December 12, 2008: The Clinton Foundation makes an agreement with the White House over conflict of interest issues.

Bruce Lindsey (Credit: Win McNamee / Reuters)

Bruce Lindsey (Credit: Win McNamee / Reuters)

In late 2008, when it becomes clear that newly elected President Obama will nominate Hillary Clinton to be his secretary of state, the Clinton Foundation presents a very large conflict of interest problem. There is a particular concern that foreign governments could use donations to the foundation to influence the Clinton-led State Department.

As a result, on December 12, 2008, the foundation’s CEO Bruce Lindsey signs a memorandum of understanding with Valerie Jarrett, co-chair of Obama’s transition team. It allows governments which had previously donated to the foundation to continue to do so, but only at existing yearly levels. It details an ethics review process for new donating countries or countries that want to “materially increase” their support. However, it does not prohibit foreign countries with interests before the US government from continuing to give money to the foundation.

The Washington Post will later report, “Some of the donations came from countries with complicated diplomatic, military, and financial relationships with the US government, including Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman. Other nations that donated included Australia, Norway, and the Dominican Republic.” The Post will also note, “Foreign governments and individuals are prohibited from giving money to US political candidates, to prevent outside influence over national leaders. But the foundation has given donors a way to potentially gain favor with the Clintons outside the traditional political limits.”

The agreement will expire when Clinton ends her tenure as secretary of state in February 2013. (The Washington Post, 2/25/2015(US Senate, 12/18/2008) The agreement covers the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (CGEP), a Canadian offshoot of the Clinton Foundation that some will later call a “slush fund” for the Clintons. The agreement will be broken in the case of the CGEP, as the Clinton Foundation will not reveal the names of those who donated through the CGEP. (Bloomberg News, 4/19/2015(Harper’s Magazine, 11/17/2015) 

The agreement will also be broken in other aspects. For instance, in 2015 it will be reported that the foundation didn’t disclose any foreign donors to the public, despite that being stipulated in the agreement. It will also emerge that no punishment was spelled out if the agreement was violated. (The Boston Globe, 4/30/2015)

April 16, 2012: The government of Qatar promises $1 million to Bill Clinton, which could be a violation of the Clinton Foundation’s ethics violation with the Obama Administration.

Amitabh Desai (Credit: Social Miami)

Amitabh Desai (Credit: Social Miami)

Amitabh Desai, director of foreign policy for the Clinton Foundation, writes in an email to other foundation officials, that he met with Qatar’s ambassador to the US four days earlier, on April 12, 2012. The ambassador is Mohammed Bin Abdullah Bin Mutib Al Rumaihi, who just assumed that position several weeks earlier. (Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 12/26/2013) (WikiLeaks, 10/13/2016)

He summarizes that Al Rumaihi “Would like to see WJC [former President William Jefferson Clinton] ‘for five minutes’ in NYC [New York City], to present $1 million check that Qatar promised for WJC’s birthday in 2011.”

The assistant to the Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed Bin Abdullah Bin Mutib Al-Rumaihi attends a foriegn ministers meeting at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on March 9, 2015. Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi called for the creation of a unified Arab force to battle the spread of Islamic extremist groups.  AFP PHOTO/ MOHAMED EL-SHAHED        (Photo credit should read MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images)

Qatar Ambassador Mohammed Bin Abdullah Bin Mutib Al-Rumaihi (Credit: Mohamed el-Shahed / Agence France Presse / Getty Images)

Additionally, “Qatar would welcome our suggestions for investments in Haiti – particularly on education and health. They have allocated most of their $20 million but are happy to consider projects we suggest. I’m collecting input from CF [Clinton Foundation] Haiti team.”

The email is sent to foundation officials Douglas Band, Justin Cooper, Bruce Lindsey, Laura Graham, and Clinton advisor John Podesta. (WikiLeaks, 10/13/2016)

Two years later, on August 19, 2014, Clinton will comment in an email: “[W]e need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.” (ISIL is also known as the terrorist group ISIS.) (WikiLeaks, 10/13/2016)

On October 14, 2016, the day after this email is made public by WikiLeaks, Reuters will report that this donation, if it took place, could be a major ethics breach. The donation takes place while Hillary Clinton is secretary of state, and the Clinton Foundation made an agreement with the Obama administration not to accept any increases in donations by foreign governments during that time. The email doesn’t specify that the donation was accepted, or if it went to the foundation or to Bill Clinton personally. Foundation records indicate the Qatar government did give over $1 million, but it isn’t clear when. When asked by Reuters if the donation was accepted by the foundation, a foundation spokesperson will decline to say. (Reuters, 10/14/2016)