For the first five years of the Obama presidency, and for the first time since the office was instituted during the Eisenhower years, there was no Inspector General for the State Department. During Clinton’s stint, the White House failed to nominate someone to occupy that office. Instead, State Department oversight was led by an “acting” Inspector General, Harold Geisel.
That meant, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, that State was the only agency requiring a “presidentially appointed inspector general that had neither a confirmed nor nominated head watchdog” during that time. Five months after Hillary Clinton left her post, Obama nominated a permanent inspector general, who was confirmed three months later.
Was this purposeful? Did Obama conclude that State would be better off without someone paying too close attention? After all, arranging to have Huma Abedin, Hillary’s most senior aide, on the payroll of not only the State Department but also the Clinton Foundation and the family’s for-profit firm Teneo all at the same time, would surely have raised eyebrows. The blatant carelessness about maintaining and protecting communications – those pesky emails – might have been revealed. Maybe Hillary, just like any other State employee, would have been required to sign an exit form declaring that she had surrendered all official records before leaving. Instead, there is no such form in her personnel file. And that was just the beginning.
President Obama had some inkling of what was to come; he had seen the Clintons in action. He had Valerie Jarrett strike a deal with Hillary in 2009 specifically meant to prevent conflicts of interest of the kind that are showing up in newly published email exchanges. In the letter signed by Clinton, the secretary of state vowed that she would not personally participate in any matter that could impact the finances of the foundation and or the earnings of her husband, Bill.
A separate agreement promised to reveal all foreign donors. As Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus said in a letter written to Jarrett a year ago, that agreement “failed to alleviate conflicts of interest, and at times was blatantly ignored.”
Public reports reveal donations to the Foundation during Hillary’s tenure from groups like Canada’s Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Agency, which was pushing for approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Swiss banking giant UBS also ramped up contributions to the Foundation after Secretary Clinton had intervened to solve a knotty tax problem in 2009. After she had arranged a tentative settlement, UBS paid Bill Clinton $1.5 million in speaking fees.
These are only two examples among many in which a group contributed money to the Clinton Foundation and or paid Bill excessive speaking fees while seeking (and sometimes receiving) help from Hillary Clinton. Such donations should never have been allowed, and might well have been blocked had there been a watchdog on the premises.
Even more disturbing are the 1,100 foreign donations that were received while Clinton was in office through the Clinton Foundation’s Canadian affiliate but never reported. The memorandum of understanding with the Obama White House signed by Clinton specifies that the “Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative” is part of the Clinton Foundation and must follow “the same protocols.” It did not, and no one at State blew the whistle.
The full extent of Hillary’s efforts on behalf of Foundation donors while Secretary of State may never be known, as so much of her email history was destroyed. But, we are getting a glimpse. Just this week the FBI turned over to the State Department another 14,900 emails sent or received during Hillary Clinton’s tenure that she “forgot” to disclose previously. In other words, in addition to the 30,000 emails deleted by Hillary, and the 30,000 provided by Clinton lawyers to the State Department, there were thousands more that were not coughed up to the authorities.
As The Washington Post noted, it turns out that “Clinton deleted more emails than she turned over.” The FBI has confirmed that many of those were work-related, despite Hillary’s claims to the contrary.
Recently released communications between top Clinton aide Huma Abedin and Doug Bland, director of the Clinton Foundation, document some of the efforts made to accommodate big Clinton donors. The Crown Prince of Bahrain, who donated $32 million to the Clinton Global Initiative and is described by Bland as a “good friend of ours,” requests an interview with the busy Secretary of State, because he was unable to score one through normal diplomatic channels. The interview request is granted.
In another exchange, Bland asks for help to get a visa for members of a UK football club member who had a prior criminal charge. He asked on behalf of Casey Wasserman, a millionaire Hollywood sports impresario who had donated between $5 and $10 million to the Clinton Foundation.
There are many such requests, and though the outcome of the overtures is not always clear, what is clear is that donating to the Clinton Foundation gave people special entre to the U.S. Secretary of State.
Meanwhile, who was watching over this dubious behavior? Where was President Obama when his Secretary of State was granting special favors to Clinton Foundation donors? Where was the oversight? It turns out, quite literally, there was none.
Harold Geisel is a long-time foreign service officer who had served previously as Ambassador to Mauritius under Bill Clinton and also in other administrations. Because he was a lifer at State, he was prohibited by law from becoming permanent Inspector General, whose duties include investigating instances of fraud and mismanagement in the department.
Geisel told The Wall Street Journal that he assumed he would be in the acting IG position only temporarily; he didn’t even decorate his office. He does not seem to have taken the job very seriously. When his five years in the role concluded, he was given another temporary gig – reviewing staffing positions in Egypt and Nairobi. Not much of a reward, but then his oversight left much to be desired.
It is worth noting that the Inspector General is also responsible for performing “specialized security inspections and audits in support of the Department's mission to provide effective protection to our personnel, facilities, and sensitive information.” Maybe a functioning office would have prevented the murders of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi. We will never know.