First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter
Conservative author admits evidence on Hillary Clinton is circumstantial
In back-to-back interviews over the past 24 hours, conservative author Peter Schweizer admits he doesn’t have direct evidence that Hillary Clinton intervened to assist individuals and entities because they donated large sums of money to the Clinton Foundation. On ABC yesterday, Schweizer was asked if he had proof that Hillary Clinton directly took action to benefit a Clinton Foundation donor from the sale of a uranium mining company. “No, we don't have direct evidence. But it warrants further investigation because, again, … this is part of the broader pattern. You either have to come to the conclusion that these are all coincidences or something else is afoot.” In an interview with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie this morning, Schweizer said, “What we have is a pattern of behavior,” adding that this pattern consistently shows Clinton Foundation donors benefiting from Hillary Clinton’s State Department. More Schweizer: “I think it should be [criminally] investigated… I don’t think a quid-pro-quo needs to be a standard,” citing the charges that brought down former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. When Guthrie asked him about his ties to the conservative movement and GOP politics, Schweizer said, “I am not claiming to be neutral,” though he also stated that he’s taken on conservatives, too.
Clinton Foundation: “Yes, we made mistakes”
Meanwhile, in a blog post on Sunday, the Clinton Foundation’s acting CEO, Maura Pally, acknowledged that the Clinton Foundation made mistakes in its filings of 990 tax forms. “Our total revenue was accurately reported on each year's form – our error was that government grants were mistakenly combined with other donations… So yes, we made mistakes, as many organizations of our size do, but we are acting quickly to remedy them, and have taken steps to ensure they don't happen in the future.” Pally also explained why some Clinton Foundation-related donations weren’t disclosed like others were -- because they were to a Canadian offshoot. “[T]he Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (Canada) is publicly listed as a donor on our website. But as it is a distinct Canadian organization, separate from the Clinton Foundation, its individual donors are not listed on the site. This is hardly an effort on our part to avoid transparency – unlike in the U.S., under Canadian law; all charities are prohibited from disclosing individual donors without prior permission from each donor.”
Why is the Clinton Foundation STILL taking foreign donations?
But here’s a big question that we have as Hillary Clinton has begun her presidential candidacy and as she stands a decent chance of sitting in the Oval Office in 2017: Why is the Clinton Foundation taking ANY foreign money at all? As we wrote last week, and as Pally confirms in her blog post, the Clinton Foundation still receives foreign money from six foreign countries -- Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and the U.K. A Clinton Foundation official has told NBC News, “You just can’t pull the plug” on existing programs, especially when they involve multi-year grants. But in a world where appearances do matter, should the Clinton Foundation be receiving those donations anymore?
Jeb: I’ve raised more money in 100 days than any GOP operation in history
The New York Times: “Jeb Bush told donors [in Miami] that he believed his political action committee had raised more money in 100 days than any other modern Republican political operation, according to those who heard him.” Of course, there’s one hitch with any record: The money Jeb is raising is through his Super PAC, which is able to raise unlimited amounts of money. And while the Clinton Foundation money is legitimately receiving attention, so should the loophole that Jeb Bush is exploiting in campaign finance law -- that presidential candidates can’t coordinate with Super PACs. But since Jeb TECHNICALLY isn’t a presidential candidate, he’s raising all of this money for his Super PAC.
George W. Bush comments on his brother’s campaign, Obama’s Iran policy
Over the weekend, it turned out Jeb Bush’s older brother -- former President George W. Bush -- made some news. The Washington Post: “At a closed-door dinner Saturday night before nearly 800 members of the Republican Jewish Coalition, the 43rd president noted that it could hurt former Florida governor Jeb Bush if he campaigned alongside another Bush who served in the White House, according to several attendees. ‘He said that one of the challenges his brother is going to have is that the country doesn’t like dynasties,’ recalled David Volosov, a RJC member from Silver Spring, Md. ‘People are going to say, “Oh, here comes another Bush.” His response is that he is going to stay as far as way as he can. He is going to stay away from the whole process.’” More from the New York Times: “Mr. Bush voiced skepticism about the Obama administration’s pursuit of a nuclear deal with Iran. Although he had begun the diplomatic effort to press Iran to give up its nuclear program, Mr. Bush questioned whether it was wise to lift sanctions against Tehran when the Islamic government seemed to be caving in, and suggested that the United States risked losing leverage if it did so.”