Emails Revive Issues Regarding Clinton Foundation And Clinton Led State Department
Allegations of influence peddling by Clinton Foundation donors are being rehashed thanks to the release of a new batch of emails.
A newly released batch of State Department emails are reviving questions that first came up last year regarding the relationship between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department during the years that Hillary Clinton served as Secretary of State, raising questions that could dog the Clinton campaign even as we head into the height of the Presidential campaign:
WASHINGTON — A new batch of State Department emails released Tuesday showed the close and sometimes overlapping interests between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department when Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state.
The documents raised new questions about whether the charitable foundation worked to reward its donors with access and influence at the State Department, a charge that Mrs. Clinton has faced in the past and has always denied.
In one email exchange, for instance, an executive at the Clinton Foundation in 2009 sought to put a billionaire donor in touch with the United States ambassador to Lebanon because of the donor’s interests there.
In another email, the foundation appeared to push aides to Mrs. Clinton to help find a job for a foundation associate. Her aides indicated that the department was working on the request.
Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign, which has been shadowed for 17 months by the controversy over the private email server she used exclusively while at the State Department, said that the emails released Tuesday had no bearing on the foundation’s work.
The State Department turned the new emails over to a conservative advocacy group, Judicial Watch, as part of a lawsuit that the group brought under the Freedom of Information Act.
The documents included 44 emails that were not among some 55,000 pages of emails that Mrs. Clinton had previously given to the State Department, which she said represented all her “work-related” emails. The document release centers on discussions between Mrs. Clinton’s aides and Clinton Foundation executives about a number of donors and associates with interests before the State Department.
Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, charged that Mrs. Clinton “hid” the documents from the public because they appeared to contradict her official pledge in 2009 to remove herself from Clinton Foundation business while leading the State Department.
The documents indicate, he said in a telephone interview, that “the State Department and the Clinton Foundation worked hand in hand in terms of policy and donor effort.”
“There was no daylight between the two under Mrs. Clinton, and this was contrary to her promises,” he added.
A number of the email exchanges released Tuesday included Huma Abedin, who was a top adviser to Mrs. Clinton at the State Department and later worked at the Clinton Foundation.
In April 2009, Douglas J. Band, who led the foundation’s Clinton Global Initiative, emailed Ms. Abedin and Cheryl D. Mills, another top adviser to Mrs. Clinton, for help with a donor.
Mr. Band wrote that he needed to connect Gilbert Chagoury, a Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire who was one of the foundation’s top donors, with someone at the State Department to talk about his interests in Lebanon.
“It’s jeff feltman,” Ms. Abedin answered, referring to Jeffrey Feltman, who was the American ambassador to Lebanon at the time. “I’m sure he knows him. I’ll talk to jeff.”
Mr. Band asked her to call Mr. Chagoury immediately if possible. “This is very important,” he wrote.
In a separate email exchange, Mr. Band passed along to Ms. Abedin and Ms. Mills a request for “a favor” from an associate who had recently been on a Clinton Foundation trip to Haiti and was apparently seeking work at the State Department.
The State Department deleted much of the information about the associate, including his name and the outcome of the job referral, in turning over the emails to Judicial Watch.
In one undeleted section, however, Mr. Band wrote that it was “important to take care of” the associate’s request. A short time later, Ms. Abedin wrote back to say: “We all have him on our radar. Personnel has been sending him options.”
In any of themselves, the situations uncovered by these emails, which essentially consist of one former aide at the Foundation looking for a job at the State Department and a Lebanese billionaire with significant investments in Nigeria who had donated to the Foundation on multiple occasions and was seeking access to the State Department to talk to, aren’t entirely unusual in the grand scheme of things. However, this isn’t the first time that the Foundation and its links to the Clinton State Department have become an issue in the Presidential race. Back in the Spring of 2015 when Clinton first entered the race for President, a number of revelations came out that purported to show a relationship between donations to the Clinton Foundation and policy positions taken by Foggy Bottom while Clinton was Secretary of State. Back then, The New York Times first reported about a book detailing donations to the Clinton Foundation that alleged that Clinton had changed position and granted State Department favors to business interests who had donated to the Foundation over the year. That report was quickly followed by another report regarding Foundation donors involved in the business dealings of a Russian energy company that was involved in a deal to purchase an American company that mined uranium in the United States and elsewhere.. Soon after, the Foundation itself announced that it was filing amended tax returns for multiple years due to the fact that information regarding foreign donations was not correctly reported and shortly after this we learned that the Foundation had failed to report more than 1,100 donations from foreign sources during the time that Clinton was Secretary of State.
For the most part, this story has been relatively quiet since those initial revelations back in the spring of 2015 and, instead, we’ve heard more about the potential misuse of classified information on Clinton’s private email server and issues related to the Benghazi attack. With those issues essentially behind us after the announcement that no charges would be pursued based on the F.B.I. investigation of the issues related to the server and the issuance of the the rather innocuous final report of the House Select Committee established to investigate the Benghazi attack, though, one can expect that questions regarding the Clinton Foundation are likely to move to the top of the list of the things that the Clinton campaign will be asked to deal with between now and the election. If they’ve learned anything from the previous investigations, the campaign will use the opportunity to learn from the mistakes they made in the rather bungled responses to initial questions regarding the server and classified information to get in front of an issue that has the potential to blunt the momentum that Clinton has had in the polls since the Democratic National Convention, because it’s unlikely that this issue is simply going to go away. It would also be worthwhile to get in front of the story in any case since the future of the Clinton Foundation and its relationships with business interests around the world are likely to become a focus of attention as it becomes more likely that Clinton will win the election. At that point, both Hillary and Bill Clinton will be forced to decide exactly what’s going to happen to the Foundation while Clinton is serving as President of the United States and what steps they will take to ensure that there is not undue influence or access given to Foundation donors. It would be best to get that question answered sooner rather than later, and to avoid the unforced errors that could blunt was has turned out so far to be a very favorable election climate for Clinton so far.