A new batch of emails released on Tuesday appear to show that Hillary Clinton and her aides at the State Department sought to intervene on two occasions on behalf of donors to her philanthropic efforts and her 2008 campaign.
The emails, revealed by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, suggest that aides sought to connect a prominent Clinton Foundation donor with a U.S. ambassador, and in another instance assisted an associate of a 2008 campaign donor in finding a position at the State Department.
The Clinton Foundation has been a tempting target for watchdogs and conservatives. The dizzying web of connections between foreign nationals, political stakeholders, prominent businesspeople and philanthropies and power make much of the Foundation’s business appear suspect by association. But the line between fair business and impropriety is often hard to find.
There is no clear evidence that the donors were ultimately rewarded with special access, but it is clear that Clinton and her aides said they would act on their behalf.
The Clinton campaign denied the emails showed any wrongdoing. “The right-wing organization behind this lawsuit has been attacking the Clintons since the 1990s and no matter how this group tries to mischaracterize these documents, the fact remains that Hillary Clinton never took action as Secretary of State because of donations to the Clinton Foundation,” said Josh Schwerin, a Clinton campaign spokesman.
About 44 of the emails were not part of the 55,000 pages of work-related emails Clinton has said she turned over to the State Department, according to Judicial Watch.
In one newly released email exchange from 2009, Clinton Foundation official Doug Band asked the State Department to assist Gilbert Chagoury, a top donor to the Foundation. “We need Gilbert chagoury to speak to the substance person re lebanon,” Band said in an email. Huma Abedin, a top Clinton aide, offered to connect Chagoury with Jeff Feltman, the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon at the time. “Ill talk to jeff,” she replied. “This is very important,” replied Band. Chagoury has donated between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation, according to the philanthropy’s records, and is a friend of Bill Clinton.
Feltman told the Washington Post that he was never contacted by Chagoury and “no one ever told me he was seeking me out.”
A Clinton campaign aide denied that Chougary was seeking influence at the State Department. “Mr. Chougary, who is of Lebanese descent, was simply seeking to share his insights on the upcoming Lebanese election with the right person at the Department of State for whom this information might be helpful,” said a campaign aide. “In seeking to provide information, he was not seeking action by the Department.”
Much of the correspondence has been redacted by the State Department. In early 2009, a donor to Clinton’s 2008 campaign, Lana Moresky, asked Clinton directly for help finding an associate a job at the State Department. “Dear Hillary,” she wrote. “Just wanted to let you know that [redacted] has a resume in… I was hoping you might intervene to make sure [redacted] was taken seriously and considered for a proper responsible position.” Clinton forwarded the note and asked an aide to “followup.” In the 2016 cycle, Moresky has helped Clinton raise more than $100,000 for her presidential campaign, according to a list maintained by the Clinton campaign.
In another exchange from 2009, Band appears to ask Clinton’s aides to connect a person connected to the Foundation with a position at the State Department. “Personnel has been sending him options,” Abedin replied. The Clinton campaign aide said that the person was a “young advance staffer” who was not a donor or a Foundation employee, however.
Since Hillary Clinton left the State Department, her family’s philanthropy has been the target of thousands of newspaper articles, a highly publicized book containing years of research and a documentary. The hundred of pages of emails build on what the family’s critics see as a long trail of accusations and unseemly connections between the Clinton charity and the Clinton State Department.
At another time in this election cycle, Tuesday’s revelations found in the emails might have been more damaging to Clinton. But the news was buried in a cavalcade of bad news for Donald Trump: a prominent Republican Senator said she would not vote for Donald Trump, and 50 veteran GOP officials said Trump would put the nation’s security “at risk.” At almost the same time the emails were released, Trump made a comment about gun owners that dominated cable news.
Trump, however was quick to try to shift the attention to the new email release. “BREAKING,” he wrote in a Facebook post with a link to a news article about the emails. “Crooked Hillary Clinton put the State Department up for sale, with top aides pulling strings and doing favors for fat-cat donors to the Clinton Foundation.”