The State Department on Monday refused to admit that the Clinton Health Access Initiative failed to live up to an agreement to disclose all information about foreign donors while Hillary Clinton was secretary of State, even though the foundation has admitted to this already in the press.
It became clear last week that the group didn't submit any information to the State Department on the foreign donations it received when Clinton was secretary of State, from 2009 to 2013.
The Boston Globe reported, for example, that a spokesman for the charity said reporting that information was "unnecessary," even though Clinton and other Democrats said there was a "memorandum of understanding," or MOU, outlining that the charity would disclose all foreign donations.
But on Monday, State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke deflected questions about the failure to comply with the MOU, and at one point even suggested it was wrong to say the deal was violated.
Rathke was asked several times what the value of the MOU was at all, if the charity didn't comply with it. Rathke first seemed to not understand the question, and said the commitments themselves were strong.
"These were transparency measures that were undertaken," Rathke said. "These undertakings went well beyond, in some respects, what would have been required, and so we welcome those."
But he was asked several more times what the value of those commitments were if they were ignored.
"What is the usefulness of having a memorandum of understanding that is designed to promote transparency if the people who make the commitment to be transparent fail to do so?" one reporter asked.
"What I'm trying to point out is that the MOU contained two different commitments, one of which ... had reviews by the State Department of the government donations, and we received dozens of such requests for review, and we reviewed every case that was submitted to us," Rathke said. Then he added, "So I don't think that justifies the conclusion you seem to be trying to get at, which is that the MOU wasn't implemented."
When pressed again, Rathke said the charity has "subsequently" been trying to make information on donors available. A reporter noted that this was being done, "not in real time, not as it was promised to be done under the MOU."
Rathke indicated that State simply didn't see it as a violation just because the information was coming several years too late. "I think the foundation is making efforts now to provide that information that wasn't provided," he said.
Rathke also repeated that so far, State is "not aware of any evidence of ... undue influence on decision-making" by Clinton at State because of the foreign donations.