Clinton criticized Obama's pastor Tuesday, her first direct comments on the matter. (AP Photos)
(CNN) - Hillary Clinton would have long disassociated herself from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright if she was a member of his church, the Democratic presidential candidate said Tuesday - the first time she or her campaign has commented directly on the issue that has swirled around rival Barack Obama's campaign in recent weeks.
"I think given all we have heard and seen, he would not have been my pastor," Clinton said in a press conference in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. The comments came hours after the New York senator made similar comments to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in an editorial board interview. (Watch Clinton's comments)
"You don't choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend," she told the paper. Clinton also repeated those remarks in the press conference.
An Obama campaign spokesman said Clinton's comments were part of a "transparent effort to distract attention away from the story she made up about dodging sniper fire in Bosnia."
“The truth is, Barack Obama has already spoken out against his pastor’s offensive comments and addressed the issue of race in America with a deeply personal and uncommonly honest speech," Obama Campaign Press Secretary Bill Burton said. "The American people deserve better than tired political games that do nothing to solve the larger challenges facing this country."
- CNN's Alexander Mooney and Peter Hamby
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Justice Department Tuesday disclosed its prosecutors are now assisting the State Department Inspector General in the investigation into the breaching of passport files of the three leading presidential candidates by State Department contractors.
The involvement of Justice Department lawyers appears to represent a shift in the agency's position since last Friday when Attorney General Michael Mukasey indicated no plan to join the investigation until the State Department I.G. looked into the matter, and requested assistance.
Mukasey added Friday that in the event someone walked into the Justice Department "with a box full of evidence", that could change his stance.
"After the Attorney General's remarks on Friday, Justice Department prosecutors met with officials from the State Department Inspector General's office on this matter, and are coordinating with the Office of Inspector General on its investigative efforts," said Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr. "Due to the ongoing nature of these efforts, the Department will have no further comment at this time," Carr said.
A knowledgeable official who asked not to be identified because of the pending probe said the State Department had initiated the contact and follow-up meeting with Justice prosecutors some time after Mukasey spoke. The official said the guidance requested by State officials does not constitute what could be described as a "joint investigation" between the two Executive Departments.
(CNN)— John McCain worked to raise his profile on economic issues Tuesday, while Hillary Clinton worked to quell a media firestorm after admitting that she ‘misspoke’ last week when recounting her trip to Bosnia.
In the latest installment of America Votes 2008, watch the candidates along the campaign trail express their visions for the troubled economy.
Related: CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley and CNN's John Lisk with more on Hillary Clinton's claim to have visited Bosnia under sniper fire.
(CNN) - She's back.
Amber Lee Ettinger, the star of the last year's wildly popular online video "Obama girl," is out with a new video this week that decries Hillary Clinton's insistence on remaining in the presidential race.
The new video - titled "Hillary, stop the attacks!" - opens with a takeoff on Clinton's now-famous "3 a.m." ad, and quickly transitions to Ettinger addressing the New York Democrat head on.
"I know Obama's gonna win it/but you're sorta kind of stayin' in it. I think sometimes in this campaign/You've got a crush on John McCain," she sings.
"Can't you see its hopeless? It's become an Obama-nation. Is their any chance you'll back off? So he'll get that nomination," she also says.
In the 3 minute video, Ettinger also makes clear CNN.com is her political Web site of choice:
"I watch CSPAN and they're always showing one of your rallies/Checking the CNN Ticker, can't keep my eyes off the tallies."
Created by the Web site barelypolitical.com, the first "Obama Girl" video debuted last June and quickly became an Internet sensation. To date, it has been viewed well over 7 million times, according to You Tube. The video spawned several spoofs, including "Hot 4 Hill" and the "Brownback girl."
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
(CNN) - After staying out of the Barack Obama controversy over his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Hillary Clinton has now weighed in big time. She was asked about the flap when she met with the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review today. “He would not have been my pastor,” she replied. “You know, you don’t choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend.”
A few moments ago, at a news conference, she essentially said the same thing before the microphones and cameras. And as she did earlier in the day, she noted that she had spoken out last year against Don Imus for his racially-charged comments about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team. “I gave a speech at Rutgers University saying that hate speech was unacceptable in any setting, and I believe that.”
Suddenly, the Rev. Wright uproar has returned to the forefront. The other flap of the day – her embarrassing and erroneous description of her 1996 visit to Bosnia – has been pushed a bit aside. She acknowledges that she made a mistake in describing the scene of her arrival at the Tuzla airbase.
All of this must be seen within the context of this incredibly close race for the Democratic presidential nomination. With four weeks to go to the Pennsylvania primary and the 10 other contests that will follow, every utterance by the two candidates is critical. The scrutiny all around will be intense because the stakes are enormous.
–CNN Anchor Wolf Blitzer
(CNN) – The end of the month marks the close of the latest campaign fundraising period – and as the deadline looms, presidential candidates are offering some major face time in a bid to boost their cash haul.
Sen. John McCain announced Tuesday that a lucky donor will have the chance to join him on his campaign bus as it makes his “Service to America” tour next week.
“As a token of my appreciation for your financial support, you will be entered to win this seat aboard the Straight Talk Express if you make a contribution before midnight on March 31st,” McCain wrote in an e-mail to donors.
The Arizona senator was not alone in trying to take advantage of the upcoming reporting deadline. Sen. Barack Obama sent an e-mail to supporters Monday that encouraged them to donate by March 31 in order to be one of four supporters who will be picked to have dinner with the Illinois senator, who held a similar “Dinner with Barack” fund-raising effort last summer.
Sen. Hillary Clinton held a fund-raising sweepstakes last fall that offered donors the chance to have a private lunch with the New York senator and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
McCain lagged far behind Sens. Clinton and Obama in fund-raising during the month of February, according to reports filed with the FEC. Obama raised $55 million last month, Clinton raised nearly $35 million and McCain raised $11 million.
–CNN’s Abbi Tatton and Martina Stewart
(CNN) - Carl Forti, a senior adviser to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, is taking the helm at Freedom’s Watch, the group organized last year as the conservative response to MoveOn.org.
“Carl is a seasoned political operative with a broad and deep understanding of the policy issues that shape political dynamics both nationally and locally. He brings to the table an unparalleled level of issue advocacy expertise,” the 501 (c) 4’s board of directors said in a statement released Tuesday. “Carl will play an integral role in this organization as we move to impact critical public policy issues that will be debated this year.”
Forti, who was Deputy Campaign Manager and Political Director for Romney’s unsuccessful presidential bid, will lead the group’s 2008 issue advocacy campaign.
The group had launched a headline-grabbing, multi-million dollar ad campaign last fall in support of the war in Iraq, but its profile had slipped a bit in recent months in the wake of several major staff departures.
–CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand
(CNN) - A spokesman for Hillary Clinton’s campaign sent out a press release Tuesday morning belatedly attacking Barack Obama for his failure to release his tax returns – at virtually the exact moment the Illinois senator’s campaign posted his 2000-2006 filings on his campaign Web site. [View tax returns here]
“In the public record there are 20 years of Hillary's tax returns, hundreds of thousands of pages of records from her time in White House and countless other documents detailing her time in public life. Sen. Obama's record is far more opaque. Sen. Obama has not released his tax returns, except for 2006,” Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said in a statement sent to reporters just as the Obama camp posted the Illinois senator’s returns online.
The newly-released Obama documents include all schedules. In a statement sent to reporters, the Obama campaign criticized Clinton for not releasing her 2006 tax returns, pointing to her decision to lend her campaign $5 million earlier this year, and former President Bill Clinton’s $20 million payout from supermarket holding company Yucaipa.
Clinton has promised to release the returns sometime after this year’s April 15 tax deadline, just a few days before Pennsylvania’s April 22 primary.
“Senator Clinton recently claimed that she’s ‘the most transparent figure in public life,’ yet she’s dragging her feet in releasing something as basic as her annual tax returns,” Obama’s communications director, Robert Gibbs, said in a statement. “Senator Clinton can’t claim to be vetted until she allows the public the opportunity to see her finances - particularly with respect to any investment in tax shelters.”
UPDATE: At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Clinton announced that she would be moving up the release date of her tax returns, and might make the documents public within the week.
(CNN) - Sen. Hillary Clinton said she "misspoke" last week when she gave a dramatic description of her arrival in Bosnia 12 years ago, recounting a landing under sniper fire.
Clinton was responding to a question Monday from the Philadelphia Daily News' editorial board about video footage of the event that contradicted her assertion that her group "ran with our heads down" from the plane to avoid sniper fire at the Tuzla Air Base, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for rival Sen. Barack Obama's campaign, said the Bosnia claim was part of "a growing list of instances in which Sen. Clinton has exaggerated her role in foreign and domestic policymaking."
Clinton told the paper's editorial board it was a "minor blip."
Related: Watch Clinton speak last December about her trip to Bosnia