Yesterday's report that more than half, or at least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or spoke to Hillary Clinton while she led the State Department, donated at least $156 million to her family charity or pledged commitments with at least 16 foreign governments donating as much as $170 million, has become the latest goldmine for Donald Trump and Republicans who finally have a break in the anti-Trump news cycle to pounce on.
"It is now clear that the Clinton Foundation is the most corrupt enterprise in political history," Trump said in a statement, reiterating a claim he made earlier in the week. "We've now learned that a majority of the non-government people she met with as secretary of state gave money to the corrupt Clinton Foundation. ... It was wrong then, and it is wrong now -- and the foundation must be shut down immediately."
As CNN reports, Trump kept up the attack while speaking at a rally in Austin, Texas, Tuesday night. "It is impossible to figure out where the Clinton Foundation ends and the State Department begins," he said, adding, "The specific crimes committed to carry out that enterprise are too numerous to cover in this speech."
Trump's running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, reiterated Trump's call for a special prosecutor to investigate possible corruption. "The fact Hillary Clinton's official schedule was full of meetings with Clinton Foundation donors is further evidence of the pay-to-play politics at her State Department. No one is above the law," Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Trump's running mate, said in a statement.
The Republican National Committee also cited the report to hit Clinton. "This is among the strongest and most unmistakable pieces of evidence of what we've long suspected: at Hillary Clinton's State Department, access to the most sensitive policy makers in U.S. diplomacy was for sale to the highest bidder," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement.
A Clinton spokesman, however, said the AP's report relies on "utterly flawed data" and "cherry-picked a limited subset of Secretary's Clinton's schedule to give a distorted portrayal of how often she crossed paths with individuals connected to charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation." The spokesman, Brian Fallon, also said the report does not account for more than half her tenure leading the State Department and "omits more than 1700 meetings she took with world leaders, let alone countless others she took with other US government officials, while serving as secretary of state." To be sure, AP prefaced that saying it was only her private meetings that were in focus; as for her head of state, public meetings, AP also noted that those particular meeting were with at least 16 people who donated some $170 million.
Fallon added: "Just taking the subset of meetings arbitrarily selected by the AP, it is outrageous to misrepresent Secretary Clinton's basis for meeting with these individuals."
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said a "wide range" of outside individuals and organizations contact the State Department through both formal and informal channels. "Individuals, including those who have donated to political campaigns, non-profits, or foundations -- including the Clinton Foundation -- may contact or have meetings with officials in the administration," Toner said.
As we noted yesterday, "the good news for Hillary - if bad for Donald Trump - is that the meetings between Hillary and foundation donors do not appear to violate legal agreements Clinton and former president Bill Clinton signed before she joined the State Department in 2009. However, as AP puts, it, "the frequency of the overlaps shows the intermingling of access and donations, and fuels perceptions that giving the foundation money was a price of admission for face time with Clinton."
Even CNN agrees: "Clinton critics have not proven that Clinton or the State Department materially granted any favors to possible donors, but the report and other emerging information is reigniting the firestorm over the foundation. Trump's campaign and Republicans have sought to cast suspicion over Clinton's tenure as secretary of state and argued that foreign donors' contributions to the foundation created inevitable conflict-of-interest questions."
The only question now is if the American public will care.