WikiLeaks: Hacked emails raise possible Clinton Foundation ethics breach

Has Hillary Clinton been caught in an ethics breach by WikiLeaks?
LUCY NICHOLSON

Has Hillary Clinton been caught in an ethics breach by WikiLeaks?

Hacked emails published by Wikileaks this week appear to show Qatar pledging to donate US$1 million (NZ$1.4 million) to Hillary Clinton's family's charitable foundation, despite her promise to curb new donations by foreign governments while US secretary of state.

In an email from 2012, a senior official from the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation informs colleagues that a planned donation by Qatar's government to mark Bill Clinton's birthday came up in a meeting he had with the Gulf state's ambassador in Washington.

The ambassador said that he asked "to see WJC 'for five minutes' in NYC, to present $1 million check that Qatar promised for WJC's birthday in 2011," Amitabh Desai, the foundation official, writes in his email, using the former US president's initials.

Republican US presidential nominee Donald Trump has been fighting off his own controversies.
MIKE SEGAR/REUTERS

Republican US presidential nominee Donald Trump has been fighting off his own controversies.

Hillary Clinton, who is the Democratic nominee for the November 8 presidential election, served as secretary of state from 2009 until 2013.

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The hacked email is among thousands published over the last week by the pro-transparency group Wikileaks from the account of John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.

Despite the scandals, Clinton looks set to beat rival Donald Trump for the presidency in a few weeks' time.
LUCY NICHOLSON/REUTERS

Despite the scandals, Clinton looks set to beat rival Donald Trump for the presidency in a few weeks' time.

Clinton's campaign has been embarrassed by this and similar recent hacking attacks on other Democratic Party officials, some of which appear to show Clinton and her aides saying things in private that contradict their public positions. Her spokesmen have not disputed the authenticity of the hacked emails.

The emails released by Wikileaks do not appear to confirm whether Qatar gave the promised US$1 million (NZ$1.4 million), although the foundation's website lists the State of Qatar as having given at least that amount. There is no date listed for the donation. A spokesman for the foundation declined to confirm the donation.

The possibility the US$1 million (NZ$1.4 million) was intended as a birthday present for Clinton personally, not for the foundation, has not been ruled out. Questions have not been responded to.

Hillary Clinton promised the US government that while she served as secretary of state the foundation would not accept new funding from foreign governments without seeking clearance from the State Department's ethics office.

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The agreement was designed to dispel concerns that US foreign policy could be swayed by donations to the foundation, which is known for its work on reducing the cost of HIV medicine in sub-Saharan Africa. Clinton's Republican rival in the presidential election, Donald Trump, has seized on the foundation for political attacks, calling it a front for corruption. Clinton's campaign dismisses this as a political smear.

The State Department has said it cannot cite any instances of its ethics officials reviewing or approving new donations from foreign governments to the foundation while Clinton served as the country's top diplomat from 2009 until 2013.

"You would need to ask the Foundation whether there were additional matters that it should have submitted for State Department review," the department said in a statement.

The ethics agreement allowed foreign governments that already supported foundation projects to continue while Clinton was at the State Department. However, if one of those governments wanted to "increase materially its commitment," then the foundation was required to ask the department first.

Craig Minassian, a foundation spokesman, declined to confirm if Qatar gave the US$1 million described in the 2012 email. Even if it had, he said he questioned whether the money would be considered a "material increase". He said Qatar has been donating since 2002, and that some of those donations have been greater than US$1 million.

Qatar's embassy in Washington did not respond to questions. A spokesman for Clinton, who was campaigning in Seattle at the start of the weekend, also did not respond to questions.

Last year, Reuters found that at least seven other foreign governments made new donations to the foundation without the State Department being informed, partly, foundation officials said, because of "oversights".

President Barack Obama is campaigning for Clinton to be elected his successor, and the White House has repeatedly declined to discuss the breaches of the agreement Clinton signed with Obama's administration.

A WARNING TO CHINA

According to a purported Clinton campaign document attached to an email published by Wikileaks, Clinton said in a speech to Goldman Sachs on June 4, 2013, that the United States had warned Beijing it would "ring China with missile defense" unless it did more to rein in North Korea's missile programME.

The message to China had been, "You either control them, or we're going to have to defend against them."

The US State Department declined to comment on "alleged leaked documents". When asked whether such a message had been delivered to China, an official said it was not department policy to comment publicly on diplomatic discussions.

Although Clinton's reported comments raised a stir in Asia, they are consistent with US efforts to convince China to help restrain North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs, which so far have borne little fruit.

According to the hacked email, Clinton said in the speech, which was delivered after she left her position as secretary of state, that Washington could not accept a situation in which North Korea developed an inter-continental ballistic missile able to carry a miniaturised warhead.

CLINTON CAMPAIGN SOUGHT TO CANCEL WALL STREET SPEECH

Hillary Clinton's campaign asked former President Bill Clinton to cancel a speech to a Wall Street investment firm last year because of concerns that the Clintons might appear to be too cozy with Wall Street just as the former secretary of state was about to announce her White House bid, newly released emails show.

Clinton aides say in hacked emails that Hillary Clinton did not want her husband to cancel the speech, but after a "cool down period" was eventually convinced that cancelling was the right step.

Campaign manager Robby Mook said he realised cancelling the lucrative speech would disappoint both Clintons but "it's a very consequential unforced error and could plague us in stories for months."

The Clintons' paid speeches have been an issue throughout the campaign, particularly Hillary Clinton's private speeches to Wall Street firms.

The campaign has never released transcripts of Hillary Clinton's speeches, but the hacked emails did reveal excerpts flagged by her advisers as potentially concerning.

In the excerpts, Clinton talked about dreaming of "open trade and open borders" in the Western Hemisphere. She also says politicians sometimes need to have "both a public and a private position" on issues.

Bill Clinton was scheduled to speak to Morgan Stanley executives in April 2015, a few days after his wife was set to launch her bid for president.

"That's begging for a bad rollout," Mook wrote in a March 11, 2015, email.

In a later email, Mook says he feels "very strongly that doing the speech is a mistake" with serious potential consequences for Hillary Clinton's campaign. "People would (rightfully) ask how we let it happen."

- Reuters and AP

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