For once, the front page of the Washington Post isn’t dominated by reports about Donald Trump scandals real and imagined (the latest Post probe had a team of reporters poring over local property records to check the value of Trump’s golf courses). Instead, the Post shifts its attention to the question of access by big Clinton Foundation donors to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The story is called “Emails reveal how foundation donors got access to Clinton, State Dept. aides.”
The Post’s reporting on this topic was made possible by Judicial Watch which today released 725 pages of new State Department documents. If the Post had been interested in doing on Hillary the kind of digging it has been doing on Trump, maybe it wouldn’t have to rely on Judicial Watch.
Here is how Post reporters Spencer Hsu and Tom Hamburger characterize what the new emails tell us about the ability of Clinton Foundation donors to gain special access to then-Secretary of State Clinton and her close aide Huma Abedin:
The emails show that. . .the donors did not always get what they wanted, particularly when they sought anything more than a meeting. But the exchanges. . .illustrate the way the Clintons’ international network of friends and donors was able to get access to Hillary Clinton and her inner circle during her tenure running the State Department.
This, I think, is a fair statement.
The most prominent instance of access-seeking in the new emails involves the attempt by the Crown Prince of Bahrain to get a meeting with Secretary Clinton. When it didn’t happen, Doug Band, a Clinton Foundation official (and later, Huma Abedin’s employer at Teneo) intervened.
Here is what the Post says about this case:
In June 2009, Band emailed Abedin that the prince would be in Washington for two days and was seeking a meeting with Hillary Clinton. “Good friend of ours,” he added.
Abedin responded that the prince had already requested a meeting “through normal channels” but that Clinton had been hesitant to commit.
Two days later, Abedin followed up with Band to let him know that a meeting with the prince had been set. “If u see him, let him know. We have reached out thru official channels,” she wrote to Band.
This too is a fair account of the email exchange, which you can read here.
The Crown Prince is a major Clinton Foundation donor. According to Judicial Watch, which cites the Clinton Foundation’s webpage, in 2005 he committed to establishing the Crown Prince’s International Scholarship Program for the Clinton Global Initiative. By 2010, the program had contributed $32 million to CGI. The Kingdom of Bahrain reportedly gave between $50,000 and $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation.
Do the emails show that the Crown Prince’s donor status got him a meeting with Clinton? Not exactly. Clinton might have met with him anyway, even without Band’s intervention. According to Abedin, Clinton never said she wouldn’t meet the guy; she just wanted to put off the decision.
Clearly, though, the Clinton Foundation, and thus its big donors, had access to Abedin that others lacked. Clearly, when the Foundation used that access, Abedin (at least at times) raised their request or concern with Clinton. And, as the Post says, sometimes, as in the case of the Crown Prince, the donors got what they were seeking.
Judicial Watch provides a summary of other instances in which top Clinton aides intervened on behalf of Clinton Foundation donors. The typical response by Abedin was “I’ll make it work” or “I’ll look into it asap.” At a minimum, big donations were sufficient to put Abedin, a top State Department employee, to work on behalf of the donor.
That’s not how the government is supposed to conduct business. Rather, as Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton says, it’s abuse of office.