- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 25, 2016

Hillary Clinton is pushing back on a report this week that she took many meetings with Clinton Foundation donors as secretary of state, saying there’s “a lot of smoke” but “no fire.”

“My work as secretary of state was not influenced by any outside forces,” Mrs. Clinton said in a telephone interview with CNN Wednesday evening. “I made policy decisions based on what I thought was right - to keep Americans safe and protect U.S. interests abroad.”

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has seized on an Associated Press report this week that said more than half of a set of 154 people from private interests who met or had scheduled calls with Mrs. Clinton while she was at the State Department also gave to the Clinton Foundation or pledged commitments to its international programs.

Mrs. Clinton said the State Department said there’s no evidence of any impropriety and that neither she nor former President Clinton, her husband, have ever drawn a salary from the foundation.

“I know there’s a lot of smoke and there’s no fire. This AP report? Put it in context - it excludes nearly 2,000 meetings I had with world leaders, plus countless other meetings with U.S. government officials when I was secretary of state,” she said. “It looked at a small portion of my time.”

“It drew the conclusion and made the suggestion that my meetings with people like the late, great, Elie Wiesel, or Melinda Gates, or the Nobel Prize winner, Muhammad Yunus, were somehow due to connections with the foundation instead of their status as highly respected global leaders,” she said.

“That is absurd,” she said. “These are people I was proud to meet with, who any secretary of state would have been proud to meet with to hear about their work and their insight.”

Mrs. Clinton also addressed the controversy over her private email server in the interview. The New York Times reported recently that she told the FBI former Secretary of State Colin Powell advised her to use a personal email account, though Mr. Powell didn’t use a private server run out of his home the way Mrs. Clinton did.

Mr. Powell recently told People Magazine at a social function Mrs. Clinton’s team is trying to pin the email controversy on him.

Mrs. Clinton said Wednesday she valued Mr. Powell’s advice but that she wasn’t going to relitigate in public her private conversations with him.

“I’ve been asked many, many questions in the past year about emails, and what I’ve learned is that when I try to explain what happened it can sound like I’m trying to excuse what I did, and there are no excuses,” she said.

“I want people to know that the decision to have a single email account was mine. I take responsibility for it. I’ve apologized for it,” she said.

“I would certainly do [it] differently if I could but obviously I’m grateful the Justice Department concluded there was no basis to pursue this matter further and I believe the public will be, and is, considering my full record and experience as they consider their choice for president,” she said.

Asked about the possibility of giving her first press conference of 2016, Mrs. Clinton said to “stay tuned.”

“I’ve got a lot that I have been sharing with the press, talking to the press, as I’m doing with you right now,” she said. “Stay tuned - there’ll be a lot of different opportunities for me to talk to the press, as well as continuing to talk to the American public.”

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