After the media inexplicably dubbed Hillary Rodham Clinton the “winner” of the Benghazi hearings, her apologists dismissed a line of questioning into her unofficial adviser, Sidney Blumenthal.
So he was sending her e-mail offering advice on Libya and other matters of state. In the immortal words of Clinton at an earlier Benghazi hearing, “What difference does it make?”
It matters because Clinton flouted President Obama’s authority, secretly employing a man the administration had banned — then Clinton and Blumenthal pursued a rogue agenda often motivated by political favors and payoffs for friends.
Blumenthal was an aide to President Bill Clinton from 1997 to 2001 and one of his most reliable hatchet men. Luca Brasi without the charm, Blumenthal had smeared Monica Lewinsky, Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, Republicans — and, when the time came, presidential candidate Barack Obama himself. His nickname: “Sid Vicious.”
E-mails show Hillary Clinton wanted him hired at State. But still smarting from Blumenthal’s attacks during the campaign, the administration nixed the appointment.
Clinton was undeterred. Despite telling the Benghazi committee that Blumenthal was “not my adviser, official or unofficial,” records show the Clinton political machine paid him at least $320,000 a year.
Just after his rejection by the State Department, and through March 2015, the Clinton Foundation paid Blumenthal $10,000 a month. Blumenthal’s job, according to Politico, was “highlighting the legacy” of President Bill Clinton.
From the summer of 2009 to the present day, according to Fox News, Blumenthal was paid $200,000 a year by Media Matters, an aggressive pro-Clinton information outlet led by David Brock. Blumenthal provides “high-level strategy and messaging advice” to Brock and others.
Little exists in the public record showing work by Blumenthal for the Clinton Foundation or Media Matters, and both organizations did not respond to requests for clarification.
But there is plenty on Blumenthal’s labors for Clinton — hundreds of private e-mails.
Blumenthal’s unusual work arrangement was a triple play fraught with potential conflicts of interest: He simultaneously advised the secretary of state and possible future president; promoted the interests of her husband as the former president scoured the globe seeking millions of dollars in speech fees and donations to the Clinton Foundation; and provided advice to an organization devoted to destroying their enemies.
Blumenthal cast a wide net as a de facto Clinton ambassador, promoting dubious business deals and political schemes.
The e-mails reveal at least three examples:
A LIBYAN CONTRACT
In Libya, Blumenthal promoted a deal sought by US defense contractor Osprey Global Solutions. According to its Web site, Osprey offers a wide variety of services — including “security, training, armament” — as well as the sale of assault rifles.
In an Oct. 7 letter to Benghazi committee ranking minority member Elijah Cummings, the panel’s chair, Trey Gowdy, noted Blumenthal “acknowledged a personal stake in Osprey.”
In hundreds of pages of e-mails, Gowdy noted, Blumenthal served as Secretary Clinton’s “primary adviser on Libya” and pushed her hard “to intervene” as Khadafy was going down.
But Blumenthal’s real motivation, Gowdy claims, was “money.”
Specifically, a deal to bring Osprey together with the fledgling transitional government in Libya.
Gowdy wrote that “at the same time Blumenthal was pushing Secretary Clinton to war in Libya, he was privately pushing” the Osprey deal in Libya.
Blumenthal lobbied for more aggressive military action. In a March 2011 e-mail, he urged “another round or two of ferocious bombing” of Khadafy’s army. He also advised Clinton to take credit for Khadafy’s eventual fall.
“You must go on camera,” he e-mailed her in August 2011, two months before the dictator’s gruesome death. “You must establish yourself in the historical record.”
Meanwhile, in a July 14, 2011, e-mail cited in the Gowdy letter, Blumenthal wrote Clinton that “Osprey will provide medical help, military training, organize supplies and logistics” to the post-Khadafy government.
He and his colleagues, Blumenthal wrote, “acted as honest brokers, putting this arrangement together through a series of connections, linking the Libyans to Osprey and keeping it moving.”
“Got it,” Clinton wrote Blumenthal. “Will follow up tomorrow. Anything else to convey?” Clinton forwarded the Blumenthal e-mail to a top aide, Jake Sullivan.
AN AFRICAN DEAL
In June 2009, Blumenthal began promoting Joseph Wilson, the former US ambassador who rose to fame challenging intelligence claims that Saddam Hussein had sought uranium “yellowcake” in Niger. Wilson was a fierce Bush administration critic and longtime Clinton supporter who had criticized candidate Barack Obama for “timid” views.
Now Wilson was in business as an Africa consultant and deal-maker.
“You’re addressing a group on Africa on Thursday,” Blumenthal e-mailed Clinton in September 2009. “Joe Wilson will be there and . . . wants to say hello. Please look out for him.”
“Pls be sure I see Joe,” Clinton e-mailed aides Huma Abedin and Lona Valmoro a minute later, copying Blumenthal.
“Will do,” Valmoro replied.
“Blumenthal cast a wide net as a de facto Clinton ambassador, promoting dubious business deals and political schemes.”
Wilson wanted to do more than just say hello. He was looking for business.
Blumenthal became the go-between for Clinton and Wilson. In an e-mail passed to Clinton by Blumenthal a week later, Wilson pitched his new client, Symbion Power.
Symbion was seeking millions of dollars in contracts from an obscure government agency chaired by the secretary of state, the Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC).
Symbion, an electrical-power developer, had been “hugely successful” in Iraq and Afghanistan, Wilson wrote Clinton. Symbion was now setting up shop in Tanzania, Wilson noted, “where we will be bidding on all of the upcoming MCC-financed power generation and distribution projects. I have asked Sid to pass a memory stick with a four-minute video that explains what Symbion does and how it does it.”
More e-mails followed, including one the State Department later classified as containing “confidential” information. The November 2009 e-mail was sent by Wilson to Blumenthal, who passed it on to Clinton. Most of Clinton’s reply to Blumenthal is redacted as classified.
In the e-mail, Wilson noted Symbion’s “competitive advantage,” saying he was “very enthusiastic” about the company. Wilson wrote that he was a “director of Symbion Power” and that he “may soon assume direct responsibility for all of Africa as Symbion expands there — claims the company later disputed when its relationship with Wilson fell apart in contentious litigation.
In September 2010, MCC awarded Symbion $47 million in US taxpayer money for power projects in Tanzania.
AN EU ELECTION
In October 2009, Blumenthal promoted a scheme to make former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair president of the European Council, an influential arm of the European Union.
The Clintons were intrigued. “I’m copying Doug [Band] and Justin [Cooper] who are traveling” with Bill Clinton “and may have some ideas,” Secretary Clinton e-mailed Blumenthal on Oct. 28. She added, “If I have any other ideas I will let you know.”
Band and Cooper at the time were key members of Bill Clinton’s personal office and the Clinton Foundation.
The White House was staying out of the EU election. No one in the Blumenthal scheme appears to have given any thought to the shoddy ethics of having the secretary of state secretly lobbying for a result in a foreign election.
In the end, Blair was passed over for a center-right candidate.
Within two years, however, Blair would receive another plum post. Blair — along with Band, Cooper, Bill Clinton himself and many outgoing senior State Department officials — were put on the payroll of another Clinton-affiliated entity, Teneo Holdings.
The Blumenthal saga is not over.
On Friday, the State Department released more than 7,000 pages of Hillary Clinton e-mails under a court order. Among them were dozens of e-mails to and from Blumenthal. And there is more to come from the State Department, the Benghazi committee and lawsuits from watchdog groups such as Judicial Watch.
More troubling for the Clinton presidential campaign: The FBI is investigating security issues related to Clinton’s e-mail server.
Whether any crimes were committed remains to be seen. But despite the dismissal of the e-mail scandal in liberal circles, the recovered messages have already established a clear record of Clinton’s underhanded and unethical actions in office.
On Jan. 9, 2009, Hillary Clinton signed a letter pledging to stay out of Clinton Foundation business. In a document first disclosed by Judicial Watch, Clinton had promised State Department officials that she would keep to the “highest standards of ethical conduct” and “not participate” in foundation matters.
Yet she went behind the president’s back to keep a friend in the fold, then mixed the nation’s business with the interests of Blumenthal and her private foundation, giving government contracts to people like Joseph Wilson and pushing behind the scenes for EU elections.
Hillary Clinton violated her own pledge and the government’s rules. “What difference does it make?” A big difference.
First published in the New York Post, October 31, 2015.