MARCH 27, 2019
Clinton v. Trump: A Tale of Two Foundations
“Here ruining people is considered sport,” White House Deputy Counsel Vincent Foster wrote in a note shortly before his suicide in 1993. Foster’s fate in the early stages of the Whitewater scandal comes to mind with the news of Robert Mueller exonerating President Trump on Russian collusion and Attorney General William Barr clearing the president of obstruction of justice.
In Washington, as Foster recognized, politics is a blood sport and the whirling blade of scandal can be murder. Donald Trump recognizes this too. “There are a lot of people out there that have done some very, very evil things,” the president said Monday with barely contained fury. “Very bad things. I would say treasonous things against our country.”
The Mueller Report is not the beginning of the end of the scandal war, but the end of the beginning. The media will not back off. The Democrat-led House will launch probes. Republicans will parry. The 2020 election vortex will soon be upon us. And state prosecutors—particularly in Trump’s home state of New York—have signaled their intent to destroy the president.
The threat from New York is serious. One way to understand the jihad is to consider a tale of two foundations, Clinton and Trump.
The Trump Foundation is no more. In December, the foundation signed a deal with the New York state attorney general, agreeing to dissolution and distribution of its remaining assets under court supervision.
Mr. Trump’s main sin was using his own charitable funds—for years, he was the foundation’s chief donor—for non-charitable activities such as settling legal claims and once purchasing a portrait of himself. He also allowed the foundation to be inserted into several improper campaign activities in the chaotic 2016 race. Details here.
The price of these deeds? Small beans in Foundation World: New York is seeking $2.8 million in restitution and “additional penalties.” The foundation’s remaining $1.7 million will be disbursed with a court’s permission. New York wants to ban the president for 10 years from serving on any foundation board and ban his children for one year.
The Clinton Foundation is still in business. It had a bad year in 2017, raising only $38 million, “a sharp decline from the $249 million raised during [Hillary] Clinton’s first year as secretary of state,” reported the Center for Responsive Politics. Not small beans.
When Mrs. Clinton became secretary of state, she pledged “to not participate personally or substantially” in matters involving the Clinton Foundation and its related entities. But evidence soon emerged—thanks in part to Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuits—that the Clintons were running a massive pay-to-play scam at State and the foundation, premised in part on the notion that Mrs. Clinton would one day be president. Donors—including foreign donors—flocked to pay tribute to the president-in-waiting.
In a news-making report on Clinton ethics, Judicial Watch uncovered documents showing that Bill Clinton raked in $48 million for 215 speeches while his wife presided over U.S. foreign policy. And that was only the beginning. Millions poured into the foundation from foreign governments while Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state. In the Uranium One controversy, entities connected to the Russian company bidding for control of U.S. uranium assets—a deal that needed sign-off from Mrs. Clinton’s State Department—contributed more than $140 million to the Clinton Foundation. Tycoons, lobbyists, foreign royalty and various monied riff-raff all sought and gained access to the Clinton State Department through generous donation to the Clinton Foundation. Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton last year provided a roadmap of foundation malfeasance in groundbreaking Congressional testimony, “Oversight of Nonprofit Organizations: A Case Study on the Clinton Foundation.”
Where was law enforcement? New York state was dismissive of concerns about the Clintons. The New York attorney general in 2016, Eric Schneiderman, forced the Trump Foundation to cease fundraising activities while he investigated, but rejected an investigation of the Clinton Foundation. The Clinton Foundation issues were “ministerial, routine stuff” and the organization was “properly registered and properly filed,” he said. Schneiderman resigned as attorney general in 2018 following shocking allegations of physical abuse from four women.
The Department of Justice was equally incurious when it came to the Clinton Foundation. An October 2016 FBI probe appears to have sputtered out. Reportedly, senior Justice Department officials in 2016 refused FBI requests to issue subpoenas on Clinton Foundation issues. And while news surfaced in 2018 about a new FBI probe into the foundation, there has been no indication it is going anywhere.
In New York, a new attorney general promises to make destroying Mr. Trump her life’s work. “I will be shining a bright light into every dark corner of his real estate dealings, and every dealing, demanding truthfulness at every turn,” declared newly elected New York State Attorney General Letitia James in November. Later, she told NBC that her office “will use every area of the law to investigate President Trump and his business transactions and that of his family.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has doubled down on Trump probes, saying the president “is not out of the woods—there are many cases that are pending.” New investigations, unrelated to the Trump Foundation, have been opened. New York carries considerable firepower. It has jurisdiction over the Trump Organization and related entities. State attorneys have a long track record in prosecuting corporate and tax fraud. An ambitious state prosecutor—not bound by Justice Department guidelines—might be tempted to test the proposition that a sitting president can’t be indicted. Or sealed indictments might await the outcome of the 2020 election.
So buckle up, because one knows what the road ahead will bring. The immutable law of presidential scandal is that there are no immutable laws. Who could have imagined Monica’s blue dress? Or a secret taping system in the Nixon White House? Or a former CIA director calling a sitting president’s conduct “treasonous?”
Micah Morrison is chief investigative reporter for Judicial Watch. Follow him on Twitter @micah_morrison. Tips: firstname.lastname@example.org
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