Interview: Clinton Confirmation, A Done Deal Or Bumpy Ride?

CBS News' Director of Political Coverage Steve Chaggaris answers questions about the memo sent to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee members outlining Bill Clinton's new restrictions should his wife be confirmed. He describes the concerns likely to come up in Hillary Clinton's confirmation hearing and what might happen if she is denied the post.

Question: Was the memo released yesterday to members of the Foreign Relations Committee, who will voting next month to confirm Clinton a move by the Clinton and Obama teams to say "see look, we can work together. There will be no conflict of interest?"

Steve Chaggaris: Well, it was a move by the Obama folks to show that. They had come up with this agreement. They put it in writing and they sent it to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to show that they had this agreement - that Bill Clinton is going to restrict his dealings with his own foundation and he is going to remove himself from day to day operations of some part of it and not raise any money from foreign governments, which I think was the big question people had with Bill Clinton's involvement. Who was he dealing with? Which foreign governments was he dealing with?

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Steve Chaggaris: This is definitely an effort by the Obama transition folks and the Clinton folks. They each have their own interests here. The Clinton folks are basically trying to prove to the Obama folks that they will be as transparent as they can be in order to boost Hillary's chances to be Secretary of State and in turn the Obama folks are trying to convince the Senate and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that there is nothing sinister here. Bill Clinton has agreed to be as transparent as possible about his foundation and really he has done nothing wrong; at least that's what they are arguing. So, in order to help her through the nomination process they have released this memo to say, "look we have agreed with Bill Clinton this is what he has agreed to and this will be fine. This is not an impediment to her being Secretary of State."

Question: Do you think Hillary's confirmation is a done deal? How sure can we be that she will be the next Secretary of State?

Steve Chaggaris: Well, nothing is really a done deal when it comes to cabinet positions but if you look historically, the Senate has a role in approving cabinet positions. But historically, there have only been a handful that hey have actually rejected. I think looking at what we have seen, if everybody thinks the biggest impediment is Bill Clinton's foundation, I think what we have seen in his donor list that came out on Thursday, there doesn't seem to be anything here that is going to be more than just complications.

Question: What issues to you think specifically would come up in a confirmation hearing that would be worrisome to members?

Steve Chaggaris: You know Bill Clinton's foundation and his relations with foreign governments and so she is going to be the head diplomat with all of these foreign governments. You know, is she going to swayed by what Bill Clinton's relations are with these governments? I think that's the biggest question. And I think you are going to see a lot of folks in the Foreign Relations Committee ask her questions about this. The other question that came out in Bill Clinton's disclosure is that he had received money from Blackwater. It's up to the State Department and up to the Secretary of State to decide whether Blackwater continues on with their contract.

Question: Can you imagine the political implications?

Steve Chaggaris: Well, there is so much riding on Hillary Clinton getting this nomination, this post. Right now you have people in New York jockeying for her seat, which she hasn't resigned yet. You also have relationship between Obama and Clinton. I think this was a big step for Obama in his relationship with Hillary Clinton and the Clintons to nominate her for this position. Obviously, Obama would not be faulted. It would be the Senate who blamed for her not getting the post if she doesn't get it. But you know it would just be interested to see how she would move forward as a senator, not as Secretary of State having been rejected by her peers for that position. It would be fun to watch (laughter), at least very interesting to watch. But as I said, that is such speculation. The chances of that I think are so slim at that point that the expectation is that she will have a very interesting nomination hearing but she will move forward and probably end up being the next Secretary of State.


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