The Washington Post’s Rosalind Helderman joined me this morning to discuss the Clinton Foundation:
HH: Rosalind Helderman is a political investigations and enterprise reporter for the Washington Post. You can follow her on Twitter, @PostRoz. Roz, welcome to the program, great to have you on this morning.
RH: Thanks for having me.
HH: You’ve done some reporting on the Clinton Foundation. It is a sizeable entity. I’m looking at the Charity Navigator summary of it at, it says its asset amount is $354 million dollars. What’s its overhead, Roz?
RH: So I can tell you that a different organization that also does sort of analysis of charities has found that they spend 89% of their money on their charitable cause. You know, there’s some discussion about this, because the amount that they spend in direct grants to other organizations is small, and a lot of private foundations, the way they work, is they collect money from one group and give it to another group. And so that’s a good way for a lot of organizations to look at sort of how much of their money they spend on charity. The Clinton Foundation, for all of its issues, and there are issues that are worth looking at, they work a little bit differently. They actually employ people on the ground through their charitable effort. So you have to look at the way they do it a little bit differently. And the sort of independent analysis by groups that do this for charities, you know, not connected to political figures has found it’s 89%.
HH: Now the latest Form 990 they filed is December of 2014. Why didn’t they file one for 2015 yet?
RH: I believe that they have typically requested the extension, which lots of larger organizations do, which allows them to file in October. You know, obviously, I would have loved to see it earlier. I’m sure you would have, too. But I do believe that that’s been their past pattern.
HH: All right, Charity Navigator says we had previously evaluated this organization, but since have determined that this charity’s atypical business model cannot be accurately captured in our current rating methodology. They say this is neither a positive nor a negative. Generally speaking, the key question, and I asked this of James Carville yesterday…
HH: …is does the Clinton Foundation subsidize the Clintons? What’s your assessment of that, Roz?
RH: I think it’s a little bit of a complicated question. I’m sure that Mr. Carville said no.
RH: I wouldn’t exactly say no. They don’t take a salary from the organization, and they don’t take sort of direct, a direct personal benefit from the Foundation. However, you know, the Clintons have made a great deal of money by being the Clintons, by remaining sort of powerful figures on the world stage by being the kind of people that people with money want to pay to come visit them and give speeches to them. And you know, the sort of reputational benefit that they’ve gotten from the Foundation has helped with that. If you look at Bill Clinton’s speeches, which he gives for pay to private organizations around the world, a lot of what he talks about is the work of the Foundation. Now I’m sure their allies would say with some probably accuracy that they are people who could have commanded high speaking fees even without the Foundation. But I do think that the Foundation has helped create them as the global force that has allowed them to make money in other ways.
HH: Now one of the charges that is compiled against them is that basically the Clinton Foundation acted as, I used the term a concierge service for the Clinton State Department, that Doug Band would send an email to Huma whether it was for Bono or for Gilbert Chagoury or for the Crown Prince of Bahrain, and Huma Abedin would get back to Doug Band on a back channel.
HH: Fair? Is that a fair assessment?
RH: I think it is fair that people who were in the Clinton very large network of international friends and supporters had a way to get the ear of Huma Abedin, who was close to the Secretary, and the Secretary, that ordinary folks did not have. I don’t think we have seen the evidence that they necessarily got the thing that they wanted. And also, I’m not sure that we’ve seen the evidence that there was sort of a one for one exchange. You give a donation to the Foundation, and in exchange for your donation, you get this access. But that said, you know, you look at that email that Doug Band sent about the Crown Prince of Bahrain, and there’s a very interesting line in it. This is an example where the Crown Prince of Bahrain had been trying to get a meeting. I mean, he is a world leader. That’s not unusual he would get to meet with the Secretary of State. And he had gone through normal channels, according to these emails, to try to get a meeting. And it looked as though the Secretary was considering the offer, how her schedule was busy, but she had not yet committed. What Doug Band writes to Huma is that he’s trying to get this meeting, the Prince, and that he is “a good friend of ours”, just to kind of remind Huma, who presumably might remind the Secretary that this is a world leader who has some additional relationship with the Clintons.
HH: Now this is a quick question. Paul Manifort was rightly criticized for perhaps evading the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938. Has anyone looked into whether or not Doug Band, have you looked into whether or not Doug Band ought to have bene registered as a foreign agent?
RH: It’s funny that you ask that. I’ve given that some thought. Let’s leave it at that.
HH: How about Huma in her private capacity at Teneo?
RH: That’s also an interesting question. From what we know about what she did during the six months that she worked at Teneo, I don’t believe that we know of her having done work for foreign governments. That’s a good question.
HH: But we do know that Doug Band intervened on behalf of the Crown Prince, so we know he represented the interests of the Crown Prince. As far as you understand the Foreign Agents Registration Act, ought he to have been registered?
RH: I don’t know the answer to that question. It’s a good one. I mean, one question I think about that relationship is I’m not certain whether he had a financial relationship with the Crown Prince, right? Or if he was intervening, but more on the level of, you know, Washington friendship, if you will.
HH: Yeah, it will come down to whether or not, and I don’t know the answer to this, whether or not FARA would require an agent of a beneficiary to register, because you know, he’s getting paid by the Clinton Foundation. And if the Crown Prince is donating to the Clinton Foundation, and Band is taking a salary, I think you’ve got to register, but I don’t know. It’s not my specialty. We’ll come…
RH: Yeah, it’s a complicated question, because it would come down to both his relationship with the Crown Prince, and how that compares to the law, and also the precise nature of his intervention, and whether that meets the law’s definition of lobbying.
HH: But it does seem to me that Manifort had to answer these questions, and that Band and Huma ought to answer them as well. Now let me talk to you about Gilbert Chagoury. Have you written any articles on Gilbert Chagoury?
RH: I have not.
HH: Has anyone looked into, to your knowledge, the business relationship between Chagoury and Marc Rich?
RH: I know that the topic that you’ve been tweeting about, and I was interested to read your tweets. I’m not sure whether that’s been a topic for an investigation. It’s not something I’ve written about.
HH: Peter Schweizer wrote a piece in the New York Post on January 17th, 2016, detailing the relationship, and alleging that it was significant. If so, does that not seem pregnant to you, Roz, that that ought to be looked into if Marc Rich’s business partner is giving the Clintons lots of money?
RH: I mean, I think there’s a lot of topics that are, there’s a lot more topics that are interesting in the world, and I looked into myself. I mean, I can tell you, and we had a little bit of an exchange about this on Twitter, that I have written, you know, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of inches about the Clinton Foundation. That might be a good topic for exploration. But you know, I would certainly encourage people to go ahead and read the stories that we have done about the Foundation, because you know, we put a lot of work into them, and I think they’re interesting.
HH: Oh, they are. And I’ve read all this stuff. What I was getting at on my Twitter feed, and what I think the sustained investigation is, what Donald Trump said last night. Let me play the little clip of what Donald Trump said last night. It’s the nub of the issue.
DT: It is impossible to figure out where the Clinton Foundation ends and the State Department begins.
HH: True or false, Roz?
RH: I think it is true that there was a really intertangled world of Clinton aides who went back and forth between them, sort of world diplomacy that went back and forth between them. I mean, one thing to remember is that this is an extraordinarily unusual situation to have a former president have a spouse who’s running for office. You know, you look at some of the material that came out in Citizens United yesterday, which deals with correspondence back and forth between Secretary Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, and the Foundation.
HH: Is that Citizens United or Judicial Watch?
RH: It’s actually citizens United.
RH: Two different releases this week. I’m sure Citizens United would want me to be sure to say it was Citizens United.
RH: It was Citizens United, and a lot of that correspondence actually doesn’t deal with topics related specifically to the Foundation. It actually deals with sort of Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton has been traveling to this country, this world leader has requested a meeting, does the State Department have any problem with it, does the State Department have talking points that they would suggest he bring to this meeting to represent the point of view of the U.S. government. And it’s really hard to know whether those are the kind of conversations that would go on absent the Foundation, because you have such an unusual situation of a former president and a first lady who is now Secretary of State, or is, this would only happen because he’s traveling to those countries for the Foundation. It’s an interesting hypothetical that I don’t think we can answer.
HH: It is. If I can hold you over the break, I want to ask you a couple more. Very quickly, though, Roz, to the break, do you believe that Secretary Clinton accurately represented her release of emails to the Congress when she testified? She testified she’d given all her work-related emails. In your understanding, was that accurate?
RH: The FBI has said there were work-related emails that she did not give. The answer as to why that was is probably something we’re going to have to address after the break.
HH: I’ll be right back with Roz Helderman of the Washington Post.
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HH: Roz, when we went to break, we were talking about Hillary’s email. If I can back up for a second, though, Doug Band and the Foreign Agents Registration Act, it occurred to me during the break, ought Bill Clinton to have registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act for taking $17.6 million from Laureate University?
RH: I don’t know. That’s an interesting question. I don’t know, I’m not certain, it’s not one I’ve ever thought about before.
HH: Okay, so we’ll add that…
RH: It sounds like you as well. It sounds like that’s the first time it’s occurred to you, yeah…
HH: No, it hadn’t occurred to me until I read, I read an NBC story today…
HH: …that Hillary was criticizing for-profit education institutions yesterday and didn’t mention that Bill had taken $17.6 [million] from Laureate, which is a for-profit education institution.
HH: And I looked up the Foreign Agent Registration Act, and it requires disclosures of persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity. And I think…
RH: And Laureate, I would say, it operates all over the world, but it’s based in the United States. It’s based in Baltimore. I’m not saying that means the answer is no. I just, I think that’s probably relevant to the conversation.
HH: Yeah, it’ll be interesting for all of his ties. Back to Chagoury before we go back to the emails as well, I’ve got John Imschweiler’s 2008 story on Chagoury. It reads, “Mr. Chagoury is a figure with a controversial past. In the mid-1990’s, he was known for a close association with Nigeria’s military dictator, Sani Abacha, which helped him land lucrative business contacts in construction and other areas. After General Abacha died in 1998, Swiss and European authorities froze a number of bank accounts, including some related to Mr. Chagoury as a part of an investigation. Mr. Chagoury later agreed to return funds estimated at $300 million dollars to the Nigerian government in exchange for indemnity from possible charges and to unfreeze his accounts. Now he is, I think he’s pledged a billion dollars to the Clinton Foundation. Do you know how much he’s pledged to them?
RH: I don’t. I mean, I think that that’s a good example of something that you see throughout the Foundation, which is that their donor lists are full of controversial people, in some cases, people who have been indicted for crimes. And you know, why those people gave money, maybe they were turning their lives around and they wanted to do good in the world. Or maybe they were looking for the prestige of having been associated with the Clintons. I did a story, gosh, right around the time that the FIFA scandal broke about the government of Qatar, and there actually was, it was the portion of the government of Qatar which was putting on the World Cup. So it was relevant to the FIFA issue. And they had come to CGI right around the time that they were being criticized for various things involving their effort to put the World Cup on. And they got to come up on stage with Bill Clinton and announce they were doing this big charitable pledge to translate the technology they were going to use to air condition the stadium, the outdoor stadium where they were going to play the World Cup in 110 degree heat, to various charitable issues, and sort of stand next to Bill Clinton and obviously get some of that, you know, Clinton prestige, that sort of notion that they were doing good in the world. And you know, it was a, that was an interesting donation, and I think you see a lot like that in the donor lists.
HH: Now the most interesting of all, and you mentioned this earlier, Marc Rich was under indictment for 65 counts by Rudy Giuliani, including doing business with Iran when Americans were held hostage there. If Chagoury is Marc Rich’s business partner, as has been reported in places, and Marc Rich was pardoned by Bill Clinton, ought not the American media to be investigating the breadth and depth of that Rich-Chagoury relationship?
RH: You’ve been an excellent editor in this interview, Hugh. I certainly understand your interest in this topic.
HH: That was a nice sidestep, Roz. Do you think it ought to be the subject of investigative reporting?
RH: You know, as I said, there are a lot of topics that are really interesting. That one sounds interesting.
HH: Last, and back to the emails, and we have one minute left.
HH: Do you expect to see these 14,900 emails before, with enough time to influence the election outcome?
RH: I expect that we will likely see some of them. What the State Department has said is that they have to go through their process of looking through them to see, apparently they say that some of them are actually personal, although I think we expect that some of them are not, and then also to put them through their normal public records process of determining what should be released and what shouldn’t be. If you looked at the original Hillary Clinton emails, which was about 30,000 emails, it took them about nine months to put them all out. They did it on a rolling basis. And a judge has indicated they have said that they want to start that in mid-October. And a judge has said that’s not good enough. So yes, I think we’ll see some.
HH: Are we getting slow rolled?
RH: Hard to say. Hard to say.
HH: All right, Roz, I appreciate the time. Come back. Rosalind Helderman from the Washington Post, thank you.
End of interview.