Clinton speaks at a school in Nairobi, Kenya, on Friday. (Photo: Ben Curtis/AP)
Bill Clinton vigorously defended the Clinton Foundation over the weekend, dismissing the suggestion that donations it took from foreign governments during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state influenced American policy.
“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,” the former president told NBC News from Nairobi in his first interview since Hillary Clinton announced her 2016 campaign. “I don’t think I did anything that was against the interests of the United States. I don’t want to get into the weeds here. I’m not responsible for anybody else’s perception. I asked Hillary about this and she said, ‘No one has ever tried to influence me by helping you.’”
Clinton’s comments came in the wake of the foundation’s announcement it would only accept direct donations from six countries — Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and the United Kingdom — and not from places like Saudi Arabia, which has donated between $10 million and $25 million to the group since 1999.
But Bill Clinton said the new policy is not an acknowledgment of a mistake.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “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.”
“I don’t think there’s anything sinister in trying to get wealthy people in countries that are seriously involved in development to spend their money wisely in a way that helps poor people and lifts them up,” he continued.
The interview, which aired on NBC’s “Today” show Monday, comes a day before the release of a much-anticipated book — Peter Schweizer’s “Clinton Cash,” due out May 5 — that Republicans are hoping will derail Hillary Clinton’s White House bid.
Bill Clinton called the controversy swirling around the foundation’s finances “political.”
“There has been a very deliberate attempt to take the foundation down,” he said.
Hillary Clinton stepped down from her role at the foundation when she announced her run. And if Hillary is elected president, he said, he might step down as head of the foundation, too.
“I might if I were asked to do something in the public interest that I had an obligation to do,” Clinton said. “Or I might take less of an executive role. But we‘ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
Clinton, though, says he won’t stop giving high-priced speeches, from which he’s earned at least $26 million since leaving office.
“I gotta pay our bills,” he said.
Late last month, the Clinton Foundation admitted it made some “mistakes” in its tax forms and is “acting quickly to remedy them.”
Bill Clinton said it was an honest mistake.
“The guy that filled out the forms made an error,” he said. “Now that is a bigger problem, according to the press, than the other people running for president willing to take dark money, secret money, secret from beginning to end.”
Clinton laughs while fielding questions from students at a school in Nairobi, Kenya, on Friday. (Photo: Ben Curtis/AP)