[ I apologize: this is long. I also think it is important: I know this may be a tipping point for me. I hope you’ll read it, and share it.]
Yesterday, I saw this news item from Reuters, one of the few respectable news sources on the U.S. election that has not been distorting and withholding information to tip public opinion one way or the other. I tracked it all day to see whether the mainstream news media would highlight, or even mention it.
Significantly, the information involved came in a post-workday news dump on a Friday, a technique that has become a favorite of the Obama administration, and has been adopted by its party too. If you missed it, in other words, that was the intention.
I’ll bold the most critical points:
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.
If a new foreign government wished to donate or if an existing foreign-government donor, such as Qatar, wanted to “increase materially” its support of ongoing programs, Clinton promised that the State Department’s ethics official would be notified and given a chance to raise any concerns.
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.
Officials at Qatar’s embassy in Washington and in its Council of Ministers in the capital, Doha, declined to discuss the donation.
The State Department has said it has no record of the foundation submitting the Qatar gift for review, and that it was incumbent on the foundation to notify the department about donations that needed attention. A department spokeswoman did not respond to additional questions about the donation.
According to the foundation’s website, which lists donors in broad categories by cumulative amounts donated, Qatar’s government has directly given a total of between $1 million and $5 million over the years.
The Clinton Foundation has said it would no longer accept money from foreign governments if Clinton is elected president and would spin off those programs that are dependent on foreign governments.
Foundation officials told Reuters last year that they did not always comply with central provisions of the agreement with President Barack Obama’s administration, blaming oversights in some cases.(reut.rs/2fkHPCh)
At least eight other countries besides Qatar gave new or increased funding to the foundation, in most cases to fund its health project, without the State Department being informed, according to foundation and agency records. They include Algeria, which gave for the first time in 2010, and the United Kingdom, which nearly tripled its support for the foundation’s health project to $11.2 million between 2009 and 2012.
Foundation officials have said some of those donations, including Algeria, were oversights and should have been flagged, while others, such as the UK increase, did not qualify as material increases.
The foundation has declined to describe what sort of increase in funding by a foreign government would have triggered notification of the State Department for review. Cookstra said the agreement was designed to “allow foreign funding for critical Clinton Foundation programs” to continue without disruption.
The State Department said it has no record of being asked by the foundation to review any increases in support by a foreign government.Asked whether Qatar was funding a specific program at the foundation, Cookstra said the country supported the organization’s “overall humanitarian work.”
“Qatar continued supporting Clinton Foundation at equal or lower levels” compared with the country’s pre-2009 support, he said. He declined to say if Qatar gave any money during the first three years of Clinton’s four-year term at the State Department, or what its support before 2009 amounted to.
In another email released by WikiLeaks, a former Clinton Foundation fundraiser said he raised more than $21 million in connection with Bill Clinton’s 65th birthday in 2011.
Spokesmen for Hillary Clinton’s campaign and Bill Clinton did not respond to emailed questions about the donation.
Now let’s get this out of the way up front: the import and significance of the facts in this story were covered up…by Clinton, by her Foundation, by State, and by the news media.This story was buried in October by the Donald Trump “pussy-grabbing” video, and the news media focused the public’s attention on little else.
Last month, spurred by a Wikileaks leak of another one of Clinton henchman John Podesta’s e-mails, The New York Times wrote about the gift from Qatar. Few other news sources did, and the story was buried among other juicier items in the e-mail dump, but mostly was buried by the Donald Trump “pussy-grabbing” video and its aftermath, which had come out less than a week before.
The news media focused the public’s attention on little else, though the fact that a foreign government sent a million dollars as a gift to the Clinton Foundation in direct breach of Hillary Clinton’s pledge and government ethics rules is by any rational standard far more important. When Mike Pence mentioned the Qatar gift on Meet the Press, saying,
“In exchange for five minutes with Bill Clinton, the government of Qatar was going to give $1 million to the Clinton Foundation.”
The reliably Clinton-defending PolitiFact rushed to “fact-check” him…after all, nobody else had apparently noticed the story. It found Pence’s statement “mostly true,” (it was entirely true) but never clarified whether the check was ever given, saying that State said it had no record of the contribution, that a Clinton Foundation spokesman said it was just a payment on a 2011 pledge, that the gift was on the Foundation’s website, and, ambiguously that the meeting to hand over the check may not have taken place.
(Meanwhile, CNN was telling us that it was illegal for us to read the e-mails, and that only the news media could explain them to us. Did CNN explain or even mention the Qatar gift? No.) The Times, again, the only significant non-“right wing” source to report the story, had it under this misleading headline:
Email About Qatari Offer Shows Thorny Ethical Issues Clinton Foundation Faced
That is spin and deception. The Times frames the story as an ethics dilemma, and believe me, I know that if you want most of your audience to tune out, say that the story is about “ethical issues.” The Times also deceptively makes the focus of the article the e-mail, not the gift. Here is how it began:
In April 2012, representatives from Qatar were apparently hoping to get “five minutes” with former President Bill Clinton while in New York to present him with a $1 million check for his foundation as a birthday gift from the previous year.
While it is unclear whether that meeting ever took place, the offer, mentioned in one of thousands of hacked Clinton campaign emails released by WikiLeaks last week, was an example of the complex ethical issues the Clinton Foundation faced in managing relationships with foreign governments when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. It also raised questions about whether the foundation had fully followed procedures it had voluntarily agreed to in order to avoid those very issues.
So the article is about what officials in a foreign country were “hoping”? Stop the presses! It’s one of thousands of e-mails? Trivia! 2012? Old news! We don’t know if the meeting took place (note that the Times homes in on the meeting, not the payment that was the objective of the meeting)? Why is this important? This is about the issues the Foundation faced? Gee. that would be interesting if we cared about charity management, which we don’t, and nobody I know does!
Then the Times engages in disgraceful equivocation, intentional vagueness and misinformation: “It also raised questions about whether the foundation had fully followed procedures it had voluntarily agreed to in order to avoid those very issues.” This isn’t about foundation procedures; it is about conflicts of interest and the appearance of impropriety at the highest levels of the U.S. government, as well as quid proquo, influence peddling and personal enrichment. The foundation may have “voluntarily” agreed not to accept foreign gifts. but Hillary’s pledge was mandatory: she either agreed, or she wasn’t going to be Secretary of State.
The story was intentionally written to avoid casting any aspersions or suspicion on Hillary Clinton, which is exactly where both belonged. The Qatar check was forgotten within a week; if the Clinton Foundation officially confirmed it, only PolitiFact seems to have known about it. Reuters says “Clinton Foundation officials last month declined to confirm the Qatar donation.” That was my understanding as well: if the Foundation had confirmed the gift in October, why would it confirm it again on Friday?
File the story, then, under “Covered up by the Clintons and the news media.” The device, as it always is with Clinton scandals, is that there are so many complexities, legal, factual and ethical, involved that the public doesn’t have the attention span or sophistication to understand the issues, and the news media doesn’t have the integrity or the competence to make them clear. “Grab them by the pussy,” however, the news media can explain, and enjoy doing it.
Thus the Clintons got the best of both worlds. The fact that the Foundation DID receive a million dollars, in violation of Clinton’s pledge, from a nation that fund terrorism, a gift that constituted an arguably illegal conflict of interest (but inarguably a conflict) and that compromised the integrity of U.S. foreign policy while enriching the family of the secretary of State (indirectly, but undeniably) was blurred and obscured beyond comprehension, AND the story became “old news.”
Brilliant! When I told my intelligent, Democrat, former DOJ lawyer sister about the story, her immediate reaction was, “Wasn’t that another one of the leaked e-mails last month? I though it had been explained.”
If you know what this story means, and how the way it has been handled shows the methodology of deception practiced by the Clintons, then you know, or should know, that it is the proverbial smoking gun:
It shows that Hillary Clinton broke an ethics agreement made under oath, made to Congress and the Obama Administration, as well as the American people.
The spin: It was inadvertent; you can’t say she lied because she made the pledge sincerely; it’s not her fault if her family Foundation “made a mistake”; they honestly didn’t think the Qatar gift fell under the pledge.
The reality: The exception was for continuing support of ongoing programs, which means such pledges related to a specific program. I was an organization capital fundraiser for more than a decade. This distinction is Non-profit Fundraising 101. When the foundation says the million dollars “supported the organization’s “overall humanitarian work,” that is an admission that it did not fall under the exception. Moreover, we know it was <cough> a “birthday present” for Bill Clinton’s birthday. That makes it a gift to the husband of the Secretary of State. I have noted before that gifts to charities on behalf of officials are a loophole for bribery and unethical; when the gift is to a foundation that pays for luxury flights, hotels, meals, networking opportunities and more for the official (or the official’s family), the unethical nature of the transaction is blatant.
The gift shows that the Clinton Foundation was ( and is) influence peddling to enrich itself and the Clintons personally.
The spin: There is no evidence that any policy decision was influenced by the Qatar gift or any of the gifts.
The reality: That isn’t the standard. Allowing an individual, a nation or a corporation to give a gift that that benefits a high government official or his or her family in any way is influence peddling by definition. Why would Qatar give a million dollars “for Bill Clinton’s birthday”? It is in the hope that it will receive special considerations, including access—a chance to argue for policy or support. This is what constitutes a conflict of interest. An official doesn’t have to act according to the conflict: the ethics violation is that the conflict is allowed to exists\ at all. Government lawyers know this very well, and so do Bill and Hillary Clinton. The public doesn’t understand, and the news media keeps it that way.
Clinton and the Foundation intentionally hid the gifts from State and the public, then lied about why.
The spin: 1) Oh, no, it was just an oversight 2) The $1,000,000 was nothing to Qatar, so what’s the big deal? 3) The Foundation really did think it came under the exception.
The reality: If you have a friend who seriously argues this, see if you can send them to a deprogrammer. Naturally the Clintons didn’t want the Qatar gift reported to State, where it was going to be immediately recognized as a breach of the agreement. So it conveniently “forgot” to report it, just as Hillary “forgot” that it was a breach of government security to handle classified information on her personal server. How often can a fair, honest person buy the same excuse of negligence and incompetence while simultaneously defending that same individual as having impeccable judgment and keen skills? Moreover, as I already noted, there is no way to argue honestly that a 1 million dollar birthday gift for general operations qualifies as ongoing support for a specific program. It isn’t, they all know it isn’t, and they all know that the public can be fooled on the matter. So that’s what they set out to do.
It shows, one again, that Hillary Clinton, like Bill, believes that she is not subject to the rules and laws that everyone else is, and that she will get away with violating laws, rules, policies and ethical principles, because she always has.
Spin: The spin is that she should get away with these violations because she’s Hillary Clinton (Rationalization: The King’s Pass), because other leaders and politicians get away with them (Rationalization: Everybody Does It), or because the ends justify the means. In a jaw-dropping piece for Vox, Matt Yglesias, continuing his recent Bizarro Ethics theme that nothing that isn’t indicted or indictable is “wrong,” had this explanation for Hillary violating her own department’s policy regarding e-mail:
“This violated an internal State Department policy directive, known as a Foreign Affairs Manual, which stated that while it was okay to use personal digital devices to do work occasionally, “normal day-to-day operations” should be conducted on standard State Department equipment. Clinton chose to ignore this guideline and because she was the boss nobody could stop her. Career foreign service officers and other State personnel have every right to be peeved that Clinton opted out of an annoying policy rather than fixing the underlying issue, but it’s hardly a matter of overwhelming public concern.”
Reality: Matt, should he be hit by a bus, should have his brain studied to see what produced thought patterns like that. Maybe he’s never led an organization in his life. Maybe he knows absolutely nothing about how leadership works. Maybe he is an idiot. But when leaders feel that their position allows them to ignore their own organization’s policies and rules because, after all, who’s going to stop them, it is a huge public concern. Richard Nixon told David Frost that when the President does something, it can’t be illegal. This is how both Clintons think. This episode (and others) prove it. Democrats were one horrified at that pronouncement. Now they support it. If you support Hillary Clinton, you are supporting it. The Rule of Law does not apply to the powerful.
So there you have it, my friends: a story that proves Hillary Clinton lied to Congress and the Obama Administration, allowed an entity she controlled to accepted a million dollar gift to her family Foundation that would benefit members of her family and compromise the integrity of her office and her government, allowed that fact to be hidden from the public and the State Department, allowed her subordinates to lied about it and avoid transparency until the last possible moment, and had all of this facilitated by the news media….all of which indicating that this potential President does not accept the principle that leaders model law-abiding behavior for society, and must be exemplars. Instead, she and her husband, as their entire careers show, believe that they are above the law, and now have a large, complicit following that agree with them.
This is not a double standard being applied to Hillary Clinton. I’ve checked: No Secretary of State ever engaged in anything like this. The recent popular and cynical rationalization (“All politicians lie and she’s no worse than the rest”) being used by Hillary enablers is not applicable, even it if it were not already demonstrably false. Nor can anyone claim that it is a “right wing story.” This is a corruption story, and only being reported predominantly in the conservative press because the mainstream media has betrayed its duty to democracy. Nor is it trivial.
A politician who would willfully use the position of Secretary of State to enrich her family by holding out the promise of access and favors is a danger to the nation, and that is not a partisan conclusion. Hillary Clinton has proven that she is such a politician, and that is fact.