Criticisms of Clinton Cash follow a common template, one which emphasizes that Peter Schweizer’s book is really an unsuccessful partisan attack on the Clinton family. Some of these critiques point to errors within the book while asserting that the rest of it has leaps of logic amounting to a false account full of speculation and innuendo. For good measure, some journalists throw in background information about the author that emphasizes Schweizer’s conservative ties, as if that should disqualify his analysis entirely.
“So, let me ask you this for the record—were you looking deliberately and hoping for this kind of pickup in the, quote/unquote, ‘mainstream media’ to blunt some of the criticism that you are just a Clinton critic and that this book lacks credibility as a result?” asked CNN’s Reliable Sources host Frank Sesno on the May 10 show. Sesno questioned the lack of a smoking gun, or definitive proof that the Clinton family was corrupt. “I mean, if you did that—if you were writing for a major newspaper, they’d send you back and say you haven’t got the story yet,” he said.
“Any serious journalist or investigator will tell you that proving corruption by a political figure is extremely difficult,” writes Schweizer in his first chapter of Clinton Cash. “…That is also why investigators primarily look at patterns of behavior.” He argues that the “repeated pattern of financial transactions coinciding with official actions favorable to Clinton contributors” warrants “further investigation by law enforcement officers.” In other words, Clinton Cash offers no smoking gun. It is meant, instead, to provoke a public investigation and discussion based on his initial research—not to offer all the answers.
There were some errors found in the book, including that Schweizer incorrectly asserted that the company Digicel had paid Bill Clinton for speeches, and that Digicel had not received USAID funds. Also Schweizer was fooled by a fake TD Bank press release, which he used to make a point, and he held former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responsible for approving the Uranium One deal when it was actually an interagency decision.
“In a response to BuzzFeed News, Schweizer said that while Digicel had received previous USAID contracts, its charitable arm, the Digicel Foundation, did not receive USAID contracts until after the earthquake [in Haiti], and argued the basic premise of the book remains intact,” writes Buzzfeed.
As for Uranium One, the analysis seems to misconstrue Schweizer’s original words. “Besides the secretary of state, [the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States] includes cabinet officials such as the secretary of defense, the secretary of homeland security, and the treasury secretary,” writes Schweizer in his book. His allegation is, “Hillary’s opposition would have been enough under CFIUS rules to have the decision on [the Russian purchase of Uranium One] kicked up to the president. That never happened.”
In other words, Schweizer actually informed his readers that Mrs. Clinton wasn’t the only one responsible for the CFIUS decision on Uranium One, which gave “Russians control of one-fifth of all uranium production capacity in the United States.” However, he implies that Mrs. Clinton should have interceded, given her past political record. His allegation is one not only of corruption, but hypocrisy.
“The rooster doesn’t cause the sun to rise, but this is the thrust of Schweizer’s argument,” wrote Taylor Wofford for Newsweek on May 1. “But throwing up a bunch of dots and not connecting them isn’t great judgment either.”
“The only evidence is timing: people who would benefit from the sale made donations to the foundation at around the same time the matter was before the government,” writes Paul Waldman for The Washington Post about the Uranium One controversy.
The timing of events in the book do, in fact, seem very suspicious on their face. “Even as Bill was being introduced to the audience by the crown prince of the [United Arab Emirates], the prince’s brother (the foreign minister) was en route to Washington for meetings with none other than Hillary,” writes Schweizer. “Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan arrived in Washington on December 12 and met Hillary the day after Bill collected his half million.”
“Based on the Clintons’ financial disclosures, it does not appear that the UAE royal family had ever paid for a Clinton speech before.”
Schweizer doesn’t just rely on his own account of what the Clintons may or may not have done—he also produces a couple of witness statements alleging that they had either bought off the Clintons or were told that they needed to. These statements were made to law enforcement or foreign media outlets long before the release of his book, and critics can’t claim they were solicited in order to support Schweizer’s assumptions.
Mukhtar Dzhakishev, former president of the government agency “that runs Kazakhstan’s uranium and nuclear energy industry” told authorities in 2009 that “prime minister Karim Massimov ‘was in America and needed to meet with Hillary Clinton but this meeting was canceled. And they said that those investors connected with the Clintons who were working in Kazakhstan have problems. Until Kazakhstan solved those problems, there would be no meeting, and all manner of measures would be taken,’” according to Schweizer.
“I called them, and they came. I met them in Astana and then Clinton’s aide, Tim Phillips, began to scream that this deal involves Democrats and is financed by them, and that we were hampering the deal,” said Dzhakishev, according to Chuck Ross of The Daily Caller.
“In its 2010 article, The Post considers that Dzhakishev’s account is questionable,” Ross writes. But Dzhakishev “has proven more truthful” than either Frank Giustra or Bill Clinton, at least in one case, Ross writes, when in 2007 Dzhakishev told The New York Times that he’d had a meeting at the Clinton home, and Giustra and Mr. Clinton denied having the meeting. Giustra is a Canadian mining businessman intimately involved in the Uranium One debacle detailed in Clinton Cash and further exposed by the New York Times. He has donated $100 million to the Clinton Foundation.
“But, other than Dzhakishev’s assertion, there’s no proof,” complains Wofford. He fails to mention Schweizer’s accounts of the statements by Sant Chatwal, who the author describes as one of Mrs. Clinton’s “largest soft-money donors,” made to Indian media.
“Even my close friend Hillary Clinton was not in favor of the [Indian nuclear] deal then,” Schweizer quotes Chatwal. “But when I put the whole package together, she also came on board. …In politics nothing comes free. You have to write cheques in the American political system.”
“This is 100 percent wrong. There is not even an iota of truth in it,” Chatwal told India’s Economic Times on May 7.
Chatwal is one of “at least four [members of the] Clinton Foundation board of directors [who] have either been charged or convicted of financial crimes, including bribery and fraud,” reported Breitbart on May 7.
In 2014 Chatwal pled guilty to funneling illegal contributions to federal candidates, writes Schweizer. “During the course of the federal investigation, FBI agents recorded Chatwal discussing the flow of money to politicians,” he writes. Chatwal said, “Without the cash, ‘nobody will even talk to you.’”
If Schweizer’s allegations were mere speculation and empty innuendo, then why have a series of mainstream outlets built on his initial research to expose Clinton conflicts of interest and “errors” made by the Clinton Foundation? Those include The New York Times and The Washington Post.
“When Mr. Clinton worked as a co-chairman of Haiti’s earthquake recovery commission, [Hillary Clinton’s youngest brother] Mr. [Tony] Rodham and his partners sought a $22 million deal to rebuild homes in the country,” reports The New York Times’ Steve Eder in a May 10 piece that does not mention Clinton Cash.
“I deal through the Clinton Foundation. That gets me in touch with the Haitian officials,” Rodham told the court three years ago, according to Eder. “I hound my brother-in-law, because it’s his fund that we’re going to get our money from,” said Rodham. “And he can’t do it until the Haitian government does it. … And he keeps telling me, ‘Oh, it’s going to happen tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.’ Well, tomorrow hasn’t come yet.”
In an interview with Schweizer, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos said, “you take it pretty far,” and, “As you know, the Clinton campaign says you haven’t produced a shred of evidence that there was any official action as secretary that—that supported the interests of donors.”
“We’ve done investigative work here at ABC News, found no proof of any kind of direct action,” said Stephanopoulos, asking, “Is there a smoking gun?”
Stephanopoulos had to admit publicly on May 14 that he himself had donated $50,000 to the Clinton Foundation and failed to disclose that fact to his viewers. He has apologized and said, “I thought that my contributions were a matter of public record.”
The author of Clinton Cash never claims to have found a smoking gun, only a suspicious pattern of behavior. Attempts to claim that Schweizer somehow failed in his attempt to reveal concrete proof of Clinton malfeasance are designed to deliberately set him up for failure by holding him to a standard higher than the mainstream media often expect of themselves.
How many times have pundits such as Al Sharpton called for further investigation into Darren Wilson’s shooting of Michael Brown with limited evidence available? “MSNBC titled one segment of Sharpton’s PoliticsNation show, ‘Still no arrest in Michael Brown shooting,’” reported Accuracy in Media.
The media were quick to leap to conclusions about the murder of three Muslims in North Carolina. They have accepted the word of anonymous government officials rather than reading public documents. And they constantly dismiss the overwhelming evidence of the ongoing Benghazi cover-up.
Demands that Schweizer, or any other author, find a smoking gun and present it to the media prepackaged demonstrate a sheer laziness on the part of reporters, and perhaps a hidden desire that his claims about the Clintons might not actually prove truthful. If reporters remain skeptical about Schweizer’s claims, they should get to work vetting the Clintons and find out for themselves what’s real instead of simply attacking the messenger.
Last week on Chris Matthews’ show, “Hardball,” on MSNBC, the host expressed his trust in Mrs. Clinton, and challenged the only skeptic on the set, Ron Fournier of the National Journal, to explain the reason for suspicion in the absence of concrete proof of a quid pro quo between any donors to the Clinton Foundation and favorable treatment these donors may have received from the U.S. government as a result. Fournier said, “What there isn’t evidence of is [that] somebody got a favor done because of money. But what we do have is a very obvious and big overlap between people who are donating to the foundation and people who are dealing with the government.”
Even Matthews tacitly admitted that these relationships are troubling. Fournier asked Matthews “Why did President Obama say she did not take donations from foreign companies? That the foundation should not take donations from foreign countries? Why did they say it would be disclosed?,” while Hillary was Secretary of State. Matthews replied, “For the reasons you’re arguing.” Fournier then asked, “So why didn’t she, and why did they still take funding and not disclose it?” Matthews replied, “I think Clinton advocates and Clinton critics see the same reality. They have different views on it…[the Clintons go] right up to the edge sometimes.”
[This column has been updated to reflect recent developments]