- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 1, 2016

Vice President Joseph R. Biden hit the campaign trail for Hillary Clinton and touted her as the clear choice for president this November, but he also found himself caught up in the ongoing Clinton Foundation saga and refused to say that the embattled organization has always acted ethically.

Speaking to reporters after a campaign rally in the battleground state of Ohio, Mr. Biden wouldn’t offer a full-throated endorsement of the foundation, which is now at the center of a pay-to-play scandal amid accusations Mrs. Clinton traded access for foundation donations while secretary of state.

Mr. Biden’s reticence to fully defend the foundation comes as newly released emails show yet another example of State Department officials appearing to secure favors for foundation leaders.

The issue continues to dog Mrs. Clinton and her presidential ambitions, giving fuel to Republican Donald Trump and other critics who say the former first lady is corrupt and all too willing to offer political favors in exchange for money.

“I think the Clinton Foundation, like all foundations, have found themselves in a position where things are changing, and I think [Hillary Clinton] is going to change and adjust to the realities of how complicated it has become,” Mr. Biden said after being asked by an NBC News reporter whether the foundation has always been “100 percent ethical.”

The vice president went on to say that he expects the foundation to stop accepting foreign donations if Mrs. Clinton becomes president. The foundation has said as much in recent weeks and also has vowed that both Mrs. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, will cut ties with the organization if they’re victorious in November.

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But critics argue that the foundation should have adopted a similar policy while Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state, and they also argue that foreign donations should end immediately, not just after a potential November White House win.

Meanwhile, new emails released Thursday by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch show more examples of Mrs. Clinton’s State Department acting in concert with the foundation. In one email, Clinton Foundation executive Doug Band asked top Clinton aide Huma Abedin — now a senior adviser to the former secretary’s presidential campaign — for diplomatic passports for himself and two associates.

Ms. Abedin said she would “figure it out.” The exchange is just one instance in which Mrs. Clinton’s State Department seemed to reward foundation executives and donors with special access and treatment.

“The idea that the State Department would even consider a diplomatic passport for Clinton Foundation executives is beyond belief,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “These emails show various violations of national security laws and ethics rules and further confirm that Hillary and Bill Clinton are personally implicated in the Clinton Foundation pay-to-play scandal.”

The Clinton campaign, which has struggled to fend off criticism of the foundation, has in recent days intensified its pushback against Mr. Trump, critics such as Mr. Fitton, and even media outlets that have published unflattering stories.

The campaign last month blasted The Associated Press over a story revealing that the majority of non-government officials who had private meetings or phone calls with then-Secretary Clinton also were significant donors to the foundation.

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And on Thursday, the campaign excoriated Politico for the outlet’s piece showing that the Clintons used taxpayer money to subsidize the foundation and to buy IT equipment used for Mrs. Clinton’s private email server. The server has itself become a political liability for Mrs. Clinton after the FBI confirmed the former secretary sent and received classified information from the unofficial account.

Campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said the Politico story is “egregiously false” and that they expect a correction from the outlet. He said the story is an example of Clinton critics going out of their way to find negative foundation-related stories.

The Politico piece “shows what happens when [news outlets are] overtaken by pressure to find a lede in [Freedom of Information Act] docs that don’t contain news,” Mr. Fallon tweeted Thursday.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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