Gilbert Chagoury (left) and Bill Clinton (right) attend a 2005 Pride of Heritage Banquet event in Beverly Hills, California. (Credit: ABC News)
Recently released Huma Abedin emails, from the time she was deputy chief of staff to Clinton, are widely reported in the mainstream media due to some emails that suggest possible conflicts of interest between the State Department and the Clinton Foundation. For instance, in an April 2009 email exchange between Clinton Foundation executive Douglas Band and Abedin, Band sought urgent access for Gilbert Chagoury, a Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire who donated between $1 million and $5 million to the foundation and pledged an additional $1 billion to the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI).
On January 5, 2009, just prior to becoming secretary of state, Clinton wrote in a formal letter to a State Department ethics official: “For the duration of my appointment as Secretary if I am confirmed, I will not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter involving specific parties in which The William J. Clinton Foundation (or the Clinton Global Initiative) is a party or represents a party, unless I am first authorized to participate.” Additionally, a December 2008 memo of understanding was signed between the Obama administration and the Clinton Foundation that also limited how Clinton and her staff could interact with the foundation to avoid conflict of interest problems.
Politico reports that the emails between Abedin and Band regarding Chagoury “is the latest in a succession of emails suggesting Clinton staffers violated the spirit, if not the letter, of the ethics agreement Clinton had signed just months earlier.” “Several ethicists” agree that the emails suggest violations of Clinton’s ethics agreements.
Meredith McGehee (Credit: Twitter)
Meredith McGehee, policy director for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, says that the actual language of the pledge is “not surprisingly, very lawyerly … [and] there is an argument to be made that Clinton herself has not violated what was in the pledge.” But she adds, “Whether she or her aides have violated the spirit of the pledge … yeah, of course they have. The notion of continuing contact between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department — that was not supposed to happen.”
Craig Holman (Credit: public domain)
Craig Holman, who works for Public Citizen, a non-profit, consumer rights advocacy group, says: “The Clinton Foundation was taking money from anybody who would give it, and the biggest contributions were from people who had business before the State Department. They didn’t follow the pledge. … I don’t think anyone in the foundation sought to deliberately violate the pledge, I just don’t think they cared about it.” (Politico, 8/11/2016)