Investigative reporter and opinion writer for THE HILL John Solomon must have had himself cloned, as he’s simultaneously breaking big news on more than one front. In a week with so many developing stories, it’s hard to know what to start with, but let’s look first at the serious allegations concerning Bill and Hillary and the Clinton Foundation, because this news has been such a long coming.
When chants of “Lock her up! Lock her up!” were heard from the floor of the 2016 Republican National Convention, they were met with criticism from Democrats who claimed to be concerned about due process. (Of course, the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings later proved that they don't care about it one bit, but I digress.) It should be said that we as law-and-order conservatives would not abandon due process in Hillary’s case –- we just want to see the due process take place –- but “Lock-her-up-after-finding-her-guilty-in a-court- of-law!” just doesn’t carry the punch needed to work very well as a floor chant.
Anyway, we’ve been hearing about problems within the Clinton Foundation for years, anecdotally, from its own employees, lawyers and auditors. From our admittedly limited perspective, on the outside looking in, it just didn’t seem on the up-and-up. Over the years, it collected about $2.5 billion to help with global crises ranging from AIDS to natural disasters, and anyone who questioned its legitimacy was accused of not caring about all the good it did in the world. The default defense whenever it was challenged was, “Well, it does so much good.”
A charity can do some good works and still be as corrupt as can be. And we may find out soon just how corrupt, now that a package of 6,000 pages of evidence (95 exhibits) attached to a 48-page whistleblower submission has come to light. The report was secretly filed in August of 2017 --- more than a year ago --- with the FBI and the IRS. It was put together by MDA Analytics LLC, a private firm run by top-notch former federal criminal investigators. They allege that the Clinton Foundation broke the law and may be subject to millions of dollars in delinquent taxes and penalties.
MDA reportedly undertook this investigation on its own, thinking that if its whistleblower report resulted in the IRS recovering back taxes and penalties, it would receive a government reward. But shortly before the midterm elections, the IRS sent the firm a “preliminary denial letter” stating that it did not pursue the allegations for a number of reasons, including lack of resources (!), and possible expiration of the statutes of limitations. (I wouldn’t be surprised if these expired while the report languished on somebody’s desk for a year.) If you’ve ever had to suffer through an audit, you must be pretty mad right now.
Still, It looks as though action is finally being taken at other agencies. The firm has had contact with prosecutors at the main Justice Department office in DC and FBI agents in Little Rock, where much of the investigation appears to be taking place. And suddenly last week, a federal investigator –- I’m guessing it’s John Huber in Salt Lake City, who was assigned the Clinton Foundation case many months ago –- asked for documents from the private investigation.
Some of the exhibits are from legal reviews that the Foundation conducted on itself in 2008 and 2011; these found serious problems with legal compliance, improper commingling of personal and charity business (especially with Bill Clinton, who commingled to a highly concerning degree), and (yes) “quid pro quo” promises made by Hillary while she was Secretary Of State.
In particular, one exhibit is an interview the private investigators had with CFO Andrew Kessel in 2016 in which he testified to these concerns and said he “knows where all the bodies are buried.” Kessel confirmed to them that both internal assessments had “found widespread problems with governance, accounting and conflicts of interest.”
The 2008 report, written by private lawyer Kumiki Gibson, said that the work of the Foundation and former President Clinton were “intertwined in a way that creates confusion at, and undermines the work of, the Foundation at every level” and warned that this “poses reputational and legal challenges...” It specifically warned that the Foundation had not created policies and procedures “required by law” and observed that some of its leaders “appear to have interests that do not always align with those of the Foundation.” It said managers had an “anti-compliance attitude” and that lower-level employees had “begged” for whistleblower protections after witnessing “less than fully compliant behavior or even worse are asked to participate in or even condone it.”
It was the 2011 report by the law firm Simpson Thacher that specifically raised the issue of “pay for play.” “Some interviewees reported conflicts of those raising funds or donors,” it said, “some of whom may have an expectation of quid pro quo benefits in return for gifts.”
Curiously, after being interviewed by MDA, Kessel also had a sit-down with FBI agents who paint a different picture. They say he never implicated former President Clinton or the Foundation in any illegality. Not sure how believable the FBI is these days, though, especially on matters relating to the Clintons.
The Clinton Foundation has released a statement saying the allegations are politically motivated and “have been proven false time and time again” (really?), and that the Foundation “has demonstrably improved the lives of millions of people across America and around the world, while earning top ratings from charity watchdog groups in the process.”
Solomon asked six investigators to review the report and key exhibits, and they all said that although federal agencies have their own legal experts to address issues of tax-exempt compliance, the evidence of potential criminality was strong and warranted the opening of an FBI or IRS investigation. Retired FBI supervisory agent Jeff Danik, a CPA who helped the FBI make some of its most complex financial fraud and terrorism cases, called the report “a very good roadmap for investigation.”
Congress is looking at it, too, and it’s a good thing they have a roadmap, because they have only a few weeks before the gavel is turned over to (shudder) Nancy Pelosi. A Republican-led (for now) House Oversight subcommittee headed by North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows (for now) has a hearing scheduled for next Thursday to review Judge Huber’s investigation of the Clintons –- not just the Foundation but Hillary’s use of a sneaky private email server to transmit classified information. He wants to find out how much in terms of money and resources from the DOJ has been devoted to this probe and whether action may be expected from Huber on anything relating to the Clintons. Two of the whistleblowers from the MDA investigation are scheduled to testify in public for the first time.
One thing I hope the committee asks: If the Clinton Foundation is really a charitable organization, set up purely for altruistic reasons with no expectation of quid pro quo, have you found any explanation for why donations dried up after Hillary lost the presidential election?