Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynMental health: The power of connecting requires the power of investing Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall Cornyn says he 'would be surprised' if GOP tries to unseat Sinema in 2024 MORE (Texas) said Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCountering the ongoing Republican delusion Republicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves Poll: Democracy is under attack, and more violence may be the future MORE misled lawmakers eight years ago when questions about the Clinton Foundation loomed over her nomination to head the State Department.
Cornyn held up her nomination because of concerns over potential conflicts of interest posed by the foundation’s fundraising activities. He finally relented and voted for her after Clinton promised him that safeguards would be followed.
In the wake of various reports detailing instances where the foundation did not fully comply with transparency requirements, Cornyn now says he would have voted against her had he known what was to come.
“When I put a hold on Mrs. Clinton’s nomination as secretary of State, she reassured me that they would take appropriate steps,” he told The Hill in an interview Friday. “As seems to be usual for the Clintons, they crossed the line and all the concerns that she reassured me would not occur did in fact occur.
“She was playing both sides. As she was performing her job of secretary of State, the Clinton Foundation was shaking down donors who were buying access. It’s absolutely deplorable.”
Cornyn said the only way to know whether foreign donors to the foundation gained improper access to Clinton while at the State Department would be for President Obama to appoint a special prosecutor.
For months, Cornyn has called for a special prosecutor to investigate allegations that Clinton mishandled classified information on a private email server while at State.
“Once again the rules don’t apply to them like they apply to everybody else. Can you imagine if anybody else in the United States government had tried to get away with something like this? It wouldn’t have happened,” he said.
“The reassurances she gave me back at the time her confirmation was considered, she, for all practical purposes, violated,” he added. “Those representations she made to me about the integrity of the screening process and of the ethics concerns with regard to the foundation.”
A spokesman for Clinton’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Republicans say Clinton violated several terms of the memorandum of understanding from December 2008 that Bruce Lindsey, who then served as CEO of the Clinton Foundation, signed with Valerie Jarrett, who headed Obama’s transition team.
The memorandum stated the foundation would publish the names of all its contributors as well as the names of all new contributors. But the Clinton Health Access Initiative, a fund within the foundation, did not meet its reporting requirements from 2009 to 2013, an “oversight” that the group’s spokeswoman, Maura Daley, told Reuters was later rectified.
And officials at the foundation acknowledged to The Washington Post last year that they made a mistake by not seeking prior approval from the State Department ethics office for a $500,000 donation from the Algerian government, as the memorandum required for new foreign donors.
Republicans grilled Clinton about the foundation’s work when she appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January 2009.
Former Sen. Dick Lugar (Ind.), the panel’s ranking Republican at the time, warned Clinton the work of her family foundation was “a unique complication that will have to be managed with great care and transparency.”
Lugar, a moderate who later worked closely with the Obama administration to ratify a nuclear arms agreement with Russia, predicted the foundation might create the appearance that foreign donors gave to it to gain access.
“The core of the problem is that foreign governments and entities may perceive the Clinton Foundation as a means to gain favor with the secretary of State,” he said at the time.
While acknowledging that neither Clinton nor her husband, former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonFederal judge changes his mind about stepping down, eliminating vacancy for Biden to fill Joe Biden's gamble with history Can America prevent a global warming cold war? MORE, had a personal financial stake in the charity, he said “its work benefits their legacy and public service priorities.”
Clinton defended herself by pointing to the recently signed memorandum.
“The MOU and the other undertakings that have been worked out between the president-elect and the transition and the foundation and my husband have looked very broadly at all of the questions that you're raising,” she told lawmakers at the hearing.
In a letter to Clinton dated Jan. 16, 2009, Cornyn wrote that he was "deeply troubled" that U.S. foreign policy might be "encumbered by the sweeping global activities of the Clinton Foundation — unless tighter foreign fundraising restrictions and transparency protocols are adopted."
In her response three days later, she referred to the memorandum and reiterated her pledge to “do everything in my power to make sure that the good work of the Foundation continues without there being any untoward affects [sic] on me and my service and be very conscious of any questions that are raised.”
The agreement gave Clinton the political cover she needed, and her nomination eventually sailed through the Senate on a vote of 94-2 after Cornyn and other Republicans relaxed their objections.
But now they wish they had their vote back.
State Department records obtained by the conservative group Judicial Watch and made public last month showed that Doug Band, a senior executive at the Clinton Foundation, helped set up a meeting between Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain with Clinton in 2009 after the prince’s efforts to reach out through normal channels failed.
Band described Salman as a “good friend of ours.” By 2010, a scholarship fund set up by Salman gave $32 million to the Clinton Global Initiative, according to Judicial Watch.
Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoSunday shows - Spotlight shifts to omicron variant Barrasso calls Biden's agenda 'Alice in Wonderland' logic: 'He's the Mad Hatter' Sunday shows preview: New COVID-19 variant emerges; supply chain issues and inflation persist MORE (R-Wyo.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee who voted for Clinton, voiced similar sentiments to Cornyn in an interview with The Boston Globe last year.
“I took her at her word. Maybe I was wrong to do that,” he said. “Because now the evidence shows that she didn’t disclose any of these things.”
Cornyn recounted the basics of his conversation with Clinton as "there would not be any conflict of interest, either real or perceived."
Had he known how things were going to turn out, Cornyn said, “I would not have voted for her confirmation and would have done a lot more to slow down the process and potentially stop it.”