Hillary Clinton biographer Amie Parnes –who along with Jonathan Allen wrote the widely respected HRC— did not know the name Gilbert Chagoury. Everyone in America should by the end of the week and that is Donald Trump’s challenge: Why are all the Clinton Foundation folks working with the senior Clinton staff at State to help out a man who had to return $300 million to Nigeria to escape criminal prosecution (according to Wikipedia)? The Wikipedia entry reads as of this AM: “Chagoury was a close associate of Nigerian dictator, General Sani Abacha, who helped his business interests in the country. After Abacha died in 1998, Chagoury returned an estimated $300 million to the Nigerian government to secure his indemnity from possible criminal charges.” My discussion with Amie from this morning:
HH: Joined now by Amie Parnes of The Hill. She is the author, along with Jon Allen, of HRC, the best one volume biography of Hillary Clinton out there. Of course, the Queen deserves reading as well for political purposes, but not for biographical purposes. Amie, good morning, it’s great to speak with you.
AP: Good morning, Hugh.
HH: Who is Gilbert Chagoury?
AP: Gilbert Chagoury? I don’t know. You tell me.
HH: Okay, I just wanted to know. That’s a Rorschach test for me. In the New York Times this morning, emails renew questions about Clinton Foundation and State Department overlap, Eric Lichtblau story. There is this paragraph. “Doug Band wrote to Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin that he needed to connect Gilbert Shagoury, a Lebanese Nigerian billionaire who is one of the Clinton Foundation’s top donors with someone at the State Department to talk about his interests in Lebanon. It’s Jeff Feltman, Ms. Abedin answered, referring to Jeffrey Feltman, who is the American ambassador. I’m sure he knows him. I’ll talk to Jeff. Mr. Band asked her to call Mr. Chagoury immediately, if possible. This is very important.” How significant is that exchange? And my gosh, this will never go away, Amie.
AP: No, I mean, I’ve been saying this all along that the email controversy, I think the new email controversy might in fact be the tie to the Foundation, because there isn’t any sort of defined, there wasn’t really a barrier between the two. In fact, as Jon and I wrote in our book, they used a lot of donors to, you know, smartly, I think, to tap into, you know, they built the China, the Expo Wall in China, or the Expo. So I think that that’s a big part of, you know, of how they do business.
HH: On a scale of 1-10, how significant is this, that paragraph I just read you?
AP: I think it’s pretty significant. I think they’ll have to explain sort of if there was a barrier, in fact, between the campaign, or not the campaign, the State Department and the Foundation. And I think that remains to be seen. There keep, you know, there are examples that keep popping up, and I think a lot of people have questions about it. I don’t know how significant it’ll be to, you know, people right now, I think it’s pretty baked in the cake. They either don’t trust her or they do. And her favorabilities are pretty low right now in terms of those people. And the trust factor is also low. So I think she’s going to have to keep explaining why this keeps coming up for sure.
HH: Well, I have not yet begun. I need to know about Gilbert Shagoury. He is a Lebanese Nigerian billionaire businessman, right? And so that’s, he was, he’s 70 years old. He was born in Lagos, Nigeria. We need to know how he made his money. We need to know what he wanted from the State Department. We need to know, he got real estate, flour mills, water bottling. I’m just reading Wikipedia. What could he possibly want? And what did they give him, because if there’s a quid pro quo here for the Foundation, this is, you know, I know Donald Trump’s on the front page of the London Times as being accused of inciting gun violence against Hillary Clinton. That’s a bad gaffe story. But this is a, this is a dig deep story, isn’t it, Amie? You’ve covered her. Don’t we need to know about Mr. Chagoury?
AP: I think we do. I mean, you know, the fact that it’s coming up, it’s on the front page of, I saw the New York Post today. A lot of people are trying to find out more about this, about the Foundation. I think they need to explain that more fully in the way that like she’s been trying to explain the email scandal, although I think that you know, a lot of people still have questions there. But I think it needs explaining. I think these emails in particular need explaining as well.
HH: Let me read you one more paragraph and get your instant reaction. I wanted to make sure, this is all complete palimpsest. You’re the blank palimpsest like de Quincey wrote about. “Chagoury was a close associate of Nigerian dictator, General Sani Abacha, who helped his business interests in the country. After Abacha died in 1998, Chagoury returned an estimated $300 million dollars to the Nigerian government to secure his indemnity from possible criminal charges.” Does that set off alarm bells?
AP: I think it well, especially with some people who just don’t want to trust the Clintons. And so I think yeah, it’s definitely going to loom in the coming days. I mean, I think she’s been given a break because Donald Trump has put his foot in his mouth so many times in the last week, including yesterday. So you know, that coupled with the email story last week would have been bigger stories had he not stepped in it a little more than she has.
HH: But a dictator’s bagman giving money to the Foundation and getting calls from the Foundation to the State Department to Huma and Cheryl, this is a huge story. And I’ll look for Amie and Jonathan Allen to be all over it. Amie Parnes from The Hill, thank you.
End of interview.