Following a series of explosive allegations made by relatives of the Bangladeshi prime minister, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has some very serious questions for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Department of State.
In a letter to the department mailed out last week, the senator states:
Recent news reports detail that Secretary Clinton and her staff allegedly pressured the government of Bangladesh, including its Prime Minister, Sheik Hasina, to terminate a corruption investigation into a Clinton Global Initiative donor, Dr. Muhammad Yunus. Reports also indicate that State Department officials threatened the Prime Minister's son, Sajeeb Wazed, with an IRS audit if he did not attempt to get his mother to terminate the investigation. On May 11, 2017, Prime Minister Hasina confirmed that Mrs. Clinton called her office in March of 2011 and demanded that Yunus be restored to his position of chairman of the Grameen Bank. This new evidence of pay-to-play and special treatment reinforces the appearance that donations to the Clinton Foundation resulted in favorable treatment by Secretary Clinton's State Department.
As I wrote in my August 2016 letter to Department of Justice, federal law requires that executive branch employees be disqualified from matters that have a direct and predictable effect on the employee's own financial interests or the financial interests of those persons or organizations with which the employee is affiliated, such as those of a spouse, unless the employee first obtains an individual waiver or a regulatory exemption applies. Once again, Secretary Clinton's actions have raised reasonable suspicions that she violated these rules and undermined the public's confidence in the integrity of the State Department.
Yunus' personal relationship with the Clintons stems from when Bill Clinton was the governor of Arkansas. For decades, Yunus has been heralded by the Clinton Foundation and has been showcased at a number of foundation functions. Bill Clinton also personally lobbied the Nobel Committee on behalf of Yunus, and in 2006 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. According to reports, Yunus' companies donated between $100,000 to $250,000 to the Clinton Global Initiative and $25,000 to $50,000 to the Clinton Foundation. Upon Secretary Clinton's appointment as secretary of state, the Clinton-Yunus relationship deepened. Secretary Clinton's Department of State reportedly awarded more than $13 million in taxpayer funds to businesses aligned with Yunus.
In 2011, the Bangladesh government removed Yunus from his position on the Grameen Bank Board of Directors, citing certain legal violations and statutory age limits on his position. During this time, emails between Yunus' associates, the Clinton Foundation, Hillary Clinton, Cheryl Mills and other State Department staff appear to show a concerted effort to intercede in the Yunus investigation. The emails demonstrate Secretary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation closely monitored the investigation into Yunus. The emails also show an effort by the U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh to arrange meetings with the prime minister to apply pressure in an attempt to end the investigation into Yunus. These emails are attached.
According to the son of Prime Minister Hasina, Sajeed Wazed, he had a number of interactions with high-level State Department officials from 2010-2012. Mr. Wazed recalled that in almost every meeting the Yunus investigation would inevitably come up and that he faced pressure to end the investigation. Some of the individuals he met with include:
James Moriarty – U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh
Dan Mozena – U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh
Jon Danilowicz – Deputy Chief of Mission, Bangladesh
Rajiv Shah – Administrator, USAID
Specifically, Mr. Wazed recounted two conversations with then-Deputy Chief of Mission to Bangladesh Jon Danilowicz during which Danilowicz mentioned that Wazed might be audited by the IRS if he failed to use his influence to get his mother to drop the investigation into Yunus. Mr. Wazed said that sometimes officials from the State Department were apologetic when repeatedly delivering the message concerning Yunus, and made clear that they were just acting as messengers from the highest levels of the State Department. Furthermore, he was told by these same officials that Yunus was communicating with Secretary Clinton and her staff for assistance and, in turn, Secretary Clinton's staff put pressure on the Embassy in Bangladesh to intercede on Yunus' behalf.
If the Secretary of State used her position to intervene in an independent investigation by a sovereign government simply because of a personal and financial relationship stemming from the Clinton Foundation rather than the legitimate foreign policy interests of the United States, then that would be unacceptable. Commingling her official position as Secretary of State with her family foundation would be similarly inappropriate. It is vital to determine whether the State Department had any role in the threat of an IRS audit against the son of the Prime Minister in retaliation for this investigation.
Grassley has asked for answers to the following questions, setting a June 15 deadline for the department to respond:
- Did any State Department official directly or indirectly suggest Mr. Wazed might suffer any consequences, including an IRS audit, in relation to the Bangladesh investigation? If so, please provide all records relating to such communications.
- Has this matter been referred to the Inspector General or Department of Justice for review? If not, why not?
- Please provide unredacted copies of all State Department emails attached to this letter.
Despite chants of "Lock her up!" at campaign rallies and even the Republican National Convention in 2016, neither President Donald Trump nor the Republican-controlled Congress has demonstrated any desire to actually pursue criminal charges against Clinton for widespread pay-to-play schemes that plagued the Clinton Foundation, or for her involvement in mishandling classified information on an unsecured private "home brew" server while she was secretary of state.
This new investigation would suggest perhaps that might be changing.
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