The recent release of Clinton Foundation emails [through a Freedom of Information Act request, not a hack] proves that big donors to the Clinton family foundation got special treatment at Hillary Clinton’s State Department.
Our first editorial cartoon comes from the Indianapolis Star:
Gary Varvel: The Clinton Foundation drive-thru
And the second from the Arizona Republic:
Steve Benson: Rodham’s ‘Kiss’ with the State Department
For more on the foundation and the Clinton brand of play to pay we turn to a video report from Democracy Now!, featuring an interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning Wall Street Journal reporter James Grimaldi, who’s be digging into the foundation for years.
From Democracy Now!:
Did Companies & Countries Buy State Dept. Access by Donating to Clinton Foundation?
From the transcript:
AMY GOODMAN: One of the newly released email exchanges is about billionaire Nigerian-Lebanese developer Gilbert Chagoury, who contributed between $1 [million] and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation. The emails show a top Clinton Foundation executive writing to Abedin and Mills, asking for help putting Chagoury in touch with the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon. Abedin responds, “I’ll talk to jeff,” referring to then-U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman. On Wednesday, Gilbert Chagoury’s spokesman said Chagoury, quote, “was simply passing along his observations and insights about the dire political situation in Lebanon at the time,” unquote.
For more, we go to Santa Barbara, where we’re joined by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist James Grimaldi. He’s a senior writer at The Wall Street Journal and has covered the Clinton Foundation since 2014.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, James. You’ve been covering the Clinton Foundation for years. Can you talk about what this latest group of emails suggests, and how significant it is, about the relationship between the Clinton Foundation under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and—between the State Department under Clinton and the Clinton Foundation?
JAMES GRIMALDI: Well, I think this confirms what we sort of knew. There are obvious ties and relationships. The key tie here would be Douglas Band, who was a top aide to Bill Clinton. He helped Bill Clinton create the Clinton Foundation, and sort of devised how he would spend his days in retirement. He was very close, of course, to Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin. At one point he was employing, as a contractor, Huma Abedin, as Huma was working at the State Department. And during this time of the Lebanese elections, Mr. Band sent an email, as you described just now, regarding one of their greatest benefactors, Mr. Chagoury, and suggested that the State Department have the person who was a lead—the ambassador to Lebanon speak to Mr. Chagoury.
It shows how donations to the Clinton Foundation win access to, you know, state diplomatic—State Department diplomatic officials. It sort of begs the question, if he hadn’t given that money to the Clinton Foundation, whether he would have had that kind of easy access. I would say it would probably be unlikely. It certainly would not happen as swiftly. Possibly, that State Department ambassador might have consulted with this person regarding that issue, but it sure shows or seems to create an appearance of a conflict of interest, that perhaps he bought access by making those donations to the Clinton Foundation.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, speaking of that issue of conflict of interest, you’ve noted that during her confirmation hearings as secretary of state, Secretary Clinton specifically said that she would take, quote, “extraordinary steps … to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.” How well do you think she has followed through on that, on that promise?
JAMES GRIMALDI: Well, over the past year, we have looked at that issue. And what I did was I went into the lobbying records to see which companies and other entities were lobbying the State Department, and also looking to see how many of them had given to the Clinton Foundation. And one of our findings was that at least 60 companies had lobbied the State Department, had given as much as $26 million, and many of those companies, 44 of those 60, had participated in what they call commitments, or philanthropic projects, that were valued by the Clinton Foundation at $3.2 billion.
So then we went to look and see if Mrs. Clinton had done anything for these companies at the time that they were making these gifts. And we looked at several companies—UBS, Boeing, General Electric and Microsoft and others, Wal-Mart—who seemed to have been getting favors from Mrs. Clinton, perhaps for good reason—promoting American companies and American jobs—but also coming at the same time that there were donations going to the Clinton Foundation.