January 15, 2009: The Clinton Foundation releases its list of donors for the first time.

Victor Dahdaleh (Credit: Leon Neal / Agence France Presse / Getty Images)

Victor Dahdaleh (Credit: Leon Neal / Agence France Presse / Getty Images)

The foundation is not legally obliged to do so, but there is political pressure, with this being the first day of Hillary Clinton’s Senate confirmation hearing for her to become the next secretary of state.

The list shows that over 200,000 donors gave at least $492 million dollars since the foundation was founded in 1997. Exact contribution amounts are unknown because the list only gives ranges. At least $46 million comes directly from foreign governments such as Saudi Arabia. The foundation promises to reveal all future donors on a yearly basis, and new foreign government donations will be scrutinized by “government ethics officers.” Some donations come from sources that could lead to controversy or conflicts of interest.

For instance, the Blackwater security firm donated between $10,001 to $25,000. The Associated Press notes the company is “at risk of losing its lucrative government contract to protect US diplomats in Iraq.”

The Internet company Yahoo, as well as its top executives Jerry Yang, Frank Biondi, and Terry Semel donated as well. The Associated Press comments that the company has been “involved in disputes over surrendering Internet information to Chinese authorities that led to the imprisonment of dissidents there.”

Also, Victor Dahdaleh gave between $1 million to $5 million. He is a Canadian investor involved in aluminum production. He has been sued for fraud and bribery by a Bahrain aluminum company, and the Justice Department opened a criminal investigation about it. (The Associated Press, 1/18/2009) Dahdaleh will be acquitted in the legal case in 2013. But he will be implicated in a different financial scandal in 2016. (Yahoo Finance, 5/25/2016)

January 15, 2009: Limits are placed on Clinton Global Initiative while Hillary Clinton is secretary of state.

Bill Clinton appears with Brad Pitt at the fifth annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative on September 24, 2009. (Credit: Anthony Dixon/ World Entertainment News Daily)

Bill Clinton appears with Brad Pitt at the fifth annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative on September 24, 2009. (Credit: Anthony Dixon/ World Entertainment News Daily)

Under pressure from the White House to avoid a conflict of interest with Hillary Clinton’s new position as secretary of state, former US President Bill Clinton agrees to step away from direct involvement in the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), a yearly fundraising conference. He will continue serving as CGI’s chairperson, but will not solicit money or sponsorships. Additionally, CGI will cease accepting foreign contributions and will not host events outside the US. (The Associated Press, 1/18/2009)

May 2010: The Associated Press files the first FOIA request for Clinton’s communications.

FOIA Logo (US Dept. of Justice)

FOIA Logo (US Dept. of Justice)

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request is apparently for Clinton’s schedules, not her emails. In March 2015, it will be reported the request still had not be fulfilled, causing the Associated Press to finally sue to force the issue. (The New York Times, 3/3/2015) (The Associated Press, 3/11/2015)

March 11, 2015: The Associated Press sues the State Department to force the release of Clinton’s documents that the department has failed to turn over.

The Associated Press made various Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests long before the Clinton email scandal became publicly known. In some cases, the requests were made five years earlier, as far back as May 2010, and still hadn’t been fulfilled. The requests don’t involve emails but are mostly for Clinton’s calendars and schedules. (The Associated Press, 3/11/2015) (The Associated Press, 8/7/2015) (The New York Times, 3/3/2015)

The Associated Press will finally get some of the documents in July 2016.  (The Associated Press, 6/24/2016)

January 7, 2016: The State Department’s internal watchdog slams the department’s FOIA process.

The State Department’s inspector general Steve Linick issues a report claiming that the department “repeatedly provided inadequate and inaccurate responses to Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] requests involving top agency officials, including a misleading answer to a request three years ago seeking information on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email use.”

Politico states the new report also points to “a series of failures in the procedures the office of the secretary used to respond to public records requests, including a lack of written policies and training, as well as inconsistent oversight by senior personnel.”

According to the report, “These procedural weaknesses, coupled with the lack of oversight by leadership and failure to routinely search emails, appear to contribute to inaccurate and incomplete responses.”

CREW's Logo (Credit: CREW)

CREW’s Logo (Credit: CREW)

One important flawed department response was a letter sent to the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) in May 2013 after the organization asked for details on email accounts used by Clinton. State’s response to CREW was, “no records responsive to your request were located.” The report says the inspector general’s office “found evidence that [Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills] was informed of the request at the time it was received and subsequently tasked staff to follow up.” However, according to the report, none of those officials appear to have reviewed the results of the search done in the department’s files, and there was “no evidence” that those staffers who did the search and responded to CREW knew about Clinton’s private email setup.  CREW followed up last year by saying it never received any final response to its FOIA request.

The AP Logo (Credit: The Associated Press)

The AP Logo (Credit: The Associated Press)

Other flaws pointed out by the inspector general’s report include extreme delays in other cases, such as an Associated Press FOIA request for Clinton’s schedules that was pending without substantive response for five years.

Politico also filed a FOIA request for legal and ethics reviews of former President Bill Clinton’s paid speeches. That request was pending for four years before the department began producing records.

The Gawker Logo (Credit: Gawker Media)

Another failed response involved a Gawker request for emails that former Clinton adviser Philippe Reines exchanged with 34 news organizations. Politico reports “that request initially received a “no records” response from [the] State [Department], even though State has now found 81,000 potentially responsive emails in its official files. At a court hearing last month, a government lawyer would not concede that the no-records response was inadequate.” (Politico, 1/7/2016)

 

April 12, 2016: President Obama is criticized for his recent comments about Clinton’s email scandal.

Peter Henning (Credit: public domain)

Peter Henning (Credit: public domain)

According to the Associated Press, “The White House [is] under pressure to reconcile… asserting Obama’s public defense of Clinton was not an attempt to meddle in an ongoing probe and [his claim] that federal investigators will not be swayed by the boss’ views.” There is “growing criticism that Obama had put his finger on the scale with recent comments describing Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state as mere ‘carelessness.’ […] The White House routinely dodges questions about ongoing Justice Department investigations, saying it does not want to appear to be trying to influence the outcome. Obama’s [comment] seems to cast aside some of that caution in favor of defending a political ally and former administration official.”

Peter Henning, a law professor and a former federal prosecutor, says, “It does raise concerns for prosecutors. If it’s a close case, how am I to judge whether to pursue charges when the president has said he doesn’t think there’s anything there? I don’t think it will prejudice any decision but it certainly gives the appearance of that.” (The Associated Press, 4/12/2016)

June 24, 2016: Clinton’s official calendar omits dozens of meetings with donors and other outside interests.

A sample of a meeting with donors and loyalists that were omitted from Clinton’s official calendar. (Credit: The Associated Press)

In August 2013, the Associated Press (AP) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for Clinton’s calendar and schedules from the State Department. After years of delays and denials, AP recently got about one-third of Clinton’s planning schedules from when she was secretary of state, and will be getting more.

A comparison of the planning schedules with Clinton’s 1,500-page official calendar shows “at least 75 meetings with longtime political donors, Clinton Foundation contributors, and corporate and other outside interests that were not recorded,” or for which the names of those she met were omitted. At least 114 outsiders attended these meetings. Only seven meetings were replaced on the calendar by other events, while more than sixty meetings were either omitted entirely or described briefly as “private meetings” without mention of who attended. The missing meetings involve “private dinners and meetings with political donors, policy sessions with groups of corporate leaders, and ‘drop-bys’ with old Clinton campaign hands and advisers.”

For instance, meetings with controversial Clinton confidant Sid Blumenthal are not mentioned, nor are meetings with billionaire Haim Saban, a major donor to Clinton’s political campaigns who also has given at least $5 million to the Clinton Foundation. A Clinton spokesperson says this merely shows that some records are more detailed than others. But AP points out that on the same days the names of donors Clinton meets with are omitted, the names of all the participants in other meetings are given.

Five former State Department logistics officials say that some previous secretaries of state omitted some details from their official calendars, but only for special occasions, such as medical appointments, and not meetings with donors or political interests. It is not known who edited Clinton’s official calendar. It also does not appear any federal laws were broken, although there are department rules against altering or deleting information.

Danielle Brian, executive director of the nonpartisan watchdog group the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), comments: “It’s clear that any outside influence needs to be clearly identified in some way to at least guarantee transparency. That didn’t happen. These discrepancies are striking because of her possible interest at the time in running for the presidency.” (The Associated Press, 6/24/2016)

June 28, 2016: A federal judge accuses the State Department of running out the clock on a FOIA lawsuit to politically protect Clinton.

US District Judge Richard Leon (Credit: public domain)

US District Judge Richard Leon (Credit: public domain)

In 2010, military contractor BAE Systems pled guilty to violating US arms export control laws and regulations, and paid a $400 million fine to the US government. Then in 2011, it settled a civil suit on the same issue, paying an additional $69 million fine, but maintaining the right to receive US government contracts and export licenses. In August 2013, the Associated Press filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to learn more about what many call a “sweetheart deal,” and Clinton’s possible role in it as secretary of state. In March 2015, that turned into a FOIA lawsuit after the State Department only turned over three documents out of 13,000 pages responsive to the request.

On June 28, 2016, US District Court Judge Richard Leon says that the department’s recent assertion that it will take until mid-October 2016 to hand over the document is a non-starter due to the proximity to the November 8, 2016 general election. He says: “This case has been dragging on for a long time […] We’re now reaching a point of mounting frustration that this is a project where State is running out the clock. There’s no way I’m ever going to grant you an extension to mid-October because that would effectively run out the clock.” Leon wants to not only get the documents released before the election, but also to have them released by early September 2016 so there is time to litigate whether the department’s redactions are legally justified. He openly threatens penalties on the State Department and other departments if they don’t speed up working together to release the documents. (Politico, 6/28/2016)

 

August 23, 2016: US officials believe hackers have been targeting the New York Times and other US news outlets, and the Russian government might be responsible.

Cyber attacks on such media organizations have been “detected in recent months,” and are being investigated by the FBI and other US agencies. CNN reports, “Investigators so far believe that Russian intelligence is likely behind the attacks and that Russian hackers are targeting news organizations as part of a broader series of hacks that also have focused on Democratic Party organizations,” according to unnamed US officials.

Little has been publicly revealed about the media attacks except for the attacks on the New York Times. The Times says their email services are outsourced to Google and they have no evidence that their computer networks have been compromised. CNN claims that individual reporters have been targeted, not entire networks, but it is unclear how many were targeted or how many had their email accounts breached.

CNN further reports, “US intelligence officials believe the picture emerging from the series of recent intrusions is that Russian spy agencies are using a wave of cyber attacks, including against think-tanks in Washington, to gather intelligence from a broad array of non-governmental organizations with windows into the US political system. News organizations are considered top targets because they can yield valuable intelligence on reporter contacts in the government, as well as communications and unpublished works with sensitive information…” (CNN, 8/23/2016)

The Associated Press is less definitive about who might be responsible, saying that an unnamed US official claims the FBI is looking into whether Russian intelligence agencies are responsible for the hacking attempts. (The Associated Press, 8/23/2016)

August 24, 2016: Half of the private citizens who met with Clinton while she was secretary of state donated to the Clinton Foundation.

160824DoughNationNYPost

New York Post cover on August 24, 2016. (Credit: New York Post)

The Associated Press publishes an article based on an analysis of Clinton’s schedule while she was secretary of state. The article begins: “More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money – either personally or through companies or groups – to the Clinton Foundation. It’s an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president. At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to the Associated Press. Combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million. At least 40 donated more than $100,000 each, and 20 gave more than $1 million.”

The analysis doesn’t include US or foreign government officials. The Associated Press notes that “Clinton met with representatives of at least 16 foreign governments that donated as much as $170 million to the Clinton charity, but they were not included in AP’s calculations because such meetings would presumably have been part of her diplomatic duties.” Furthermore, three years ago, the Associated Press filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit for Clinton’s daily schedules and so far has only received full data for the first two years of Clinton’s four years as secretary of state. Thus, only those two years were analyzed.

The Associated Press comments: “The meetings between the Democratic presidential nominee and foundation donors do not appear to violate legal agreements Clinton and former president Bill Clinton signed before she joined the State Department in 2009. But the frequency of the overlaps shows the intermingling of access and donations, and fuels perceptions that giving the foundation money was a price of admission for face time with Clinton.”

Clinton spokesperson Brian Fallon complains that the article is unfair, saying, “It is outrageous to misrepresent Secretary Clinton’s basis for meeting with these individuals.” He also calls it “a distorted portrayal of how often she crossed paths with individuals connected to charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation.”

160824Montage

Pictured from left to right Daniel Abraham (Credit: public domain), Muhammad Yunas (Credit: public domain), Stephen Schwarzman (Credit: public domain), Nancy Mahon (Credit: Imeh Akpanudosen / Getty Images)

The article cites several examples of Clinton Foundation donors whom Clinton met with, including:

  • Daniel Abraham, a billionaire behind the Slim-Fast diet and founder of the Center for Middle East Peace.
  • Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi economist who won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for his work with microcredit loans for poor business owners. Despite his positive reputation, at the time Clinton met with him, it was known he was under investigation by the Bangladeshi government for diverting tens of millions of donated dollars, and he was ultimately forced to resign from the board of the Grameen Bank, the microcredit bank he had helped found.
  • Stephen Schwarzman, chair of the Blackstone Group.
  • Nancy Mahon, who runs MAC AIDS, the charitable arm of MAC Cosmetics, which is owned by Estee Lauder.

However, the article doesn’t cite any clear examples of unethical behavior. State Department officials say they are not aware of any department actions influenced by the Clinton Foundation. Department spokesperson Mark Toner says there are no prohibitions against department contacts with “political campaigns, nonprofits or foundations – including the Clinton Foundation.”

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump complains, “Hillary Clinton is totally unfit to hold public office. It is impossible to figure out where the Clinton Foundation ends and the State Department begins. It is now abundantly clear that the Clintons set up a business to profit from public office.” (The Associated Press, 8/24/2016)

August 24, 2016: Clinton criticizes an Associated Press article about her meetings with Clinton Foundation donors.

On August 24, 2016, the Associated Press published an article that claims more than half of all the private citizens Clinton met with when she was secretary of state had donated to the Clinton Foundation.

In a CNN interview later that same day, Clinton says the article is “a lot of smoke and no fire.” She adds, “This AP report, put it in context. It excludes nearly 2,000 meetings I had with world leaders. That is absurd. These are people I was proud to meet with, who any secretary of state would have been proud to meet with.”

The Associated Press made clear at the start of the article that they were excluding meetings with US and foreign politicians, since those presumably would take place as part of her government duties anyway. (Politico, 8/24/2016)

160824ClintonSurrogates

Clinton surrogates from left to right, Joel Benenson, Robby Mook, James Carville, Brian Fallon, and Donna Shalala. (Credit: all photos in public domain)

Clinton’s surrogates in the media also are very critical of the article. For instance, a Politico article about it later on the same day is entitled “Clinton camp rages against AP report.” The article notes that Clinton’s chief strategist Joel Benenson, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook, long-time Clinton ally James Carville, Clinton spokesperson Brian Fallon, and Clinton Foundation President Donna Shalala all make the same point in media interviews, that the Associated Press is “cherry-picking” by limiting its analysis to only private citizens who met with Clinton. They also assert that no wrongdoing on Clinton’s part was proven by the article. (Politico, 8/24/2016)

September 23, 2016: Three more people were given immunity deals in the FBI’s Clinton investigation.

Representative Jason Chaffetz (R), chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, claims the Justice Department was “handing out immunity deals like candy” in the Clinton email investigation. Chaffetz claims the Justice Department “exempted key physical evidence from any potential criminal case against the aides.”

According to Chaffetz, three former Clinton aides – Cheryl Mills, Heather Samuelson, and John Bentel – were granted immunity deals in exchange for their cooperation. Mills was Clinton’s chief of staff and then has been one of her lawyers  Samuelson was a State Department aide and then also has been a Clinton lawyer. Bentel was director of the department’s Office of Information Resources Management (IRM).

The Justice Department provided copies of the immunity agreements to the House Oversight Committee this week, under seal. The information was then leaked to the Associated Press.

Mills “gave federal investigators access to her laptop on the condition that what they found couldn’t be used against her.” It is believed the same happened to Samuelson. Bentel apparently refused to be interviewed by the FBI until he got an immunity deal.

This brings the total number of people who were granted immunity as part of the FBI’s investigation to at least five. It has previously been reported that Bryan Pagliano and Paul Combetta were given immunity for their cooperation with the FBI. (The Associated Press, 09/23/16)