Clinton forcefully defends foundation: ‘There’s a lot of smoke and there’s no fire’

Hillary Clinton offered a full-throated defense of her family’s foundation after a week in which her critics suggested that donors sought special influence during her time as Secretary of State.

“We did provide a lot of life-saving work,” Clinton told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in a telephone interview. “I’m proud of the work that my husband started and he did.

“We provided a massive amount of information and Donald Trump doesn’t release his tax [returns] and is indebted to foreign banks and foreign lenders,” she added.

The comments are Clinton’s first addressing the concerns that have been raised by newly released emails showing foundation staff inquiring with Clinton’s staff at State about securing meetings for top contributors.

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Clinton argued — as her supporters have in recent days — that Donald Trump’s potential conflicts are more significant than the questions being raised about the Clinton Foundation.

“The foundation is a charity. Neither my husband nor I have ever drawn a salary from it,” Clinton said. “You know more about the foundation than you know about anything concerning Donald Trump’s wealth, his business, his tax returns.

“I think it’s quite remarkable,” Clinton said.

More specifically, Clinton cited the “concerning” news that Trump’s businesses “are hundreds of millions of dollars in debt to big banks including the state-owned Bank of China and business groups with ties to the Kremlin.”

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She dismissed as “ridiculous” Trump’s accusation at a rally in Tampa, Florida, on Wednesday that Clinton had run the State Department like a “Third World country,” doling out favors and access in exchange for donations to the Clinton Foundation.

“My work as secretary of state was not influenced by any outside forces. I made policy decisions based on what I thought was right,” Clinton said. “I know there’s a lot of smoke and there’s no fire.”

Last week, the Clinton Foundation announced that it would no longer accept foreign donations or donations from corporations if Clinton is elected president in November.

Clinton was asked by Cooper why those steps were not taken earlier when she served as secretary of state.

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“What we did when I was secretary of state, as I said, went above and beyond anything that was required– anything that any charitable organization has to do,” Clinton responded. “Obviously if I am president there will be some unique circumstances.

“And that’s why the foundation has laid out additional unprecedented steps that it would take if I am elected,” she added.