Newly released emails from Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state have revealed that Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire Mr. Gilbert Chagoury used his relationship with the Clinton Foundation set up by her husband former President Bill Clinton to seek for favours from the US State Department.
Chagoury is a close friend of the former US president and a top donor to the Clinton Foundation. He has appeared near the top of the Foundation’s donor list as a $1 million to $5 million contributor, according to foundation documents. He also pledged $1 billion to the Clinton Global Initiative.
The revelation has raised questions about the nature of the State Department’s relationship with the Clinton Foundation, when she was secretary of state.
CNN reported yesterday that Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, released 296 pages of emails from the Democratic presidential nominee, including 44 that Judicial Watch says were not previously handed over to the State Department by Clinton.
The emails, many of which are heavily redacted, raise questions about the Clinton Foundation’s influence on the State Department and its relations during her tenure.
In one instance, top Clinton Foundation official Doug Band lobbied Clinton aides for a job for someone else in the State Department. In the email, Band tells Hillary Clinton’s former aides at the department — Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin — that it is “important to take care of (redacted).” Band is reassured by Abedin that “Personnel has been sending him options.”
The emails were obtained by the group through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch against the State Department in 2015.
The Trump campaign seized at the new batch of emails, citing them as evidence of Clinton being corrupt.
The prolonged investigations into her use of a private email server while at the State Department has fuelled public distrust of her and plagued her presidential bid.
But the Justice Department declined to press charges against Clinton for her handling of classified information related to the server earlier this year, with FBI Director James Comey saying while she was “extremely careless,” it was his judgment that “no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.”
In a 2009 email, Band directs Abedin and Mills to put Chagoury, a Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire and Clinton Foundation donor, in contact with the State Department’s “substance person” on Lebanon.
“We need Gilbert Chagoury to speak to the substance person re Lebanon,” Band wrote. “As you know, he’s a key guy there and to us and is loved in Lebanon. Very imp.”
“It’s jeff feltman,” Abedin responded, referring to Jeffrey Feltman, who was the US ambassador to Lebanon at the time. “I’m sure he knows him. I’ll talk to jeff.”
Feltman told CNN yesterday that he never met with Chagoury.
“I have never met nor spoken with Mr Chagoury. I was not aware of the proposal that he speak to me until this email exchange was released, but in any case we never spoke,” he said.
Judicial Watch President Tom Filton said in a press release that Clinton “hid” the 44 emails on purpose.
“No wonder Hillary Clinton and Huma Abedin hid emails from the American people, the courts and Congress,” he said in a press release. “They show the Clinton Foundation, Clinton donors, and operatives worked with Hillary Clinton in potential violation of the law.”
Clinton’s campaign said the emails didn’t relate to her work at the Clinton Foundation.
“Neither of these emails involve the secretary or relate to the Foundation’s work,” said an emailed statement from Clinton campaign spokesman Josh Schwerin. “They are communications between her aides and the President’s personal aide, and indeed the recommendation was for one of the Secretary’s former staffers who was not employed by the Foundation.”
The Clinton campaign said yesterday that Chagoury only wanted to offer insights on the then-upcoming Lebanese election and was not looking for any specific action from the State Department.
“The right-wing organization behind this lawsuit has been attacking the Clintons since the 1990s and no matter how this group tries to mischaracterize these documents, the fact remains that Hillary Clinton never took action as secretary of state because of donations to the Clinton Foundation,” Schwerin said in a statement.
GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump sought to use the emails to paint Clinton as corrupt.
The Clinton Foundation was not part of the recent investigation into her private server; it was separate. The FBI went to Justice Department earlier this year asking for it to open a case into the foundation, but the public integrity unit declined.
The Justice Department had looked into whether it should open a case on the foundation a year prior and found it didn’t have sufficient evidence to do so.
Yesterday, Judicial Watch released written testimony from Mills, in which she provides further detail on how Clinton’s private email server was set up to address potentially security concerns.
Mills told the attorneys she spoke with a Clinton IT staffer in 2013, after learning the email account of a close Clinton confidante, Sidney Blumenthal, had been compromised by a hacker.
“As I recall, these discussions involved whether this event might affect Secretary Clinton’s email,” Mills said in follow-up answers to an earlier deposition given to Judicial Watch.
Mills also said she recalls speaking to the same staffer — Bryan Pagliano — about the company overseeing the server set up.
“As I recall, these discussions involved whether Platte River Networks would have the technical capacity and be the appropriate source from which to gather Secretary Clinton’s email from the clintonemail.com system,” Mills said.