A federal watchdog just opened an investigation into whether former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton broke the law by allowing one of her top advisors, Huma Abedin, to work at Teneo, a private consulting firm while serving in an influential role at State.
The investigation comes at the request of the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley (R-IA) who asked the State Department’s Inspector General Steve Linek to dig into whether the former secretary committed any wrong doing by hiring Abedin and others through a special federal program.
Abedin was hired as a “Special Government Employee” a distinction designed to allow private industry experts to serve in government roles while still keeping their other jobs.
Abedin’s arrangement has been the subject of intense scrutiny in the last few years as critics question whether Clinton improperly used the SGE distinction to hire one of her most trusted political advisors while allowing her to retain influence in the private sector at her consulting gig.
For her part, Abedin denied that the arrangement presented any conflicts of interest. She sent a letter obtained by the nonprofit investigative journalism organization ProPublica to Sen. Grassley in 2013 saying “I was not asked, nor did I undertake, any work on Teneo's behalf before the Department,” Abedin wrote. She said her work consisted of providing “strategic advice and consulting services to the firm’s management team.”
Clinton’s use of the SGE program prompted an investigation by ProPublica that same year, which found that State had at least 100 other employees using that distinction during Clinton’s tenure, including two other high-up State officials that also served as advisors at Clinton’s 2008 campaign.
Now, the federal IG will take up the investigation.
“The OIG intends to examine the department’s SGE program to determine if it confirms to applicable legal and policy requirements,” the IG said in response Grassley’s request.
“It is unclear what special knowledge or skills Ms. Abedin possessed that the government could not have easily obtained otherwise from regular government employees,” Grassley wrote in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry.
The probe comes on the heels of reports that Clinton and Abedin both used a private Internet server to conduct government business instead of the standard government email.
Grassley has been demanding that the State Department investigate Clinton’s use of the private email server as well as her hiring practices.
“Are they faithfully executing the laws? If they were, then there's no reason to hide anything," Grassley said during an interview with Newsmax TV." Some people are suggesting she could even be prosecuted, and it's as simple as this — she was using a private email address instead of a government one, and it probably violates the Freedom of Information Act, it probably violates national security legislation laws.”
The probe comes at a tough time for Clinton, who is expected to announce her candidacy for president on Sunday.
Top Reads from The Fiscal Times: