WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Bill Clinton is publicly musing about his life in a future Clinton administration, saying he would consider stepping down from the foundation that he founded more than a decade ago, if his wife wins the White House.
But he doesn't plan to stop giving the high-priced speeches to private corporations, foreign governments, and non-profit organizations that have been a mainstay of his post-presidential life. "I gotta pay our bills," he said, in an interview aired Monday on NBC's "Today" show. "And I also give a lot of it to the foundation every year."
Clinton's remarks come as his wife's presidential campaign grapples with criticism that foreign entities traded donations to the family charity for favors at the State Department, then headed by Hillary Rodham Clinton. Hundreds of paid speeches given by Clinton, which can command as much as $500,000 or more per appearance, have also come under attack from Republican opponents.
Bill Clinton has largely stayed on the sidelines during the early weeks of his wife's presidential bid, opting to focus on his foundation work instead of visiting early primary states with his wife. His decision to reenter the political fray reflects concerns that the intense scrutiny -- and Republican attacks -- on the family charity is having a negative impact on Hillary Clinton's presidential aspirations. An Associated Press-GfK poll released last week found that more than six in 10 independents agreed that "honest" was not the best word to describe the second-time presidential candidate.
"Bill Clinton is saying what Hillary Clinton has said on many occasions: just trust us, just trust us. And unfortunately trust is earned through transparency, and I think they have not been particularly transparent on a whole host of things," said Republican Carly Fiorina, a former technology CEO who announced her presidential candidacy on Monday.
The Republican organization America Rising released a web video on Monday that uses footage of Clinton's confirmation hearings for secretary of State to raise questions about her integrity. The video uses 2009 footage of Clinton saying "there is not an inherent conflict of interest in any of my husband's work at all," juxtaposed with a list of foreign countries that have donated to the foundation.
Speaking during a nine-day tour of Clinton Foundation projects in Africa with his daughter, Chelsea, Clinton defended his foundation, saying there's nothing "sinister" about getting wealthy people to help poor people in developing countries.
"There's been a very deliberate attempt to take the foundation down," Clinton said. "And there's almost no new fact that's known now that wasn't known when she ran for president the first time."
Bill Clinton said 90 percent of donors give $100 or less. But over half of the donors giving $5 million or more are foreign, including foreign governments. Under pressure, the foundation recently announced it will only take money from six Western countries.
"It's an acknowledgment that we're going to come as close as we can during her presidential campaign to following the rules we followed when she became secretary of state," he said.
He added: "I don't think that I did anything that was against the interest of the United States."
AP Writer Steve Peoples contributed to this report.