Pressure grows on Clintons to shut charity foundation
Trump wants foundation shut down over claims Democrat sold access to government
Former president Bill Clinton walks on stage at a Clinton Global Initiative event in New York in 2010. The Clinton Foundation become an Achilles’ heel for Hillary’s presidential campaign. Photograph: Doug Mills/The New York Times
In April 2009, Doug Band, a long-serving aide to former American president Bill Clinton, emailed Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills, two senior staff members to the US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, at the state department, with a “very imp” message.
Chagoury, the Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire construction magnate, is a donor to the Clinton Foundation, the family charity set up by Bill Clinton, contributing between $1 million (€880,000) and $5 million (€4.4 million).
“Its [sic] jeff feltman,” Abedin said in her reply to Band, referring to the former US ambassador to Lebanon. “I’m sure he knows him. I’ll talk to jeff.”
Less than 20 minutes later, Band, who had helped Bill Clinton run the foundation, replied: “Better if you call him. Now preferable. This is very important. He’s awake I’m sure.”
In another email sent that month, Band, who would later set up a New York-based consultancy called Teneo in 2011 with Irish businessman Declan Kelly and Bill Clinton as its chairman, emailed Abedin, Mills and a third aide, Nora Toiv, about a job. The email’s subject line was “a favour”.
“Important to take care of [redacted],” he wrote in the email. (The name of the individual was removed by the state department.)
“We all have had him on our radar,” Abedin replied. “Personnel has been sending him options.”
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The billionaire property developer has accused the Clintons for running a “pay-for- play” scheme for the foundation and making money from granting government access.
On Monday, Trump called for the charity to be shut down describing it – with characteristic hyperbole – as “the most corrupt enterprise in political history”.
Last week, the Boston Globe in an editorial urged the Clintons to close the charity if Hillary Clinton was elected president, a call echoed by the former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania Ed Rendell.
Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta responded to Trump, saying the foundation had “already laid out the unprecedented steps the charity will take if Hillary Clinton becomes president”. The foundation said last week it would no longer accept corporate or foreign donations if she became president and that Bill Clinton would stop delivering paid speeches.
Foreigners and overseas governments have given hundreds of millions to the foundation. The Clintons have defended the charity’s philanthropic work, noting that government grants were made before Hillary Clinton became secretary of state in 2009, but that has not halted the intense scrutiny and a growing chorus of voices are saying that the Clintons need to go further.
“She is not going to lose the election over this, but in the long run the Clinton Foundation is a problem for Hillary, especially as president of the United States, ” said Dan Franklin, associate professor of political science at Georgia State University.
“This business of not taking foreign money is only a half- measure because the president deals with everything. Like with other ‘assets’ that are put into a blind trust, they have got to put the foundation under the direction of somebody else for the duration of her presidency and to have no contact with that person.”
There is likely to be a drip-feed of more revelations about the Clinton Foundation from Mrs Clinton’s emails over the coming months of the election campaign.
It emerged yesterday that the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s private email server found 14,900 emails and documents from when she was secretary of state that had not been disclosed by her lawyers. Clinton had previously handed over 30,000 personal emails to the FBI, claiming that the other emails did not concern State Department business.
A federal court judge directed the State Department to review the documents and determine a timeline for their release and to report back to the District Court for the District of Columbia in a month’s time.
Judicial Watch yesterday released a further 725 pages of State Department records including previously unreleased emails sent and received by Ms Abedin and other Clinton aides showing how Mr Band sought access to Mrs Clinton and help at the State Department for Clinton Foundation donors.
Among the emails the group released is a chain of emails where Mr Band, through the foundation, sought to arrange a meeting for “a good friend of ours”, the Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain, whose kingdom has been a generous supporter of the foundation, with Mrs Clinton in June 2009 when she was secretary of state.
In another email exchange from May 2009, Mr Band asked Ms Abedin to help him arrange a visa through the US embassy in London for members of the Wolverhampton Football Club in UK, one of whom appeared to be having difficulty getting into the US over a visa issue.
Mr Band was acting on behalf of US sports sports entertainment executive Casey Wasserman whose Wasserman Foundation was a donor to the foundation to the tune of between $5 million and $10 million. The football team was at the time planning to travel to Las Vegas for a “celebration break” at the end of the 2008/2009 season.
U2’s lead singer Bono features in the latest Clinton emails. In 2009, a former Bill Clinton aide, Ben Scherwin, sought to help Bono make contact with NASA to arrange a special appearance on the band’s “360” tour that year. (Mr Scherwin also worked for U2 on their Vertigo world tour from 2005 to 2007.)
He wrote in an email to Ms Abedin and Mr Band on May 27th, 2009 with the subject line, “Bono/NASA”: “Bono wants to do a link-up with the international space station on every show during the tour this year. I’m trying to figure out who the best contact is to talk at NASA or the congressional committee on science and technology. Any ideas? Thks.”
“No clue,” Mr Band replied.
“No clue,” Ms Abedin also replied.
The band’s tour that year featured recorded messages from the space station that were played during their shows.
Bono has spoken at the Clinton Global Initiative, the foundation’s annual meeting held at the same time as the UN general assembly in New York every September.
The Clinton campaign insisted again that the foundation had done nothing wrong.
“Once again this right-wing organisation that has been going after the Clintons since the 1990s is distorting facts to make utterly false attacks,” said Clinton campaign spokesman Josh Schwerin in response to latest release from Judicial Watch.
“No matter how this group tries to mischaracterise these documents, the fact remains that Hillary Clinton never took action as secretary of state because of donations to the Clinton Foundation.”