As first reported in the Washington Post, an investigation of Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation by the Justice Department is closing down after finding insufficient evidence to launch a criminal investigation. At this time, the investigation remains formally open but there is no indication there will be any formal charges.
Clinton was the Secretary of State during President Barack Obama’s first term. She was also President Donald Trump’s Democratic rival for the presidency in 2016.
What was being investigated?
In March 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed John Huber, United States Attorney for the District of Utah, to investigate whether donors to the Clinton Foundation were given “special treatment” by the then Clinton-led State Department.
Critics of Clinton had argued that the foundation, whose stated purpose is to improve the lives of people in the US and around the world, was part of a “pay-for-play” scheme. Her critics further allege that this scheme would allow corporations and foreign entities to pay money to have their interests given priority by the State Department and the Obama administration.
The Clinton Foundation was started by former President Bill Clinton in 1997. Bill, Hillary, and their daughter Chelsea have all served as board members of the organization at various times. According to the foundation, none of the Clintons received a salary while acting as members of the board.
The investigation into the foundation was championed by conservative politicians, including President Trump, who felt that the initial FBI investigation of the Clinton Foundation was conducted improperly.
Trump has had a largely unstable relationship with the FBI since becoming president. He fired the acting FBI Director, James Comey, and has openly criticized Comey’s successor, Christopher Wray, whom he appointed.
A pattern of irregularities
Even liberals have acknowledged irregularities with the pattern of donations at the Clinton Foundation. Vox reported in 2015 that 181 Clinton Foundation donors had lobbied Clinton while she was at the State Department, a situation they called “striking.”
These irregularities were first brought to the public’s attention in the book Clinton Cash, written by conservative journalist and political consultant Peter Schweizer. In an interview with George Stephanopoulos for ABC News, Schweizer said the pattern of behavior was a “smoking gun.” However, when pressed by Stephanopoulos, Schweizer was unable to offer definitive evidence of a crime.
The complicated history of Clinton investigations
This investigation of the Clinton Foundation was just one of a series of investigations into Clinton that launched following the start of her 2016 campaign for president. During that campaign Clinton was repeatedly dogged by accusations of misconduct for using a private email server while Secretary of State.
It was alleged that the server, which Clinton had set up at her home shortly after becoming Secretary of State, could have easily been hacked into, which would have resulted in sensitive state secrets being stolen. In response, an FBI investigation was launched to determine if the use of the private server had involved any criminal misconduct or negligence.
Then-FBI Director Comey announced in a July 2016 press conference that there was no reason to launch a criminal case against Clinton. However, weeks before the election, Comey announced publicly that the FBI had re-opened an investigation into Clinton as a result of newly found emails concerning the case. Some Democrats have argued that this second announcement fed into the narrative that Clinton was corrupt, this causing her to lose the election.
Ultimately, a separate investigation conducted by the US Department of State found no deliberate mishandling of classified information. Those findings were released by the office of Republican Senator Chuck Grassley.
The Benghazi investigation
While Clinton was Secretary of State, she was also investigated by the Republican-led House Select Committee for any responsibility she might have borne in the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi, Libya in 2012.
The attack by anti-American jihadi groups led to the deaths of four Americans who were stationed at the embassy. Critics had claimed that Clinton’s actions were somehow responsible for the men’s deaths and that she, along with the Obama administration, had attempted to cover up the truth behind the attacks.
After three years of House-led investigations, which included one day in which Clinton testified for 11 hours, the committee found no evidence that Clinton or the Obama administration were at fault.
The “Lock Her Up” chants
A staple of then-candidate Trump’s rallies during the 2016 campaign involved attendees breaking out in chants of “Lock her up” in reference to Clinton. Trump even made a campaign promise to investigate and arrest Clinton. Even after Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential campaign, the chant has continued to make appearances at his rallies.On Sunday, January 5, the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., posted a photo of himself on Instagram holding a semi-automatic rifle. On the barrel of the gun appears a cartoon image of Clinton behind bars.