We left White House ‘broke’: Hillary Clinton defends speaking fees

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(CNN) — Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended the fact she’s reportedly made $5 million in speaking fees since leaving the State Department in early 2013 by arguing that her family “came out of the White House not only dead broke but in debt.”

Pressed by ABC’s Diane Sawyer in a clip of an interview that will air in full on Monday night, Clinton added that her family had “no money” when they left the White House more than a dozen years ago and “struggled to piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea’s education.”

“You know, it was not easy,” she said in the excerpt that aired on “Good Morning America.”

Clinton has become a staple on the paid speaking circuit. She has appeared before an array of audiences, including trade associations, business groups and college students.

Although she regularly speaks for free at certain events, Mother Jones reported earlier this year that Clinton made roughly $5 million on the speaking circuit since stepping down as America’s top diplomat.

Clinton did not dispute the figure when Sawyer asked about it.

On the speaking tour, organizers for different events argue that paying Clinton the high fee is worthwhile because of the attention and audiences she can command.

Hillary Clinton isn’t the only member of her family cashing in on speeches.

A CNN analysis of the family’s financial records in early 2013 showed that Bill Clinton had earned $106 million from paid speeches since leaving the White House in January 2001.

In 2012 alone, Bill Clinton earned $17 million in fees.

“Bill has worked really hard and it has been amazing to me. He has worked very hard,” Mrs. Clinton said.

“First of all, we had to pay off all our debts, which you had to make double the money because of obviously taxes and then pay off the debts, and get us houses and take care of family members,” she said.

Bill Clinton was an elected official on a fixed government salary for all but two years from 1977, when he took office as the Arkansas attorney general, until leaving the White House. Hillary Clinton spent some time in Little Rock working as a private lawyer.

“I never had any money until I got out of the White House, you know, but I’ve done reasonably well since then,” said Bill Clinton of his earning power at a 2010 forum in South Africa.

As President, Clinton made $200,000 a year and had a $50,000 tax-free annual expense account, according to the U.S. Code for Compensation of the President. Clinton receives a pension now.

Though not as profitable as her husband – who has made as much as $750,000 in one speech – Hillary Clinton reportedly commands $200,000 per speech.

Asked if she thought Americans could understand making “five times the median income in this country for one speech,” Clinton said she “thought making speeches for money was a much better thing than getting connected with any one group or company as so many people who leave public life do.”

American Rising, the pro-Republican opposition research shop that along with the Republican National Committee, takes the lead in criticizing Clinton, was quick to ping her over her comments to ABC, saying they “reveal someone who is extremely out of touch with financial reality facing Americans.”

On its website, America Rising said the two homes the Clintons purchased after leaving the White House in Chappaqua, New York, and Washington cost around $4.5 million combined.

The Clintons departed the White House in debt due to enormous legal fees. By the end of 2000, their debt totaled somewhere between $2.28 million to $10.6 million.

But their assets soon grew.

Bill Clinton made more than $9.2 million in speaking fees in 2001 and more than $9.5 million in 2002.

They paid off their legal fees by 2004.

CNN Political Research Director Robert Yoon contributed to this report.

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