Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images
TAMPA, Fla. — The Clinton Foundation is prepared to make drastic changes if Hillary Clinton wins the election, including removing Bill Clinton as chairman.
But another member of immediate family, Chelsea Clinton, is planning to retain her position on the foundation's board.
The candidate said she saw no problem with that, asked on Tuesday afternoon if she thinks her daughter's continuing work at the foundation could raise legitimate questions about conflicts of interest.
“No, I do not,” she said, launching into a brusque defense of her husband's foundation, a 15-year-old sprawling network of global partnerships financed in part by foreign governments, including in a handful of instances for the four years Clinton served as secretary of state.
“As I’ve said over and over again — it doesn’t matter how many times you ask me and how you ask me — these issues will be decided after the election,” Clinton said sharply. “We will decide the appropriate way forward.”
Clinton did not clarify why she believes her daughter's role wouldn't raise concerns about conflicts of interest when her husband has already indicated that his would, announcing in August that he would resign as part of a months-long process to prepare for his wife's possible victory.
Instead, Clinton only suggested that more changes could occur to the foundation after the election. “Everybody’s gonna take a hard look at what goes forward and what doesn’t,” she told reporters aboard her campaign plane on Tuesday afternoon.
A spokesperson for Chelsea Clinton declined to comment Tuesday.
The foundation has already outlined much of its plan for the potential “transition,” as officials refer to it, stating clearly through a spokesperson that Chelsea, 36, will remain on the board regardless of the election outcome.
Nearly every other aspect of the organization is set to see changes: It will stop accepting foreign and corporate donations, end its marquee Clinton Global Initiative, and spin off nearly all ongoing programs that make up its work around the world, leaving the operation significantly transformed, smaller and less active.
Defending the foundation as “world-renowned” and rated four stars by Charity Navigator, Clinton argued that officials there had already gone “above and beyond” to address concerns about the interests of donors and their proximity to one of the country's most powerful families.
As Clinton put it to reporters, scrutiny and attacks have long been something “that I've just accepted,” she said, joking that she's “created so many jobs in the sort of conspiracy theory machine factory.”
In 2009, when she became secretary of state, Clinton entered into an agreement with the Obama administration that required the foundation to restrict and donors each year. “Nobody has ever, ever made that kind of disclosure,” she said.
It was found later, however, that the foundation accepted a foreign donation in violation of the ethics agreement. And after spinning off in 2010 into an affiliated entity, the Clinton Health Access Initiative did not disclose its donors while she was secretary of state.
Clinton, taking questions on a flight to campaign here in Tampa, promised that the foundation would take pains to “do what is right and proper to make sure that there is not even a question,” she said, before adding, “But let's not pretend there were conflicts, because there were not.”
In an interview that aired Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden said that the future of the foundation has been a “moving target,” but that he was confident Clinton would figure out what she would be “crystal clear to the American people about the relationship between the family and the foundation will be from this point forward.”
Coupled with the FBI investigation into Clinton's private email server, the foundation has been a subject of intense scrutiny throughout the election, as well as fodder for Donald Trump and the GOP. Clinton and her aides have dismissed questions about what critics cast as an unsavory mix of money, power, and influence, highlighting the foundation's work around the world in fields like HIV/AIDS and malaria.
In their estimation, the Clinton Foundation has been questioned with far more frequency and intensity than the enterprises associated with Trump, including the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which recently was fined by the IRS over a $25,000 campaign donation from the foundation to a group linked to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. The foundation donated the money in 2013 just days after news reports that Bondi was considering an investigation into Trump University allegations. Trump, too, has faced some scrutiny over whether his children would continue to operate his business, which has, for instance, a long-term federal government lease in Washington.
On Tuesday, Clinton suggested that a “different standard” applies to Trump because “the American people have factored in to their assessment of him that, you know, that’s the kind of guy he is” — that it “seems to be expected somehow.”
“That’s fine if you’re a reality TV star or you’re a real estate developer,” she told reporters. “I don’t think it is fine if you want to be president of the United States.”