Clintons ‘tried to obtain scholarship to Ireland’ for boyfriend of Chelsea, book claims

Irish politicians made inept and deluded efforts to tap Irish diaspora, Democratic policy adviser says

Former president Bill Clinton and then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton  in November 2016. Photograph: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

Former president Bill Clinton and then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in November 2016. Photograph: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images


A veteran Democratic foreign policy adviser has accused Bill and Hillary Clinton of nepotism, dishonesty and vindictiveness in book relating to the couple’s legcy on Ireland.

Trina Vargo also describes what she sees as inept, deluded and, at times, farcical efforts by Irish politicians and officials to tap the Irish diaspora and potential allies in Washington and Hollywood.

The behind-the-scenes Washington player in Northern Ireland’s peace process, claims the Clintons tried to obtain a scholarship to Ireland for a boyfriend of their daughter, Chelsea, and later cut funding for the scholarship to punish Ms Vargo for backing Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination race.

Ms Vargo makes the allegations in a book, Shenanigans: the US-Ireland Relationship in Uncertain Times, published this week in the run-up to the St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

The book claims successive Irish governments brought a “begging bowl” mentality to Washington by seeking funding for peace process initiatives long past their sell-by date, she said.

They also made clumsy efforts to tap the diaspora, such as creating the “certificate of Irishness”, a scheme scrapped for lack of interest in 2015, and annoyed Latinos and other groups in the United States by unsuccessfully seeking special deals for Irish immigrants. – Guardian

Ms Vargo, who founded the US-Ireland Alliance, a Washington-based nonprofit organisation, shuttled between the US capital, Dublin and Belfast for two decades while advising Sen Ted Kennedy and the Clinton and Obama administrations on Northern Ireland.

Her portrait of the Clintons casts a shadow on a jewel of their foreign policy legacy, alleging pettiness and vengefulness after the historic peace-making of the 1998 Belfast Agreement.

Ms Vargo set up a scholarship named after George Mitchell, a former US senator who helped broker the agreement, in 1999. It sends 12 US students to study in Ireland and Northern Ireland each year.

Ms Vargo writes that in November 2000 Mr Mitchell told her “with some uneasiness” that Bill Clinton, then nearing the end of his time in the White House, had phoned him to say he was “very unhappy” that Chelsea’s boyfriend had not been shortlisted from about 200 candidates despite a recommendation letter from the president.

Mr Mitchell made clear he was not asking for the boyfriend’s inclusion, just seeking clarification. “It would be hard to believe that the timing of the president’s call wasn’t aimed at influencing us to make him a finalist,” writes Ms Vargo.

The boyfriend remained off the shortlist, which Vargo believes put her on a path to joining the Clintons’ “enemies list”.

In 2007, Ms Vargo advised Obama’s campaign on Ireland policy during his battle against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Mrs Clinton challenged her rival’s lack of experience and promoted her role in the peace process as first lady.

Mrs Clinton and her supporters grossly exaggerated her influence, said Ms Vargo. “The tall tales just kept growing – disregard for the truth was not invented, merely taken to new heights, by Donald Trump in the 2016 campaign.”

Ms Vargo helped Obama’s campaign to challenge the former first lady’s version, leading, she believes, to “payback” months later when Bill Clinton cancelled his attendance at a US-Ireland Alliance event in Belfast to celebrate the Belfast Agreement’s 10th anniversary.

There is no proof to back up the claim. An aide told Ms Vargo a scheduling change was behind the decision and declined to elaborate.

In 2012, the US State Department, then under Hillary Clinton, cut its annual $500,000 (€441,577) contribution to the Mitchell scholarship, citing budgetary measures. “The elimination of funding was not about the money,” Ms Vargo writes.

The Guardian has contacted the Clintons for comment. – Guardian