Politico’s Glenn Thursh joined me this morning to discuss the Clinton Foundation and its role in subsidizing the Clintons’ lifestyle:
HH: I think Glenn Thrush of Politico ought to be on the airplane with us. Glenn, don’t you think Politico ought to assign you to come along and cover www.decision2016thetour.com?
GT: Hugh, I’m a bad flyer.
HH: What? It’s a good flyer. Jon Voight.
GT: I’m a terrible flyer.
HH: A G-5 is a good way to fly. You would like it. Jon Voight did…
GT: Oh, I love those G-5’s. I hope you have an airsick bag the size of a body bag.
HH: Oh, not. The last time I did this four years ago, Jon Voight in the middle of the night was doing Richard III, and it was quite amazing. So I always love traveling with Voight. Glenn, let’s talk about the Clinton Foundation. I had James Carville on the show yesterday, asked him does the Clinton Foundation subsidize the Clintons’ lifestyle, and Carville said of course it doesn’t subsidize their lifestyle. What does Glenn Thrush say?
GT: I don’t think it subsidized their lifestyle. I think it’s part of their lifestyle. I mean, they travel, you know, Bill Clinton travels around the world, and you know, his travel is paid for by the Clinton Foundation, and he’s, you know, conveyed in presidential style. No, I think, you know, I mean, I think their lifestyle is subsidized by all the other crappy bad optic stuff that they have done.
HH: So the Foundation…
GT: I mean, and really, in terms of, if we’re looking at stuff, and I think it’s less relevant than it was in this campaign than it was in 2008, I mean, you have to look at Clintons’ connections to people like Ron Burkle, who he’s had kind of a nasty breakup with, but Bill Clinton has always had this propensity to ingratiate himself with the extremely wealthy. And I think you get into the gray areas with these guys not in terms of the Foundation donations, but in the fact that there are no boundaries. So the same people who are giving to the Foundation are the same people who are riding around with Bill Clinton to various events that don’t have to do with the Foundation. So again, the issue here, I think, is less one, including the State Department revelation, is less one of outright corruption than it is this troubling pattern that they have had for basically three decades of having no boundaries between business and personal.
HH: Well, that would mean, then, though, that the Foundation giving, which is tax exempt and tax deductible, does go to subsidize Bill Clinton’s travel and thus his lifestyle.
GT: Yeah, I mean, but the guy, look, you know, the one thing I would like to see in a lot of this reporting is a fair accounting of what the Foundation actually does.
HH: I agree.
GT: I mean, it is not, it is not a, you know, I think there is this widespread impression, and it’s really not accurate, that this is like some sort of a slush fund as opposed to what it has done, which it apparently has done some very good work, particularly in Africa, some work in Haiti. You know, this is not, Hugh, you know, this is not like a piggy bank for the Clintons.
HH: Well, I believe that the Charity Navigator won’t rate it, because it’s not transparent. I believe that is the case. Maybe that’s changed in the last year, but when I last looked into this, you couldn’t rate it. And I used to regulate all charities, Glenn, for the government when I was the deputy director of the Office of Personnel Management.
HH: And the ones that got in trouble were those that had overhead over 10%. And the United Way had a huge scandal in the 80s, because their overhead was like at 25%, and they were paying their CEO’s $300,000 grand, and people got very upset with the United Way in the late Reagan administration, because of investigations I was overseeing into, you know, how much money they were spending on overhead and the lifestyle. And that’s where people get upset. And in fact, just recently, a veterans charity, a wounded warrior charity, got into trouble because of overhead.
GT: No, that’s absolutely true. Listen, man, this is all completely fair game. And I think, and you know, one of the things, I haven’t looked at the Foundation’s, well, you can’t look at the Foundation’s 990’s, because it’s a family foundation, right? So you don’t have the same, not to get into the weeds on this, but you don’t have this disclosure characteristic for a family-based foundation that you do for another kind of foundation.
HH: I didn’t know that. There is no 990 for the Clinton Foundation?
GT: No, I think there is a 990. I’m just, it’s been a couple of years. I haven’t done, my colleague, Ken Vogel, has done a lot of the reporting on the Foundation stuff for us. But you know, typically, the thing that you find on the 990’s are the five top paid vendors and the five top paid employees.
GT: And in the past, it has been Flournoy, and it has been, I think Chelsea Clinton was listed at some point as one of the top five vendors. There’s a story on that a few years back. But yes, no, I agree, I agree with you about, I agree with you about the transparency issue, and it is astonishing to me, and has been throughout the campaign, just at how loose this situation was allowed to be. And again, I think this is perhaps the most legitimate criticism of the Clinton cartel as an organization, and that is their belief that they don’t have to play by the same set of rules as everybody else.
HH: And I think it’s the most legitimate criticism of the media coverage of Hillary…
GT: I agree.
HH: …is that we don’t know these things right away. I have one particular relationship I want to ask you about. Nobody seems to know much about this. Gilbert Chagoury, have you ever covered him? Do you know anything about him?
GT: No, I know very little, apart from anything that I’ve read.
HH: Okay, there is a Wall Street Journal piece from a few years ago. He had lots of shady dealings with a Nigerian dictator, and he was business partners with Marc Rich.
HH: Now does that set off a flag to you?
GT: Yeah, I mean, all of this stuff warrants investigation. Look, but you know, there’s a thing about, again, warranting investigation, I just want to make this clear. Warranting investigation is not the same thing as proving malfeasance.
HH: Of course. Of course not.
GT: But I think it is, again, astonishing to me that you know, this is the premiere political organization in the United States, right? It is particularly the case now that these kind of have the merger of Obama Incorporated and Clinton Incorporated, which has been facilitated over the last year and a half.
HH: Well I, to me, it’s even more, Marc Rich was supposed to be the career ender for Bill Clinton.
HH: The guy was 65 counts. He did business with Iran when our people were hostage there. So I asked Carville about it yesterday. He says I’m not that passionate about the Marc Rich thing one way or the other. And I said of course, you’re not. I’m very passionate about the Clinton Foundation. And I said what about Chagoury going in to see, you know, Doug Band and calling Huma? And he says oh, you know, he never got the appointment. It’s not a big deal. Look, they were running a concierge service, right? That was basically the…
GT: You know, that, you want to know something? That’s exactly, that’s exactly the way to put it. And the thing is, let’s not kid ourselves, everybody has done this for time immemorial, right? I mean, this is what powerful people do. But Teneo, which is the company that we’re talking about that Doug Band formed, and by the way, it’s, I just did a podcast that aired today with Tony Blair. I had not realized Tony Blair had been on the Teneo payroll for a period of time.
HH: All right, so that leads me to my last question. Not inappropriately, Paul Manifort got hammered for the Foreign Agents Registration Act violations regarding the Ukraine. Do you think that Doug Band ought to be asked the same questions about whether he ought to have been under the Foreign Agent Registration Act given his routine concierge work at the State Department?
GT: Sure. I mean, again, the one differentiation I would make is Manifort, you know, Doug Band is a body man, Hugh. You know, I mean, the thing that we kind of miss, and sometimes, we tend to aggrandize these players. I’ve known Doug for a long time. I’ve reported on Doug for a long time. I’ve known Huma for 15 years. And I mean them no disrespect. They are body people. They are the ones who get the flights going. They carry the luggage. They hold the cell phones that the principal picks up.
HH: I get that. But…
GT: And this was a reward. You know, I reported, Hugh, and this was about eight years ago back, during the ’08 campaign, that Hillary Clinton set up her previous, pre-Huma, Kelly
Craighead, and her husband got a five, essentially a $450,000 dollar contract with David Brock’s organization, in which they apparently did very, very little work.
HH: Agreed, but Glenn, my point is the Foreign Agent Registration Act doesn’t care if you’re a body man…
GT: But Manifort worked, and Manifort was essentially…
HH: Yeah, but…
GT: …you know, working for a Putin-allied dictator and a very…
HH: Oh, I get that. That’s why I thought it was…
GT: But my point is, my point is these guys are body people. Manifort is real operative who had a real interest.
HH: Yeah, but the Act doesn’t care.
HH: The Act wants to know if you’re representing a foreign government.
GT: I’ll give you this. So I’ll give you, I don’t know the details, but I’ll give you a big fat yes on that. The more disclosure, the better.
HH: More disclosure is better. So is Politico working on that?
GT: Well, I am off today.
GT: So as soon as I go into the office…
GT: Wait, hold on. I’m looking out the window…
HH: Glenn, that’s a no.
GT: And I’ve got the lawn. I’ve got to do the lawn. I’ve been away for two weeks.
HH: Well, when you get back to Politico.
GT: I see a panda back there. Holy cow.
HH: I want to find out whether or not the Foreign Agents Registration Act applies to Doug Band, and I’m looking to Glenn Thrush to tell me when the lawn gets mowed, whether or not that’s the case.
GT: He’s chewing on a bamboo shoot in my back yard.
HH: Last question, do you think we’re going to get these 14,900 emails before voting begins?
GT: I do. I don’t see how, I don’t see how they can make a case to not have them released. Yes, I totally do.
HH: I hope you’re right, Glenn. Gosh, I hope you’re right. Glenn Thrush of Politico, always fun. Don’t cut yourself mowing the lawn.
End of interview.