Former President Bill Clinton speaks at Georgetown University in Washington, on April 21, 2015.
Photo by Jacquelyn Martin/AP

5 big takeaways from Bill Clinton interview

Five takeaways from Bill Clinton’s interview with NBC’s Cynthia McFadden … NBC/WSJ poll: 96% of Americans expect more racially charged unrest in the country … O’Malley: Baltimore would be “central” to my campaign … Three presidential announcements in the next 24 hours – from Fiorina, Carson, Huckabee… NBC/WSJ poll: Republicans are from Mars, Democrats are from Venus … And the rest of the NBC/WSJ poll comes out at 6:30 pm ET.

FIRST THOUGHTS.

*** Five Takeaways From The Bill Clinton Interview: In Africa, former President Bill Clinton sat down for an exclusive interview with NBC’s Cynthia McFadden on the work of the Clinton Foundation and the controversy over it in light of wife Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. Here are our fivetakeaways from the interview:

  1. “There’s one set of rules for us and another set for everybody else”: Bill Clinton argued that there’s a double standard in American politics where there’s so much scrutiny on the Clinton Foundation’s donors (most of whom are disclosed) than the donations to dark-money organizations like, say, the Koch Brothers’ organizations (which aren’t disclosed). “All I’m saying is the idea that there’s one set of rules for us and another set for everybody else is true,” Clinton said. “The guy that filled out the [990 tax] forms made an error,” he added. “Now that is a bigger problem, according to the press, than the other people running for president willing to take dark money, secret money, secret from beginning to end.”

  2. No quid pro quos: Also in the interview, Clinton maintained that Foundation donations or speaker fees haven’t influenced government policy. “There is no doubt in my mind that we have never done anything knowingly inappropriate in terms of taking money to influence any kind of American government policy,” he said. “That just hasn’t happened.” He also quoted his wife telling him, “No one has ever tried to influence me by helping you.” (FYI: Conservative outlets will have a field day with Clinton’s “knowingly inappropriate” line.)

  3. Clinton might step down from the Clinton Foundation if Hillary becomes president: Clinton entertained the idea of stepping down from the Clinton Foundation if wife Hillary wins the White House.
    MCFADDEN: If your wife is elected president, will you step down from the foundation?
    BILL CLINTON: Well, I’ll decide.  If– if it’s the right thing to do, I will…  
    MCFADDEN: I mean, why might you step down if she were elected president?
    CLINTON: Well, I might if I were asked to do something in the public interest that I had an obligation to do. Or I might take less of an executive role. I mean, I really– I work at this. And I’m involved in this as you can see. So I might do that. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

  4. He will continue to give paid speeches:
    MCFADDEN: So she’s now running for president. Will you continue to give speeches?
    BILL CLINTON: Oh yeah.
    Clinton added, “I have turned down a lot of [paid speeches]. If I think there’s something wrong with it, I don’t take it. And I do disclose who gave them to me. So people can make up their own minds.” 

  5. “When we moved into the White House, we had the lowest net worth of any family since Harry Truman”: Finally, Clinton said it was “laughable” to hear people say that Hillary Clinton can’t relate the middle class. “It’s OK if you inherit your money, apparently,” Clinton said. He added, I’m grateful for our success. But let me remind you. When we moved into the White House, we had the lowest net worth of any family since Harry Truman.”

*** NBC/WSJ poll: 96% of Americans expect more racially charged unrest: Want proof that the country has paid close attention to what’s happened in Ferguson, Staten Island, and now Baltimore? Don’t miss this BIG number from our new NBC/WSJ poll: “A whopping 96 percent of Americans say that they expect more racially-charged unrest around the country this summer, similar to the past week’s violence in Baltimore. And more than half — 54 percent — believe a similar disturbance is likely in the metropolitan area closest to where they live.” More from the poll: “Six-in-10 African-Americans said that the discord in Baltimore is attributable to ‘people with longstanding frustrations about police mistreatment of African Americans that have not been addressed.’ Twenty-seven percent said that the riots were ‘caused by people who used the protests about the death of an African-American man in police custody as an excuse to engage in looting and violence.’ Among whites, those results were almost exactly flipped. Just 32 percent cited longstanding frustration about African-Americans’ treatment at the hands of police, while 58 percent said the Baltimore violence was caused by those using Gray’s death as an excuse for looting.”

*** O’Malley: Baltimore would be “central” to my campaign: Speaking of Baltimore, potential presidential candidate Martin O’Malley said on “Meet the Press” that he would make Baltimore “central” to his campaign. (O’Malley previously served as Baltimore mayor and Maryland governor.) “I did not dedicate my life to making Baltimore a safer and more just place because it was easy. And I am more inclined and more deeply motivated now to address what’s wrong with our country and what needs to be healed and what needs to be fixed,” he said. “This should be a wakeup call. What’s happened in Baltimore should be a wakeup call for the entire country. The protests that also happened in New York, in Philadelphia, and other cities. We have deep problems as a country, and we need deeper understanding if we’re going to give our children a better future.” Would he announce his presidential bid in Baltimore? “I wouldn’t think of announcing anyplace else.” By the way, also on the “Meet” yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner agreed that the country is in a national crisis when it comes to the relationship between African Americans and law enforcement.

*** Three presidential announcements in the next 24 hours – Fiorina, Carson, Huckabee: Well, two more candidates are entering the presidential field today, and another one goes tomorrow. Earlier this morning, former Hewlett Packard CEO (and failed 2010 Senate candidate) Carly Fiorina tweeted, “I am running for president.” (Fiorina’s announcement video also shows her watching Hillary Clinton’s announcement.) Meanwhile, former neurosurgeon Ben Carson announces his bid at 10:30 am ET from Detroit, MI. And tomorrow, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is expected to make his presidential candidacy official.

*** NBC/WSJ poll: Republicans are from Mars, Democrats are from Venus: Republicans and Democrats can’t even agree on what they believe is the biggest issue facing the nation, per our new NBC/WSJ poll. When asked in the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll which issue should be the top priority for the federal government to address, here were the top first-choice responses among Republicans:
National security and terrorism (27%)
Deficit and government spending (24%)
Job creation and economic growth (21%)

Among Democrats:
Job creation and economic growth (37%)
Health care (17%)
Climate change (15%)
National security and terrorism (13%)

FYI: The economy dropping to the No. 3 concern among Republican primary voters is a striking departure from March 2012, when it ranked No. 1 (at 36%) — followed by the deficit/government spending (at 35%) and national security/terrorism (at just 8%).

*** Rest of the NBC/WSJ poll comes out at 6:30 pm ET: Finally, the rest of our NBC/WSJ poll – on the 2016 race, on President Obama, and on so much else – comes out at 6:30 pm ET.

OBAMA AGENDA: Baltimore curfew lifted

The latest in Baltimore, from the Baltimore Sun: “Baltimore began to move beyond unrest Sunday when Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake lifted a citywide curfew, the Maryland National Guard began withdrawing its forces and shoppers returned to Mondawmin Mall, which had been shuttered after looting.”

Today at Lehman College, Obama will unveil a new nonprofit organization that’s a spinoff of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative. And NBC’s Kristen Welker reports that he’s expected to address the unrest in Baltimore and the systemic issues faced by low-income communities.

From one of us(!) over the weekend: “A whopping 96 percent of Americans say that they expect more racially-charged unrest around the country this summer, similar to the past week’s violence in Baltimore. And more than half — 54 percent — believe a similar disturbance is likely in the metropolitan area closest to where they live.”

From the Wall Street Journal: “The Justice Department will start revealing more about the government’s use of secret cellphone tracking devices and has launched a wide-ranging review into how law-enforcement agencies deploy the technology, according to Justice officials.”

Breaking overnight, from Garland, TX: “Two suspects were killed after they opened fire Sunday in a parking lot outside a provocative contest for cartoon depictions of the prophet Muhammad, authorities said.”

“U.S. intelligence agencies ­badly misjudged al-Qaeda’s ­ability to take advantage of political turmoil in the Middle East and regain strength across the region after Osama bin Laden was killed, according to a new book by the CIA’s former deputy director,” writes the Washington Post.

The New York Times: “A new computer analysis of about 25,000 Supreme Court opinions from 1791 to 2008 identified three trends that have transformed the court’s tone. The justices’ opinions, the study found, have become longer, easier to understand — and grumpier.”

Also in the NYT: “American Released by Cuba Plays Role as U.S. Relations With Havana Thaw.”

Not a great lede for Obamacare backers, from the Wall Street Journal: “Emergency-room visits continued to climb in the second year of the Affordable Care Act, contradicting the law’s supporters who had predicted a decline in traffic as more people gained access to doctors and other health-care providers.”

POLITICO writes that secrecy is costing Obama support for his trade pact.

CONGRESS: The full Boehner interview

You can watch Chuck Todd’s full interview with House Speaker John Boehner here.

POLITICO reports that Senate leaders are preparing to deal a blow to Tom Cotton and Marco Rubio by nixing votes on their amendments to the Iran deal bill.

OFF TO THE RACES: Carson, Fiorina jump into the ’16 contest

From one of us(!): Republicans and Democrats can’t even agree on what the nation’s top issue is.

The New York Times writes that 2016 could be the Snapchat election.

The Des Moines Register looks at Republicans’ favorite Iowa campaign stop: Pizza Ranch.

CARSON: He confirmed in a local TV interview that he’s running for president.

But he’ll postpone his first rally to visit his ailing mother, per the campaign.

FIORINA: It’s official: she tweeted this morning that she’s running for the GOP nod.

CLINTON: In an exclusive interview with NBC News, Bill Clinton said the foundation has never done anything “knowingly inappropriate.”

The Washington Post outlines the Clintons’ use of Canadian mining magnate Frank Giustra’s plane at least 26 times for foundation business.

O’MALLEY: He says he’ll announce his run in Baltimore if he seeks the White House. 

NBC News’ Carrie Dann contributed reporting.

Bill Clinton

5 big takeaways from Bill Clinton interview