State Department: On second thought, we didn't vet those Clinton Foundation donations

Old and busted: State Department says they’ve reviewed every donation from foreign governments to the Clinton Foundation during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State that was submitted for their review. Jen Psaki made this claim during a press briefing on Thursday:

New hotness: State Department says that the Clinton Foundation actually never asked them to review any donations from foreign governments. Politico’s Dylan Byers Josh Gerstein has the walkback:

The State Department is stepping back from a spokeswoman’s comment last week suggesting that the agency’s ethics lawyers signed off on donations to the Clinton Foundation during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.

Asked at a daily briefing Thursday about the foundation’s failure to submit a $500,000 donation from the country of Algeria for a conflict of interest review in 2010, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters that the department did such reviews whenever the non-profit founded by former President Bill Clinton sent in information about a potential gift.

“We like to review — and we have reviewed every donation that was submitted,” Psaki said.

However, there are no indications any Clinton Foundation donations were ever sent to the State Department for approval.

In fact, the only submissions for review that came from the Clinton Foundation during Hillary’s tenure related to paid speeches given by Bill Clinton — hundreds of them, plus a few consulting deals for Bill. Let that sink in a bit. Which foreign governments paid Bill to speak, and how much did the Clintons pocket through that process from governments with business at State? Hmmm.

Until yesterday, Team Clinton argued that the Algerian donation just slipped through the cracks of their usual process, and was an anomaly:

The Clinton Foundation acknowledged last week that it had failed to submit a donation from the Algerian government to the State Department for approval in accordance with the foundation’s ethics rules.

If Clinton wasn’t planning to run for president, the donations would not create the appearance of foreign governments trying to curry favor with a secretary of State and possible future president. But as an all-but-certain candidate, Clinton faces just that problem.

Now, though, it’s become apparent that Hillary Clinton violated the requirements of disclosure and review repeatedly. The foundation took in millions in foreign-government donations while Hillary served as Secretary of State, and now the State Department acknowledges that they didn’t review any of those donations for potential conflicts of interest. This admission may end up getting buried under the scandal of Hillary’s evasion of the Federal Records Act, but it’s perhaps even more important … and potentially related. Did Hillary solicit those donations through e-mail? What was promised in exchange for the money? Had Hillary used a government e-mail system, we might have the answers to that already, or at least have access to the answers through the FOIA process.

Interestingly, Politico has an analysis from Glenn Thrush and Gabriel DeBenedetti that suggests Hillary might be the victim of media bullying, sort of:

Hillary Clinton is still weeks away from announcing her candidacy for president, but she’s already absorbing her share of damaging mid-campaign-style salvos from reporters and Republicans — without actual campaign staff to defend her.

Clinton, backed by Cheryl Mills, her most trusted adviser, has bucked the advice of many top Democrats — former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe personally urged her to staff up late last year — by pushing the hiring of many key staffers into the spring, until after her formal declaration. That has left Clinton, a defense-minded politician who coined the term “War Room,” without a rapid response team to offer robust explanations to reporters probing the fundraising and management practices of her family’s foundation — or even to muster an organized corps of surrogates to get out the talking points.

While reporters scramble to divine the precise date Clinton will announce her candidacy (the consensus opinion since late last year is that has she’ll jump into the race later this month or in April), Clinton insiders say assembling and deploying staff is a far more important milestone.

“We have had our head up our ass,” one former senior Clinton aide told POLITICO, reflecting the general view of a half-dozen Clinton loyalists. “This stuff isn’t going to kill us, but it puts us behind the eight ball.”

Oh, come on. The foundation served as a payroll device to keep people on staff for just this purpose, plus the Clintons hardly lack for an army of apologists willing to take media hits to defend The Queen. Richard Socarides was on the front lines mere hours after the New York Times story hit about Hillary’s secretive e-mail system, trying to call it a nothingburger and evidence of media bias against Her Highness. They have Lanny Davis on speed dial, plus all sorts of friendly faces in the media looking to shrug off any hint of scandal against her. She hasn’t fielded a paid team because she hasn’t needed a paid team, although that may be changing rapidly this week.

What’s next? Another claim of poverty for Poor Hillary?

Update (3/4, 11 pm ET): I attributed the Politico report to the wrong reporter. Josh Gerstein wrote it, not Dylan Byers. I picked it up from Dylan’s Twitter account, and made the mistaken assumption that he wrote it. My apologies to both Josh and Dylan.