised questions about donations from foreign governments that had projects or financial interests under Clinton’s jurisdiction during her time as secretary of State.
Bill Clinton said on NBC that he has turned down some donations, but declined to elaborate.
“Since I turned it down, I don’t need to talk about it,” he said.
The Foundation has reinstated a ban on contributions from all but six foreign governments as his wife launches her second bid for president. Bill Clinton said that the ban was “absolutely not” an acknowledgment that it was a mistake to allow foreign governments to donate to the foundation before.
“It’s an acknowledgment that we’re going to come as close as we can during her presidential campaign to following the rules we followed when she became secretary of State,” he said.
Media reports have revealed, however, the Foundation did in fact continue to accept contributions from foreign governments while Clinton was at State.
The murky reporting requirements for the foundation’s donations, coupled with media reports digging in to the ties between those donations and Clinton’s work at State, have fueled fierce criticism from Clinton’s potential Republican presidential opponents.
Speaking on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Monday morning, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina took aim at the foundation during an interview announcing her bid for president.
Clinton “clearly is not trustworthy,” Fiorina said. “She has not been transparent about a whole set of things that matter.”
During his interview, Bill Clinton brushed off the criticism of the foundation as “political” and part of a “very concerted effort to bring the foundation down.”
He said his wife had told him: “No one has ever tried to influence me by helping you.”
And if his wife is elected as president, Clinton said he “might” step down as head of the foundation “if I were asked to do something in the public interest that I had an obligation to do. Or I might take less of an executive role.”
But his defense of the Clinton Foundation weren’t his only comments from Monday morning that are likely to spark controversy. Republican attack group America Rising was already blasting Clinton’s comments confirming he’d continue giving paid speeches — which can draw half a million dollars in speaking fees — even as his wife runs for president.
“I gotta pay our bills,” he said. “And I also give a lot of it to the foundation every year.”