AP sources: FBI agents sought Clinton Foundation probe
WASHINGTON – FBI agents seeking an investigation into the Clinton Foundation made a presentation to Justice Department lawyers about the allegations they wanted to pursue, but public corruption prosecutors did not want to partner with them based on concerns about the strength of the information they received, two people familiar with the matter said Thursday.
The meeting at the Justice Department took place in February and reflected the conflicting views of prosecutors and investigators, according to two individuals who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations within the government.
Though agents believed they had grounds to investigate the foundation, Justice Department lawyers were far more skeptical. During the February meeting, the lawyers did not direct the FBI to stop looking into the matter, but public-corruption prosecutors in Washington expressed disinterest in working with the FBI on a Clinton Foundation-related investigation based on the information that was presented to them at the briefing, the people said.
It’s unclear whether FBI agents have continued to look into the Clinton Foundation, a nonprofit corporation that raises funds from private, corporate and some government donors for international projects to reduce poverty, improve health and other global needs. Critics have also accused the Clinton family of using the foundation to enrich themselves and give donors special access to the State Department when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.
But the Justice Department’s public integrity section has not changed its stance on the matter since the briefing earlier this year, according to one of the people who spoke to AP.
The FBI reportedly also has looked into aides of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, including business ties in Ukraine of Paul Manafort, who resigned in August as Trump’s campaign chairman following revelations that his firm had orchestrated a secret Ukrainian lobbying campaign in Washington. The New York Times reported this week that the FBI had examined possible connections between the Trump campaign and the Russians, but had found nothing direct.
The February meeting about the Clinton Foundation followed the publication of “Clinton Cash,” a book by Republican political consultant Peter Schweizer that alleges foreign governments that donated to the foundation received favors at the State Department during Clinton’s time as secretary. The State Department has not found any ethics violations related to the foundation while she ran the department, and Clinton campaign aides have cast Schweizer as a Republican operative working to defeat her.
It couldn’t immediately be learned what specific allegations had attracted the attention of the FBI.
Longstanding Justice Department protocol discourages investigative actions in the run-up to an election that could be seen as affecting the electoral process. That’s why Justice Department officials disagreed with the decision by FBI Director James Comey to alert Congress last week to the discovery of new emails that he said might be connected to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. That investigation ended in July without charges.
The latest emails were discovered during the FBI’s sexting investigation of former Rep. Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Huma Abedin, a close Hillary Clinton aide. The FBI has obtained a warrant to begin the process of going through the newly found emails to see whether they were classified.
Comey has said he felt obligated to notify Congress in order to keep the public informed and because he had previously told lawmakers that the investigation had been completed.
An FBI spokeswoman declined to discuss the Clinton Foundation discussions or any possible Trump-related investigation.