Contrary to what has been reported in The New York Times, the Clinton Foundation never agreed to stop raising money from foreign governments while Hillary was secretary of state. Money from foreign governments should have been off-limits. It risks the appearance that American foreign policy is up for sale. Her refusal to accept any limits on foreign fundraising in 2009, even when senators pressed her, red flagged what the Clintons intended to do. Her own words are damning.
During Hillary’s confirmation hearing on Jan. 13, 2009, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — Democrats and Republicans both — warned about this risk.
But Hillary stonewalled them. She had already worked out an agreement with President-elect Obama’s transition team, and she refused to change it in any way. The agreement imposed no limits on who could give — including foreign governments — or how much. If the State Department or the White House had concerns about a proposed gift, the Clinton Foundation would listen, the agreement said. But the foundation, not the White House or State Department ethics officers, would have the final say. This agreement wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on. It protected the foundation from government meddling, but didn’t protect the nation.
The senators could see that, and made dire predictions during the hearing. Those predictions may be coming true. If so, the senators are to blame, not just Hillary. Despite their fears, they fawned over her that day, and rubber-stamped her 16-1. Only Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana voted “nay.”
As a courtesy, presidents generally get their way on Cabinet picks. Only two nominees have been turned down since World War II. But the senators who confirmed Hillary that day, without extracting any meaningful limits on fundraising from foreign countries and other foreign donors, failed us.
At the 2009 hearing, Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana methodically questioned Hillary about her loophole-ridden “Memorandum of Understanding ” (signed by Valerie Jarrett and a foundation representative.) Mr. Lugar hammered that “the Clinton Foundation exists as a temptation for any foreign entity or government that believes it could curry favor through a donation.”
Mr. Lugar requested that Hillary tighten up the agreement: “I believe that contributions from foreign companies and individuals have the potential to raise appearances of conflicts of interest that are as serious as those raised by contributions from foreign governments.”
Hillary responded: “The agreement as written already goes far beyond what any spouse of a Cabinet official has ever done .” Well, duh. No other Cabinet nominee in American history was the wife of a former president, elected to the Senate, a presidential candidate herself and a nominee for secretary of state.
Mr. Lugar also asked if the agreement could be amended to disclose the timing of gifts, the amounts and future pledges, not just donors’ names.
Again, Hillary doubled down: “The agreement already goes far beyond what any spouse of a Cabinet official has ever done.”
Shockingly, Hillary made it clear that if any concerns were raised by the Obama White House or the State Department about foundation fundraising, the foundation would be the arbiter of what’s “appropriate,” not the U.S. government. “In many, if not most cases, it is likely that the foundation or President Clinton will not pursue an opportunity that presents a conflict.”
Translating that gibberish: It will depend on the amount of money being dangled in front of the ex-president. If the amount is large enough, national interest be damned.
Mr. Vitter took a turn at questioning Hillary, raising concerns about foreign individuals and companies — not just countries — donating to the foundation. Mr. Vitter cited one foundation donor who was tangled in a web of connections with Iranian terrorism. One partner of the donor had been named by the Treasury two days earlier as “a terrorist entity” and another partner, Bank Melli “had long been thought to be a procurement front for the Iranian nuclear program.”
Mrs. Clinton regurgitated the stock answer: “Well again, this is an agreement that has been worked out between all of the parties and the fact is that the concerns that were raised in the discussions between the foundation and the president-elect’s team were thoroughly discussed .”
After all the questions were raised and not answered, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee adjourned.
Hillary had red flagged what she intended to do.
• Betsy McCaughey is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Analysis.
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