Cabinet & Agencies

Issues ››› Cabinet & Agencies
  • The Huge Media Failure Behind The Latest Clinton Global Initiative Pseudo-Scandal

    Despite Reporting, Bahraini Crown Prince Didn’t Give $32 Million To CGI

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Numerous media outlets covering released State Department emails pushed by the conservative group Judicial Watch falsely claimed that Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain gave the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) tens of millions of dollars, which they suggested was linked to him meeting with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In fact, none of the money in question went to the Clinton Global Initiative -- the crown prince made a “Commitment to Action” to fund the scholarship program at a Clinton Global Initiative event, and the money raised from business donors in Bahrain and elsewhere went to the crown prince’s scholarship program to educate Bahraini students.

  • Muhammad Yunus Is A Decades-Long Clinton Friend And A Nobel Prize Winner. Donations Aren't Why She Met With Him.

    The "Scandal" Requires Reducing International Business And Non-Profit Leaders To "Clinton Foundation Donors"

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The Associated Press is reporting that “more than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money - either personally or through companies or groups - to the Clinton Foundation” and scandalizing the information as “an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.” That report is currently rocketing through the media.

    This level of media hysteria would make sense if favors were being granted to individuals because they were donors. But that speculation falls apart when the story gets down to specific cases, because many Clinton Foundation donors are internationally prominent figures in the business or non-profit worlds – the very sort of people one would expect to be meeting with a secretary of state in any administration.

    According to the AP’s review of State Department calendars released to the organization so far, covering roughly half of Clinton’s tenure at State, “[a]t least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs.”

    So who are these Clinton Foundation donors that the AP  notes met with Clinton? Famed Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus is one, and eleven paragraphs of the AP story detail meetings and interactions between the internationally known figure and Clinton and her staff over assistance he sought that was first reported last October.

    Yes, Yunus-controlled organizations have donated between $125,000 and $300,000 to the Clinton Foundation, mostly as annual fees to attend Clinton Global Initiative meetings. But it’s completely absurd to suggest that “Clinton Foundation donor” is a major part of Yunus’ identity, or the reason why he might command attention from the secretary of state.

    As the AP notes, Yunus “won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for pioneering low-interest ‘microcredit’ for poor business owners.” He is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He is incredibly well-credentialed and almost universally celebrated. According to the Financial Times, beginning in 2007, tensions began between Yunus and Bangladesh’s government when Yunus “suggested he might establish his own political party to clean up Bangladesh’s public life.” Yunus was ultimately forced out of his managing director position at Grameen Bank in 2011 just months after the prime minister publicly denigrated microlenders as “bloodsuckers of the poor.” During that period, Clinton repeatedly received requests for help from Yunus, spoke with him on the phone, and after he was ousted met with him and publicly urged the government to halt their efforts to “seize control of Grameen Bank's effort to find new leaders.”

    And this wasn’t Clinton’s first encounter with Yunus - the Clintons have ties to the economist that go back decades before the foundation even existed. They brought Yunus to Arkansas in 1983 to learn more about how microfinance could be used in the state, and Bill Clinton talked about his work during his 1992 presidential campaign.

    Politico’s Blake Hounshell pointed out the oddity of portraying Yunus as a “Clinton crony” rather than a victim deserving of Clinton’s aid:

    In addition to Yunus, here are the other people who met with Clinton detailed in the report:

    • S. Daniel Abraham, the “billionaire behind the Slim-Fast diet and founder of the Center for Middle East Peace.”
    • Stephen Schwarzman, chairman of the Blackstone Group, one of the largest private equity companies in the world, with a massive charitable giving arm to match.
    • Nancy Mahon “of the MAC AIDS, the charitable arm of MAC Cosmetics, which is owned by Estee Lauder,” whom the AP suggests met with Clinton to discuss “a State Department partnership to raise money to finance AIDS education and prevention.”
    • Estee Lauder CEO Fabrizio Freda, whose “company made a commitment to CGI in 2013 with four other organizations to help survivors of sexual slavery in Cambodia.”

    All are Clinton Foundation donors or work for organizations that have donated to the Clinton Foundation. But they are also exactly the sort of people you would expect to meet with any secretary of state. The suggestion of malfeasance only makes sense if you ignore any reason Clinton could have to meet with these individuals other than their status as donors to an international charity.

  • Read These Tweets To Understand How The Media Are Screwing Up Their Clinton Foundation Coverage

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Journalist and Yale political science lecturer John Stoehr criticized the media for picking up the latest accusations of pay-to-play behavior at the Clinton Foundation when there is “no evidence to suggest” that such a scheme was established.

    After the conservative activist group Judicial Watch published emails showing supposed pay-to-play behavior by then-Secretary of State and current Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation, media outlets quickly repeated the story despite a lack of evidence that anything improprietous happened. Judicial Watch has a history of conning media into covering bogus Clinton-related stories, leading outlets to ignore new evidence and even undermine their own reporting in the process.

    In a series of tweets, Stoehr criticized the media coverage of Judicial Watch’s allegations, saying it proves the thesis of a 1996 Atlantic piece called “Why Americans Hate the Media.” Midway into his argument, he addressed the idea that Clinton’s actions constitute pay-to-play misbehavior, saying “This is not pay-to play. There’s no evidence to suggest it, no matter how much the right-wing group Judicial Watch urges to the contrary":

  • Fox News Host’s Attempt To Scandalize Phone Calls To Clinton Aide Undermined By Network’s Own Reporting

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Fox News host is alleging that State Department call logs showing Clinton Foundation chief operating officer Laura Graham “leaving almost 150 telephone messages for Hillary Clinton’s top aide at the State Department,” Cheryl Mills, reveal a “pay-for-play scam” and “quid pro cash.” But Fox News’ own original report on the call logs states that “there is no evidence of any misconduct in the calls or contacts between Graham and Mills,” and according to State Department spokesman Mark Toner, the “calls could well be ... simply coordinating on” relief efforts after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti given that Mills led State’s response to the disaster and former President Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation played key roles during the aftermath.

  • Days After Breitbart Exec. Becomes Head Of His Campaign, Trump Calls For Clinton Foundation Special Prosecutor

    Trump’s Call For Special Prosecutor Premised On Baseless Lies Promoted By Breitbart’s Stephen Bannon

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Donald Trump called for a special prosecutor to conduct an “expedited investigation” into the Clinton Foundation, just days after former Breitbart News chairman Stephen Bannon was named chief executive of Trump’s campaign. Bannon helped spread the baseless smears hyped in the discredited Clinton Cash book that Trump is now lifting his attacks from.

    Trump said during an August 22 campaign rally that “an expedited investigation by a Special Prosecutor” into the Clinton Foundation -- specifically into claims of “coordination between the pay-for-play State Department and the corrupt Clinton Foundation” -- is required because the FBI and Department of Justice “certainly cannot be trusted to quickly or impartially investigate Hillary Clinton’s crimes.”

    Trump’s demand for a special prosecutor comes less than a week after Trump hired former Breitbart News executive chairman Stephen Bannon as the campaign’s chief executive. Bannon -- who ran Breitbart as a propaganda arm of the Trump campaign -- has long led a smear campaign against Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation with discredited and false attacks.

    After Breitbart editor-at-large Peter Schweizer wrote the error-filled Clinton Cash -- which made a series of baseless allegations of corruption and quid pro quo by the Clinton Foundation and Hillary Clinton -- Bannon wrote and produced the accompanying documentary film. Bannon is also the executive chairman and co-founder of the Government Accountability Institute, which Schweizer is president of.

    Among the discredited attacks that Trump has adopted from Bannon and Schweizer’s smear campaign include claims that Clinton “signed off” on a Russian uranium deal that led to “millions of dollars in donations” to the Clinton Foundation. That conspiracy has been widely discredited, and Schweizer himself admitted he had no "direct evidence" proving Clinton intervened on the issue.

    Trump also echoed Bannon and Schweizer’s evidence-free claim that an Iranian telecommunications company escaped sanctions from Clinton while secretary of state because it paid Bill Clinton for a speech.

    It is no surprise that Trump is infusing Bannon’s shoddy anti-Clinton attacks with his own campaign, given the close-knit relationship Trump has had with Breitbart during his campaign.

  • Media Continue To Fall For Clinton Foundation Pseudo-Scandals Promoted By Judicial Watch

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Media are once again rushing to scandalize newly released State Department emails pushed by the conservative group Judicial Watch that allegedly show a conflict of interest created by “Clinton Foundation donors receiving special access” to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But the emails actually show the heir to a head of state arranged a meeting with Clinton through “official channels,” as he had with Clinton’s previous Republican predecessors.

    Judicial Watch’s press release framed the emails as showing “Hillary Clinton State Department Gave Special Access to Top Clinton Foundation Donors,” and focused on exchanges between Bill Clinton aide Doug Band and Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin regarding a meeting Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain requested with Clinton. Judicial Watch suggested that the crown prince’s relationship with the Clinton Foundation was crucial to him meeting with Clinton:

    Included among the Abedin-Band emails is an exchange revealing that when Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain requested a meeting with Secretary of State Clinton, he was forced to go through the Clinton Foundation for an appointment. Abedin advised Band that when she went through “normal channels” at State, Clinton declined to meet. After Band intervened, however, the meeting was set up within forty-eight hours. According to the Clinton Foundation website, in 2005, Salman committed to establishing the Crown Prince’s International Scholarship Program (CPISP) for the Clinton Global Initiative. And by 2010, it had contributed $32 million to CGI. The Kingdom of Bahrain reportedly gave between $50,000 and $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation. And Bahrain Petroleum also gave an additional $25,000 to $50,000.

    From: Doug Band

    To: Huma Abedin

    Sent: Tue Jun 23 1:29:42 2009

    Subject:

    Cp of Bahrain in tomorrow to Friday

    Asking to see her

    Good friend of ours

    From: Huma Abedin

    To: Doug Band

    Sent: Tue Jun 23 4:12:46 2009

    Subject: Re:

    He asked to see hrc thurs and fri thru normal channels. I asked and she said she doesn’t want to commit to anything for thurs or fri until she knows how she will feel. Also she says that she may want to go to ny and doesn’t want to be committed to stuff in ny…

    From: Huma Abedin [Huma@clintonemail.com]

    Sent: Thursday, June 25, 2009 10:35:15 AM

    To: Doug Band

    Subject:

    Offering Bahrain cp 10 tomorrow for meeting woith [sic] hrc

    If u see him, let him know

    We have reached out thru official channels

    But the emails show that the meeting was proposed and arranged through “normal” and “official channels,” not through “special access” as Judicial Watch characterized it. Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain “asked to see [Clinton] thurs and fri thru normal channels,” according to the emails, and Clinton didn’t “want to commit to anything” until she confirmed her schedule and how she was feeling. Later that week, Abedin confirmed that Clinton and her staff “reached out [to Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain] thru official channels” to set up the meeting.

    According to a write-up from Agence France-Presse, obtained via Nexis search, the meeting was about the “tense post-election climate in Iran and the Middle East peace process” -- exactly the sorts of topics one would expect the secretary of state to discuss with a Middle Eastern leader.

    Given that past secretaries of state and US presidents have met with Crown Prince Salman -- including Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and President George W. Bush -- it’s not unusual that the crown prince sought a meeting with Clinton during her tenure as secretary of state, and there is no evidence he got the meeting due to his affiliation with the Clinton Foundation.

    But that hasn't prevented the press from trying to turn the meeting into a scandal.

    Media outlets immediately ran with the story, suggesting that “the new revelations,” as Politico put it, “add to the controversy that has swirled around the Clinton Foundation, with Donald Trump and other critics accusing Hillary Clinton of using her position at the State Department to reward major donors through access to other power players.”

    The Wall Street Journal scandalized the emails, saying they “could fuel criticism that the Clinton family’s charitable foundation, in fundraising with wealthy donors, corporations and foreign nations, created a conflict of interest for Mrs. Clinton during her work as the nation’s top diplomat.”

    A Fox News article wrote that “Such emails have fueled accusations from Republicans of a ‘pay-to-play’ operation.”

    CNN’s John Berman said, "It doesn't literally have to be provable pay to play to have an appearance problem."

    These accounts adopt Judicial Watch’s frame that the meeting between Bahrain’s crown prince and Clinton was granted only because of “special, expedited access” and “preferential treatment” because of his relationship with the Clinton Foundation, and that at the least, the emails and meeting reflect bad optics.

    Judicial Watch is a right-wing organization with a history of duping the press on Clinton email stories. 

  • Fox Scandalizes Report Claiming US Leveraged Payment To Iran To Ensure Prisoner Release

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Fox News host Stuart Varney mischaracterized new details about the United States’ $400 million payment to the Iranian government, claiming that the State Department admitted that the money was a “ransom payment” for American prisoners. In reality the payment, stemming from a “decades-old” agreement, was “conducted separately from the prisoner talks” and was withheld as “leverage until the US citizens had left Iran.”

    The Wall Street Journal reported on August 3 that the Obama administration “organized an airlift of $400 million worth of cash to Iran that coincided with the January release of four Americans detained in Tehran.”

    Right-wing media distorted news of the cash transfer -- which related to a settlement reached in 1979 “over a failed arms deal” that was resolved in The Hague -- to falsely claim the transfer had been done in secret and that the payment was ransom.

    The Journal then reported on August 18 that the cash exchange was “specifically timed to the release of several American prisoners held in Iran.”

    State Department spokesman John Kirby reportedly said that although “the US withheld delivery of the cash as leverage until the US citizens had left Iran,” the negotiations over transferring the money were “conducted separately from the prisoner talks.”

    Fox host Stuart Varney seized upon Kirby’s statement to falsely claim that the State Department “basically admitted that the Journal story is correct,” and that “this is a ransom payment.” Varney also said, “[it’s] very difficult to say that’s not ransom.”

    But the payment indeed was not ransom, as Kirby explained in an August 18 State Department press briefing. Kirby noted that the money was given to Iran after the prisoners had been released in an effort to “retain maximum leverage,” not before, as a ransom payment typically happens.

    Kirby also noted that the payment was timed with the prisoner release because “We were able to conclude multiple strands of diplomacy within a 24 hour period, including implementation of the nuclear deal, the prisoner talks, and the settlement” in question. Kirby made clear that “we deliberately leveraged that moment to finalize these outstanding issues nearly simultaneously” because of “concerns that Iran may renege on the prisoner release” and “mutual mistrust” between the two countries.

  • Media Scandalize Clinton Connections By Mischaracterizing International Security Advisory Board Appointee As Unfit

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Right-wing media are scandalizing the 2011 State Department International Security Advisory Board (ISAB) appointment of Rajiv Fernando, a Chicago-based securities trader and Clinton Foundation donor, suggesting Fernando knew “absolutely nothing about intel” and claiming he was only appointed because “he donated up to $5 million to the Clinton Foundation.” But Fernando is an expert in cybersecurity, which the ISAB prepared a report on in 2014, and the State Department said the ISAB is “looking for a broad range of experiences” when considering candidates.

  • Fox Sunday Shows Baselessly Suggest Clinton Gave Favors To Foundation Donors

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News’ Sunday shows continued to hype the claim by the conservative group Judicial Watch that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton gave favors to a Clinton Foundation donor when she was secretary of state. The Fox reports ignored that the emails provide no evidence of the donor seeking to benefit from the State Department and that the person the donor asked to meet has “never met nor spoken” with him.

  • The Benghazi Hoax Has Its Own Night At The GOP Convention

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    The Republican National Convention will include a themed-night highlighting the September 11, 2012, Benghazi attacks, according to a new report. The announcement follows years of conservative media myths surrounding the attacks.

    According to The New York Times, the convention will emphasize “a few of [Donald Trump’s] favorite hot-button issues,” featuring different themes each night of the convention, including “the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi.” From the Times July 13 report (emphasis original):

    A night highlighting the tragedy in Benghazi, Libya. An appearance by onetime football star Tim Tebow. A presentation detailing former President Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct.

    Donald J. Trump, the presumptive nominee, has been promising a different kind of Republican National Convention, and plans obtained by The New York Times show that he is eager to put his showbiz stamp on the party’s gathering, even as he struggles to attract A-list talent.

    [...]

    There are plans to emphasize different themes each night of the convention. Mr. Trump wants to touch on a few of his favorite hot-button issues, like the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, former President Clinton’s infidelities and border security.

    [...]

    Night 1: A Benghazi focus, followed by border patrol agents and Mr. Shaw, whose son was killed by an undocumented immigrant. Senator Cotton, Mr. Giuliani, Melania Trump, Ms. Ernst and others.

    Conservative media have spent years continually misleading about the attacks and falsely alleging nefariousness on the parts of Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration. Fox News, in particular, relentlessly pushed misinformation surrounding the attacks, running nearly 1,100 segments on the attacks within the first 20 months after the attacks alone. Thanks in part to Fox’s calls for a special investigation into the attacks, House Republicans convened a two-year select committee to investigate that subsequently revealed little new information about the attacks. Donald Trump has also used conservative media myths surrounding the attacks throughout his campaign thus far, and has lamented that “outside of Fox, Benghazi has never resonated.”