Editorial: Questions remain about Clinton conflicts

The Detroit News

New revelations about the relationship between Hillary Clinton’s State Department and the Clinton Foundation run by her husband raise fresh ethical questions about the Democratic presidential nominee, and she should not be allowed to get away with dismissing them as old news.

While most of the media has been preoccupied with hammering the easy target presented by Donald Trump, a few reporters have remembered that there’s a second candidate in this race who merits scrutiny, and have been uncovering some concerning conflicts.

The Wall Street Journal reported that while secretary of state, Clinton intervened in a tax dispute between the Swiss bank UBS and the IRS. The tax agency was pressing UBS for information on more than 50,000 secret accounts. Clinton brokered a deal that allowed the bank to disclose data on just 4,500 accounts.

Shortly after, UBS paid former President Bill Clinton, head of the foundation, $1.5 million in speaking gigs, made $600,000 in donations to the Clinton Foundation and worked with it to create a $32 million inner city loan program.

Last week, CNN reported that top Clinton aide Cheryl Mills, while on the State Department payroll, interviewed job candidates on behalf of the foundation. And emails obtained through FOIAs by the conservative group Judicial Watch, which has dogged Clinton for years, show top Clinton aide Huma Abedin corresponding with a Clinton Foundation staffer about favors for foundation donors.

When Clinton was named secretary of state, she agreed to a set of rules requested by President Barack Obama to avoid the creation of “conflicts or the appearance of conflicts for Senator Clinton as Secretary of State.” Among those rules were requirements to report interactions between the State Department and the foundation. Clinton appears to have blown past those ethical mandates.

The various reporting has found no smoking gun, but the Justice Department has launched insider trading probes of the private sector based on less evidence of conflicts.

But when the FBI asked the Justice Department to open an investigation on connections between the Clinton Foundation and State, it was rebuffed three times, according to a CNN report last week.

Last fall, The Washington Post detailed $3 billion in funds raised by the Clintons throughout their joint careers from some of the world’s wealthiest nations, individuals and corporations. There are lingering concerns about how much of that money was raised.

For example, a 2015 report in The New York Times detailed Clinton’s assistance to a Russian cartel that hoped to acquire one-fifth of U.S. uranium reserves. State Department sign-off was followed by a $500,000 speaking fee for Bill Clinton, and a $2.35 million donation to the Clinton Foundation. Neither, according to the Times, was disclosed as required by the ethical agreement Hillary Clinton signed.

Again, no direct evidence of quid pro quo. But there are enough of these eyebrow raising examples that it should attract the attention of federal investigators. And it likely would if Bill Clinton weren’t a former president and Hillary Clinton the current presidential nominee of the party that controls the White House.

Some media outlets reported last week, based on anonymous sources, that the FBI is indeed investigating the connections between the State Department and the Clinton Foundation. Director James Comey has refused to say whether any additional investigations affecting Clinton are ongoing. But it’s something voters considering her for president have a right to know.

Clinton should at least be asked tough questions about the cozy relationship between her State Department and her family’s foundation on the campaign trail and in upcoming presidential debates. And she shouldn’t be allowed to get away with brushing them off as a right wing hatchet job.