Review Category : Poltics

Bill Clinton Cashed In When Hillary Became Secretary of State

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — After his wife became secretary of state, former President Bill Clinton began to collect speaking fees that often doubled or tripled what he had been charging earlier in his post White House years, bringing in millions of dollars from groups that included several with interests pending before the State Department, an ABC News review of financial disclosure records shows.

Where he once had drawn $150,000 for a typical address in the years following his presidency, Clinton saw a succession of staggering paydays for speeches in 2010 and 2011, including $500,000 paid by a Russian investment bank and $750,000 to address a telecom conference in China.

“It’s unusual to see a former president’s speaking fee go up over time,” said Richard Painter, who served as chief ethics lawyer in the White House Counsel’s office under President George W. Bush. “I must say I’m surprised that he raised his fees. There’s no prohibition on his raising it. But it does create some appearance problems if he raises his fee after she becomes secretary of state.”

Public speaking became a natural and lucrative source of income for Clinton when he returned to private life in 2001. Records from disclosure forms filed by Hillary Clinton during her tenures in the U.S. Senate and then in the Obama Administration indicate he took in more than $105 million in speech fees during that 14-year period.

That steady flow of income has come under scrutiny in recent days, as it formed an element of a book by author and conservative think tank fellow Peter Schweitzer called Clinton Cash, due for release in coming days.

ABC News received an advanced copy of the book, which highlights instances where domestic and foreign companies with pending interests before the State Department made large donations to Clinton’s charitable enterprises or, in some cases, helped underwrite the former president’s speeches. The book offers no proof that Hillary Clinton took any direct action to benefit the groups and interests that were paying her husband.

An independent review of source material by ABC News uncovered errors in the book, including an instance where paid and unpaid speaking appearances were conflated. Schweitzer said the errors would be corrected. But those same records supported the premise that former President Clinton accepted speaking fees from numerous companies and individuals with interests pending before the State Department.

A spokesman for Hillary Clinton’s campaign did not respond Wednesday to requests for comment from ABC News, but the campaign’s leadership has been very aggressive in attacking the premise and content of the book. John Podesta, the campaign chairman, told PBS, “He’s cherry-picked information that’s been disclosed and woven a bunch of conspiracy theories about it.”

During her first visit to New Hampshire as a presidential candidate Monday, Hillary Clinton brushed off other finance-related allegations referenced in Clinton Cash about the Clinton Foundation’s acceptance of donations from foreign governments, dismissing them as being a “distraction” from the issues of her campaign.

“Well, we’re back into the political season and therefore we will be subjected to all kinds of distractions and attacks and I’m ready for that. I know that that comes unfortunately with the territory,” Clinton told reporters.

When Hillary Clinton took over as secretary of state, Bill Clinton’s attorney, David E. Kendall, drafted guidelines intended to help him avoid conflicts as he continued to accept payment for speeches.

“l am writing to describe the voluntary steps, above and beyond the requirements of law and ethics regulations, that President Clinton intends to take to assist Senator Clinton to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest with her duties as secretary of state,” Kendall wrote.

The rules required the State Department’s ethics officials to review and approve speaking requests.

In practice, there were few if any instances where ethics officials inside the State Department asked the former president to refuse to accept payment for a speech. Hundreds of pages of emails, first obtained through a Freedom of Information request by the right-leaning group Judicial Watch, show that requests from Clinton’s personal office to the State Department for approval of speaking engagements were almost always granted.

In October 2010, for instance, Clinton accepted $225,000 to give a speech in Jamaica sponsored in part by the Irish telecom firm Digicel. Just weeks earlier, Digicel had submitted an application to USAID, an agency overseen by the State Department, for millions of dollars in grant money to fund a mobile-phone money transfer service in Haiti. Two months after the speech, Digicel received the first installment of grant money. The company’s chairman, Irish billionaire Denis O’Brien, was also a major contributor to the Clintons’ charitable enterprises. He has not responded to questions sent to him through a Digicel spokesperson.

The former president collected large payments from companies with global interests such as Canada’s TD Bank, which had an interest in the Keystone Pipeline, a subject of intense lobbying in Washington. In just one week in March of 2011, Clinton collected $1.3 million giving speeches in Nigeria, Brazil and Grand Cayman.

One instance where the State Department did raise questions about a speech recipient came in 2012, when President Clinton requested to speak at an aviation conference sponsored in part by an organization called the Shanghai Airport Authority. The audience was billed as “6,000 business leaders, government officials, and high net worth individuals.”

The State Department ethics officer, Kathryn Youel Page, flagged the request in an email back to the former president’s office indicating the sponsor had ties to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) government.

“I don’t believe we’ve previously cleared acceptance of fees from PRC-linked entities, but could consider this variation,” she wrote.

Clinton did not accept the fee.

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Obama: ‘I Take Full Responsibility’ for US Operation that Killed Innocent Hostages Held by Al Qaeda

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — “I take full responsibility for a U.S. government counterterrorism operation that killed two innocent hostages held by al Qaeda,” President Obama said Thursday.

Dr. Warren Weinstein, an American held by the terror group since 2011, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian national who had been an al Qaeda hostage since 2012, were killed in a U.S. operation in January.

“I want to express our grief and condolences for the families of two hostages,” President Obama said from the White House briefing room.

“Analysis of all available information has led the Intelligence Community to judge with high confidence that the operation accidentally killed both hostages,” according to the statement. “The operation targeted an al Qaeda-associated compound, where we had no reason to believe either hostage was present, located in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. No words can fully express our regret over this terrible tragedy.”

In a video released by al Qaeda in 2012, Weinstein, a former peace corps official abducted from his home in Lahore, Pakistan, pleaded with President Obama to comply with the terrorists’ demands.

“My life is in your hands, Mr. President,” he said. “If you accept the demands, I live. If you don’t accept the demands, then I die.”

“I’ve done a lot of service for my country, and I would hope that my country will now look after me and take care of me and meet the demands of the mujahedeen,” he added.

Weinstein’s “determination to protect innocent life makes the loss of these two men especially painful for all of us,” Obama said Thursday.

Though the administration has asserted the operation was “lawful and conducted consistent with our counter-terrorism policies,” officials have promised a “thorough independent review.”

According to the statement, “Two other Americans were recently killed in U.S. Government counter-terrorism operations in the same region.” Ahmed Farouq and Adam Gadahn, were both members of al Qaeda, but neither was “specifically targeted,” the White House says.

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Obama: ‘I Take Full Responsibility’ for US Operation that Killed Innocent Hostages Held by Al Qaeda

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — “I take full responsibility for a U.S. government counterterrorism operation that killed two innocent hostages held by al Qaeda,” President Obama said Thursday.

Dr. Warren Weinstein, an American held by the terror group since 2011, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian national who had been an al Qaeda hostage since 2012, were killed in a U.S. operation in January.

“I want to express our grief and condolences for the families of two hostages,” President Obama said from the White House briefing room.

“Analysis of all available information has led the Intelligence Community to judge with high confidence that the operation accidentally killed both hostages,” according to the statement. “The operation targeted an al Qaeda-associated compound, where we had no reason to believe either hostage was present, located in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. No words can fully express our regret over this terrible tragedy.”

In a video released by al Qaeda in 2012, Weinstein, a former peace corps official abducted from his home in Lahore, Pakistan, pleaded with President Obama to comply with the terrorists’ demands.

“My life is in your hands, Mr. President,” he said. “If you accept the demands, I live. If you don’t accept the demands, then I die.”

“I’ve done a lot of service for my country, and I would hope that my country will now look after me and take care of me and meet the demands of the mujahedeen,” he added.

Weinstein’s “determination to protect innocent life makes the loss of these two men especially painful for all of us,” Obama said Thursday.

Though the administration has asserted the operation was “lawful and conducted consistent with our counter-terrorism policies,” officials have promised a “thorough independent review.”

According to the statement, “Two other Americans were recently killed in U.S. Government counter-terrorism operations in the same region.” Ahmed Farouq and Adam Gadahn, were both members of al Qaeda, but neither was “specifically targeted,” the White House says.

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White House Announces US Operation Killed Innocent Hostages Held by al Qaeda

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — The White House Thursday announced that “a U.S. Government counterterrorism operation in January killed two innocent hostages held by al-Qa’ida.”

In a statement released by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, the White House named Dr. Warren Weinstein, an American held by al-Qa’ida since 2011, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian national who had been an al-Qa’ida hostage since 2012, as the victims.

“Analysis of all available information has led the Intelligence Community to judge with high confidence that the operation accidentally killed both hostages,” according to the statement. “The operation targeted an al-Qa’ida-associated compound, where we had no reason to believe either hostage was present, located in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. No words can fully express our regret over this terrible tragedy.”

President Obama is expected to deliver a statement Thursday morning.

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Obama Makes Earth Day Pitch to Fight Climate Change

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(HOMESTEAD, Fla.) — President Obama marked Earth Day 2015 Wednesday with warnings about climate change during a speech at Everglades National Park in Homestead, Florida.

Despite critics who say that fears are overblown, the president told his audience, “Climate change can no longer be denied. It can’t be edited out. It can’t be omitted from the conversation. And action can no longer be delayed.”

Obama claimed that the U.S. is leading the way in addressing the crisis of global warming by producing more clean energy as well as becoming the number one user of wind power.

In 2014 alone, the president maintained that the U.S. generated 20 times more electricity from solar power than in 2008.

However, Obama said much more needs to be done to prevent the worst impacts of climate change, explaining that “even if we take the right steps we’re going to have to make some adaptations.”

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POLL: Support for Gay Marriage Reaches a Record High

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A week before a closely watched U.S. Supreme Court hearing on the issue, public support for gay marriage reached a new high in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, with 61 percent of Americans — more than six in 10 for the first time — saying gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry legally.

Identical or similar majorities favor gay marriage on two key issues before the court: Sixty-one percent oppose allowing individual states to prohibit same-sex marriages. And 62 percent support requiring states to recognize gay marriages performed legally in other states.

[See PDF with full results, charts and tables here]

These views extend a dramatic, decade-long evolution in public attitudes on gay marriage — one of the most remarkable re-evaluations of views on a basic social issue in more than 30 years of ABC/Post polling. As recently as June 2006, just 36 percent of Americans said it should be legal for gays and lesbians to marry. That advanced to 49 percent in 2009, reached a majority, 53 percent, in early 2011, and, as noted, 61 percent now.

Further, “strong” support for allowing gay marriage exceeds strong opposition by 15 percentage points in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, matching the largest pro-gay marriage margin in intensity of sentiment on record. In a similar question in 2004, by contrast, strong opposition exceeded strong support by 34 points.

Other attitudes have moved in tandem. In ABC/Post polls last year, 65 percent said that being gay or lesbian is the way people are rather than the way they choose to be, up 16 points from 1994. Sixty-one percent also supported allowing gay couples to adopt children, up from 29 percent in 1992, and 78 percent said gays “can be as good parents as straight people,” up by 21 points from 1996. Eighty-one percent said business should not be allowed to refuse service to gays and lesbians; 65 percent said so even if the business owners object on religious grounds. (At the same time fewer, 50 percent, saw gay marriage as a constitutional right; 43 percent did not, with the rest unsure.)

These trends have been associated with increased familiarity with gays and lesbians. In polling by Gallup in 1983, 24 percent of Americans reported having a friend or acquaintance who was homosexual. That’s risen to three-quarters now.

Same-sex marriage is legal in 36 states, up from six three years ago, largely as a result of court rulings striking down gay marriage bans. As noted, the Supreme Court’s hearing next Tuesday focuses on two critical issues: whether the 14th Amendment to the Constitution — providing equal protection under the law — forbids states from banning same-sex marriages, and requires them to recognize such marriages performed elsewhere.

GROUPS —
While attitudes about gay marriage have shifted across groups, there still are sharp divisions. Age, ideology and partisanship strongly influence views on the issue. Support peaks at 78 percent among adults younger than 30, and falls to 46 percent among seniors. Eighty-three percent of liberals support gay marriage, as do 69 percent of political moderates; that falls to 47 percent among Americans who call themselves “somewhat” conservative and 24 percent among those who are very conservative. And support ranges from 76 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of independents to just 34 percent among Republicans.

Among other groups, support peaks among higher-income and more educated adults, and in the Northeast and West compared with the Midwest and South — but it’s at clear majorities across income, education and regional groups regardless.

However, as noted, there are changes across groups, albeit to different extents in some cases. Compared with 2006, support for gay marriage is up by 16 points among Republicans, as well as by 32 points among Democrats; up by 20 points among conservatives, as well as by 31 points among moderates; and up by 24 points among young adults, but also by 32 points among seniors.

METHODOLOGY — This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cell phone April 16-20, 2015, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,016 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points. The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y.

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Senate Approves Anti-Human Trafficking Legislation, Vote on Loretta Lynch’s AG Nomination Coming Thursday

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Senate on Wednesday approved new anti-human trafficking legislation, clearing the path for a Thursday vote on Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch’s nomination.

Republicans in the Senate had insisted that the trafficking legislation get passed before they would hold a vote on Lynch’s nomination. Earlier this week, Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Patty Murray, D-Wash., brokered a deal that enable the trafficking bill to be approved on Wednesday.

The deal applied restrictions based on the Hyde amendment — which prohibits the use of taxpayer funds on abortions — to all funds used for healthcare and medical services. It also creates a Domestic Trafficking Victims’ fund, which will receive money from criminal offenders as well as through funding appropriated by Congress for Community Health Centers.

Lynch was nominated to succeed Eric Holder as attorney general 165 days ago, the longest confirmation period for an attorney general nominee in recent history. A procedural vote is expected Thursday morning, with final confirmation possibly coming later in the day.

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Senate Approves Anti-Human Trafficking Legislation, Vote on Loretta Lynch’s AG Nomination Coming Thursday

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Senate on Wednesday approved new anti-human trafficking legislation, clearing the path for a Thursday vote on Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch’s nomination.

Republicans in the Senate had insisted that the trafficking legislation get passed before they would hold a vote on Lynch’s nomination. Earlier this week, Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Patty Murray, D-Wash., brokered a deal that enable the trafficking bill to be approved on Wednesday.

The deal applied restrictions based on the Hyde amendment — which prohibits the use of taxpayer funds on abortions — to all funds used for healthcare and medical services. It also creates a Domestic Trafficking Victims’ fund, which will receive money from criminal offenders as well as through funding appropriated by Congress for Community Health Centers.

Lynch was nominated to succeed Eric Holder as attorney general 165 days ago, the longest confirmation period for an attorney general nominee in recent history. A procedural vote is expected Thursday morning, with final confirmation possibly coming later in the day.

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No Suspicious Substance Found After Brief Lockdown at Cannon House Office Building

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Part of the Cannon House Office Building was locked down on Wednesday during an investigation into a suspicious substance found in the office belonging to Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa.

Doyle said that a staff assistant opened the letter, which had been processed at the off-site mailing facility for the Capitol. Inside the letter was the powder, prompting the assistant to alert an office manager, who called Capitol Police.

It was not initially clear how many people remained in Doyle’s office, as the congressman was not inside at the time, and was returning from a vote at the Capitol Building.

Multiple offices were affected by the lockdown.

U.S. Capitol Police Public Information Officer Kimberly Schneider said that nothing hazardous was found and the all-clear was given later Wednesday afternoon.

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How Jeb Bush Is Dealing with His Dynasty Problem

Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Jeb Bush, the son of one president and the brother of another, is almost certainly going to pursue a White House bid of his own in 2016. But he wants voters to know one thing: He’s his own man.

“I love my brother. I love my dad,” Bush told the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in February. “I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions they had to make. But I’m my own man and my views are shaped by my own thinking and my own experiences.”

But that hasn’t stopped the steady stream of questions he fields from reporters and voters alike. They usually go something like this: How are you different from your father and brother?

As he travels the country as a potential candidate, Bush, who served as Florida’s 43rd governor, hasn’t run from the family name — but he’s careful not to run on it either.

Before he’s even a declared candidate, here’s a look at how he has handled the questions about the Bush dynasty:

Just Joking

In New Hampshire last weekend, Bush noted the challenge of differentiating himself to voters, even joking he’d have to prove he wasn’t running to “break the tie” between the Bush and Adams family. (Those families, along with the Roosevelts, boast two presidents apiece.)

“I have to prove I’m not running for president … trying to break the tie between the Adams family and the Bush family,” Bush said to laughter and applause last week at the Snowshoe Club in Concord, New Hampshire. “It really isn’t my motivation, but I have to prove that.”

Back to the Future

But he’s repeatedly refused to discuss policy differences, or comment on his brother’s decision-making — particularly on foreign policy, as the United States remains involved in the Middle East twelve years after the start of the Iraq War.

“Look, the circumstances for today are different than they were in 2000 and certainly different than they were in 1988,” Bush said in New Hampshire last week. “And so there’s a whole new set of challenges, a whole new set of opportunities.”

Just Say No

Bush gave one reporter little to work with in New Hampshire when asked to provide examples of divergent positions from his brother.

“No, I certainly don’t [want to give examples] — absolutely not,” Bush said. “I’ve got no interest in that.”

He added that voters will “have that chance” make comparisons if he becomes an official candidate.

Keep Calm and Carry On

But that might not be enough for some voters, as Bush learned earlier this month, after a breakfast in Colorado Springs with retired generals and military leaders.

“Shame on you!” one voter who identified himself as a Republican shouted. “We’ve had enough Bushes!”

Bush responded with an abrupt nod. “Take care,” he replied.

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