Matthews, Mitchell: Clinton Foundation Ran Legal ‘Pay to Play With’ Operation, NOT ‘Pay to Play!’

The panic on the faces of Clinton Foundation defenders grew more palpable on Wednesday night as the questions surrounding donors having meetings with Hillary Clinton’s State Department remained a part of the news cycle, so it was up to liberal journalists like Andrea Mitchell and MSNBC’s Hardball host Chris Matthews to defend and deflect these concerns as merely “political” ploys by Republicans. 

They also bemoaned the idea that the Clinton Foundation is a pay for play operation but instead a completely legal system of “pay to play with to have access with people socially as well as politically” between the Clintons and family friends who would otherwise have their attention whether or not they’ve donated to the foundation. 

Upon hearing a soundbite from Bill Clinton defending the foundation, Matthews proclaimed that the foundation never engaged in quid pro quos or a pay to play system: 

So is this about quid pro quo? Or is it about social as well as political access to people who donate? Is this really pay to play or is this another more common case of pay to play with to have access with people socially as well as politically?

Mitchell soon followed with a slew of talking points that would strike viewers as Mitchell doing her best Brian Fallon impression brushing aside donors meeting with Hillary as just a gathering between friends who give to other charities and groups:

Look, there are lots of people who are either corporate or social friends of the Clintons and contributors to the foundation and they have had meetings with Hillary Clinton and they got access. They got access — many of them — because they were officials or had relationships with other think tanks or non-government NGOs, groups that's do charities elsewhere[.]

“The State Department says that no rules were broken...no laws were broken....That these people would have had meetings with her in any case. So it is like a political campaign. Do Senators and Congress members accept phone calls from people who are their contributors before they hear from the average person? Yes. That is the way business is done in Washington,” Mitchell added with no realization that this behavior is seen by ordinary Americans as deplorable.

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After Matthews read an excerpt from a statement signed by Senators, the Obama White House, and the Clintons when Hillary became Secretary of State outlining the supposed walls of separation between her and State Department business (which was essentially ignored), Mitchell continued with her pathetic Clinton defense:

[W]e, frankly, have not found a quid pro quo. For instance, earlier tonight I interviewed F. Daniel Abraham, who was the founder of slim fast. His communications, the e-mails to Huma Abedin asking for a meeting. He’s in town, he wanted a meeting with Hillary Clinton. Was that a quid pro quo? He tells me that he was meeting with her on that — that he knew her since 1992 and he was meeting with her as head of the Middle East Institution on issues of Middle East Peace[.]

Capping off her day just as she began on Morning Joe claiming that Whitewater turned up nothing and Bill Clinton only gave a “faulty deposition” in the Paula Jones case, Mitchell spun that the coverage of the Clinton Foundation has only been “a matter of politics that the Republicans are claiming that this is pay for play and something that should lead to her being indicted or convicted or lock her up.” 

“That is really the rhetoric of the campaign. We have yet to say anything from any investigator that says this is the case,” she assured viewers.

The relevant portions of the transcript from MSNBC’s Hardball on August 24 can be found below.

MSNBC’s Hardball
August 24, 2016
7:04 p.m. Eastern

CHRIS MATTHEWS: So is this about quid pro quo? Or is it about social as well as political access to people who donate? Is this really pay to play or is this another more common case of pay to play with to have access with people socially as well as politically? NBC's Andrea Mitchell covers the campaign and is the host of Andrea Mitchell Reports here on MSNBC at noon weekdays. Andrea, just give us, what are the facts here that we can discern in terms of any possible conflict of interest between the people who come to see Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, who have already given this Clinton Global Initiative? Is there a conflict there? 

ANDREA MITCHELL: Look, there are lots of people who are either corporate or social friends of the Clintons and contributors to the foundation and they have had meetings with Hillary Clinton and they got access. They got access — many of them — because they were officials or had relationships with other think tanks or non-government NGOs, groups that's do charities elsewhere like, you know, the Gates family and others, Muhammad Yunus. This has been handled very sloppily I think and the firewall was not properly defined as well as it should have been. There is a memorandum of understanding signed by both sides when Hillary Clinton was confirmed by the Foreign Relations committee by John Kerry and Dick Lugar and people representing the White House, Valerie Jarrett and also the Clintons, Bruce Lindsay. So, they all agreed to the terms. They were probably not as careful as they should have been. There is nothing here that anyone has been able to determine anything illegal. Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump notwithstanding. The State Department says that no rules were broken, no ethical rules were broken, no laws were broken. It was all above board. That these people would have had meetings with her in any case. So it is like a political campaign. Do Senators and Congress members accept phone calls from people who are their contributors before they hear from the average person? Yes. That is the way business is done in Washington. It’s something Bernie Sanders and others have been campaigning against and it’s and not illegal. It is certainly — the old way of doing business and not something that voters like and could it hurt her at the polls. 

(....)

MITCHELL: It means no quid pro quo and we, frankly, have not found a quid pro quo. For instance, earlier tonight I interviewed F. Daniel Abraham, who was the founder of slim fast. His communications, the e-mails to Huma Abedin asking for a meeting. He’s in town, he wanted a meeting with Hillary Clinton. Was that a quid pro quo? He tells me that he was meeting with her on that — that he knew her since 1992 and he was meeting with her as head of the Middle East Institution on issues of Middle East peace, getting the Palestinians and the Israelis together and he was calling for that meeting when he was with high-ranking Israeli official. So he’s an explanation. It doesn't sound like a quid pro quo. He’s been — he’s known Hillary Clinton for all those years. He would get that meeting no matter when or how or whether or not he had given to the foundation. In the case of Governor McDonnell, the Supreme Court made it clear that you have to do something absolutely overt. She has to pick up the phone and saying I am calling and doing this for you because you are a donor. It has to be very explicit. They overturned that conviction so there is no, as far as we know, no legal case here and it’s really a matter of politics that the Republicans are claiming that this is pay for play and something that should lead to her being indicted or convicted or lock her up. That is really the rhetoric of the campaign. We have yet to say anything from any investigator that says this is the case. 

Tell the Truth 2016 NB Daily Campaigns & Elections 2016 Presidential Media Bias Debate Political Groups Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Political Scandals MSNBC Hardball Video Government & Press State Department Clinton Foundation Chris Matthews Andrea Mitchell Bill Clinton Hillary Clinton
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