By Zachary Stieber
Federal prosecutors refused to bring charges against the Clinton Foundation, prompting the FBI to close an investigation into the organization, newly released records show.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Arkansas declined to bring charges against the Clinton Foundation in January 2021, according to the records.
That move prompted the FBI to close the case, which had been worked on for years, the records show.
The records were obtained and published (pdf) by The New York Times, which said it received them through a Freedom of Information Act request.
While Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, she was one of the nine members of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States who approved the 2010 sale of a majority of Uranium One, a company that has mines and other projects in the United States, to a Russian state-owned company. That same year, Bill Clinton received $500,000 from a Russian government-linked bank to speak in Moscow. The Clinton Foundation also received donations from Uranium One officials before the approval and didn’t disclose them, despite agreeing to do so before Clinton became secretary of state.
After the donations became known in 2015, the foundation said in a statement that it “made mistakes.”
“But we are acting quickly to remedy them, and have taken steps to ensure they don’t happen in the future,” the foundation said.
Clinton has said that claims she was bribed for the approval of the sale have been “debunked repeatedly.”
The newly revealed timeline means that the investigation into the foundation, which was started by the Clintons, lasted until just days before President Donald Trump left office.
Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election before losing to President Joe Biden in 2020.
Biden was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2021.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which includes the U.S. attorneys’ offices, declined to comment. The Clinton Foundation didn’t return inquiries.
Prosecutors Have ‘Ultimate Authority’
Even when there are cases with strong evidence, prosecutors make the final call as to whether to file charges, retired FBI supervisory intelligence analyst George Hill told The Epoch Times.
Prosecutors have “the ultimate authority,” he said.
Hill co-supervised the task force that investigated the Boston Marathon bombing and recalled presenting what he saw as ironclad evidence showing a woman participating in the bombing, but the prosecutor at the time declined to bring charges.
FBI agents collect evidence and present cases to prosecutors, who review the evidence before making a charging determination.
In criminal investigations, a prosecutorial declination typically means that the investigation is shut down, Kyle Seraphin, a former FBI agent who recently became a whistleblower, told The Epoch Times.
“Once it’s done, it’s done. There’s nowhere else to go with it,” he said.
In contrast, a counterintelligence or counterterrorism investigation can keep going even if a prosecution is declined as agents seek to gather more evidence.
After the Clinton Foundation case was closed, officials destroyed evidence.
“All of the evidence obtained during the course of this investigation has been returned or otherwise destroyed,” one record states.
That’s typical in the event of a case closure, former FBI agents said.
“There’s no reason to keep evidence when it’s closed,” Steve Friend, who raised concerns about the FBI allegedly violating its own policies in the investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, breach of the U.S. Capitol, told The Epoch Times.
More sensitive information, such as information from confidential sources, may have been retained, the former agents said.
The FBI didn’t respond to requests by The Epoch Times for comment.
Despite being normal, how the matter unfolded is suspicious, the ex-agents said.
“They were able to time it bureaucratically so that they could use the veil of ‘can’t comment on an ongoing investigation’ during the Trump administration. Then, the Biden administration comes in, they close it, and they destroy the evidence, so now they can’t provide it to Congress,” Friend said. “It’s too convenient.”
Because Clinton was a presidential candidate, the decision to close the case likely went to top officials in the DOJ, the former agents said.
Investigation Took Years
The probe into the foundation started in January 2016, according to special counsel John Durham’s report. FBI offices in Washington, New York, and Little Rock, Arkansas, launched investigations into possible criminal activity, including the allegation that foreign governments “had made, or offered to make, contributions to the Foundation in exchange for favorable or preferential treatment from Clinton,” the report said.
At least one of the probes was based on reporting by Peter Schweizer in his book “Clinton Cash.”
Because Clinton was a presidential candidate, and three different offices were investigating Clinton, “there was a perceived need to conduct coordination meetings between the field offices, FBI Headquarters, and appropriate United States Attorney’s offices and components from the Department,” the Durham report states.
In one meeting, on Feb. 1, 2016, DOJ official Raymond Hulser declined prosecution, though he said that the decision “was not binding” on U.S. attorneys or FBI field divisions. In a second meeting that month, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe directed the offices to shut down the cases, but after he received pushback, he agreed to reconsider. By the end of the meeting, officials were told that any investigative steps needed clearance from McCabe, a restriction that remained in place until August 2016.
On Aug. 1, 2016, officials in Washington and Arkansas were told that the cases were being consolidated in New York, where prosecutors later declined to issue subpoenas “despite previously expressing support for the investigation.”
The case was later moved to Arkansas, where prosecutors issued a subpoena that led FBI agents to retrieve foundation donor records, The New York Times reported.
A foundation spokesperson told news outlets that Durham’s report “emphasized what’s been clear for many years—there’s never been any wrongdoing by the Clinton Foundation.” A spokesperson told The New York Times that the foundation has been “subjected to politically motivated allegations with no basis in fact.”
“The Durham report demonstrates that FBI and DOJ leadership bent over backward to protect Hillary Clinton’s campaign while launching a full investigation into Trump’s campaign,” Rep. Barry Moore (R-Ala.), referring to former President Donald Trump, told The Epoch Times via email.
“This should concern every American. Agencies that are supposed to be above politics and focused on protecting the American people seem to be focused on influencing elections to help Democrats instead. The House Judiciary Committee, of which I am a member, has invited Durham to testify. We will continue digging for the truth and working to hold weaponized government accountable,” Moore said.
Then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a Trump appointee, also tasked U.S. Attorney John Huber, an Obama appointee based in Utah who was renominated by Trump, to examine allegations surrounding the sale of Uranium One. That probe reportedly ended in 2020 without charges.