May 5, 2015: The controversial book “Clinton Cash” is published, criticizing the Clinton Foundation.

The book, Clinton Cash (Credit: public domain)

The book, Clinton Cash (Credit: public domain)

The book Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich, written by Peter Schweizer, is published by HarperCollins. The book is highly critical of the Clinton Foundation, and is released within one month of Clinton announcing her candidacy in the 2016 presidential election. In November 2016, it will be revealed that the book is a major reason why the FBI starts an investigation into the foundation a short time after its publication.

The book causes controversy even before it is published, due to major media outlets, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Fox News, getting exclusive stories based on different portions of the book. The Times at least says they didn’t pay anyone for their exclusives. (The New York Times, 4/23/2015)

The foundation also publicly admits that it made mistakes, due to a wave of negative reporting, with many stories based on the books’ contents.

The day the book is published, Clinton’s campaign posts a section its official website attempting to refute the book’s claims. Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta, writes: “The book has zero evidence to back up its outlandish claims… While we will not be consumed by these kinds of attacks, we will also not let them go unchallenged.” (The New York Times, 5/4/2015)

The book is widely read, staying five weeks on the New York Times’ best seller list. (The New York Times, 6/21/2015)

Peter Schweizer (Credit: clintoncashdotcom)

Peter Schweizer (Credit: clintoncashdotcom)

Much of the criticism of the book is based on the reputation and motives of its author. Schweizer is the president of the Government Accountability Institute, a right wing think tank, and was a research fellow at Stanford University’s right wing Hoover Institution. He is also a senior editor-at-large for Breitbart News, a controversial right wing news website so supportive of Donald Trump, the man who will become Clinton’s main opponent in the 2016 presidential election, that Stephen Bannon, the executive chair of Breitbart News, will resign in August 2016 to become the CEO of Trump’s campaign. (The New York Times, 8/18/2016)

Schweizer has written many books, most of them with an overt right wing political slant, such as Do as I Say (Not as I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy, published in 2005.

Shortly after the book is published, the publisher announces that “seven to eight factual corrections” have been made to a revised version, calling them “actually quite minor.” (Politico, 5/14/2015)

A Newsweek review of the book comments, [J]ust because the book’s author, who has written for Breitbart News, is widely considered a right-wing guttersnipe… doesn’t mean he’s wrong. Well, at least not entirely wrong. He gets various dates and figures wrong… Mostly, though, it raises intriguing questions without ever really convicting.”

Newsweek continues, “The book contains many more lurid examples of Bill and Hillary [Clinton] doing things that look bad—from Bill taking juicy speaking fees from a major investor in the Keystone XL pipeline while Hillary’s state department reviewed the pipeline deal, to the Clinton Foundation accepting donations from a Swedish mining investor who more or less financed a coup in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. None of these actions are illegal. And it’s not even clear if they’re related. The rooster doesn’t cause the sun to rise, but this is the thrust of Schweizer’s argument. He never proves any laws were broken—in fact, he practically begins the book by hedging his accusations: ‘I realize how shocking these allegations may appear. Are these activities illegal? That’s not for me to say. I’m not a lawyer.'” (Newsweek, 5/1/2015)

Before February 2016: The FBI’s Clinton Foundation investigation gains evidence from at least two confidential informants involved in other investigations.

Peter Schweizer (Credit: public domain)

In February 2016, there is a key meeting between FBI and Justice Department officials about the direction of the FBI’s Clinton Foundation investigation. The investigation began in the summer of 2015, following the publication of the book Clinton Cash by conservative author Peter Schweizer.

At first, the investigation mostly focused on the allegations against the foundation in the book. But the Wall Street Journal will report that by the time of the February 2016 meeting, “Within the FBI, some felt they had moved well beyond the allegations made in the anti-Clinton book. At least two confidential informants from other public-corruption investigations had provided details about the Clinton Foundation to the FBI, these people said.”

The Journal will report, “The FBI had secretly recorded conversations of a suspect in a public-corruption case talking about alleged deals the Clintons made… The agents listening to the recordings couldn’t tell from the conversations if what the suspect was describing was accurate, but it was, they thought, worth checking out.”

However, prosecutors in the Justice Department think “the talk was hearsay and a weak basis to warrant aggressive tactics, like presenting evidence to a grand jury, because the person who was secretly recorded wasn’t inside the Clinton Foundation.” This causes some FBI agents to grow increasingly frustrated with resistance from the Justice Department as well as some leaders in the FBI.

In the February 2016 meeting, the Justice Department will turn down a request from the FBI investigation for grand jury backing. Without it, they can’t gather evidence using subpoenas or search warrants. But the investigation will continue without those legal powers. (The Wall Street Journal, 11/2/2016)

After February 2016: Justice Department officials allegedly tell FBI agents investigating the Clinton Foundation to “stand down,” to no effect.

The Wall Street Journal Logo (Credit: public domain)

The Wall Street Journal Logo (Credit: public domain)

In February 2016, there is a key meeting between the FBI and Justice Department to determine the fate and direction of the FBI’s Clinton Foundation investigation. The FBI wanted more investigative power to intensify their investigation, but the Justice Department refused to give it, claiming their case is weak.

The Wall Street Journal will later report that after this meeting, “Justice Department officials became increasingly frustrated that the [FBI] agents seemed to be disregarding or disobeying their instructions. Following the February meeting, officials at Justice Department headquarters sent a message to all the offices involved to ‘stand down,’ a person familiar with the matter said.”

The Journal will explain that this means to “proceed more overtly” and “act discreetly,” due to the sensitivities of conducting an investigation into the foundation closely linked to Hillary Clinton, who is a major Democratic candidate in the 2016 presidential election, while the election is in full swing.

However, the investigation will continue as before, though still without the additional powers only the Justice Department can grant. (The Wall Street Journal, 11/2/2016)

February 2016—Early November 2016: It is alleged that a US attorney has increased tensions between the FBI and Justice Department over the FBI’s Clinton Foundation investigation.

On November 2, 2016, the Wall Street Journal will report, “Starting in February [2016] and continuing today, investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and public-corruption prosecutors [at the Justice Department] became increasingly frustrated with each other, as often happens within and between departments. At the center of the tension stood [the US attorney for the Eastern District of New York], Robert Capers, who some at the FBI came to view as exacerbating the problems by telling each side what it wanted to hear…”

Robert Capers (Credit: public domain)

Robert Capers (Credit: public domain)

In February 2016, there is a key meeting in which FBI investigators presented their evidence to Justice Department officials, hoping to be granted additional powers so they could conduct a more vigorous investigation. But the department officials turned them down, claiming that their case was weak.

The stances in the FBI and Justice Department would essentially remain unchanged through late October 2016, when the conflict would erupt into public view due to a series of leaks.

The Journal will report, “At times, people on both sides of the dispute thought Mr. Capers agreed with them. Defenders of Mr. Capers said he was straightforward and always told people he thought the case wasn’t strong. … In subsequent conversations with the Justice Department, Mr. Capers told officials in Washington that the FBI agents on the case ‘won’t let it go…'”

However, Capers is not the only official singled out for blame in public leaks. The Journal will also report that “some have blamed the FBI’s No. 2 official, Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, claiming he sought to stop agents from pursuing the case this summer. His defenders deny that, and say it was the Justice Department that kept pushing back on the investigation.” McCabe has been criticized for a conflict of interest that could make him biased in favor of the foundation, but he has refused to recuse himself from the foundation investigation.

In August 2016, the FBI and Justice Department agree to delay major decisions in the investigation until after the presidential election on November 8, 2016. However, multiple leaks to the media show that tensions remain high in the conflict. (The Wall Street Journal, 11/2/2016)

Mid-July 2016—August 2016: FBI and Justice Department officials agree to wait until after the 2016 presidential election to decide the next steps in the FBI’s Clinton Foundation investigation.

According to a November 2016 New York Times article, senior FBI and Justice Department officials have a series of meetings over what to do regarding the FBI’s Clinton Foundation investigation, which has been in existence since the summer of 2015, but lacks the grand jury authority that would give it subpoena power. The Times will report, “The investigation, based in New York, had not developed much evidence and was based mostly on information that had surfaced in news stories and the book ‘Clinton Cash,’ according to several law enforcement officials briefed on the case.”

These officials “agreed that making the Clinton Foundation investigation public could influence the presidential race and suggest they were favoring [Republican presidential nominee Donald] Trump. But waiting, they acknowledged, could open them up to criticism from Republicans, who were demanding an investigation. They agreed to keep the case open but wait until after the election to determine their next steps. The move infuriated some agents, who thought that the FBI’s leaders were reining them in because of politics.” (The New York Times, 11/1/2016)

A CNN article published shortly after the Times article will quote an unnamed law enforcement official familiar with the meetings as saying, “It’s just a (message of) ‘hold right now until after the elections — no subpoenas issued, no interviews.'” Although the Times says the meetings happen in August 2016, CNN says the decision to wait is made in a mid-July 2016 meeting. (CNN, 11/2/2016)

During this time frame, on August 12, 2016, a Justice Department official unsuccessfully attempts to shut down the investigation.

November 4, 2016: A majority of voters think Clinton acted illegally.

A photo capture from the poll indicates Clinton’s unfavorable ratings are unchanged from September to November, 2016. (Credit: McClatchy-Marist Poll)

Four days before the 2016 US presidential election, a majority of voters believe Clinton has done something illegal with her email controversy and/or Clinton Foundation, according to a McClatchy-Marist Poll. Eighty-three percent of likely voters believe she did something wrong, with 51 percent saying she did something illegal and 32 percent saying she something unethical but not illegal. Only 14 percent say she’s done nothing wrong.

Her main opponent, Republican nominee Donald Trump, has also been beset by scandals and controversies. Seventy-nine percent think Trump did something wrong. Just 26 percent think he’s done something illegal, while 53 percent think he’s done something unethical but not illegal. Only 17 percent think he’s done nothing wrong.

McClatchy Newpapers comments, “The deep suspicion of Clinton is likely a top reason she’s lost much of her lead and the race for the White House has tightened in the race’s closing days.” According to the poll, Clinton is only ahead by one point, 44 percent to 43 percent.

Both candidates are widely disliked. Clinton has an unfavorable rating of 57 percent and Trump has an unfavorable-favorable rating of 61 percent. Both numbers are unprecedented in the history of presidential polling this close to Election Day. (McClatchy Newspapers, 11/4/2016)