News & Politics

Clinton Foundation Investigation Roiling the FBI

FBI Director James Comey (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the various investigations by the FBI involving the Clintons — including the Clinton Foundation — have spawned serious disagreements at the bureau, with some agents believing the agency is dragging its feet and not looking hard enough for evidence of wrongdoing.

As it turns out, the Abedin email controversy is related to this internal spat over the Clinton Foundation, with the same agents who investigated Clinton’s emails last summer now engaged in looking into the new evidence.

New details show that senior law-enforcement officials repeatedly voiced skepticism of the strength of the evidence in a bureau investigation of the Clinton Foundation, sought to condense what was at times a sprawling cross-country effort, and, according to some people familiar with the matter, told agents to limit their pursuit of the case. The probe of the foundation began more than a year ago to determine whether financial crimes or influence peddling occurred related to the charity.

Some investigators grew frustrated, viewing FBI leadership as uninterested in probing the charity, these people said. Others involved disagreed sharply, defending FBI bosses and saying Mr. McCabe in particular was caught between an increasingly acrimonious fight for control between the Justice Department and FBI agents pursuing the Clinton Foundation case.

It isn’t unusual for field agents to favor a more aggressive approach than supervisors and prosecutors think is merited. But the internal debates about the Clinton Foundationshow the high stakes when such disagreements occur surrounding someone who is running for president.

Recall last week it was revealed that the same Mr. McCabe’s wife was the recipient of a large donation for her campaign for state senator in Virginia from Governor Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton crony and former member of the Clinton Foundation board of directors.

The Wall Street Journal reported last weekthat Mr. McCabe’s wife, Jill McCabe, received $467,500 in campaign funds in late 2015 from the political-action committee of Virginia Gov.Terry McAuliffe, a longtime ally of the Clintons and, until he was elected governor in November 2013, a Clinton Foundation board member.

Mr. McAuliffe had supported Dr. McCabe in the hopes she and a handful of other Democrats might help win a majority in the state Senate. Dr. McCabe lost her race last November, and Democrats failed to win their majority.

A spokesman for the governor has said that “any insinuation that his support was tied to anything other than his desire to elect candidates who would help pass his agenda is ridiculous.”

It’s never “ridiculous” to speculate about corruption where the Clintons are concerned.

McCabe eventually headed up the Clinton email server investigation when he became deputy director of the FBI earlier this year.

But other Clinton-related investigations were under way within the FBI, and they have been the subject of internal debate for months, according to people familiar with the matter.

Early this year, four FBI field offices—New York, Los Angeles, Washington and Little Rock, Ark.—were collecting information about the Clinton Foundation to see if there was evidence of financial crimes or influence-peddling, according to people familiar with the matter.

Los Angeles agents had picked up information about the Clinton Foundation from an unrelated public-corruption case and had issued some subpoenas for bank records related to the foundation, these people said.

The Washington field office was probing financial relationships involving Mr. McAuliffe before he became a Clinton Foundation board member, these people said. Mr. McAuliffe has denied any wrongdoing, and his lawyer has said the probe is focused on whether he failed to register as an agent of a foreign entity.

Clinton Foundation officials have long denied any wrongdoing, saying it is a well-run charity that has done immense good.

The FBI field office in New York had done the most work on the Clinton Foundation case and received help from the FBI field office in Little Rock, the people familiar with the matter said.

In February, FBI officials made a presentation to the Justice Department, according to these people. By all accounts, the meeting didn’t go well.

Some said that is because the FBI didn’t present compelling evidence to justify more aggressive pursuit of the Clinton Foundation, and that the career anticorruption prosecutors in the room simply believed it wasn’t a very strong case. Others said that from the start, the Justice Department officials were stern, icy and dismissive of the case.

“That was one of the weirdest meetings I’ve ever been to,” one participant told others afterward, according to people familiar with the matter.

Anticorruption prosecutors at the Justice Department told the FBI at the meeting they wouldn’t authorize more aggressive investigative techniques, such as subpoenas, formal witness interviews, or grand-jury activity. But the FBI officials believed they were well within their authority to pursue the leads and methods already under way, these people said.

Note that the career prosecutors didn’t think the case was strong enough but resisted giving the FBI the authority to pursue the case more aggressively, which might have uncovered more substantial evidence of wrongdoing.

Did DoJ even want to know if the foundation was being used for corrupt purposes? It certainly tracks that way.

I don’t doubt that there are some officials at Justice and the FBI who want to protect Hillary Clinton, just as there are some who wish to throw her in jail. This kind of partisan politics is destroying the DoJ, which should be a department independent of the executive branch — above the political fray.

But under the last two AGs, politics has trumped all and justice has suffered because of that.