Hillary Clinton sidesteps email, foreign money questions

Hillary Clinton avoided talking politics Saturday in Coral Gables. She left that to her husband.

Speaking to students at the University of Miami, the former secretary of state did not make a single mention of her likely presidential candidacy or the controversies that have recently surrounded it. But taking the stage after her, ex-President Bill Clinton addressed one of them for the first time.

The former president defended the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation for its acceptance of millions of dollars in donations from foreign governments, including during his wife’s State Department tenure.

“I believe they do a lot more good than harm,” he said, acknowledging donations from other countries, including some in the Middle East.

“The U.A.E. gave us money,” he said, referring to the United Arab Emirates. “Do we agree with everything they do? No, but they help us fight ISIS,” referring to the so-called Islamic State.

He characterized the donations as coming from “friends” that had previously contributed to the foundation and were allowed to keep doing so under a 2008 ethics agreement with the Obama administration. But that was not the case with a $500,000 contribution from the Algerian government.

“My theory about this is, disclose everything and let people make their judgments,” Clinton said.

Hillary Clinton spoke earlier with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton, as part of the Clinton Global Initiative University. Hillary Clinton did not say a word about last week’s revelation that as secretary of state she sent email exclusively from a private account.

Clinton tweeted Wednesday that she has asked the State Department to release the emails, and the department has indicated it is reviewing which records are public. But because they were stored in a private server, it’s impossible to know which emails, if any, were deleted or not turned over.

Republicans continued to rip Clinton on Saturday for not answering questions about her email set-up.

“Hillary Clinton has spent a week hiding from the press and voters who have serious questions about her commitment to transparency, ethics and national security,” Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Short said in a statement.

President Barack Obama told CBS News on Saturday that he learned about Clinton’s email system “the same time everybody else learned it, through news reports.”

“The policy of my administration is to encourage transparency, which is why my emails – the BlackBerry I carry around – all those records are available and archived, and I’m glad that Hillary’s instructed that those emails about official business need to be disclosed,” he said.

In her remarks Saturday, Clinton stuck to a theme close to her heart since she was First Lady: the rights of women and girls. Her daughter noted that women are underrepresented in leadership posts but didn’t mention the presidency, focusing instead on corporate boards of directors.

Hillary Clinton made one apparent reference to the Affordable Care Act, saying “we’ve made a lot of progress” on making health care accessible.

“But we’ve also seen concerted efforts to try to stall that progress or even to turn the clock back,” she said, without naming the law.

It was a marked contrast to Republican presidential hopefuls, who traipsed across Iowa on Saturday to lay the groundwork for their potential campaigns. Clinton’s fund-raising and political strength has largely scared away other Democratic contenders, allowing her to continue to deliver speeches like the one on Saturday, as a philanthropist rather than a politician gearing up for a campaign.

Clinton did refer to the 50-year anniversary Saturday of the civil-rights march in Selma, Alabama. She asked students to go back and watch Saturday’s speeches from U.S. Rep. John Lewis and President Obama.

The president “gave just a superb speech about the progress we’ve made,” she said. “But [also] the imperative that we keep making more.”

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune