Hillary Gets (More Than) a Little Help from Her Media Friends
Before the Internet when I wanted to keep track of a story, I had to clip articles and file them, often establishing over the years how much in error the press accounts had been. Now, a few clicks and there we have what we had remembered but not saved. It will come as no surprise to regular readers of the Washington Post to learn that one of their oped writers Ruth Marcus is easily exposed as a partisan spinner in a quick check of a comparison of her treatment of Hillary Clinton and former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.
This week, Marcus wrote an editorial critical of Donald Trump’s “unhinged calls” for a special prosecutor to look into the Clinton Foundation. She dismissed the claims that the Foundation was a “pay to play” operation.
Actually, the facts so far don't come close to special prosecutor territory. The "favors done" -- the supposed quo for the Clinton Foundation quid -- appear pretty meager.
The most critical remark she can manage is to suggest that since Hillary is beset by “enemies” who apply a stricter standard to her, she should have been more careful.
Why, oh why, since the Clintons know their activities will be subjected to microscopic scrutiny -- since, as Clinton partisans claim, with some justification, she is pilloried for conduct for which others receive a pass -- do they continue to operate in a manner that opens them to attack by their enemies?
Specifically, why -- given that the notion of another run for the presidency wasn't exactly off the table -- did Clinton (and the staff that was supposed to be looking after her interests) not erect an impenetrable wall between foundation and State?
After all, it's not as if the prospect of questions about self-dealing did not occur at the time. The December 2008 agreement between the foundation and the Obama administration cites the need to "ensure that the activities of the foundation, however beneficial, do not create conflicts or the appearance of conflict."
Her selection of examples of conduct for which Hillary is being criticized is laughably one-sided.
Here are just a few of the pay for play, quid pro quo, you scratch Hillary’s back and strike gold items Marcus overlooked:
1.) The Skolkovo Innovation Center
The Observer notes how she sold access to Moscow as revealed by Peter Schweizer.
Hillary encouraged and enabled American and European investment in Russia, particularly in high-tech firms. A key role was played by the Skolkovo Innovation Center, a sprawling complex in Moscow’s western suburbs that was established in 2009 as Russia’s answer to Silicon Valley.
This was the consistent pattern. As Schweizer explained, “Of the 28 U.S., European and Russian companies that participated in Skolkovo, 17 of them were Clinton Foundation donors” or had hired former President Clinton to give speeches. How much money these Skolkovo benefactors gave to Clinton, Inc. cannot yet be determined, but Schweizer concluded that it’s somewhere between $6.5 million and $23.5 million, with the proviso that since the Clinton Foundation has yet to reveal all its donors, the true figure could be much higher.
Then there’s the matter of what Skolkovo actually is. In truth, it’s nothing like Silicon Valley except in outward appearance. It’s a fully state-driven enterprise -- funded largely by the Kremlin and acting on its orders.
These assessments by the Pentagon, the FBI and Schweizer are unclassified. In private, Western security experts are less guarded. “It’s an obvious Kremlin front,” explained a Pentagon intelligence official about Skolkovo. “In the old days, the KGB had to recruit spies to steal Western technology, now they do deals with you. The theft is the same.”
2.) U.S. Arms Exports to Bahrain
Over a year before Ruth Marcus couldn’t find any pay to play examples in the Clinton Foundation the International Business Times found plenty, and they are disturbing.
Clinton ran an agency that is responsible for regulating U.S. arms exports, and how those State Department exports approvals substantially increased to governments that donated to the Clinton Foundation. Federal law explicitly designates the secretary of state as “responsible for the continuous supervision and general direction of sales” of arms, and early in her term, the State Department called one arms deal a “top priority” for Clinton.
The email exchange about Bahrain shows the Clinton Foundation’s top executive Doug Band in 2009 asking Clinton’s State Department aide Huma Abedin to set up a meeting between Clinton and Crown Prince Salman, who had recently been named the deputy supreme commander of Bahrain’s armed forces. Band referred to Salman as a “good friend of ours.”
Salman has directed $32 million to a Clinton Foundation program, and the Kingdom of Bahrain has donated up to $100,000 more. As Bahrain money flowed into the Clinton Foundation, State Department documents showed that between 2010 and 2012 the Clinton-led State Department approved $630 million worth of direct commercial arms sales to Salman’s military forces in Bahrain. That was a 187 percent increase from the period 2006 to 2008, and the increase came as Bahrain was violently suppressing uprisings.
3.) Arms Sales to Other Clinton Foundation contributors
Under Clinton's leadership, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation
The Clinton-led State Department also authorized $151 billion of separate Pentagon-brokered deals for 16 of the countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation.
These extra sales were part of a broad increase in American military exports that accompanied Obama’s arrival in the White House. The 143 percent increase in U.S. arms sales to Clinton Foundation donors compares to an 80 percent increase in such sales to all countries over the same time period.
American defense contractors also donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state and in some cases made personal payments to Bill Clinton for speaking engagements.
The State Department formally approved these arms sales even as many of the deals enhanced the military power of countries ruled by authoritarian regimes whose human rights abuses had been criticized by the department. Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar all donated to the Clinton Foundation and also gained State Department clearance to buy caches of American-made weapons even as the department singled them out for a range of alleged ills, from corruption to restrictions on civil liberties to violent crackdowns against political opponents.
4.) Sale of U.S. uranium assets to Russia and helping Abu Dhabi
When the Russian Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation wanted to buy the Canadian-based Uranium One, in which they would end up closer to controlling most of the world’s uranium supply, the Committee on Foreign Investment, of which Clinton is part of, had to approve the sale, given the national security questions involved; the company had mining states in the Western part of the United States. The Russian takeover took place between 2009-2013, in which the chairman of Uranium One, through his own family foundation, gave the Clinton charity four donations amounting to $2.35 million. At the time, these donations were not disclosed. After the Russians made their intentions known concerning assuming control of Uranium One, Bill Clinton gave a speech for $500,000 from a bank that was connected to the pending agreements -- they were selling the company’s stock options. In the end, the deal was approved.
In December of 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported that Bill Clinton had been given millions from two dozen companies and organizations that had “matters before Mrs. Clinton’s State Department” while she served as our top diplomat, some of his paid speeches, like his two trips to the United Arab Emirates, were arranged by the State. He collected $1 million for those appearances.
In Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates wanted a facility to pre-clear travelers prior to entry into the United States. By 2011, a letter of intent was signed, and Bill Clinton gave a 20-minute talk on climate change in the country for a fee of $500,000, added the Journal. In December 2012, Bill asked for authorization to give another $500,000 speech on the importance of tourism in Abu Dhabi -- one week after the speech, the U.S. and Abu Dhabi agreed on a screening facility for Etihad Airways.
There are more examples that have been documented, but these alone show a pattern and practice, and there’s no doubt that many of the emails tardily produced or erased would provide even more damning information. Indeed, we learned this week that Hillary used software called “BleachBit” to erase emails from her private server, a software that “helps users delete files in a way to ‘prevent recovery and hide traces of files deleted’.
I’m sure even as credulous an observer as Marcus would have to concede that this seems rather extreme for emails which Hillary claimed were just about yoga and wedding plans.
But Marcus’ delicate skirting of the facts made me curious to see how she treated the case of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, and I hope you won’t be too shocked to find out she took an entirely more censorious view of matters that pale to insignificance compared to the Clintons’.
McDonnell, as you may recall, was charged with and convicted of violating 18 U.S. C. Sec. 201(a)(3) committing an official act in exchange for loans or gifts. The government was unable to show that he had made any decision or taken any official action or agreed to do so on behalf of his donor. On review the Supreme Court of the United states unanimously reversed and remanded the case to the lower court to issue the proper limiting instruction to a jury should the government reinstitute the case. Lynch’s Department has spent a month trying to see if they can come up with anything, and so far has not -- just this week seeking an extension to September 19 as they consider what they have.
But in contrast to closing a blind eye to Hillary’s misdeeds and justifying them as merely obliging donors with face to face meetings, here’s what she wrote about McDonnell:
McDonnell denounced prosecutors’ “misguided legal theory . . . that facilitating an introduction or meeting, appearing at a reception or expressing support for a Virginia business is a serious federal crime if it involves a political donor or someone who gave a gift.” If so, McDonnell continued, “then nearly every elected official, from President Obama on down, would have to be charged with providing tangible benefits to donors.”
McDonnell’s lawyers were even sharper, filing court papers replete with smarmy suggestions of partisan bias. “It has been a long time since the Roman Emperor Caligula imprisoned people for violating laws written in tiny lettering on a pillar
Spare me. Even Caligula would have understood that the McDonnells’ conduct was wrong. If they needed reading glasses to understand that, it reflects their moral obtuseness, not the law’s ambiguity.
There’s a legitimate worry, one I share, about the criminalization of politics. The McDonnell indictment is not an example.
She went so far as to claim that McDonnell was “unfit for office”.
As astonishing is the governor’s technocratic defense: that he is complying with the letter of Virginia disclosure rules, which do not require reporting of gifts to family members. “To, after the fact, impose some new requirements on an official,” McDonnell told a Norfolk radio show, “obviously wouldn’t be fair.”
But gifts and entanglements like these are simply wrong, a violation of the governor’s duty to citizens, whatever the rules. That McDonnell doesn’t get this basic point makes him unfit for office. Obviously.
Maybe I’m being unkind and unfair in exposing Ms. Marcus as a partisan hypocrite. Perhaps there are two oped writers at the Washington Post who just happen to share the same name.