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Grassley continues to dig into State Department

Huma Abedin

By Bob Eschliman
Editor

 

Topic A LogoIf either the Hillary Clinton campaign or the Obama Administration thought U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) was going to get cold feet after a little media backlash over his investigation of the U.S. State Department, they need to think again.

In two separate actions, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee turned up the heat on Clinton, one of her closest associates, and the State Department Thursday. The bottom line: he wants the truth and he’s not going away until someone gives it to him.

First, he asked the Secretary of State John Kerry and Michael Horowitz, chair of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, to provide all records that would document how and why the State Department went more than five years without a permanent inspector general.  His letter is available here.

Grassley cited several examples in which a later permanent inspector general found the lapse compromised agency oversight.

“Every agency needs a permanent, independent inspector general,” he said. “The position is too important to assign to a placeholder.  An acting inspector general doesn’t have the mandate to lead, and he or she might not be able to withstand pushback from an agency that doesn’t want to cooperate with oversight.”

The White House filled the position “temporarily” with someone who had close ties to the officials he was charged with overseeing. Once the permanent, Senate-confirmed, inspector general was in place, he was able to provide insight into some of the problems that arose from the previous arrangement:

  • aides to Clinton contributed to an “appearance of undue influence and favoritism” in departmental investigations;
  • the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium allegedly solicited a prostitute;
  • a department manager allegedly engaged in sexual misconduct and harassment; and
  • Cheryl Mills, then chief of staff and counselor to Clinton, allegedly unduly influenced an investigation of an unauthorized release of communications concerning a nominee for a U.S. ambassadorship.

Grassley cited an example in his own investigation where a permanent inspector general might have investigated thoroughly and shielded whistleblowers who alleged they were retaliated against for reporting to an acting inspector general sexual misconduct at the U.S. consulate in Naples.  Then there’s that issue of Clinton’s emails, which the permanent inspectors general for both the State Department and the Intelligence Community say mishandled classified information.

Grassley said going for more than five years without a permanent inspector general at the State Department is “egregious.”  That covers the entire four-year tenure of Secretary Hillary Clinton, the only secretary of State to have served without a single permanent inspector general overseeing the department since the creation of that watchdog position in 1957.

“The Obama Administration should answer for why it allowed that to happen,” he said.  “There’s been no transparency on the reason for the lack of an appointment for so long.  We’ll never know the extent of the damage to good governance caused by this lapse, but it’s fair to say some of the problems exposed lately probably could have been prevented with a permanent inspector general in place.”

Last week, Grassley was accused of unfairly tarnishing the reputation of longtime Clinton confidant Huma Abedin. So, Thursday, Grassley decided to intensify his investigation into State Department personnel practices with regard to emails that appear to show her official State Department business “intersected” with private business, Teneo, and the Clinton Foundation.

“How can the taxpayer know who exactly [Special Government Employees] are working for at any given moment? How can the ethics officer at the State Department know?” he wrote in letters to both Kerry and Abedin. His letters are available here and here.

Grassley first noted that a July 5, 2013, letter from Abedin to the State Department in response to a Grassley inquiry stated:

“I was not asked, nor did I undertake, any work on Teneo’s behalf before the Department (and I should note that it is my understanding that Teneo does not conduct business with the Department of State). I was also not asked, nor did I provide, insights about the Department, my work with the Secretary, or any government information to which I may have had access.”

But recently disclosed emails, released as the result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit over details of a trip to Ireland by Clinton, include State Department, Teneo, and Clinton Foundation employees. As a result, Grassley said, they “raise a number of questions about the intersection of official State Department actions, private Teneo business, and Secretary Clinton’s personal interest in fundraising for the Clinton Foundation and related entities.”

Grassley asked a series of questions to try to shed light on the State Department business that intersected with Teneo and Clinton Foundation business.

“The bottom line has always been and still is whether the taxpayers are well-served by agency practices and spending,” Grassley said.  “No one will know for sure until the State Department is more transparent about how it operates.”