Hillary Clinton is sidestepping new questions about nearly 15,000 recently discovered emails or her family’s charitable foundation — a stay-the-course strategy sure to be tested in the sprint to Election Day.
Clinton has no immediate plans — in an interview or a news conference — to explain the FBI’s discovery of another batch of emails or personally clarify how her administration would wall off the organization founded by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, if she’s elected president.
Instead, her top campaign officials and allies are playing defense, arguing that the foundation has helped millions of people around the globe while Trump’s business interests carry their own blind spots.
“Hillary Clinton doesn’t have a conflict of interest on charitable work — that’s all it is,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said in an interview Wednesday with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “We need to look a lot more closely at Donald Trump.”
The Clinton campaign figures her late-summer advantage gives her few incentives to personally push back against the email criticism or allegations of pay-for-play.
Trump, helped by a revamped campaign team, has called for a special prosecutor to investigate the foundation and said it should be shut down immediately. The Republican nominee, who donated to the Clinton Foundation, has repeatedly charged that his opponent, while secretary of state, provided access to foundation contributors in exchange for donations to the charity at the heart of Bill Clinton’s post-presidential legacy.
Clinton leads Trump in national and state polls, leaving many of her aides and supporters to conclude that addressing the issue isn’t worth the risk to her electoral standing. But the issue is one that ties into voters larger questions about her trustworthiness — a problem that will follow her into the White House should she win.
Traveling in California, the Democratic nominee has kept out of the public eye for days, spending most of her time wooing celebrities, financial titans and technology moguls at private fundraisers. On Tuesday alone, she raised more than $6.2 million at four events in Southern California and the Bay Area.
Her last full-blown news conference was December 2015 in Iowa, more than 260 days. But the questions about emails and the foundation keep piling up, and she is certain to be challenged at the first debate with Trump on Sept. 26.
On Monday, the State Department said it was reviewing nearly 15,000 previously undisclosed emails recovered as part of the FBI inquiry, which was closed after investigators recommended against criminal charges.
On Tuesday, an Associated Press report found at least 85 people from private interests who met with or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to the Clinton foundation. Combined, the donors contributed as much as $156 million to the charity.
Pushing back, Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon said the AP report relied on “pretty flawed methodology” and said in an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday that Clinton was being held to a different standard than other politicians with charitable work.
“It is only now because she is running for president that the work of the Clinton foundation is being tarred,” Fallon said. “If any American voter is troubled by the idea that the Clintons want to continue working to solve the AIDS crisis on the side while Hillary Clinton is president, then don’t vote for her.”
The former secretary of state addressed questions about her use of a private server only in passing this week, joking with late night talk show Jimmy Kimmel on Monday that, “My emails are so boring,” she said. “We’ve already released, I don’t know, 30,000 plus, so what’s a few more?”
Clinton is not expected to discuss the issue during a Thursday speech in Reno, Nevada, which will be focused on attacking Trump to the so-called “alt right” movement within the Republican Party that has strayed from mainstream conservatism.
“Hillary Clinton is in a pretty strong spot right now in the campaign given the repeated missteps by Trump and quite frankly if I’m her it may not be a bad thing to let Donald Trump be the only candidate making news on any given day,” said GOP strategist Ryan Williams, a veteran of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns.
Bill Clinton announced that next month’s Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York will be the final gathering. The meeting is scheduled for September 19-21, which means it will happen exactly one week before his wife’s first presidential debate in New York.