MSNBC’s Hayes: Clintons Broke Disclosure Agreement, ‘Standard Below Criminal Wrondoing’

MSNBC’s “All In” host Chris Hayes argued that the Clintons violated their “own agreement with the White House on disclosure,” and failed the “standard below criminal wrongdoing…a standard of the perception of conflict of interest” on Thursday.

Hayes initially said that, “what the Clinton people did in pushing back, I think, was smart, in that they focused on the strongest version of what the article might allege. Which is essentially quid pro quo.”

Hayes’ guests, Michelle Goldberg, Senior Contributing Writer at The Nation, and Media Matters Senior Fellow Eric Boehlert, were skeptical of a quid pro quo regarding the Clintons and Uranium One’s acquisition by Russia, Goldberg did say, “the one thing in the piece that I think the Clinton camp has to explain, I think it looks really bad that they haven’t even tried to explain, is [disclosure]…they had an agreement with the Obama administration to publicly disclose these donors and they didn’t, and so not only is there the kind of questionable, what were they hiding, but they just, on their face of it, violated what was a clear rule.”

Hayes pointed out that the disclosure problem is “not rebutted in the response” from the Clinton team.

Boehlert responded that this is “because I think the larger takeaway from that article is ‘we caught the Clintons in a quid pro quo, we caught the Clintons selling US policy for a speech to Bill Clinton,’ but it’s not there.”

Hayes argued, “the strongest version of this in the ‘Clinton Cash’ book from, what I have seen from the excerpts, is this idea of quid pro quo. So, in the Colombia free trade deal, Colombia makes a donation to the Clinton Foundation, the secretary pushes for a Colombia Free Trade Agreement. That seems pretty ridiculous on its face, because the Colombia Free Trade Agreement is — already a policy priority. It’s going to happen independent. What does seem clear, though, is there’s a lot of money going in the Clinton Foundation, right? There’s a lot of people who have interest before the State Department who are donating, right? And given what Hillary Clinton was walking into, shouldn’t have there have been unbelievable care taken to put firewalls, to have ethics lawyers flagging stuff, to say — to voluntarily, proactively disclose, to point out possible conflicts of interest?

Boehlert then said, “they raised $2 billion and there’s no evidence that any — yet of any criminal wrongdoing.” Hayes countered, “there’s a standard below criminal wrongdoing, there’s a standard of the perception of conflict of interest.” Boehler reacted, “that’s not where this goes, Fox News wants a federal [investigation]…it’s always based on criminality”

He added, “here’s what I wonder. I’ve been to Davos. I’ve covered Davos. I’ve been around reporting on some of the circles in which these folks move. And, it’s — these are circles in which like, yeah, like, lots of people give money to the Clinton Foundation, right? And lots of people have business before the State Department. And there’s going to be a Venn diagram, right? So, there’s going to be a plausible case to be had about like, was one connected to the other, right? My point is that in those, you have to be — you have to go above and beyond under those conditions, right? I don’t understand why you wouldn’t put in the most rock solid ethical safeguards, why you wouldn’t have compliance officers who are flagging this, why you would violate your own agreement with the White House on disclosure.”

Goldberg agreed, adding, “even short of rock solid ethical safeguards, at least follow the rules that you’ve agreed to.”

Boehlert responded, with a “side note,” that “the Republicans have this blueprint for the Clintons, and yes, for the Obamas too. You set up this permanent infrastructure, you get in the right-wing media, and then you lure the New York Times to chase it, too.”

Hayes disagreed, saying, “the point here though, is this does seem a legitimate piece of journalism, and I don’t think they got anything wrong.”

Boehlert said, “well, this uranium story…left all kinds of context in terms of who approved that deal. If you read that story, you — at the end you’d think Hillary Clinton changed US policy midstream because someone paid her husband for a speech. That is not even remotely close to what happened.”

Hayes then asked, “why wasn’t there somebody being like, ‘hey, Bill, maybe you should just turn down this speaking engagement? We don’t need the half million dollars.’?” To which Boehlert responded, “well, we don’t know. Maybe they have. He is by far the number one draw. And he has been for a decade.” Hayes then wondered why the Clintons wouldn’t be more careful about their financial dealings due to the “permanent infrastructure” Boehlert talked about it. Boehlert responded, “the Republicans have made it a priority, certainly a year ago, that the Clinton Foundation was going to be either their top priority in terms of opposition research, and here we are talking about the Clinton Foundation as the number one opposition research. I don’t think that’s by accident. But I understand your point, your original point, in terms of setting up a divide.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett


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