The FBI has been keeping tabs on the Clinton Foundation for months, renewing calls from President Donald Trump for the Justice Department to investigate the non-profit org amid politically charged accusations of corruption, sources familiar with the matter say.
The sources said on Friday, Jan. 5, that the agency had already begun interviewing people linked to the foundation about whether donations were exchanged for political favors, The New York Times reported. The alleged fraudulent activity was suspected to have occurred during Clinton’s time as Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013, but prosecutors ultimately closed the investigation in 2016 due to lack of evidence.
That stoppage was only temporary though, the sources said, as Justice Department officials were concerned that news of its investigation could be misinterpreted as efforts to mess up Clinton’s chances in the election.
With the presidential campaign far behind now, the probe has resumed, signaling another swing by Trump to try and take out political rival “Crooked Hillary.” During his presidential campaign, the then-candidate led calls for Clinton and her aides to be locked up, but later changed his tone, saying he was no longer interested in seeking prosecution.
“Time after time, the Clinton Foundation has been subjected to politically motivated allegations, and time after time these allegations have been proven false,” Clinton Foundation spokesman Craig Minassian said in a statement. “None of this has made us waver in our mission to help people.”
“There are real issues in our society needing attention that the Clinton Foundation works hard to solve every day,” Minassian added. “So we’re going to stay focused on what really matters.”
The Clinton Foundation inquiry, first reported by The Hill, will also look at whether any tax-exempt assets were converted for personal and/or political use and whether the foundation adhered to applicable tax laws, the sources said. One witness recently interviewed by the FBI told the newspaper that agents were “extremely professional and unquestionably thorough,” in their prying into whether donors to the foundation received any favorable treatment from the Obama administration. That source spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“Let’s call this what it is: a sham,” said Nick Merill, Clinton’s chief spokesman. “This is a philanthropy that does life-changing work, which Republicans have tried to turn into a political football.
“It began with a now long-debunked project spearheaded by Steve Bannon during the presidential campaign,” he added. “It continues with Jeff Sessions doing Trump’s bidding by heeding his calls to meddle with a department that is supposed to function independently.”