Thursday, June 23, 2016

Donald Trump hits Clinton over foundation, paid speeches

Donald Trump attacked Bill and Hillary Clinton Wednesday over paid speeches they gave and how the Clinton Foundation is financed, echoing persistent corruption allegations by the Republican Party.

After leaving the White House in 2001, Bill Clinton created the charitable foundation that bears his name. It went on to become one of the world’s leading sources of funding for AIDS treatment.

“I’m proud of the foundation. I’m proud of the work that it has done,” Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, told CNN on June 8.

Separately, Bill Clinton has received lucrative payment for hundreds of speeches given around the world.

Between the time she left the State Department and started campaigning for president, Hillary Clinton also gave paid speeches in the United States and Canada, at the invitation of interest groups, professional organisations and companies.

Altogether, the couple was paid $153 million for speeches from 2001 to 2015, according to a CNN analysis. During that same period the Clinton Foundation was partially funded by foreign entities — private citizens, companies and governments.

Critics of the Clintons say money that went to the foundation or paid for speeches was ultimately aimed at influencing US foreign policy, as Hillary Clinton served as a New York senator from 2001 to 2009 and then secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.

Although no hard evidence has been produced to suggest the Clintons engaged in corruption, conservatives and even Clinton’s one-time Democratic presidential rival Bernie Sanders have charged there was a conflict of interest.

Sanders has also criticised Clinton for giving paid speeches to Wall Street business people. To this day, the content of those closed door speeches remains secret.

One of the Clintons’ biggest critics is Peter Schweizer, author of a 2015 book entitled “Clinton Cash,” which is enthusiastically promoted by Trump and his people.

“The book ‘Clinton Cash,’ by Peter Schweitzer, documents how Bill and Hillary used the State Department to enrich their family at America’s expense. She gets rich making you poor,” Trump said Wednesday in New York.

In his book Schweizer states that he has assembled a body of evidence that shows a “pattern” and merits an investigation into the Clintons.

“The Clintons have established an apparatus which allows foreign entities to give large sums of money to them. Some of it flows through the Clinton Foundation, through their charitable organisation, some of it ends up directly in their pockets in the form of speaking fees,” he told AFP.

“Some people say that there has to be a so-called smoking gun, a document or a recorded phone conversation that says I will exchange this money for this favour. But that’s simply not the case,” he said, arguing that such firm evidence is not needed just to open a probe.

Clinton’s camp says there is no evidence of wrongdoing by the former first couple. They also cite what they say are several factual errors in the book, as well as Schweizer’s politics: he used to work for George W. Bush, and his organisation is financed by the ultra-conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

But Schweizer’s work was picked up and taken further by the mainstream press in 2015, including the New York Times.

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