Hillary’s Own Damning Words

Contrary to what has been reported in The New York Times and elsewhere, the Clinton Foundation never agreed to stop raising money from foreign governments while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. Taking money from foreign governments should be off limits. It risks the appearance that American foreign policy is up for sale. During Clinton’s confirmation hearing on Jan. 13, 2009, members of the Foreign Relations Committee — Democrats and Republicans both — warned about this risk. But Clinton stonewalled them. That red flagged her intentions. Here own words at the hearing were damning.

Betsy_McCaughey

Clinton said that she had already worked out an agreement with president-elect Barack Obama’s transition team, and she refused to change it in any way. The agreement imposed no limits on who could give — including foreign governments — or how much. If the State Department or the White House had concerns about a proposed gift, the Foundation would listen, the agreement said. But the Clinton Foundation, not the White House or State Department ethics officers, would have the final say.

This agreement wasn’t worth the paper on which it was printed. It protected the Foundation from government meddling, but it didn’t protect the nation. The Senators could see that, and made dire predictions during the hearing. Those predictions may be coming true. If so, the Senators are to blame, not just Clinton.

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Despite their fears, the senators fawned over her that day, and rubber-stamped her 16-to-1. Only Senator Vitter of Louisiana voted “nay.” As a courtesy, presidents generally get their way on cabinet picks. Only two nominees have been turned down since World War II. But the senators who confirmed Clinton that day, without extracting any meaningful limits on fundraising from foreign countries and other foreign donors, failed us.

At the 2009 hearing, Senator Lugar methodically questioned the former first lady about her loophole-ridden “Memorandum of Understanding ” (signed by Valerie Jarrett and a Foundation representative). He pressed the point that “the Clinton Foundation exists as a temptation for any foreign entity or government that believes it could curry favor through a donation.”

Lugar requested that Clinton tighten up the agreement: “I believe that contributions from foreign companies and individuals have the potential to raise appearances of conflicts of interest that are as serious as those raised by contributions from foreign governments.”

Yet Clinton responded: “The agreement as written already goes far beyond what any spouse of a cabinet official has ever done. …” Yet no other cabinet nominee in American history was the wife of a former president, elected to the Senate, a presidential candidate herself, and a nominee for secretary of state.

Lugar also asked if the agreement could be amended to disclose the timing of gifts, the amounts, and future pledges, not just donors’ names. Again, Clinton doubled down: “The agreement already goes far beyond what any spouse of a Cabinet official has ever done.”

She made it clear that if any concerns were raised by the Obama White House or the State Department about Foundation fundraising, the Foundation would be the arbiter of what’s “appropriate,” not the U.S. government.

“In many, if not most cases, it is likely that the Foundation or President Clinton will not pursue an opportunity that presents a conflict.” Translating that gibberish: It will depend on the amount of money being dangled in front of the ex-president. If the amount is large enough, national interest be damned.

Vitter took a turn at questioning Clinton, raising concerns about foreign individuals and companies — not just countries — donating to the Foundation. Vitter cited one Foundation donor who was tangled in a web of connections with Iranian terrorism. One partner of the donor had been named by the Treasury two days earlier as “a terrorist entity” and another partner, Bank Melli “had long been thought to be a procurement front for the Iranian nuclear program.”

Repeatedly Clinton regurgitated her stock answer: “Well again, this is an agreement that has been worked out between all of the parties and the fact is that the concerns that were raised in the discussions between the foundation and the president-elect’s team were thoroughly discussed …”

After all the questions were raised and not answered, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee adjourned. Clinton had made it clear what she intended to do.

Betsy McCaughey is a former Lt. Governor of New York State and the chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths.

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