Hillary Clinton listens during campaign appearance

WikiLeaks Clinton Morocco Pay-To-Play Scheme Is ‘Quintessential’ Clinton Controversy

The WikiLeaks Clinton Morocco emails that suggest a pay-to-play scheme between the Clinton Foundation and foreign governments is the “quintessential” Clinton controversy, according to a column by Atlantic contributor Russell Berman.

Of the thousands of private emails from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta that were recently “dumped” into the public sphere by WikiLeaks, a handful concerning the Clinton Foundation and plans for Clinton to take a trip to Morocco are getting some of the most attention.

In emails sent in January and May of 2015, Huma Abedin, one of Hillary Clinton’s top aides and advisors, outlines arrangements made between the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) and the king of Morocco. The Clinton Global Initiative is a branch of the Clinton Foundation.

The arrangement concerned the planning of a Clinton Global Initiative summit to be held in Morocco, with the king pledging “$12 million both for the endowment and to support the meeting” as long as Hillary Clinton agreed to make a personal appearance.

In a November 2014 email sent to several of Clinton’s top aides and advisors, including Podesta, Abedin gives the dates of the summit and explains that Hillary Clinton absolutely must attend.

“No matter what happens, she will be in Morocco hosting CGI on May 5-7, 2015,” Abedin writes. “Her presence was a condition for the Moroccans to proceed so there is no going back on this.”

The summit in Morocco came at an awkward time for the Clinton campaign. Staffers were planning to officially kick of Clinton’s presidential run around the same time and sought to distance the candidate from paid speaking engagements and Clinton Foundation functions, “particularly those that could cause political controversy,” Berman explains.

Despite the inconvenient timing, Abedin insisted that Clinton intended to honor her commitment to attend the summit.

Abedin reasserted this and provided more details of the agreement in a January 2015 email.

“Just to give you some context, the condition upon which the Moroccans agreed to host the meeting was her participation. If hrc was not part if it, meeting was a non-starter. CGI also wasn’t pushing for a meeting in Morocco and it wasn’t their first choice. This was HRC’s idea, our office approached the Moroccans and they 100 percent believe they are doing this at her request. The King has personally committed approx $12 million both for the endowment and to support the meeting. It will break a lot of china to back out now when we had so many opportunities to do it in the past few months.”

Hillary Clinton has long been dogged by allegations that the Clinton Foundation acted, in part, as a cover for pay-to-play schemes while she served as secretary of sate. In May of 2015, Mother Jones reported on an investigation that found that several countries who donated to the Clinton Foundation “saw an increase in State Department-approved arms sales” under Clinton’s watch.

Many of the countries receiving the weapons, such as Qatar, Algeria, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, were considered authoritarian regimes. Two others, Oman and Saudi Arabia, had been previously criticized by the State Department for human rights abuses, Mother Jones reported.

As Berman notes, the WikiLeaks Clinton Morocco emails play right into the hands of critics who see weapons and other political favors flowing to Clinton Foundation donor countries as evidence of corruption.

“The chief complaint that critics make about the Clinton Foundation is that the former and perhaps future presidents engaged in a ‘pay-to-play’ scheme, whereby donors—many of them foreign governments—would contribute money to the charity in exchange for access to Bill or Hillary Clinton, or worse, beneficial treatment from the State Department,” Berman writes.

Berman makes clear that Clinton technically didn’t do anything illegal, primarily because she was not the secretary of state at the time of the summit in Morocco, which, ultimately, she ended up not attending anyway. Bill and Chelsea Clinton attended in her place.

What’s most concerning to Berman is that the WikiLeaks emails regarding Clinton’s plans in Morocco represent a chronic lapse of judgment when it comes to making decisions that can, at the very least, be interpreted as unethical by critics and skeptics.

“That is why the Moroccan episode is such a quintessentially Clinton controversy. It’s not as if they are tone-deaf politicians. Like so many other ‘scandals’—from the alleged renting out of the Lincoln bedroom in 1990s, to the pardon of Marc Rich, to Hillary’s use of a private email server—the Clintons seem to know that what they are doing will look bad and raise questions of ethics and corruption, and yet convinced of their own righteousness, they do it anyway. And the fact that these lapses continue to repeat themselves so long into their time in the public arena offers little hope that the next four years of a possible Clinton White House would be any different.”

The WikiLeaks Clinton Morocco emails are unlikely to have much of an impact on the presidential election. They may, however, further undermine faith in Clinton when it comes to the relationship between business and politics.

[Featured Image by Mark Makela/Getty Images]

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