Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Clinton-Scandal Compendium / The ScandalsThat Never Stop Giving

Hillary Clinton Exposed / The ScandalsThat Never Stop Giving

From Whitewater to Benghazi: A Clinton-Scandal Compendium

The FBI discovered 15,000 new documents during its investigation that it says the candidate did not turn over to the State Department.

Sometimes things get misplaced. Like 15,000 documents, for example.
During the course of its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email address and a private email server during her time as secretary of state, the FBI uncovered thousands of documents that Clinton had not turned over to the State Department, The Washington Post reported. Clinton delivered around 30,000 emails that lawyers had sorted and determined were work-related to the department in December 2014. She has said that the remainder pertained to personal topics and have been deleted. The State Department has been releasing those messages in batches.
During a hearing on Monday, lawyers for the State Department and the conservative accountability group Judicial Watch battled over when to release the new tranche of documents. The State Department, citing time needed to sort the messages and separate personal from work-related material, proposed a timetable beginning in mid-October. But a federal judge rejected that schedule, telling State to come up with a speedier plan and to bring it to him on September 22. As a result, some substantial portion of the emails may be released before the November 8 election.

Judicial Watch notched another victory on Friday, when a different federal judge ruled that Clinton would have to testify in writing about her email system, although he declined to require her to be deposed in person.
It was just a few weeks ago, in early July, when the email scandal seemed to have peaked, with the decision by the Justice Department not to charge Clinton with any crimes for her handling of emails, which FBI Director James Comey nonetheless deemed “extremely careless.” Yet the controversy continues to drag on, complicating her presidential campaign.
In addition to the two court cases, Congressional Republicans are also in on the act, with two developments last week. Fox News reported that in July, the Republican chairmen of the Oversight and Judiciary Committees sent a letter to the acting U.S. attorney for D.C., arguing that Clinton committed perjury during an October 2015 hearing, during which she told members that “there was nothing marked classified on my emails, either sent or received.” When FBI Director James Comey announced the results of his findings, however, he said that a few emails were marked (c) for “confidential,” which is the lowest level of classification. (Overall, Comey said that Clinton and her staff were “extremely careless” in their handling of emails, but did nothing that rose to the level where he would recommend prosecution or expect to win a case.)
The chairmen also take issue with Clinton’s statement that her staff “went through every single email,” noting that Comey said reviewers had used search terms and reviewed headers to sort Clinton’s correspondence. Fox reported that Justice had confirmed receiving the letter but had been noncommittal about further steps.
Also on Tuesday, the FBI began giving members of the Oversight Committee access to documents related to the email investigation. Republican members had called on Comey to release the full file, but—ironically—some of the material is marked “secret,” and therefore can only be reviewed privately. It’s not clear what exactly is in the cache of documents. Clinton’s own interview with the FBI was neither recorded nor transcribed, though notes were taken, and she was not under oath, though lying to the FBI would still be a crime.

Those who wanted the documents public had an unusual ally in Clinton’s campaign, which also wanted the documents revealed in full, charging that opponents could leak them out strategically.
Clinton, meanwhile, has an unusual ally in the Justice Department, which in a letter Tuesday defended the decision not to bring charges, and argued that in the case of the “confidential” markings, there was no cause to prosecute:
The fact that Secretary Clinton received emails containing “(C)” portion markings is not clear evidence of knowledge or intent. In each of these instances, the Secretary did not originate the information; instead, the emails were forwarded to her by staff members, with the portion-marked information located within the emails chains and without header and footer markings indicating the presence of classified information.
That’s not quite the same as the perjury allegation that members made against Clinton, of course. But it points to the fact that many things that appear on face to be violations of law don’t result in prosecutions.
The emails represent something of a classic Clinton scandal. Although the House investigation turned up no evidence of wrongdoing on her part with respect to the attacks themselves, it was during that inquiry that her private-email use became public. This is a pattern with the Clinton family, which has been in the public spotlight since Bill Clinton’s first run for office, in 1974: Something that appears potentially scandalous on its face turns out to be innocuous, but an investigation into it reveals different questionable behavior. The canonical case is Whitewater, a failed real-estate investment Bill and Hillary Clinton made in 1978. Although no inquiry ever produced evidence of wrongdoing, investigations ultimately led to President Clinton’s impeachment for perjury and obstruction of justice.
With Hillary Clinton leading the field for the Democratic nomination for president, every Clinton scandal—from Whitewater to the State Department emails—will be under the microscope. (No other American politicians—even ones as corrupt as Richard Nixon, or as hated by partisans as George W. Bush—have fostered the creation of a permanent multimillion-dollar cottage industry devoted to attacking them.) Keeping track of each controversy, where it came from, and how serious it is, is no small task, so here’s a primer. We’ll update it as new information emerges.

The Clintons’ Private Email Server
What? During the course of the Benghazi investigationNew York Times reporter Michael Schmidt learned Clinton had used a personal email account while secretary of state. It turned out she had also been using a private server, located at a house in New York. The result was that Clinton and her staff decided which emails to turn over to the State Department as public records and which to withhold; they say they then destroyed the ones they had designated as personal.

When? 2009-2013, during Clinton’s term as secretary.
Who? Hillary Clinton; Bill Clinton; top aides including Huma Abedin
How serious is it? Serious, but slightly less serious. A May report from the State Department inspector general is harshly critical of Clinton’s email approach, but Loretta Lynch announced on July 6 that the Justice Department would not pursue criminal charges, removing the threat of an indictment that could be fatal to her campaign. But the scandal will remain a millstone around her neck forever. Comey’s damning comments about her conduct—“Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information”—will reverberate throughout the campaign. Also unresolved is the question of whether Clinton’s server was hacked. Comey said the FBI did not find any proof, but he also said that “we would be unlikely to see such direct evidence.” GOP members of Congress are questioning the FBI’s decision, andhave tried to convince the Justice Department to charge Clinton with perjury for answers she gave them in October 2015.

Clinton’s State Department Emails
What? Setting aside the question of the Clintons’ private email server, what’s actually in the emails that Clinton did turn over to State? While some of the emails related to Benghazi have been released, there are plenty of others covered by public-records laws that are still in the process of being vetted for release.
When? 2009-2013
How serious is it? Serious, but not as serious as it was. While political operatives hoped for embarrassing statements in the emails—and there were some cringeworthy moments of sucking up and some eye-rolly emails from contacts like Sidney Blumenthal—they were, for the most part, boring. More damaging is the fact that 110 emails included classified information at the time they were sent or received, even though Clinton had insisted she did not send or receive anything classified. Meanwhile, some emails remain to be seen. The State Department, under court order, is slowly releasing the emails she turned over, but there are other emails that she didn’t turn over, which have surfaced through court battles. In August, the FBI reported that it had found some 15,000 documents during the course of its investigation that Clinton did not turn over to the State Department. State is now negotiating how and when to release those materials.

What? On September 11, 2012, attackers overran a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Since then, Republicans have charged that Hillary Clinton failed to adequately protect U.S. installations or that she attempted to spin the attacks as spontaneous when she knew they were planned terrorist operations. She testifies for the first time on October 22.

When? September 11, 2012-present
How serious is it? With the June 28 release of the House committee investigating Benghazi, this issue is receding. That report criticized security preparations at the American facility in Benghazi as well as stations elsewhere, but it produced no smoking guns or new accusations about things Clinton could have done the night of the attacks. Although some conservatives will likely continue to assail her, the biggest damage is likely to be iterative—the highly damaging private-email story was revealed during the course of the House inquiry.

Conflicts of Interest in Foggy Bottom
What? Before becoming Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills worked for Clinton on an unpaid basis for four months while also working for New York University, in which capacity she negotiated on the school’s behalf with the government of Abu Dhabi, where it was building a campus. In June 2012, Deputy Chief of Staff Huma Abedin’s status at State changed to “special government employee,”allowing her to also work for Teneo, a consulting firm run by Bill Clinton’s former right-hand man. She also earned money from the Clinton Foundation and was paid directly by Hillary Clinton. In a separate case, ABC News reports that a topClinton Foundation donor named Rajiv Fernando was placed on State’s International Security Advisory Board. Fernando appeared significantly less qualified than many of his colleagues, and was appointed at the behest of the secretary’s office. Internal emails show that State staff first sought to cover for Clinton, and then Fernando resigned two days after ABC’s inquiries. Judicial Watch released documents that show Doug Band, a Foundation official, trying to put a donor in touch with a State Department expert on Lebanon and to get someone a job at Foggy Bottom.
Who? Both Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin are among Clinton’s longest-serving and closest aides. Abedin remains involved in her campaign (and she’s also married to Anthony Weiner).

When? January 2009-February 2013
How serious is it? This is arcane stuff, to be sure. There are questions about conflict of interest—such as whether Teneo clients might have benefited from special treatment by the State Department while Abedin worked for both. To a great extent, this is just an extension of the tangle of conflicts presented by theClinton Foundation and the many overlapping roles of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Sidney Blumenthal
What? A former journalist, Blumenthal was a top aide in the second term of the Bill Clinton administration and helped on messaging during the bad old days. He served as an adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, and when she took over the State Department, she sought to hire Blumenthal. Obama aides, apparently still smarting over his role in attacks on candidate Obama, refused the request, so Clinton just sought out his counsel informally. At the same time, Blumenthal was drawing a check from the Clinton Foundation.
When? 2009-2013
How serious is it? Only mildly. Some of the damage is already done. Blumenthal was apparently the source of the idea that the Benghazi attacks were spontaneous, a notion that proved incorrect and provided a political bludgeon against Clinton and Obama. He also advised the secretary on a wide range of other issues, from Northern Ireland to China, and passed along analysis from his son Max, a staunch critic of the Israeli government (and conservative bĂȘte noire). But emails released so far show even Clinton’s top foreign-policy guru, Jake Sullivan, rejecting Blumenthal’s analysis, raising questions about her judgment in trusting him.

The Speeches

What? Since Bill Clinton left the White House in 2001, both Clintons have made millions of dollars for giving speeches.
When? 2001-present

Who? Hillary Clinton; Bill Clinton; Chelsea Clinton
How serious is it? Intermittently dangerous. It has a tendency to flare up, then die down. Senator Bernie Sanders made it a useful attack against her in early 2016, suggesting that by speaking to banks like Goldman Sachs, she was compromised. There have been calls for Clinton to release the transcripts of her speeches, which she was declined to do, saying if every other candidate does, she will too. For the Clintons, who left the White House up to their ears in legal debt, lucrative speeches—mostly by the former president—proved to be an effective way of rebuilding wealth. They have also been an effective magnet for prying questions. Where did Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton speak? How did they decide how much to charge? What did they say? How did they decide which speeches would be given on behalf of the Clinton Foundation, with fees going to the charity, and which would be treated as personal income? Are there cases of conflicts of interest or quid pro quos—for example, speaking gigs for Bill Clintonon behalf of clients who had business before the State Department?

The Clinton Foundation
What? Bill Clinton’s foundation was actually established in 1997, but after leaving the White House it became his primary vehicle for … well, everything. With projects ranging from public health to elephant-poaching protection and small-business assistance to child development, the foundation is a huge global player with several prominent offshoots. In 2013, following Hillary Clinton’s departure as secretary of State, it was renamed the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation.
When? 1997-present
Who? Bill Clinton; Hillary Clinton; Chelsea Clinton, etc.
How serious is it? If the Clinton Foundation’s strength is President Clinton’s endless intellectual omnivorousness, its weakness is the distractibility and lack of interest in detail that sometimes come with it. On a philanthropic level, the foundation gets decent ratings from outside review groups, though critics charge that it’s too diffuse to do much good, that the money has not always achieved what it was intended to, and that in some cases the money doesn’t seem to have achieved its intended purpose. The foundation made errors in its tax returns it has to correct. Overall, however, the essential questions about the Clinton Foundation come down to two, related issues. The first is the seemingly unavoidable conflicts of interest: How did the Clintons’ charitable work intersect with their for-profit speeches? How did their speeches intersect with Hillary Clinton’s work at the State Department? Were there quid-pro-quos involving U.S. policy? Did the foundation steer money improperly to for-profit companies owned by friends? The second, connected question is about disclosure. When Clinton became secretary, she agreed that the foundation would make certain disclosures, which it’s now clear it didn’t always do. And the looming questions about Clinton’s State Department emails make it harder to answer those questions.

The Bad Old Days
Supporter Dick Furinash holds up cardboard cut-outs of Bill and Hillary Clinton. (Jim Young / Reuters / Zak Bickel / The Atlantic)
What is it? Since the Clintons have a long history of controversies, there are any number of past scandals that continue to float around, especially in conservative media: Whitewater. Troopergate. Paula Jones. Monica Lewinsky. Travelgate.Vince Foster’s suicide. Juanita Broaddrick.
When? 1975-2001
Who? Bill Clinton; Hillary Clinton; a brigade of supporting characters
How serious is it? The conventional wisdom is that they’re not terribly dangerous. Some are wholly spurious (Foster). Others (Lewinsky, Whitewater) have been so exhaustively investigated it’s hard to imagine them doing much further damage to Hillary Clinton’s standing. In fact, the Lewinsky scandal famously boosted her public approval ratings. But the January 2016 resurfacing of Juanita Broaddrick’s rape allegations offers a test case to see whether the conventional wisdom is truly wise—or just conventional. On May 23, Donald Trump released a video prominently highlighting Broaddrick’s accusation.

No comments:

Post a Comment