The Note: Inside 'Clinton Cash'

VIDEO: Hillary Faces Questions About Cash Donations to Clinton FoundationPlayABCNews.com
WATCH Hillary Faces Questions About Cash Donations to Clinton Foundation

NOTABLES

--BILL CLINTON CASHED IN WHEN HILLARY BECAME SECRETARY OF STATE: After his wife became Secretary of State, former President Bill Clinton began to collect speaking fees that often doubled or tripled what he had been charging earlier in his post White House years, bringing in millions of dollars from groups that included several with interests pending before the State Department, an ABC News review of financial disclosure records shows. Where he once had drawn $150,000 for a typical address in the years following his presidency, Clinton saw a succession of staggering paydays for speeches in 2010 and 2011, including $500,000 paid by a Russian investment bank and $750,000 to address a telecom conference in China, ABC's MATTHEW MOSK and BRIAN ROSS report. That steady flow of income has come under scrutiny in recent days, as it formed an element of a book by author and conservative think tank fellow Peter Schweizer called "Clinton Cash," due for release in coming days. http://abcn.ws/1DhN8Fe

--BUT THE BOOK OFFERS NO PROOF THAT HILLARY CLINTON TOOK ANY DIRECT ACTION TO BENEFIT THE GROUPS AND INTERESTS THAT WERE PAYING HER HUSBAND: An independent review of source material by ABC News uncovered errors in the book, including an instance where paid and unpaid speaking appearances were conflated. Schweizer said the errors would be corrected. But those same records supported the premise that former President Clinton accepted speaking fees from numerous companies and individuals with interests pending before the State Department. http://abcn.ws/1DhN8Fe

--CHELSEA CLINTON PLAYS DEFENSE: Chelsea Clinton defended her family's charity yesterday against allegations that foreign governments received favors in return for donations, saying that despite all the questions, the Clinton Foundation does "important" work and is "among the most transparent" of foundations. "What the Clinton Foundation has said is that we will be even more transparent, even though Transparency International and others have said we're among the most transparent of foundations," the former First Daughter and Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation said when asked Thursday morning. ABC's LIZ KREUTZ has more. http://abcn.ws/1Qod1h5

--ANALYSIS -- ABC's RICK KLEIN: No joke here, but how hard is President Obama making things for Hillary Clinton on trade right now? His speech to his old campaign organization Thursday night featured a spirited passage characterizing his critics' views that --according to the official White House transcript --was punctuated three times by laughter. His "good friends who are opposed to this trade agreement," he said, are making an argument "that doesn't make any sense." It's vintage Obama, getting his loyalists fired up by characterizing the other side of an argument with a little snark. "When I ask them specifically what is it that you oppose," the president said, "they start talking about NAFTA. (Laughter.)" The "they" are usually Republicans in these types of presidential riffs. This time, though, they include Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Martin O'Malley, and Sen. Bernie Sanders. All of which increases the pressure on Clinton, who's been noncommittal on trade questions since launching her candidacy two weeks ago. And the president's lines about fixing NAFTA, which Obama reminded the audience was passed when he had "just come out of law school"? That's got to be a special kind of grating on Clinton-era ears.

THIS WEEK ON 'THIS WEEK':Sunday on "This Week," author Peter Schweizer discusses his new book, "Clinton Cash." And the powerhouse roundtable debates all the week's politics, with Democratic strategist and ABC News contributor Donna Brazile, CNN political commentator and former House speaker Newt Gingrich, and Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, managing editors of Bloomberg Politics and hosts of "With All Due Respect." Check the "This Week" page for full guest listings. Be sure to use #ThisWeek when you tweet about the program. TUNE IN SUNDAY:http://abcnews.go.com/thisweek

IN THE NOTE'S INBOX

RICK SANTORUM, FOSTER FRIESS, MAJOR DONORS GO GOLFING. Likely presidential candidate Rick Santorum and some of his top -- and most deep-pocketed --supporters gathered in Scottsdale, Arizona yesterday for a luncheon and golf outing. An aide to Santorum tells The Note: "Over 25 major Republican and conservative donors from nearly a dozen states were in attendance, where they heard from Santorum, senior political advisors to the Senator, and Friess regarding the status of a potential 2016 run. The topics discussed included political updates, strategic plans, and finance plans. Following a strategy luncheon, participants took part in a golf outing with Santorum and Friess."

THE BUZZ

with ABC's VERONICA STRACQUALURSI

OBAMA: 'I TAKE FULL RESPONSIBILITY' FOR US OPERATION THAT KILLED INNOCENT HOSTAGES HELD BY AL QAEDA. President Obama said Thursday that he takes "full responsibility" for a U.S. government counterterrorism operation that killed two innocent hostages held by al Qaeda. Dr. Warren Weinstein, an American held by the terror group since 2011, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian national who had been an al Qaeda hostage since 2012, were "accidentally" killed in a U.S. operation in January, the president acknowledged. "I want to express our grief and condolences for the families of two hostages," Obama said from the White House briefing room, noting that at the time, the U.S. believed no civilians were present at the operation site, ABC's ERIN DOOLEY and LUIS MARTINEZ write. http://abcn.ws/1bluXZf

--BOEHNER: 'WE NEED ALL THE FACTS.' House Speaker John Boehner expressed condolences to the families of Weinstein and Lo Porto, emphasizing that he believes the independent review that the president announced "is entirely appropriate." "As President Obama indicated, this is not a time for excuses," Boehner said. "We need all the facts, for the families and so that we can make sure that nothing like this ever happens again in our efforts to keep Americans safe." Boehner said he has not spoken personally to President Obama about the killed Americans, although he said he was "notified prior to the public disclosure of this," ABC's JOHN PARKINSON notes.

--WARREN WEINSTEIN'S CONGRESSMAN WANTS 'HOSTAGE CZAR.' The congressman who represents the family of slain American Dr. Warren Weinstein in the House of Representatives is crafting legislation to create a "hostage czar" who would be empowered to cut through bureaucracy in order to maximize the capabilities of the U.S. government to deal with hostage situations. "There should be no tolerance for a bureaucracy when it comes to dealing with an American held overseas," Rep. John Delaney, D-Maryland, told ABC News in an interview in his office Thursday, ABC's JOHN PARKINSON reports. http://abcn.ws/1yYm2YJ

SENATE CONFIRMS LORETTA LYNCH AS ATTORNEY GENERAL -- 166 DAYS AFTER NOMINATION. The Senate narrowly confirmed Loretta Lynch as the next attorney general Thursday, 166 days after she was first nominated for the post. The Senate approved Lynch's nomination with a vote of 56 to 43. After her confirmation, President Obama said "America will be better off for it." Lynch, a North Carolina native who serves as a U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, will be the first African-American woman to serve as attorney general, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ notes. Her confirmation period was the longest of any attorney general nominee in recent history. http://abcn.ws/1JhonBA

OBAMA TRIES SELLING THE TRADE DEAL AS THE ANTI-NAFTA. President Obama went straight into the progressive lions' den Thursday to sell the Pacific trade deal he's trying to pass: his old campaign organization-turned-advocacy-group, Organizing for Action. His goal was clear: convince the audience at the spring meeting that this is the best possible trade negotiation, with stringent labor and environment requirements built in. Boiled down: it isn't the North American Free Trade Agreement, ABC's ALI WEINBERG writes. "I've been listening to this debate, I've got some good friends who are opposed to this trade agreement but when I ask specifically what you oppose, they start talking about NAFTA," he said. "And I'm thinking, well I had just come out of law school when NAFTA was passed! That's not the trade agreement I'm passing!" Labor unions and other progressives remain opposed to the Bill Clinton-brokered North American Free Trade Agreement because they say it stole U.S. jobs, furthered income inequality and widened the trade deficit with Mexico and Canada.

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

RONALD REAGAN IN THE NUDE: A FORMER WHITE HOUSE USHER TELLS ALL. Skip Allen was new to being a White House usher for President Ronald Reagan when it fell to him to deliver a top-secret document to the commander in chief in the private residence. While the document was designated "for the President's eyes only," Allen would end up seeing more than he bargained for that day in 1981: a naked president. "I took it up, and I'm looking for him, and the steward comes out and says, 'He's in there.' So I went over and knocked on the door and he said, 'Come in,'" Allen recalled Reagan saying in an interview with ABC's JONATHAN KARL. "And there he was getting out of the shower." Allen remembers a much less friendly rapport with the Clinton's, calling their transition to the White House the most difficult of his time as usher from 1979 to 2004, ABC's JORDYN PHELPS writes. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/1INV463

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

OBAMA MAKES FUN OF DEFLATE-GATE. President Obama couldn't help himself as he honored the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots yesterday, poking fun at their "deflate-gate" controversy. "I usually tell a bunch of jokes at these events, but with the Patriots in town, I was worried that 11 out of 12 of them would fall flat," Obama said at a White House ceremony. The joke was met with groans from the crowd on the South Lawn, ABC's MARY BRUCE notes. "That whole story got blown a little out of proportion," he added. The president went on to laud the Patriots, saying "even in the midst of a huge distraction during the biggest media circus of the sports year, they stayed focused."

WHO'S TWEETING?

@Creativity_Con: Watch the 2015 #CreativityCon live, starting today at 9am ET: http://thecreativityconference.com 

@amyewalter: So much happening in WH 16 - so little of it matters. Focus on these fundamentals instead http://cookpolitical.com/story/8384 

@jackshafer: "Former Pres. George W. Bush's typical speaking fee is apparently $110,000." Nonprofit Quarterly 2014 http://bit.ly/1yYg9uG 

@alexis_levinson: A new year, a new video about Boehner's love affair with his lawn mower. https://www.youtube.com/watch?Source=GovD&v=hWdfb_YfePk …

@matthewjdowd: Fabulous Friday! i realize open-mindedness is the path way to truth, joy, and fulfillment. allowing people, purpose, plans to change me.