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Clinton campaign slams ‘utterly flawed’ AP report on foundation donors

Dylan Stableford
·Senior Writer
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Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign is slamming an Associated Press report that more than half the people outside government that she met with while she was secretary of state donated to the Clinton Foundation.

“It cherry-picked a limited subset of Secretary Clinton’s schedule to give a distorted portrayal of how often she crossed paths with individuals connected to charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation,” Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement on Tuesday.

According to the AP’s review of State Department calendars, “at least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs.”

“Combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million,” the AP reported. “At least 40 donated more than $100,000 each, and 20 gave more than $1 million.”

The Democratic nominee’s team argued that the story “relies on utterly flawed data.”

“The data does not account for more than half of her tenure as Secretary,” Fallon said. “And it omits more than 1,700 meetings she took with world leaders, let alone countless others she took with other U.S government officials, while serving as Secretary of State. Just taking the subset of meetings arbitrarily selected by the AP, it is outrageous to misrepresent Secretary Clinton’s basis for meeting with these individuals.”

Hillary Clinton delivers remarks at a gathering of law enforcement leaders at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York on Aug. 18, 2016. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)
Hillary Clinton delivers remarks at a gathering of law enforcement leaders at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York on Aug. 18, 2016. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

The Clinton campaign said that the people she met with would have had the meetings regardless of their donations.

“Melinda Gates is a world-renowned philanthropist whose foundation works to address global health crises and eradicate disease in the developing world,” Fallon said. “Meeting with someone like Melinda Gates is squarely in the purview of America’s top diplomat, whose job involves confronting these same global challenges.”

The AP report also highlighted Clinton’s relationship with Muhammad Yunus, a Nobel Prize-winning Bangladeshi economist and foundation donor who met with Clinton three times “during a period when Bangladeshi government authorities investigated his oversight of a nonprofit bank and ultimately pressured him to resign from the bank’s board.”

“President Obama awarded Yunus the Presidential Medal of Freedom,” Fallon countered, “and Republicans and Democrats voted unanimously to award him the Congressional Gold Medal. Nevertheless, this story reduces Yunus to a charitable donation once made by an organization he chaired. That is grossly unfair, inaccurate and just goes to show how faulty this analysis truly is.”

The AP report came as the Clinton family foundation is facing a new round of scrutiny. New emails released Monday by the conservative group Judicial Watch showed a top foundation official reaching out to Clinton’s State Department for favors.

Trump supporters costumed as Bill and Hillary Clinton in prison uniforms sing the national anthem before a rally for Donald Trump in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)
Trump supporters costumed as Bill and Hillary Clinton in prison uniforms sing the national anthem before a rally for Donald Trump in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Donald Trump seized on the AP report to blast Clinton as unethical.

“It is impossible to figure out where the Clinton Foundation ends and the State Department begins,” the Republican developer said at a Tuesday night rally in Austin, Texas. “It is now abundantly clear that the Clintons set up a business to profit from public office.”

Last week, former President Bill Clinton said that he would step down from the foundation’s board if Hillary Clinton were to be elected president, and the foundation said that if the Clintons return to the White House, it would accept donations only from U.S. citizens.

Related: What does the Clinton Foundation do, anyway?

USA Today described this proposal as “laughable and laudable.”

“Taking Bill off the board and ending his official fundraising role won’t stop people from trying to buy access through the foundation,” the paper said in an editorial published Wednesday. “Ending foreign and corporate contributions is a good step, but allowing them to continue at least through the first week of November looks more like an influence-peddling fire sale (Give while you still can!) than a newfound commitment to clean government.”

It concluded: “The only way to eliminate the odor surrounding the foundation is to wind it down and put it in mothballs, starting today, and transfer its important charitable work to another large American charity such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. If Hillary Clinton doesn’t support these steps, she boosts Trump’s farcical presidential campaign and, if she’s elected, opens herself up to the same kind of pay-to-play charges that she was subject to as secretary.”

Paul Colford, AP vice president and director of media relations, defended the news organization’s reporting.

“AP has been transparent in how it has reported this story,” Colford said in a statement provided to Yahoo News. “It focused on Mrs. Clinton’s meetings and calls involving people outside government who were not federal employees or foreign diplomats, because meeting with U.S. or foreign government officials would inherently have been part of her job as secretary of state.”

The AP “first requested Mrs. Clinton’s calendars and schedules in 2010 and again in 2013 but was unsuccessful,” Colford continued. “AP then sued the State Department in federal court to obtain the schedules it has received so far. AP expects to receive the remaining files before Election Day and will continue to examine them and report on their contents.”