Did a big donor of the Clinton Foundation use those links to get “face time” while financing Hezbollah? Gilbert Chagoury’s name keeps popping up in the Clinton Foundation-State Department nexus, but it’s Chagoury’s run-in with Homeland Security that has eyebrows raised at the moment. On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times reported that Chagoury landed on the no-fly list prior to Hillary Clinton’s tenure at State, and two years ago got denied entry over questions about his connections to Lebanese partners of the radical Islamist terror group:
Since the 1990s, Chagoury has also cultivated a friendship with the Clinton family — in part by writing large checks, including a contribution of at least $1 million to the Clinton Foundation.
By the time Hillary Clinton became secretary of State, the relationship was strong enough for Bill Clinton’s closest aide to push for Chagoury to get access to top diplomats, and the agency began exploring a deal, still under consideration, to build a consulate on Chagoury family land in Lagos, Nigeria.
But even as those talks were underway, bureaucrats in other arms of the State Department were examining accusations that Chagoury had unsavory affiliations, stemming from his activities and friendships in Lebanon. After a review, Chagoury was refused a visa to enter the U.S. last year.
Let’s take a moment to recall that Chagoury was Marc Rich’s business partner — the same Marc Rich that got a presidential pardon while still on the run from the Department of Justice. Eric Holder played a key role in facilitating that pardon, readers will recall, despite the fact that Rich would not return to the US to face charges of tax evasion and questions about violating sanctions against Iran — Hezbollah’s state sponsor. That pardon made Chagoury an even better friend to the Clintons, as the New York Post noted not long ago;
Chagoury has been very generous to the Clintons in the years following the Rich pardon. He has organized an event at which Bill was paid $100,000 to speak (in 2003), donated millions to the Clinton Foundation and in 2009 pledged a cool $1 billion to the Clinton Global Initiative. The Chagourys were also active in Hillary’s 2008 presidential bid. Michel Chaghouri, a relative in Los Angeles, was a bundler and served on her campaign staff. Numerous other relatives gave the maximum $4,600 each to her campaign.
There had always been questions about Chagoury’s unsavory business dealings. He got convicted of charges related to money laundering on behalf of Nigerian dictator General Sani Abacha at around the same time as the Clintons were getting ready to pardon Rich (Cagoury later got the conviction expunged). Thus, when the FBI heard from informants that Chagoury was routing cash through Lebanese politician Michael Aoun to Hezbollah, they raised enough red flags to stop Chagoury from entering the country in 2014. Those suspicions got raised at a very coincidental time, emphasis mine:
After Clinton left the State Department, Chagoury again found himself under suspicion by U.S. security officials. A 2013 FBI intelligence report, citing unverified raw information from a source, claimed Chagoury had sent funds to Aoun, who transferred money to Hezbollah. The source said Aoun was “facilitating fundraising for Hezbollah.” The U.S. put Chagoury in its database used to screen travelers for possible links to terrorism, interagency memos show.
Last summer, when Chagoury planned a trip to Los Angeles, he applied at the U.S. embassy in Paris for a visitor’s visa and was refused, according to interviews and government documents. Based on the FBI report and other allegations from intelligence and law enforcement sources, the State Department denied the application. It cited terrorism-related grounds, a broad category that can apply to anyone believed to have assisted a terrorist group in any way, including providing money.
But it’s not the first time that’s been suspected. Coincidentally, those suspicions came up just before Hillary took over at State:
Chagoury was “known to have funded” Aoun, a Lebanese government minister told then-Ambassador Jeffrey D. Feltman in 2007, according to a cable published by WikiLeaks that didn’t go in detail about Chagoury’s relationship with Aoun. The minister suggested that the U.S. “deliver to Chagoury a strong message about the possibility of financial sanctions and travel bans against those who undermine Lebanon’s legitimate institutions.”
Chagoury never got a scolding, though. Instead, Band, Bill Clinton’s aide, pushed for new access for Chagoury after Hillary Clinton took over at the State Department. In 2009, Band wrote his friends in the department. “We need Gilbert Chagoury to speak to the substance guy re Lebanon. As you know he’s key guy there and to us and is loved in Lebanon. Very imp.” Huma Abedin, a longtime aide and confidante to Clinton and now vice chairwoman of her presidential campaign, suggested Feltman.
Chagoury has denied all of these allegations and claims he no longer supports Aoun. All sides deny that “face time” ever happened between Chagoury and Feltman. But it’s pretty clear that the State Department under Hillary Clinton had plenty of information about Chagoury to keep him far away from any influence — and yet, Doug Band was pushing to have his influence felt, and Huma Abedin was facilitating it. The only possible explanation for this is his Clinton Foundation donor status and longtime links to the Clintons through Marc Rich.
The State Department was for sale. American national-security interests took a back seat to Hillary’s political and personal interests. This is as clearly a pay-to-play example as one can get without a menu. Small wonder, then, that Hillary Clinton fears a real press conference.