NBC's Guthrie to Schweizer: Are You Trying to 'Torpedo' Hillary With 'Right-Wing Hit Job'?

In an interview with Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer on Monday's NBC Today about the scandal swirling around the Clinton Foundation, co-host Savannah Guthrie worried about the political fallout for Hillary Clinton: "Before we get into some of the details, let's put it bluntly. Are you hoping that this book and the issues you raise in it torpedo her candidacy?"

Schweizer rejected the notion: "No, this is not really motivated to her candidacy, we're just interested in transparency. I've done two previous books that looked at corruption and looked at people in both political parties."

Later in the exchange, Guthrie parroted Clinton campaign talking points smearing Schweizer: "You start off by mentioning that you've done bipartisan investigations. But a lot of your critics say, 'Look, you are a conservative and that this is a right-wing hit job.' Are you really claiming to be neutral here?"

Again defending his integrity, Schweizer replied: "I'm not claiming to be neutral. But if you look at my work, I have gone aggressively after Republicans. I did a book on insider trading by members of Congress and went after several Republicans."

Guthrie quickly tried to bolster the case that he was just a right-wing Clinton opponent: "You also did a book called Makers and Takers, whose long subtitle said that 'conservatives even hug their children more than liberals.'"

Schweizer had to explain the humor of the facetious title: "Well, and what I would encourage people to do is to actually read the conclusion to the book, where what I'm arguing is on the left and the right there's this misuse of social science research to score political points. It was a humorous title, that's the reason it was put that way."

Earlier in the interview, Guthrie downplayed the scandal by casting doubt on whether a criminal corruption case could be made against the Clintons:

You're basically saying that people donate to the Clinton Foundation run by her husband and get favorable treatment by the State Department run by Hillary Clinton....Do you have any specific instance in which Hillary Clinton directly intervenes on behalf of donors to the Clinton foundation?...You think this is something that could be criminally investigated?...if everything in your book were put before jurors, let's say, in a court of law and were told they can assume it is true, have you proven a quid pro quo?

Schweizer cited other recent corruption cases: "Well, I don't think a quid pro quo needs to be the standard. If you look at Senator McDonnell [sic] down in Virginia, who was convicted on charges. You look at Senator Menendez, there were not quid pro quos demonstrated in those cases."

Here is a full transcript of the April 27 interview:

7:16 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: And now to the talk of Washington and the 2016 presidential race right now. It's the new book called Clinton Cash, that raises questions about Hillary Clinton, her family's foundation, and if foreign donors might have influenced policy during Clinton's time as secretary of state. Peter Schweizer is the author of the book Clinton Cash and he joins us this morning. Peter, good morning to you.

PETER SCHWEIZER: Good morning to you, Savannah.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: "Clinton Cash" Author Speaks Out; New Book Claims Foundation Donors Given Favors]

GUTHRIE: Before we get into some of the details, let's put it bluntly. Are you hoping that this book and the issues you raise in it torpedo her candidacy?

SCHWEIZER: No, this is not really motivated to her candidacy, we're just interested in transparency. I've done two previous books that looked at corruption and looked at people in both political parties. What we have with the Clintons is a very unique arrangement in American political history, where you have a powerful, you know, public figure who's spouse is involved with all these foreign entities.

GUTHRIE: But if a person were to read your book and believe every word in it, wouldn't that be disqualifying, given the issues you raise? You're basically saying that people donate to the Clinton Foundation run by her husband and get favorable treatment by the State Department run by Hillary Clinton.

SCHWEIZER: Yeah, I mean, certainly the evidence, I think, is pretty shocking and could have that implication. But really the motivation is consistent with my previous work, is to look at this whole issue of corruption and self-dealing. And I think it raises serious questions.

GUTHRIE: You raise a lot of questions. Do you have any specific instance in which Hillary Clinton directly intervenes on behalf of donors to the Clinton foundation?

SCHWEIZER: Well, it's a great question, Savannah. What we have is a pattern of behavior. I was not in any of these meetings. I can't look into Hillary Clinton's mind. I certainly can't look at her e-mails. So the question becomes what is this pattern? And this pattern consistently shows that donors give large sums of money to the foundation or they pay Bill Clinton a lot for a speech, there's a policy action that's taken to the benefit of that donor. In some of those instances Hillary Clinton is actually reversing course on previous policy positions. So that's why my recommendation is somebody with subpoena power, with investigative capabilities, should look at this behavior.

GUTHRIE: You think this is something that could be criminally investigated?

SCHWEIZER: I think it should be. I don't go in with the assumption that it was criminal, but I think it warrants further investigation.

GUTHRIE: Let's be clear, though, and I think you're pretty straightforward about this in your book, if everything in your book were put before jurors, let's say, in a court of law and were told they can assume it is true, have you proven a quid pro quo?

SCHWEIZER: Well, I don't think a quid pro quo needs to be the standard. If you look at Senator McDonnell [sic] down in Virginia, who was convicted on charges. You look at Senator Menendez, there were not quid pro quos demonstrated in those cases. The question is, is there a pattern of conduct of behavior and do people believe that these events are connected and that there was some sort of pay to play arrangement? And that's a question I can't answer, but I do think investigators should look into.

GUTHRIE: You start off by mentioning that you've done bipartisan investigations. But a lot of your critics say, "Look, you are a conservative and that this is a right-wing hit job." Are you really claiming to be neutral here?

SCHWEIZER: I'm not claiming to be neutral. But if you look at my work, I have gone aggressively after Republicans. I did a book on insider trading by members of Congress and went after several Republicans.

GUTHRIE: You also did a book called Makers and Takers, whose long subtitle said that "conservatives even hug their children more than liberals."

SCHWEIZER: Well, and what I would encourage people to do is to actually read the conclusion to the book, where what I'm arguing is on the left and the right there's this misuse of social science research to score political points. It was a humorous title, that's the reason it was put that way.

GUTHRIE: Got to go. Jeb Bush is your next target.

SCHWEIZER: Yeah.

GUTHRIE: Do you got a headline coming out of that so far?

SCHWEIZER Just we're looking into a lot of things, everything from an airport deal to land deals, but we're in the middle of that investigation, we've been on it about four months.

GUTHRIE: Alright, we'll look forward to that. The book is called Clinton Cash. Pete Schweizer, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

SCHWEIZER: Thank you, Savannah.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is the Senior News Analyst for MRC