A smattering of news reports this week centers around the bizarre finding that in 2012 the Gulf nation of Qatar, through its ambassador, offered former U.S. President Bill Clinton a million dollars for his birthday.
The text in question, found in a WikiLeaks email dump, shows notes purported to be written by then-director of foreign policy for the Clinton Foundation, Ami Desai, on meetings with a number of foreign ambassadors.
“(Qatar) would like to see WJC (William Jefferson Clinton) ‘for five minutes’ in NYC, to present $1 million check that Qatar promised for WJC’s birthday in 2011,” reads a bullet point from an acquired email. The next bullet point addresses the idea of a coordinated effort by Qatar and the Clinton Foundation to fund aid in Haiti, with the Qatari government offering $20 million.
From the context in the actual document, it is thoroughly unclear whether the million-dollar “gift” was meant to be deposited by Bill Clinton himself, or was instead a gift to the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). At least a few of the news outlets covering this scant disclosure assume the check was for the CGI.
An article in the Daily Caller on Oct. 11 provides clarity, suggesting that Chelsea Clinton, in 2011, looked into the fund’s internal workings and was disturbed by a lack of organization and transparency.
Concerns about influence peddling aside, some are simply suggesting that the Clintons have had a “too cozy” relationship with a country that has a spotty record on human rights, as evidenced by the work of organizations like Freedom House and Amnesty International, and the U.S. State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons or TIP Report.
However, like many other accusations leveled against the Clinton Foundation in recent months, there is a fundamental lack of confirmation and context, which makes concrete evaluations of the “million-dollar birthday check” story difficult.
Dozens of individuals and offices on the WikiLeaks web site “commenters” page declined comment for this story, but Mike Toney, a U.S. military veteran with a master's degree in international business and a book called Liberty of Nations: 10 Ways to Make America More Safe and Secure, spoke with Gulf News Journal Friday about the sound and fury surrounding this strange leak.
“What we have in this leak is the Qatari government saying that it would give (Clinton) $1 million for his birthday,” Toney said. “But, do we have anyone confirming that he took the money? If not, then I wouldn’t be comfortable in making statements or speculations, other than to say that releases of this nature are to be expected this close to the election. We can speculate all we want about possible influence peddling, but if no one saw him take the money, then to create conjecture is irresponsible.”
Toney noted actual evidence of a close relationship between Clinton and Qatar, as in Washington Post coverage of his support for the nation’s FIFA 2022 bid. There are other indirect indicators, as well, like news from The Economist showing that, of $49 million in speaking fees earned by Bill Clinton over a number of years while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, 43 percent was found to have come from overseas.
Although there may be more of these reports coming out, Toney said, the likelihood of a real “smoking gun” is probably slim.
“I think that, if something were to have happened, that the Clinton family is far enough insulated and far too intelligent to get caught with their hand in the proverbial cookie jar,” Toney said. “However, I wait with bated breath to see the next wave of leaked documents.”