Clinton Camp Tries to Defuse Damning Report Point by Point
To run the risk of understatement, Thursday did not begin well for the Hillary Clinton's nascent presidential campaign.
A slew of negative stories raised yet more questions over donations to the Clinton Foundation and hefty speaking fees paid to Bill Clinton during his wife's tenure as secretary of state, a steady rumbling that could prove detrimental to her presidential aspirations, and a rumbling resulting from the impending release of Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich, by Peter Schweizer. None of Thursday's stories were more damning than the New York Times' long, independently-sourced report on the sale of a uranium mining company with holdings in the United States to Rosatom, the Russian nuclear agency. As the Times put it:
As Russian gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors.
First, the Clinton camp responded by focusing on the conservative author of Clinton Cash, dismissing the Times article as a "smear project." Hours later, however, Clinton's new press secretary, Brian Fallon, had composed a point-by-point refutation of many of the claims put forth and posted it to Medium. With All Due Respect host Mark Halperin took note of Fallon's rapid-response effort.
"Most valuable player for the Clinton campaign today is this guy Brian Fallon who put out a document in the middle of the day with some really strong rebuttal points," Halperin said. "It doesn't defuse the thing completely, but if they can reply substantively, they can put this story away to a much greater degree than it was at 6 a.m. this morning."
Among Fallon's rejoinders to the Times was the assertion that Clinton was not involved in the State Department decision to sign off on the sale of uranium mines, and therefore was in no way guilty of a conflict of interest:
While it is true that the State Department sits on the multi-agency, inter-governmental panel that reviews deals like this one, Hillary Clinton herself did not participate in the review or direct the Department to take any position on the sale of Uranium One.
In an attempt to further stanch the blood, Fallon argued there was a key flaw in the Times' reporting:
The main Clinton Foundation donor that the Times suggests stood to gain from the sale of Uranium One to the Russians had actually sold his stake in the company three years earlier.
Again and again, Fallon, who previously worked as a spokesman for the Justice Department and for Senator Chuck Schumer, sought to poke holes in the case that Clinton was guilty of any wrongdoing. He also pointed out that the Times ignored the fact that U.S. regulators accepted a subsequent sale of the remaining stake in Uranium One to Russia after Clinton left the State Department.
The strength of Fallon's presentation lay in his ability to address specific points in the Times story, something he will surely be called on to do again with the release of Clinton Cash in two weeks.