May 8, 2015

STATE DEP’T STICKS HEAD IN THE SAND:  . . . on high-level corruption and refuses to review the propriety of Hillary Clinton’s violation of her State Department Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) about foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation. This is ironic, since the White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters, in the following Feb. 26 exchange, to direct their questions about the violations to the State Department:

Q    Josh, are there are any regrets here on the Clinton Foundation story that the ethics deal that White House aides, administration officials negotiated with Secretary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation failed to prevent the Algerian government from contributing half a million dollars to the Clinton Foundation the very time that they were lobbying this White House, the State Department?  Wasn’t this what the President was trying to prevent?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Ed, let’s go back to 2008.  At the end of 2008, there was a memorandum of understanding that was drafted between the then-transition team and the Clinton Foundation, and the goal of that memorandum was to ensure that the excellent work that is being done at the Clinton Foundation could continue. . . .And that memorandum of understanding went beyond the baseline ethical guidelines.  It put in place some additional requirements to ensure that we could — that the Clinton Foundation could continue its work, and that the Secretary of State could do her work without even the appearance of a conflict of interest.  And we are —

Q    But it failed then, because then a half million dollars came in from a government that was accused of human rights abuses and was lobbying this administration for relief.  How do you explain then, given these wonderful ethics rules that this mistake was made?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, again, for compliance with the memorandum of understanding, I’d refer you to the State Department.  They’re ultimately responsible for executing the agreement.  And obviously there was some responsibility at the Clinton Foundation to live up to it.

Q    — the White House’s reputation on the line.  This was a negotiation between, as I recall, very senior people like Valerie Jarrett.  This is not just the State Department, not just a foundation.  Does the President have any concerns?  You laid out all the wonderful work the foundation does.  No dispute there.  But what about the appearance of impropriety, these foreign governments trying to get access and wield influence in this President’s administration?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, it is the responsibility of the Department of State to determine how compliance was enforced when it comes to the memorandum of understanding.

Q    Or not, right?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, again, it’s their responsibility to monitor the agreement.  And so I’d refer you to them for questions about this.  But I can tell you that the President is obviously very pleased with the way that Secretary Clinton represented the United States around the globe during her tenure over in Foggy Bottom.

At a State Department Press briefing Thursday, reporters followed up, asking Acting Deputy Spokesperson Jeff Rathke if the State Department intended to investigate Clinton’s violation of itsMOU:

MR. RATHKE:  Now at this point, our role has changed. Secretary Clinton is no longer at the department, for questions about the foundation or the health access initiative or any of the offshoots and their funding, we’d refer you back to them. The State Department has not and does not intend to initiate a formal review or to make a retroactive judgment about items that were not submitted during Secretary Clinton’s tenure. The department’s actions under Secretary Clinton were taken to advance administration policy as set by the President and in the interest of American foreign policy. . . .

QUESTION: Okay, but why not? I mean, why do you not intend to —

MR RATHKE: Again, we aren’t aware of any actions taken —

QUESTION: Oh, I know you’re not aware, because you haven’t looked into them, right? (Laughter.)

MR RATHKE: Well, but again, let’s go back to what we did do during her tenure. Over the course of her tenure, we reviewed dozens of entities each year. The Clinton Foundation also is a charitable organization, so we would not have had the obligation to review their donation beyond what was committed to in the MOU.

QUESTION: Right. But the – but what they committed to in the MOU in terms of the – listing the private donors, whether or not the State Department had to review them or was supposed to review them beforehand to see if they were okay or not, it would seem to me to make sense that if they didn’t live up to their end of the MOU you would at least go back and take a look at the private donations and see whether that might raise any questions. But maybe not. I mean, I don’t – it seems like you’re not aware of anything, and there may not be anything there, but the reason that you’re not aware of anything is because you’re – not you personally, but the reason you’re not aware of anything is because the building is refusing to go back and look at it to see if there’s anything that might raise a flag.

MR RATHKE: Well, again, these private donations were – there was never any expectation that they would be reviewed.

QUESTION: Right. But there was an expectation that they would be made public and so that you could go and look and see, well, hmm, and then they weren’t made public. And so now that they are being made public, wouldn’t it make sense – and tell me if I’m wrong, maybe it doesn’t make sense – but wouldn’t it make sense to go back and take a look at them and see whether there – that there’s any – any questions raised, any red flag that might get raised? I don’t understand why you would just close your eyes to it, because they have admitted that they didn’t live up to their end of the MOU on this.

MR RATHKE: Yeah. And they’ve – but they have subsequently —

QUESTION: I know. But you’re not —

MR RATHKE: — taken steps to address that.

QUESTION: Right. But you’re not going and looking at what they’ve done to address that to see if it brought them into compliance. It’s almost as if they had an agreement that they didn’t follow through on, but since she’s no longer the secretary of state you’re saying, well, that doesn’t apply anymore and so it just doesn’t matter. But —

MR RATHKE: Look, what we have —

QUESTION: You don’t know if it doesn’t matter or not because you’re not looking into it.

MR RATHKE: I think what we’ve seen – what we’ve seen is speculation. We haven’t – we’re not aware of any actions taken that were influenced by those donations.

QUESTION: Right. But you – but you’re not aware —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Yes. What has been put out there is – are questions. But you’re saying that the State Department doesn’t – either doesn’t have the same questions or isn’t interested in finding out what the answer to those questions is. That’s what it sounds like you’re saying because you’re saying that you’re not going to go back and look to see whether the violations of the MOU might raise questions or raise red flags about what was going on, right?

MR RATHKE: Well, again, we have – I think I don’t have anything to say beyond what I’ve said.

Okay, so let me get this right:  There was an MOU insisted upon by the State Department (and White House) to ensure that, during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, there was full transparency of any foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation, to protect against the possibility that foreign donors to the Foundation might be giving their money in exchange for favorable treatment by Secretary of State Clinton.  And that MOU was violated repeatedly.  Now, the Obama Administration is refusing to even investigate whether Clinton’s violation of the MOU may have actually caused the sort of bribery problems the MOU was designed to prevent?

Okay, so why have an MOU in the first place, if violations of it were not going to ever be investigated, or the agreement otherwise enforced?  Was it all just a dog and pony show, to allow Clinton to become Secretary of State and deflect possible criticism of her taking the post, given the potential for conflicts of interest?  The questions answer themselves, of course, but the fact that the Obama Administration is so blatantly and flippantly disregarding this nation’s interest in preventing corruption (at the highest level) is breathtaking– and telling.