Clinton Foundation: Yes, we took $1M from Qatar without State review

The Clinton Foundation confirmed that it took a million-dollar donation from the Qatar government while Hillary Clinton served as Secretary of State, violating an agreement with the White House. Foundation officials confirmed what a Wikileaks release revealed a few weeks earlier, but claimed the seven-figure gift didn’t amount to a substantial enough sum to trigger a State Department review, Reuters reports. No one is yet talking about whether it got the Qatar government its requested face time with former president Bill Clinton, however:

The Clinton Foundation has confirmed it accepted a $1 million gift from Qatar while Hillary Clinton was U.S. secretary of state without informing the State Department, even though she had promised to let the agency review new or significantly increased support from foreign governments.

Qatari officials pledged the money in 2011 to mark the 65th birthday of Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton’s husband, and sought to meet the former U.S. president in person the following year to present him the check, according to an email from a foundation official to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign chairman, John Podesta. The email, among thousands hacked from Podesta’s account, was published last month by WikiLeaks.

Clinton signed an ethics agreement governing her family’s globe-straddling foundation in order to become secretary of state in 2009. The agreement was designed to increase transparency to avoid appearances that U.S. foreign policy could be swayed by wealthy donors. …

Clinton Foundation officials last month declined to confirm the Qatar donation. In response to additional questions, a foundation spokesman, Brian Cookstra, this week said that it accepted the $1 million gift from Qatar, but this did not amount to a “material increase” in the Gulf country’s support for the charity. Cookstra declined to say whether Qatari officials received their requested meeting with Bill Clinton.

That would constitute a quid pro quo, but not (directly) involving public office. Bill Clinton at that time was a private citizen, who can sell his own time in any legal manner he sees fit. That might trigger some interest at the IRS in relation to their tax-exempt status, but it’s not a criminal issue unless Qatar used the donation to buy access to Hillary Clinton. The implication, however, is that the Qatar government wanted access to Bill in order to indirectly influence Hillary. After all, even as rich as the Qatar emirs are, they’re not going to blow a million bucks just to get a photo with Bill Clinton.

That, of course, is why the White House demanded reviews by the State Department ethics office in the first place. The fact that the Clinton Foundation never asked for a review makes this case very curious indeed. Any large new donation from a government with requests for access to the spouse of the Secretary of State should have prompted suspicions about potential motives. In this case, though, neither the Foundation nor Hillary herself appears to have wanted the State Department to ask questions. That’s not an “oversight,” it’s evasiveness.

It’s not the only thing curious about this story, either. Why would the foundation pick the Friday before the election to come clean on this suspicious story? Why not wait until the Friday after the election? Perhaps they’re not terribly worried about this line of attack from Team Trump, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a smart idea to give it more headlines the last few days of the election cycle, either.

Other oddities have popped up over the last few hours, too. People expected both sides to come up with their worst dirt on their opponents on the Friday before the election, but Team Trump stuck to its own arguments instead — perhaps figuring that any new attacks would simply distract from the headlines about the FBI investigations of the Clintons. Team Hillary’s final parting shot was an attack on Melania Trump for allegedly working as a model before getting a work visa … more than 20 years ago. The AP seems pretty excited by this story, but it’s basically a rehash of an earlier attack that didn’t stick then either. As closing attacks go, this one says more about Team Hillary running out of gas than it does about Melania, who we should point out isn’t the candidate anyway.

This is the way 2016 ends, this is way 2016 ends, this is the way 2016 ends … not with a bang, but a whimper. (Apologies to TS Eliot.)

Jazz Shaw Jul 05, 2022 12:31 PM ET