Several weeks ago, I wrote a column titled “Is Bill Clinton in the FBI crosshairs?” That question appears to be increasingly relevant because of the emergence of another, more central one:
Was Hillary Clinton’s unsecure, private email server set up by her husband’s top political operative in order to turbocharge their own political and financial interests?
Justin Cooper may hold the answer.
Mr. Cooper is a central player in the shadowy worlds of Bill and Hillary Clinton — serving as Mr. Clinton’s top aide since 2015, when his predecessor, former right-hand man and “surrogate son” Doug Band, resigned from the Clinton Foundation — yet he has largely escaped notice.
The obscure Mr. Cooper may, in fact, be the linchpin of the case swirling around the Clintons. Perhaps more than anyone apart from the principals themselves, he is at the nexus of the Clinton Foundation, Hillary’s work at the State Department, and her possession of highly sensitive government documents. After all, Mr. Cooper was the one who, before she became secretary, negotiated with the Obama White House over the parameters of acceptable conduct by Bill Clinton and the foundation to minimize the possibility of “conflicts of interest.”
I have previously reported that the server in question actually belonged to, was paid for and was housed by Mr. Clinton, raising questions about his possible legal exposure. Now it appears that it wasn’t just his server, but his team and their co-motive: to leverage Mrs. Clinton’s position as secretary to expand their contacts and raise ever more exorbitant amounts of money for their foundation.
Recall that the FBI probe is proceeding along multiple tracks. The one involving her possible mishandling of classified material is the “what” part of the equation.
Far more important, however, is the “why.” Why did she have these documents on their unsecure, private server in the first place? What was the motive for receiving and sending so many of them, deleting more than 30,000 more and changing her story several times about their nature?
Motive is the key. That brings us to another part of the investigation: possible violations of public corruption laws in the co-mingling of Clinton Foundation work with her duties at the State Department.
Enter Mr. Cooper.
The server for her private domain name, ClintonEmail.com, and the foundation-run PresidentClinton.com shared an email network and a physical location in New York while she was secretary, both under Mr. Clinton’s auspices. It was Mr. Cooper who, according to archived Internet records, registered both ClintonEmail.com and PresidentClinton.com, which was used by top Clinton Foundation personnel.
Mr. Cooper served as a coordinator between the overlapping worlds of Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Clinton and the foundation. He is a top fundraiser for the Clinton Foundation. He is also a senior adviser to Teneo, founded by Mr. Band and whose clients — such as Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical and Bank of America — certainly gained access to the former president, the secretary of state and their vast international network. At one point, Mr. Clinton was given a contract with Teneo for his rainmaking efforts worth $3.5 million.
Teneo’s dealings have been shrouded in secrecy, perhaps because it appears to have served as a feeder fund for the Clinton Foundation. Among the Clinton loyalists employed by Teneo: Mrs. Clinton closest aide, Huma Abedin, who served as a Teneo “senior adviser” while she was also employed by Mrs. Clinton’s State Department, the Clinton Foundation and Mrs. Clinton personally; six former State Department officials, including her former economic envoy to Northern Ireland, Declan Kelly; and Mr. Cooper, whose bio, before it was scrubbed from Teneo’s website, noted, “In addition to his role with Teneo, Mr. Cooper serves as Senior Advisor to President William J. Clinton ” and “assists in operating the Clinton Foundation, Clinton Global Initiative and the Clinton Family Foundation.”
As investigator Charles Ortel has put it, “Lightly regulated and opaque businesses such as the Foundation and Teneo are perfect vehicles through which government influence can be monetized. Overlay secretive ‘members only’ conclaves such as Clinton Global Initiative gatherings and you can hide corruption in the guise of charity.”
In an interview last year on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mrs. Clinton denied communicating with the foundation while at State. “Other people in the State Department did,” she said, “in accordance with the rules that had been adopted [per Mr. Cooper’s arrangement with the Obama administration].” But according to an Oct. 28, 2009 email, Mrs. Clinton wrote longtime adviser Sidney Blumenthal and copied Mssrs. Band and Cooper at the foundation. I suspect the email’s content is of interest to the FBI.
If she mixed State Department and foundation work, perhaps Mr. Clinton was also trying to work around the deal struck by Mr. Cooper to raise requests with State to do sleazy but lucrative speaking engagements in unsavory places such as North Korea and Congo (requests which State ultimately denied).
A source familiar with Mr. Cooper’s arrangement with the Clintons tells me that they have paid his legal fees associated with the FBI investigation, amounting to “hundreds of thousands of dollars.” They aren’t paying those costs out of a sense of decency. They’re paying them because he knows the “why” of the server, which may very well have been to make it easier for the foundation to hustle big donations.
• Monica Crowley is editor of online opinion at The Washington Times.
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