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Claims on Clinton Foundation Are Being Probed -- WSJ

6 Jan 2018 7:32 am
By Del Quentin Wilber and James V. Grimaldi 

This article is being republished as part of our daily reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the U.S. print edition of The Wall Street Journal (January 6, 2018).

Federal prosecutors and FBI agents are investigating allegations of potential corruption tied to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, according to a U.S. law-enforcement official and a person familiar with the investigation.

The probe is focused on whether donors to the foundation got preferential treatment from Hillary Clinton when she served as secretary of state during President Barack Obama's first term, the official said.

Among those interviewed by investigators was Andrew Kessel, the foundation's chief financial officer, according to the person familiar with the probe.

The Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation have been scrutinizing the foundation since at least 2015. The disclosure of the current inquiry comes as President Donald Trump has berated the Justice Department and FBI for not investigating his rival in the 2016 presidential election, whom he has called "Crooked Hillary."

A Justice Department spokeswoman, Sarah Isgur Flores, declined to comment. A spokesman for the foundation dismissed the allegations and investigation.

"Time after time, the Clinton Foundation has been subjected to politically motivated allegations, and time after time these allegations have been proven false. None of this has made us waver in our mission to help people," the spokesman, Craig Minassian, said in a statement.

The investigation was reported earlier Friday by The Hill, which said FBI agents from Arkansas had interviewed a witness in the investigation. The investigation is being spearheaded by federal prosecutors and agents in Little Rock, where the foundation has offices in former President Bill Clinton's presidential library, the law-enforcement official said.

The foundation has been under scrutiny by the FBI since at least 2015. By the following year, four FBI field offices -- in New York, Washington, Little Rock and Los Angeles -- were collecting information about the foundation to see if there was evidence of financial crimes or influence-peddling.

The foundation has been a focus of criticism over donations received from governments and corporations that had business before Mrs. Clinton during her time as secretary of state, and could have been affected by decisions she could have made as president. In response to the criticism, the foundation has said it "has strong donor integrity and transparency practices."

As secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton was an aggressive global cheerleader for American companies, pushing governments to sign deals and change policies to the advantage of corporate giants such as General Electric Co., Exxon Mobil Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Boeing Co. At the same time, those companies were among the many that gave to the Clinton family's global foundation set up by her husband, Mr. Clinton.

A Wall Street Journal investigation in 2015 found that at least 60 companies that lobbied the State Department during her tenure donated a total of more than $26 million to the foundation.

For example, in October 2009, Mrs. Clinton flew to Moscow and lobbied on behalf of Boeing, which was seeking to sell jets to Russia. In June 2010, Russia agreed to purchase 50 Boeing 737s for $3.7 billion, choosing Boeing over Europe's Airbus Group NV. Two months later, Boeing made its first donation to the foundation -- $900,000 to help rebuild Haiti's public-education system.

In recent months, Republicans have ratcheted up their calls for the Justice Department to investigate the foundation, and some have called for a second special counsel to delve into various Clinton-related matters. Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating, among other things, whether the people tied to the Trump campaign worked with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Russia has denied interfering with the election and Mr. Trump has denied any collusion by him or his campaign.

Leading the calls for a renewed Clinton probe has been Mr. Trump, who in November tweeted: "Everybody is asking why the Justice Department (and FBI) isn't looking into all of the dishonesty going on with Crooked Hillary & the Dems."

In a letter to Congress in November, the Justice Department reported that senior prosecutors had been tasked with evaluating some of the issues raised by GOP lawmakers. The letter didn't confirm the existence of an investigation, but it cited concerns raised by Republicans about "alleged unlawful dealings related to the Clinton Foundation."

The investigation into the foundation is separate from the probe into Mrs. Clinton's use of a private email server while she served as secretary of state. FBI Director James Comey publicly recommended in July 2016 that no charges be filed against Mrs. Clinton in that investigation, though he called her handling of classified information "extremely careless."

The Justice Department's Inspector General is reviewing how the FBI and Justice Department handled that investigation, and his report is expected in coming months.

Write to Del Quentin Wilber at del.wilber@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 06, 2018 02:32 ET (07:32 GMT)

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