FBI investigation of McAuliffe leaked: why?

The stunning news that the FBI has been investigating Virginia Governor (and key Clinton Machine operative) Terry McAuliffe for a year is widely seen as an ominous sign for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. But a lot of tealeaf reading is necessary to figure out what is really going on.

CNN obtained the scoop:

Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the FBI and prosecutors from the Justice Department's public integrity unit, U.S. officials briefed on the probe say.

The investigation dates to at least last year and has focused, at least in part, on whether donations to his gubernatorial campaign violated the law, the officials said. (snip)

As part of the probe, the officials said, investigators have scrutinized McAuliffe's time as a board member of the Clinton Global Initiative, a vehicle of the charitable foundation set up by former President Bill Clinton.

Now who might those “US officials briefed on the probe” be?  People with political motives to leak this news. Four basic alternatives suggest themselves:

  1. Someone who wants to damage the Hillary Clinton campaign and is anxious to open a new front in the public controversies over her political machine, including the Clinton Foundation.
  2. Someone anxious to demonstrate that the ongoing FBI probe is serious, and that the Justice Department will not take a dive on pursuing the issues beyond the negligent handling of classified material.
  3. Someone who wants to crate pressure on the Justice Department to act on whatever FBI referrals may be coming.
  4. Someone wants to warn McAuliffe and his associates that they are under scrutiny.

None of these alternatives is good news for the Clinton Machine.


A former chair of the Democratic National Committee, McAuliffe raised a then-unprecedented $275 million for the Clintons in the 20th century, and set a record for a single night fundraiser with $26 million. He also personally guaranteed the mortgage on the Chappaqua mansion purchased by the Clintons for their post-presidency residence, when they were, according to Hillary, “dead broke.”

The term “bagman” has been applied to him for years, particularly since he has made no secret of his pattern of mixing politics and his personal business interests. He told the New York Times in 1999,

"I've met all of my business contacts through politics. It's all interrelated." When he meets a new business contact, he continued, "then I raise money from them."

In short, McAuliffe could write a book titled “The Art of the Political Payoff Deal” and set the standard for trading on favors.  All of which raises vey interesting questions about the complex mix of very large payments from foreign sources to the Clintons and their foundation, and decisions made by the State Department affecting the interests of the money paid or donated. In that light, consider what CNN is reporting about the current investigation:

 Among the McAuliffe donations that drew the interest of the investigators was $120,000 from a Chinese businessman, Wang Wenliang, through his U.S. businesses. Wang was previously delegate to China's National People's Congress, the country's ceremonial legislature. (snip)

Wang also has been a donor to the Clinton foundation, pledging $2 million. He also has been a prolific donor to other causes, including to New York University, Harvard and environmental issues in Florida.

U.S. election law prohibits foreign nationals from donating to federal, state or local elections. Penalties for violations include fines and/or imprisonment.

But Wang holds U.S. permanent resident status, according to a spokeswoman, which would make him a U.S. person under election law and eligible to donate to McAuliffe's campaign.

Neither Wang nor his company used to make the donations have been contacted by U.S. investigators, according to the spokeswoman.

It would not require a year to determine whether or not Wang had US permanent residency, which would make his campaign contribution either legal or illegal. There must be something else that requires investigation.

Typically, notification of a target of an investigation and interviews come at a late stage in a probe. This would seem to indicate that evidence gathering is still underway, some of it perhaps related to the 30,000+ deleted-but-recovered emails from Hillary’s private server, or to emails hacked by Guccifer and traded for a plea deal.

Now that news of the probe is out in public, any steps taken by related parties to destroy evidence would amount to obstruction of justice, even if the underlying crimes could not be proved.

Somebody is stirring the waters. We’ll have to wait to find out who and why, and to see where this all leads.

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