Abigail Disney wanted something from Hillary Clinton, and she knew exactly how to ask.
What she wanted was something that seemed right up Clinton’s lane: more emphasis on women’s issues at a coming meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, the star-studded session the Clintons host each year.
And what Disney did was what well-connected Clinton donors did: She reached out directly to Secretary of State Clinton and Clinton’s top aides at the State Department.
“The problem is she keeps emailing hrc directly and is quite anxious to talk,” Clinton aide Huma Abedin wrote via email on July 23, 2012, to two officials at the Clinton Global Initiative.
Indeed, while newly released emails tend not to show evidence of improper actions by Clinton on behalf of donors, they flesh out the access those donors had and the symbiotic relationship among the Clinton Foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative and the State Department. They also raise anew questions of why they were not turned over by Clinton voluntarily, and what else is in remaining emails held back ostensibly because they were personal.
“It is troubling that emails keep spilling out that were not turned over to State by Hillary Clinton,” said Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, a nonpartisan watchdog group. “This raises questions about what was saved and turned over and what wasn't.”
As she has previously stated, Secretary Clinton provided all work-related emails she had in her possession when she received the State Department’s request in 2014.
Clinton campaign spokesman Josh Schwerin
At least one email that was not among those Clinton turned over involved a request from Disney, a documentary filmmaker and philanthropist who had donated between $100,000 and $250,000 to the Clinton Foundation. The email was obtained by the conservative group Citizens United, which got it through a lawsuit filed after its Freedom of Information Act request went unanswered.
Citizens United is headed by David Bossie, who is a friend of Donald Trump’s.
A July 2012 email from Abedin to Clinton Foundation officials referred to an upcoming phone call with Disney, and it included the text of an email sent directly to Clinton by Disney and Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee.
“We have attended the Clinton Global Initiative now for a few years and feel it is an important gathering of some of the finest and most important thinking about International Aid,” they wrote. “We do, however, feel that woman’s issues have not gotten the attention or the placement they deserve. We are hoping you might consider helping us ‘rock the boat’ a little bit this year.”
Ed Hughes, a deputy director at the Clinton Global Initiative, later explained to Abedin that the initiative has maintained a working group on women’s and girls’ issues but that the initiative had decided not to treat the issue as a stand-alone topic at its annual meeting that September. Instead, it planned to include it in several sessions.
“They are going to come back with a clearer proposal for what they want and I told them hrc role at cgi hadn’t even been discussed yet which happens to be true,” Abedin responded to Hughes.
Clinton turned over 30,490 work emails in December 2014 at the State Department’s request. She said she’d deleted another 31,830 emails she called personal.
Several organizations, including another conservative group, Judicial Watch, and news organizations have filed numerous lawsuits seeking the emails of the Democratic presidential candidate and her top aides while she was secretary of state. So far, Judicial Watch says it has received from the State Department 171 emails sent to or from Clinton that she hadn’t turned over.
Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, said Clinton should not argue that foundation issues were not part of her “work emails.” “It would be a difficult argument to make,” she said.
Aaron Scherb, the director of legislative affairs for Common Cause, a government watchdog group that has called on Clinton and the foundation to commission an independent review of large donations, described Clinton’s failure to turn over all emails as sloppy. “It’s concerning,” he said.
Last September, State Department officials asked the FBI whether it had recovered Clinton emails that the department did not have
FBI Director James Comey revealed in July that the agency had recovered several thousand work-related emails that were not in the 30,490 Clinton had turned over to the State Department.
“We found no evidence that any of the additional work-related emails were intentionally deleted in an effort to conceal them,” Comey said.
Instead, he said the FBI had concluded that Clinton periodically deleted emails. And when her lawyers in 2014 went through her emails to mark those considered personal and thus able to be deleted, they did not read each one but rather relied on the header information or search terms, Comey said.
“It is highly likely their search terms missed some work-related emails, and that we later found them, for example, in the mailboxes of other officials or in the slack space of a server,” he said.
In October, the State Department again asked Clinton turn over the emails from the first two months of her tenure. Clinton attorney David Kendall said Clinton could not access the missing documents.
A federal judge ordered the State Department to review 15,000 emails the FBI had given the department and release them to Judicial Watch later this month.