It’s the Clinton Foundation, Stupid

Why Obama may still have to pardon Hillary to stave off an impeachment battle, even if Hillary wins

In 1992, Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign consultant James Carville famously penned a sign that hung in the campaign’s War Room, which included the phrase, “It’s the Economy, Stupid.”

It was intended to remind everyone who saw it of the central message of the campaign, of which no one should lose sight, no matter what other distractions arose.

So as bad as Secretary Clinton’s exposure of classified secrets was, it was never as much of a threat as her actions with respect to the Clinton Foundation.

In 2016, another Clinton is running for president, and no matter what other distractions arise — especially Hillary’s use of a personal server for classified materials — keep your eye on the Clinton Foundation.

Sunday night, FBI Director James Comey once again distracted virtually everyone. This time he announced that his bureau had completed a crash-course in former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s laptop. “We have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton,” he wrote.

Likewise, since Comey notified Congress that investigators had uncovered emails potentially pertinent to the Clinton investigation, Democrats and their media allies have focused mostly on Clinton’s use of a private server, rather than on corruption at the Clinton Foundation (with the exception of minor mentions). The New York Times went so far as to ask what the Clinton Foundation has to do with the email inquiry, and reply, “Not much.”

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The reason is simple: Voters have already decided what they think of Secretary Clinton’s disregard for classified information.  But few know about how she and her retinue used the Foundation to sell off meetings and even policy decisions at the State Department. Regardless, win, lose or (God help us) draw, President Obama still may have to pardon her.

Here’s the real story.

On Oct. 28, Director Comey informed Congress of the “existence of emails that appear to be pertinent” to the investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In his letter, he mentioned that his intention was to “supplement” his testimony on the “investigation of former Secretary Clinton’s personal email server.” Likewise, his internal communication to FBI colleagues says he “sent the letter in connection with the Secretary Clinton email investigation.”

However, two days later, The Wall Street Journal broke the blockbuster news that four FBI field offices had also been investigating “financial crimes or influence peddling” at the Clinton Foundation. Moreover, the piece makes clear that even before the discovery of former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s laptop, “agents on the foundation case asked to see the emails contained on nongovernment laptops that had been searched as part of the Clinton email case.”

According to WSJ’s report, the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York (EDNY) denied that request.  Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy points out that Bill Clinton appointed Loretta Lynch to head the EDNY in 1999,  and that she ran it until President Obama promoted her to Attorney General less than two years ago.

FBI agents investigating the Clinton Foundation, “dissatisfied with that answer,” asked permission to turn to the Southern District of New York with the same request, but were once again turned down, this time by Andrew McCabe, the second highest-ranking official at the FBI. The Journal also notes that “Mr. McCabe’s wife, Jill McCabe, received $467,500 in campaign funds in late 2015 from the [PAC] of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a longtime ally of the Clintons and, until he was elected governor in November 2013, a Clinton Foundation board member.”

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The reality is, as McCarthy has argued, that then-Secretary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information will never result in criminal charges. The reason is that she exchanged at least 22 non-secure emails with President Obama, communications that are “born classified”  that is, classified by their very nature, regardless of how they are marked. If the Justice Department allows Clinton to be indicted on that charge, it would have ultimately have to concede that President Obama had not only committed the same offense as she did, but actually did it with her. This also helps explain why President Obama has been at pains to insist that Secretary Clinton did not put national security at risk and to criticize the FBI after Director Comey’s latest revelation.

So as bad as Secretary Clinton’s exposure of classified secrets was, it was never as much of a threat as her actions with respect to the Clinton Foundation. McCarthy makes the case that the Foundation appears to have been a “RICO enterprise” as defined by the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act of 1971:

Hillary and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, operated the Clinton Foundation. Ostensibly a charity, the foundation was a de facto fraud scheme to monetize Hillary’s power as secretary of state (among other aspects of the Clintons’ political influence). The scheme involved (a) the exchange of political favors, access, and influence for millions of dollars in donations; (b) the circumvention of campaign-finance laws that prohibit political donations by foreign sources; (c) a vehicle for Mrs. Clinton to shield her State Department email communications from public and congressional scrutiny while she and her husband exploited the fundraising potential of her position; and (d) a means for Clinton insiders to receive private-sector compensation and explore lucrative employment opportunities while drawing taxpayer-funded government salaries.

Now that the FBI has sought and gotten access to the Weiner laptop, “there is an avalanche of new information coming in every day” on the Clinton Foundation investigation, one law enforcement source told Fox News, both from the laptop and WikiLeaks. And that is why even if she were to win the presidency, and in spite of what Director Comey has said, President Obama may have to pardon her anyway.

That is the story, not Secretary Clinton’s email use. It’s the Clinton Foundation, stupid.

Christopher C. Hull, Ph.D., the president of Issue Management Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based public affairs firm, is the author of “Grassroots Rules” (Stanford, 2007), a book on presidential politics.

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