In the beforetime, in the long, long ago of 2015, a woman named Hillary Clinton was about to launch her campaign for president. She was also trying really hard to protect $12 million for her family’s charitable foundation from King Mohammed VI of Morocco. And her campaign was freaking out about it.
Campaign manager Robby Mook and longtime Clinton confidant John Podesta thought the deal ― in which Clinton had determined to speak at an event for the king on the condition of his $12 million contribution ― would look bad. Clinton aide Huma Abedin tried to explain that it was simply too late to back out.
“This was HRC’s idea,” Abedin wrote in an email to Podesta. “Our office approached the Moroccans and they 100 percent believe they are doing this at her request. The King has personally committed approx $12 million both for the endowment and to support the meeting. It will break a lot of china to back out now when we had so many chances to do it in the past few months.”
The team eventually reached a compromise. Hillary Clinton didn’t show up, but Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton did, and the money came through.
It is generally frowned upon for presidential candidates to be pumping foreign leaders for money, and her staff recognized it. And so they exchanged a series of contentious emails On “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace pressed Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook on the controversy.
“Why wasn’t that classic pay-to-play?” Wallace asked.
“There’s nothing new here,” Mook replied, deflecting to Donald Trump’s sagging poll numbers.
“But, Robby, there is some new stuff,” Wallace responded. “Emails show ― and I’m going to go through some of them ― you were not happy at all the idea of this meeting and her going there.”
Mook maintained that it was all just a scheduling issue that had nothing to do with corruption or public perceptions of corruption.
“We didn’t want her going overseas,” Mook said. “I didn’t want her going overseas before the campaign was kicking off. Again, these are stolen documents.”
The federal government has indeed supported the Clinton campaign’s claims that the Russian government intercepted Podesta’s emails and passed them on to WikiLeaks.
But the revelations about the Clinton Foundation and the paid speeches both Hillary and Bill Clinton negotiated as she navigated her presidential bid have nevertheless been newsworthy. Wallace noted that while the hack of Podesta’s email was almost certainly illegal, the transmission to The New York Times of excerpts of Donald Trump’s tax returns indicating he had taken a loss of almost $1 billion was also likely a breach of law.
“They were clearly stolen,” Wallace said.
“We don’t know that,” Mook replied.
“Do you think Trump had given them [over]?” Wallace shot back.
Veteran journalist Bob Woodward didn’t leave any ambiguity about his own views regarding the Clinton Foundation.
“It’s corrupt,” Woodward said on Fox. “It’s a scandal.”
“The mixing of speech fees, the Clinton Foundation and actions by the State Department which she ran are all intertwined,” he said. “And it’s corrupt. You can’t just say it’s unsavory.”
Allegations of corruption and conflicts of interest involving both the Clinton Foundation and the paid speeches that have earned the Clintons millions of dollars have dogged the campaign since its outset. Hillary Clinton has repeatedly argued that there is nothing wrong with her family’s arrangements, because no explicit quid pro quo ― that is, exchange of cash for specific political favors ― has surfaced. This argument has troubled many Democrats, who note that the campaign’s defense relies on the weak definition of corruption outlined in the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision.
It may be the case that the King of Morocco wanted to host the Clintons and pay their foundation millions of dollars because he recognized a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to alleviate global poverty.
That, or maybe it had something to do with politics.