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Goldman Sachs Did Nothing Illegal: Clinton

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton seen speaking during the inaugural Rural Summit in Washington, DC
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Former U.S. President Bill Clinton seen speaking during the inaugural Rural Summit in Washington, DC

Former President Bill Clinton says it is "time to lower the rhetoric and talk about the facts," in reference to the government's scrutiny of Wall Street.

In an exclusive interview with Maria Bartiromo, Clinton noted that while many financial firms are being questioned by the Securities and Exchange Commission, he does not believe that Goldman Sachs or CEO Lloyd Blankfein did anything illegal, based on what he's seeing.

The SEC has been probing the mortgage operations of major banks, but so far has only charged Goldman with civil fraud. The firm has said it will fight the charges and has vigorously denied any wrongdoing.

Clinton says "what we ought to do is have an honest conversation about what really happened, how to fix it, and how to get what's best about vital capital markets."

But despite the intense examination that many of the nation's banks are facing right now, Clinton does not think the current adminstration is anti-business.

The former president also set his sights on the effort to put a dent in the ballooning budget deficit. The full-year deficit this year is projected to be $1.5 trillion. Last month, the U.S. posted its biggest April budget deficit on record. During Clinton's presidency, the U.S. enjoyed a budget surplus.

Clinton says the country should look at new ways to resolve the current tax burden.

"I think they ought to look at a progressive value-added tax, just because…most of our competitors have tax systems like this... If we could figure out how to do that, it would make us much more competitive with our exports," he said.

Clinton is also calling for more discipline in government spending. He emphasized the need to "stop the cost-drivers in health care…control spending on an annual basis…and try to have the most competitive possible tax system."

But should the American people assume more responsibility as well?

Clinton says "you can't just keep saying you want more government than you want to pay for." He warns that overseas borrowing could have ill effects and that the nation can not afford to keep exploding its debt.

He also cited the challenges facing Europe in light of Greece's debt crisis and believes that the situation there can be contained—though Clinton notes the situation does highlight the challenges of the vast wealth disparities within the EU and the difficulty of holding a common currency.

Watch Maria's interview with Bill Clinton today at 4pm ET on 'Closing Bell.'

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