- Scale of FBI investigations into Clinton’s closest aides and friends is becoming clear
- Besides Huma Abedin, a swathe of long-time loyalists are at the center of investigations including Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe
- John Podesta ran the Clinton Foundation which is under investigation while his brother Tony is also focus of a probe about foreign corruption
- Cheryl Mills already received limited FBI immunity during Clinton email investigation – and is key Clinton fixer
- String of other names are being looked at or have been caught up in earlier scandals
The extent to which Hillary Clinton’s key advisers are now the focus of major FBI investigations is becoming clear.
The Clintons’ long-term inner-circle – some of whom stretch back in service to the very first days of Bill’s White House – are being examined in at least five separate investigations.
The scale of the FBI’s interest in some of America’s most powerful political fixers – one of them a sitting governor – underlines just how difficult it will be for Clinton to shake off the taint of scandal if she enters the White House.
There are, in fact, not one but five separate FBI investigations which involve members of Clinton’s inner circle or their closest relatives – the people at the center of what has come to be known as Clintonworld.
The five known investigations are into: Anthony Weiner, Huma Abedin’s estranged husband sexting a 15-year-old; the handling of classified material by Clinton and her staff on her private email server; questions over whether the Clinton Foundation was used as a front for influence-peddling; whether the Virginia governor broke laws about foreign donations; and whether Hillary’s campaign chairman’s brother did the same.
The progress of the Clinton Foundation investigation and that into McAuliffe was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
The FBI does not generally comment on investigations, so it is entirely possible there are more under way.
Here are the advisers and consiglieri – and how the FBI is looking at them:
Huma Abedin: secrets and access – and perjury?
Probes: Clinton emails; Clinton Foundation
Who is she: Currently vice-chair of the Clinton campaign she was has worked with Clinton for 21 years, since she was 19, as among other things, intern, ‘body woman’, chief of staff and senior adviser.
Huma Abedin is now represented by attorneys as the FBI begins the lengthy process of examining a laptop seized in the inquiry into her estranged husband’s sexting relationship with a 15-year-old.
It is the most recent stage in the Clinton emails investigation in which the FBI has looked into whether Clinton and her staff broke strict laws on the handling of classified material while she was Secretary of State through their use of the now notorious Clintonemail.com server.
The case appeared to be closed in July when James Comey, the FBI director announced that Clinton would not be prosecuted. It was later made clear there would be no other prosecutions.
However last week’s bombshell announcement that new emails were being examined put the focus squarely on 40-year-old Abedin.
Although the decision had been made not to prosecute, that was on the basis of the existing evidence at the time. But if the search finds new evidence of breaking laws about the handling of classified material, there is nothing to stop a prosecution of Abedin – or anyone else.
That, however, is not the only potential for a brush with the law for Abedin.
The FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation also drags her into the spotlight.
The probe, the Wall Street Journal reported, is into whether the Foundation was involved in financial crimes or influence-peddling.
That would directly draw in Abedin. Her overlapping series of roles while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State has been unmasked by emails published either as a result of lawsuits against the State Department, or hacked from John Podesta’s account.
She was at various times Clinton’s White House deputy chief of staff; her senior adviser; a consultant for Teneo Holdings; working for the Clinton Foundation.
It was also revealed that while she was at the State Department where she was Clinton’s gatekeeper, Abedin received emails from Doug Band – Bill Clinton’s right-hand man at the Clinton Foundation – asking for help and access for ‘friends’ or ‘friend of ours’.
And finally there is the possibility of a federal perjury case.
The discovery of a laptop during the Anthony Weiner sexting investigation by the FBI appears at odds with testimony she gave under oath as part of a deposition in a federal case that she had passed on all relevant devices to the FBI.
Terry McAuliffe: Clinton cash from China
Probes: Clinton Foundation; links to foreign donations
Who is he: Currently Democratic governor of Virginia. Has previously been prolific Clinton fundraiser and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and chairman of Hillary’s failed 2008 run for the White House.
McAuliffe was a board member of the Clinton Foundation from at least 2004, so he will surely be caught up in investigations conducted by the FBI’s Washington DC field office into whether it was used as a front for influence-peddling.
But the overlaps between him and the Foundation go further than that and into his own campaign for governor and related campaigning.
The Washington Post reported in 2015 how he and the foundation had 120 overlapping donors, who had given him, his campaign or his political action committee $13.8 million.
That political action committee then went on to fund another campaign – that of Dr Jill McCabe, whose husband Mark is currently the deputy director of the FBI. He was the assistant FBI director when Jill McCabe was running for state senator in Virginia.
The PAC controlled by McAuliffe, which had received money from Clinton Foundation donors, gave Jill McCabe more than $500,000, prompting her husband to stand back from the Clinton Foundation investigation.
Part of the $13.8 million is, however, involved in a second FBI investigation which focuses on McAuliffe personally regarding donations of $120,000 from a Chinese man called Wang Wenliang.
The FBI is investigating whether donations made were in breach of a ban on foreign governments influencing US elections. Wenliang, a billionaire according to Forbes, is a member of the one-party state’s parliament – as well as a donor to the Clinton Foundation.
He is also a US permanent resident and his donations came through a US firm.
This weekend’s tidal wave of revelations also shed new light on an FBI investigation into the donations.
McAuliffe’s attorney was reported by the Wall Street Journal to have said that the investigation focused on whether he had previously failed to register as an agent of a foreign entity.
In May, when the revelation of the FBI foreign donations probe emerged, McAuliffe denied ever meeting Wenliang. Then he backtracked – saying ‘I did not deals’ – when told by his staff that there were ‘likely’ several meetings.
DailyMail.com revealed footage of him going to a fundraiser also attended by Wengliang.
The venue was Hillary Clinton’s Washington DC home and the attendees included Huma Abedin.
The governor’s lawyer told the Wall Street Journal the probe is focused on ‘whether he failed to register as an agent of a foreign entity’.
Cheryl Mills: Woman at center of Clintonworld
Probes: Clinton Foundation; Clinton emails
Who is she: Long-term Clinton lawyer who advised Bill during impeachment then Hillary over emails; Foundation director; State Department chief of staff.
She exchanged partial immunity from prosecution in return for opening her laptop to FBI review during the Clinton email investigation.
Mills was chief of staff under Clinton at the State Department and communicated extensively on the Clintonemail.com private server.
The deal with the Justice Department – headed by Attorney-General Loretta Lynch – was hugely advantageous as it also limited the search to no later than January 31, 2015, the point at which the server’s existence became known to a Congressional committee.
In March backups of Clinton’s emails were destroyed by a technician, a move which could have been seen as illegal destruction of evidence.
And the deal allowed for the destruction of Mills’ laptop. Heather Samuleson, another more junior aide, cut the same deal.
Mills went on to sit in with Clinton on her FBI interview in early July as her attorney, an unusual arrangement given that she had previously been a focus of the investigation.
However the renewed move by the FBI to examine the Huma Abedin emails on the Weiner laptop could set the immunity aside.
If they find new emails, those could open the way for prosecution. Equally, if they examine emails already seen on her laptop and conclude that they represent a case for prosecution over the handling of classified material, that too would be unlikely to be covered by the immunity deal.
Foundation role: Cheryl Mills was deeply involved in the Clinton family charity during a war between Chelsea and Doug Band, her father’s right-hand man.
In fact, any part of Mills’ role in setting up the server could now be back in play. She was clearly identified in one of the Wikileaks emails as part of the reason for secrecy around Clinton.
That is only one of Mills’ roles in Clintonworld which the FBI are concerned with.
The other is her role as director of the Clinton Foundation for two periods, 2004 to 2009 and then from 2013 on.
The influence-peddling investigation has not been the subject of public commentary by the FBI but would involve anyone who held a high-level role.
Mills was heavily involved in the Foundation not just as a director, but while she was working at the State Department.
During that time it was at the center of a fierce battle between Chelsea Clinton and Doug Band, in which Band was effectively forced out.
Mills drew up a new structure for all of Bill Clinton’s operations – at the time it was the William J. Clinton Foundation – and, Wikileaks publication of John Podesta’s email shows – took part in a number of exchanges about it.
The State Department has previously said that Mills paid her own way to go to Clinton Foundation meetings in New York.
But neither the department nor the Clintons have addressed whether the FBI is looking at whether the Clinton Foundation monetized access to the Secretary of State through the overlapping roles of, among others, Mills and Abedin.
Phillipe Reines: What does he know of emails and access?
Probes: Clinton emails; Clinton Foundation
Who is he: Hillary Clinton press secretary when she was senator; press secretary to failed 2008 presidential campaign and spokesman for Chelsea during it; Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Hillary; played Donald Trump in debate prep.
As one of her inner circle at the State Department, Phillipe Reines was one of those – he told the FBI – who Clinton turned to for help with her IT issues.
He also bought her an iPad in June 2010, when the technology was new.
Clinton was to go on to claim she only had ‘one device’. Reines meanwhile used both his state.gov email and his personal gmail for government business while in office.
Reines was also deeply involved in responding to the Benghazi committee’s demands for information about the server and the public relations response to it, Wikileaks emails from John Podesta’s gmail have revealed.
However the other Clinton Foundation probe could also drag in Reines.
Reines was a key member of the inner circle when Clinton was Secretary of State.
His official title was ‘deputy assistant undersecretary’ for strategy, effectively her most powerful public affairs adviser.
That means that any knowledge he has of how the Clinton machine in the State Department interacted with the Clinton Foundation and Bill Clinton Inc machines in Manhattan would be crucial to the FBI investigation
John Podesta: ‘Dean’ of Clintonworld
Probes: Clinton Foundation
Who is he: Bill Clinton’s first White House deputy chief of staff and later chief of staff; founder of DC lobbying firm Podesta & Podesta, now the Podesta Group; took charge of the Clinton Foundation in 2011 ; now Hillary campaign chairman; at 67, often seen as the ‘dean’ of the Clinton political machine.
The leaks from John Podesta’s emails revealed by Wikileaks have shown how he was a key player in the Clinton Foundation – at precisely the time that the focus of the FBI influence-peddling investigation is likely to be.
At the time Clinton was Secretary of State and Doug Band, who had effectively run the foundation, wrote a memo which emerged in Podesta’s leaked emails.
In it, Band detailed the overlap between the commercial activities of Bill Clinton and the charitable fundraising of the William J. Clinton Foundation (now the Clinton Foundation) – material which is likely to be pertinent to the influence-peddling case.
Podesta’s role at Foundation lasted into 2012, so his knowledge of how it interacted with Hillary Clinton’s aides – particularly Cheryl Mills, with whom he was in frequent contact, according to the emails – would be relevant to the FBI probe.