Part 3 of a peak behind the curtain at Bill and Hillary Clinton’s extensive history of controversies and scandals begins with Commercegate.
Commercegate – Seats on Commerce Department international trade mission trips were sold to corporate figures in return for big contributions to President Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, who was reported to have opposed the scheme, died when one of the missions crashed in Croatia, leading independent counsel Daniel Pearson to leave his investigation unfinished.
CNN reported that – A former business partner of the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown testified in U.S. District Court Monday that Brown had told her President and Mrs. Clinton supported a White House plan to sell seats on international trade missions to raise campaign contributions. Nolanda Hill, under federal indictment for fraudulent business practices, claimed Brown was angered when White House political operatives forced him to provide seats on trade missions as a fund-raising device.
Hill painted a picture of Brown as furious with the White House, and especially first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, for instigating the plan. “I’m not a [mother-expletive deleted] tour guide for Hillary,” Brown complained privately to Hill, according to her account. Hill further said Brown resented the first lady and the “Arkansas crowd” of insiders for perverting the trade missions, with the apparent blessing of the president himself.
Norman Hsu – Norman Hsu was a top fundraiser for Hillary Clinton and other Democrats. He pled guilty to a $20 billion Ponzi scheme that involved misleading investors about his contacts with key Democratic leaders. Hsu raised more than $850,000 for Mrs. Clinton, “arm twisting” a network of about 300 investors, acquaintances and friends, he told the Washington Post. The Clinton campaign said it subsequently gave the money to the U.S. Treasury. Hsu was sentenced to 24 years in prison.
Hillary claimed she did not have much contact with Hsu and did not know about his background. However, jurors in Manhattan federal court heard a voicemail message from then-Senator Hillary Clinton to Hsu. In the voicemail, Clinton was effusive in her praise of Hsu, suggesting she would win the Democratic presidential primary because he “single-handedly” would make it happen. Clinton said she had “lots of love” for him and that she had “never seen anybody who has been more loyal and more effective.”
Sant Singh Chatwal – In 2015 hotel developer Sant Singh Chatwal, a Hillary Clinton fundraiser, was sentenced to three years of probation after admitting he used straw donors to raise $180,000.
Yah Lin “Charlie” Trie – President Clinton’s longtime friend and a Democratic fund-raiser, was at the center of the 1996 campaign finance controversy and eventually plead guilty to two charges in his Arkansas trial (May 1999). Trie plead guilty to a felony charge of causing false statements and a misdemeanor count of making political contributions in the names of others. It was Charlie Trie who arranged for international Chinese weapons dealer, Wang Jun, chairman of CITIC, the chief investment arm of the People’s Republic of China to meet with Bill Clinton at a Democrat Party event. At the time Clinton met with Wang, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Customs Service were wrapping up an investigation which caught Wang’s company smuggling at least $4 million worth of 2,000 illegal AK-47 assault weapons destined for gang members in California.
Grigory Loutchansky – Linked by Interpol to the Russian mafia, money laundering, drug trafficking, nuclear smuggling across the Baltics, and international arms trading, Loutchansky attended a Democrat Party White House dinner in October of 1993. He got a private two-minute meeting and a picture with the president. Loutchansky was invited back to a second DNC dinner in July 1995. A year before, Canada had blocked Loutchansky from entering Canada because he had failed a background check.
Johnny Chung – Chung gave more than $366,000 to the Democratic National Committee prior to the 1996 campaign, but it was returned after officials learned it came from illegal foreign sources. Chung later told a special Senate committee investigating 1996 Clinton campaign fund-raising that $35,000 of his contributions came from individuals in Chinese intelligence. Chung pleaded guilty to bank fraud, tax evasion and campaign finance violations.
Selling the White House Lincoln Bedroom – More than 900 people stayed overnight in the Lincoln bedroom of the White House during President Bill Clinton’s tenure. A Democratic National Committee memo showed that Bill Clinton personally endorsed the idea of using sleepovers at the White House as a fundraising tactic—“Ready to start overnights right away,” he wrote.
Inviting guests to spend a night in the Lincoln Bedroom can pay dividends for decades. More than half of the donors who were overnight guests to Bill Clinton’s White House are still giving—this time to Hillary Clinton. The Center for Public Integrity published the first list of donors who nabbed a night in the Clinton White House—and whose stays sparked outrage and investigations—in its 1996 report, “Fat Cat Hotel.” Of the 66 original “Fat Cats” still living, 34 have donated a total of $1.15 million to Hillary Clinton’s campaign or the super PACs supporting her since January 2013.
Carpets and Silverware – “Former president Bill Clinton and Hillary, faced with multimillion-dollar houses to furnish here and in suburban New York, left the White House yesterday with an unprecedented $190,027 worth of gifts received over the last eight years” Washington Post 2001. The Post reported that some of those gifts — $28,000 worth — were intended for the White House, not for the Clintons personally, About a week later, the Clintons returned the $28,000 worth of furnishings to the National Park Service. The Clintons also agreed to pay for $86,000 worth of other items that they received in their last year in office.
Pardongate – Shortly before leaving the Oval Office, Bill Clinton issued a number of controversial pardons for controversial individuals represented by lawyers with ties to the administration. The most controversial was convicted tax evader Marc Rich who was pardoned after his former wife made big contributions to the Clinton presidential library and to Hillary Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign.
A New York Times editorial called it “a shocking abuse of presidential power.”
Marc Rich was wanted for a list of charges going back decades. He had traded illegally with America’s enemies including Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran, where he bought about $200 million worth of oil while revolutionaries allied with Khomeini held 53 American hostages in 1979. Rich made a large part of his wealth, approximately $2 billion between 1979 and 1994, selling oil to the apartheid regime in South Africa when it faced a UN embargo. He did deals with Khadafy’s Libya and Kim Il Sung’s North Korea. He was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List.
To help secure his pardon, Rich’s wife, Denise Rich, made at least $1.1 million in contributions to Democratic causes, including $70,000 to Hillary’s Senate campaign and PACs, and at least $450,000 to the Clinton foundation. Denise’s friend Beth Dozoretz kicked in another million of her own money to the fund.
CounterPunch – “Denise Rich and Beth Dozoretz are skiing in Aspen. Beth’s phone rings. It’s Bill Clinton. Clinton tells Dozoretz, “I want to do it and am trying to get around the White House counsel.” Keep praying, Bill told the women.” Secret Service logs show that Beth and Denise were later admitted to the private quarters of the White House.
The Clinton library has refused to release more than 300 pages of Clinton’s records relating to the pardon. Rich died in 2013. But his business partners, lawyers, advisers and friends have showered millions of dollars on the Clintons in the decade and a half following the scandal.
In 2001 The New York Times reported Hillary’s brother Hugh Rodham received $400,000 for helping two convicted felons win pardons from brother-in-law Bill Clinton. Almon Glenn Braswell, a convicted perjurer and mail fraud felon received a pardon as and Carlos Vignali, a convicted drug dealer, had his sentence commuted. Federal prosecutors had strongly opposed commutation of Vignali’s sentence.
President Clinton issued a statement saying he and Mrs. Clinton were “deeply disturbed” by news reports about the payments and had demanded that Mr. Rodham return the money. Mr. Rodham’s lawyer said he did that. “Hugh Rodham has done absolutely nothing wrong,” said lawyer Nancy Luque.
The president granted 140 pardons and 36 commutations in the final hours of his presidency. The cases affecting at least two dozen felons bypassed the customary review by the Justice Department, which normally takes as long as a year to investigate pardon applications, and were handled directly from the White House.
L.A. Times 2001 – Lawyers for two men who sought presidential clemency said that their clients were solicited to pay large sums of money in return for Roger Clinton’s help in their cases. In one case, a Texas man paid $200,000 in two installments to an Arkansas firm to secure clemency for his brother. Like Clinton brother-in-law Hugh Rodham, Roger Clinton enjoyed unfettered White House access and appears to have tried to use it to influence the clemency process, say those involved in the new cases.
Haitigate – The Haitian Times reports: Hillary Rodham Clinton manipulated and threatened Haitian government officials to control electoral outcomes. In that country, too, she and her husband have led the way in promoting a sweatshop-led development model. Recently released e-mails from Hillary Clinton’s private server reveal new details of how U.S. officials worked closely with the Haitian private sector as they forced Haitian authorities to change the results of the first round presidential elections in late 2010. The e-mails documenting these “behind the doors actions” were made public as part of an ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit.
Contractors for Fruit of the Loom, Hanes and Levi’s worked in close concert with the US Embassy when they aggressively moved to block a minimum wage increase for Haitian assembly zone workers, the lowest-paid in the hemisphere, according to secret State Department cables.
The revelation of US support for low wages in Haiti’s assembly zones was in a trove of 1,918 cables made available to the Haitian weekly newspaper Haïti Liberté by WikiLeaks.
Haiti’s gold reserves are estimated at more than $20 billion. But mining has its costs: environment, health, safety, and profit sharing, as a report from NYU School of Law detailed. One such recipient of a multi-million dollar contract – one of only two granted in 2012 – was Tony Rodham, Hillary Clinton’s brother.
Tony Rodham’s involvement with the (VCS Mining) mine, which has become a source of controversy in Haiti because of concern about potential environmental damage and the belief that the project will primarily benefit foreign investors, was first revealed in publicity about a book on the Clintons by author Peter Schweizer. (Washington Post)
Jeffrey Epstein – A billionaire and major donor to the Democratic Party, he was accused by Virginia Roberts in a sworn statement in a federal court filing that under Epstein’s tutelage she “was a teen sex slave and that she also saw Bill Clinton on Epstein’s “orgy island” (the US Virgin Islands). “I remember asking Jeffrey, ‘What’s Bill Clinton doing here?’ and he laughed it off and said, ‘Well, he owes me a favor’ … he never told me what favors they were,’” Roberts told lawyers.
Flight logs obtained by Radar show Clinton flew on Epstein’s private Boeing 727, which Roberts has claimed had a bed used for high-altitude orgies. The logs show he took 26 flights, at least five of which he declined Secret Service protection. “Why would a former president associate with a man like that?” said Conchita Sarnoff of the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Alliance to Rescue Victims of Trafficking
Radar reported that Epstein sent $3.5 million to the Clinton’s foundation after the sex slave probe began, according to secret Swiss bank records leaked by a whistleblower. The details of the money transfer are contained in internal bank data that a computer expert took with him when he left HBSC bank in 2007 — and recently provided to several news agencies, including London’s Guardian newspaper.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which obtained the data from the whistle-blower, documented $81 million being routed from HSBC Swiss accounts to The Clinton Foundation, including money from Epstein.
Russia & US Uranium – The New York Times reported on details regarding the Clinton Foundation’s ties to a number of investors involved in a business transaction that resulted in the acquisition of Uranium One, owner of U.S. based uranium assets, by Atomredmetzoloto (ARMZ), a subsidiary of Rosatom, a Russian government owned company. The transaction raised a number of national security concerns because it effectively ceded 20% of U.S. uranium production capacity to the Russian government.
During critical stages of the acquisition approval, interested parties made large donations – some in the millions of dollars – to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton held the position of Secretary of State. When millions of dollars flow to decision makers who have substantial discretion to provide support for or against approval of controversial transactions, public confidence in the integrity of the process requires a commitment to transparency and responsiveness to oversight inquiries.
Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well.
Shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.
A person with knowledge of the Clinton Foundation’s fund-raising operation, who requested anonymity to speak candidly about it, said that for many people, the hope is that money will in fact buy influence: “Why do you think they are doing it — because they love them?” (N.Y. Times)
Glenn Greenwald 8/29/2016: “The Clintons have essentially become the pioneers of amassing massive wealth from around the world, and using that to boost their own political power, and then using that political power to boost the interests of the people who are enriching them in all kinds of ways. And of course questions need to be asked, and suspicions are necessarily raised, because this kind of behavior is inherently suspicious.”