Today on CNN’s Reliable Sources, Peter Schweizer, conservative author of Clinton Cash (2015), joined guest anchor Frank Sesno to discuss his book.
On the Clintons: “you see a pattern that indicates pay to play, from foreign entities giving money to the Clintons either through speaking fees or Clinton Foundation donations, and those entities get favorable action from Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.“
On the lack of evidence to implicate the Clinton family: “I’m an author and a journalist. I don't have subpoena power. Let me just ask this very basic question: if this were a secretary of defense, it were not the Clintons. They had a small company that needed Pentagon approval of something, and nine individuals in that small company had sent $145 million to a private foundation that the secretary of defense had and the secretary of defense's spouse had received inflated speaking fees during the time of this approval.”
FRANK SESNO, CNN HOST: He's the man at the center of a media storm and the target of a Clinton war room counterattack. The author of the new controversial book on Hillary Clinton is here.
And the reporter who first broke the deflategate story has strong words for his colleagues in sports journalism.
And did the media get the story wrong in Baltimore again?
Happy Mother's Day, everyone. I'm Frank Sesno, sitting in for Brian Stelter today. And it's time for RELIABLE SOURCES.
Well, with most media budgets downsized, it could be that the closest thing the media has to a job creator these days is Hillary Clinton and her presidential campaign. Yet, her inaccessibility to the media has created something of a vacuum, and we know how nature hates vacuums.
So, last week, a new book arrived and it's gotten a lot of attention. "Clinton Cash" raises questions of conflicts of interests between donations to Bill Clinton's foundation and his wife's public policy while she was secretary of state, in deals from Kazakhstan to Columbia.
But the fact that it was written by Peter Schweizer, a former consultant to both George Bush and Sarah Palin brought up its own questions of conflicts of interest. Lots of folks took aim at that, including Seth Meyers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SETH MEYERS, LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS/NBC: Some of his previous books include, "Do as I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy" and the more succinctly titled, and this is real, "Makers and Takers: Why Conservatives Work Harder, Feel Happier, Have Closer Families, Take Fewer Drugs, Give More Generously, Value Honesty More, Are Less Materialistic and Envious, Whine Less and Even Hug Their Children More Than Liberals".
So clearly, clearly it's hard to tell if he has any bias.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Still, the impact of the book has been remarkable, not just from the usual Clinton-bashing outlets. Yes, there was an hour-long special from FOX News owned, like the book's publisher, by Rupert Murdoch. But the book was released early to "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post." They expanded on some of the book's allegations which fed the media beast and prompted "The Times" to observe the book had more impact because "The Times" had given it more impact.
Amy Chozick from "The Times" wrote that compared to other anti-Clinton books, "Clinton Cash" is potentially more unsettling both because of its focused reporting and because major news organizations, including 'The Times', 'Washington Post', and FOX News have exclusive agreements with the author to pursue the story lines found in the book."
Exclusive agreements with the author? Well, that raised eyebrows. "The Times" own public editor who investigated the agreement and concluded "The Times" should have been more clear with readers about the nature of this arrangement.
One of the co-authors of "The Times" piece, Mike McIntire, defended the deal as just a journalistic tip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIK MCINTIRE, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It was really no different than a tip that we received from any potential source. There were no agreements as to what we would write. There was no agreement as to when we would write it or what we would not write about.
So, this idea that we were - somehow struck a deal with him is really false. I mean, we accepted this is a tip in the same way that I receive them interest all ends of the partisan political spectrum.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESNO: Why is this book getting so much media attention? Does it deserve? Authors would kill for this kind of exposure. So, how was this done? And what about the author?
Well, joining me now is the author himself, Peter Schweizer, who is in Tallahassee, Florida.
Peter, welcome to you.
PETER SCHWEIZER, AUTHOR, "CLINTON CASH": Thanks for having me.
SESNO: Well, and congratulations on getting all this attention from Seth Meyers to "The New York Times", to their public editor.
For people who aren’t familiar with the book, let me ask you in 30 seconds to give us your reporting headline if you bumped into somebody on the street and they said, what’s the bumper sticker? What is it?
SCHWEIZER: I think the bumper sticker is you see a pattern that indicates pay to play, from foreign entities giving money to the Clintons either through speaking fees or Clinton Foundation donations, and those entities get favorable action from Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. That's the thumbnail sketch.
SESNO: So, the questions raised we just touched upon in the introduction here about the connection to "The Times" and "The Post" - what was the treatment between you and these other publications?
SCHWEIZER: Yes. I mean, Mike McIntire is right. I mean, I had a copy of the galleys. I took them to "The New York Times" in part because I have a story building upon a previous report that "The New York Times" had done on Kazakhstan. I took it to "The Washington Post" because they had done some work already on the speechmaking that Bill Clinton was engaging on. I took it to FOX News because there was an individual there who used to have been at "Newsweek" who I knew.
And it was simply, hey, I found some interesting things you guys might want to look into it. I also did the same with ABC News as well.
So, there was no unique arrangement. I think it was just -
SCHWEIZER: Any of these guys - any of these guys - any of these guys pay you, Peter, for this?
SCHWEIZER: Oh, no, absolutely not. No payments, no time constraints put on, no conditions put on - absolutely not. I mean, these are all professionals as you know, Frank, and no, they would have never tolerated that and I never would have asked for that.
SESNO: OK. Well, that was for the record. So, let me ask you this for the record - were you looking deliberately and hoping for this kind of pickup in the, quote/unquote, "mainstream media" to blunt some of the criticism that you are just a Clinton critic and that this book lacks credibility as a result?
SCHWEIZER: Well, you know, I wish, Frank, that I had this master plan. If you look at my two previous books, "Extortion", it was featured on "60 minutes." There was a whole series on CNN by the investigative unit on it. My book before that throw them all out on insider trading, and the stock market, again was the subject of a "60 Minutes" episode, and there was mainstream media on both of those.
So, this book is really no different from the two previous that I have done. And it's all fact-driven. I mean, yes, I am a conservative. I say that. But I have gone after Republicans. I have gone after conservatives. The focus is really on corruption and I think facts are facts.
SESNO: So, let me ask you this question and this for people who haven't followed this very closely is also the substance of the 4,000-word piece that "The New York Times" wrote, which is this deal for the Russians to buy this uranium company that was up in Canada with the two brothers, the business partners there were making contributions to the Clinton Foundation after the deal went through. Bill Clinton got a very lucrative speech in Russia as part of all this. Hillary Clinton is now secretary of state.
And the connection or the - not the connection but the implication here is that there was some pay-to-play. But, but I have heard over and over again, no smoking gun here. And I want to show you and the audience this montage the Clinton campaign put together, with you out making these pictures to the media and their response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX: There’s no indication that Hillary Clinton or Bill Clinton took direct action.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no - there’s no evidence.
SCHWEIZER: I was not in any of these meetings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no smoking gun.
SCHWEIZER: I can't look into Hillary Clinton's mind.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And there hasn't been a there-there.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: We've been investigative work here at ABC News, found no proof of any kind of direct action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESNO: So, what do you say to all the media organizations that looked into this core accusation in the book around said there's no there-there, or no smoking gun there?
SCHWEIZER: Frank, I’m an author and a journalist. I don't have subpoena power.
Let me just ask this very basic question: if this were a secretary of defense, it were not the Clintons. They had a small company that needed Pentagon approval of something, and nine individuals in that small company had sent $145 million to a private foundation that the secretary of defense had and the secretary of defense's spouse had received inflated speaking fees during the time of this approval.
And when asked about this, the secretary of defense said, oh, there’s no connection.
Would the media take their word for it? Would investigators take their word for it? No. They would say this is something that needs to be investigated, and that's my position. And this notion that an author has to provide the smoking gun is absurd. All of these things ought to be investigated.
SESNO: Why is that - why is that absurd? Why - if there's a core allegation, is it enough just to raise the question? I mean, if you did that - if you were writing for a major newspaper, they'd send you back and say you haven't got the story yet.
SCHWEIZER: No. I disagree completely. I don't think the news standard at any news outlet would be if you demonstrate a small company has send $145 million to a foundation connected to the secretary of defense and the secretary of defense had business before them, you're telling me news organizations wouldn't run with that story even if they didn’t prove direct action? Of course they would.
The question is, is what do you do with that information? And in the book you show it again and again and again and again. So, the question becomes are these just all serious coincidences or is there something else afoot? And I think it deserves further investigation.
SESNO: Peter, you have said that you are trying to change the narrative, the Clinton narrative in the media. A lot of folks say there's plenty of criticism in the media and lots of questions have been raised. Are you trying to change the narrative? And if so, to what?
SCHWEIZER: No. My focus has been over the last five years on crony capitalism, and that is what I see this as a story. This is not about ideology. This is about a family, the Clintons, who have become enormously wealthy in the post-presidential years, and I would argue and I think the evidence is clear a lot of it has to do with the fact that former President Bill Clinton's wife had very real power and could do favors for people that needed it done at the State Department.
And that's a serious area of inquiry. I’m looking into the same thing at Jeb Bush right now. This goes to the heart of the problem of crony capitalism and self enrichment.
SESNO: So, Peter, I want to ask you this question, which you asked to others. And that is, who is funding you and who is funding your foundation?
SCHWEIZER: Yes. And some of that has been out in the media. We have a variety of donors. They are politically conservative. They're not all Republicans, and they all don't have a consensus about a particular candidate.
But I will tell you - and I think our research is clear on this - I have never had a donor tell me, don't look into this person or don't look into this area. That has never been a restriction.
And our evidence is clear. My last book on extortion, I was soundly denounced and criticized by Speaker of the House John Boehner.
So, the idea that this is just about Republicans or Democrats is absurd and is a way of deflecting of the real substantial of what's in the book.
SESNO: It is worth noting and that's why I did, that your support, your financial support, is from conservatives, including from the Koch brothers and others. You have not denied that. So, that's out there for all to know.
SESNO: But I want it to be out there for all to know.
SCHWEIZER: Yes. I would just correct the record - and you're right, they have in the past. The Koch brothers did not fund this research project.
SESNO: They didn't fund the research project but they funded your foundation.
SCHWEIZER: Yes, in the past, yes, on (INAUDIBLE), yes.
SESNO: OK. My last question for you on is this, one other thing that has raised concerns is comments you made, that 10 percent, this 10 percent comment that you made, that 10 percent of what's gone to the Clinton Foundation has gone to charitable foundations to do the work. There's been a lot of reporting, a lot of digging on that. It shows that that is not the case. That they are - that a lot of their work does need to go to other charities. They do it themselves.
Are you prepared to withdraw it?
SCHWEIZER: No, and I make that point. No, If you look at my comments in context, I say their charitable giving to other foundations, but as I point out they are positioning themselves as a management consultancy to work with other charities. And I always make that clear. I don’t just cite that 10 percent figure. But that 10 percent figure is accurate and true.
The problem is the Clinton Foundation is an unusual charity. Charity navigator won't rate them because of a, quote/unquote, "usual business model". The Better Business Bureau has dinged them for serious problems with their internal practices.
So, that all stands and that all is accurate and true.
SESNO: Peter Schweizer, thank you very much. An author with some impact ands always a healthy thing for the discussion and it will continue. Thanks very much.
SCHWEIZER: Thanks, Frank.