Justice Department backs off Clinton Foundation probe

Reaction from the 'Special Report' All-Star panel


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," August 11, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: pay-for-play, called pay for -- you're not allowed to do it. It's illegal, it's illegal. And I would imagine other things are going to be coming down the pike.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not a typical money-in-politics story. We're used to Wall Street, oil companies, et cetera, giving donations to politicians, getting access. But federal law prevents foreign businessmen and governments from doing so. The Clinton Foundation is a gateway around that.

ELIZABETH TRUDEAU, STATE DEPARTMENT PRESS OFFICE DIRECTOR: The State Department is not aware of any actions that were influenced by the Clinton Foundation.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, this story continues to percolate, the Clinton Foundation and the interaction with Secretary Clinton's State Department. We showed you those e-mails from Judicial Watch yesterday. Today we're learning that the Department of Justice turned down an FBI request to continue or expand the investigation into the Clinton Foundation. And we're learning from a report about Cheryl Mills, Hillary Clinton's chief of staff at the time, and what she did as in that job. CNN's reporting on June 19th of 2012, Mills then chief of staff for Clinton at the State Department, boarded a New York City bound Amtrak train in Washington's Union Station. The next morning at the offices of a New York based executive firm, Mills would interview two high-level business executives. Her mission was to help the Clinton Foundation find a new leader.

Brian Fallon with the Clinton campaign responded, saying "It's absurd. It was crystal clear to all involved that this had nothing to do with her official duties." What is crystal clear is that this is not going away for Hillary Clinton. And what does that mean in the big picture from politics? Let's bring in our panel: Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard; A.B. Stoddard, associate editor at Real Clear Politics, and Charles Hurt, political columnist for The Washington Times. OK, Steve, it seems like we're getting more and more of this, and it seems like it's significant.

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: It's very significant. Anybody who read "Clinton Cash," the book by Peter Schweizer understood what was going on with the Clinton Foundation generally. This was a pay- for-play operation, basically people who solicited the Clinton Foundation, they gave money to the Clinton Foundation, and got the State Department to weigh in on various disputes and matters as a really routine course of action.

What I think makes this so interesting is who Cheryl Mills is. Cheryl Mills is Hillary Clinton's chief of staff, really her top staffer. Republicans on the Benghazi committee thought of her as Hillary Clinton's enforcer, and her lawyer, as well. To have her travel to New York City for the purposes of basically interviewing two would-be leaders for the Clinton Foundation, and then to have Brian Fallon say it was clear this had nothing to do with her official responsibilities is totally and completely preposterous on its face. Of course it had everything to do with her official responsibilities. That's precisely why they sent her, because they wanted to show people that this was sort of fluid.

BAIER: We showed last night, A.B., one of the exchanges on these e-mails. Here is another one from this email chain. We don't know who it's from, but it's to Doug Band, a Clinton confidante with the Clinton Foundation, "A favor ... Hi Doug. I really appreciate the opportunity to go on the Haiti trip. It was an eye-opening experience seeing both the depravity and the promise of that island."

Doug then forwards that to Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills, says, "Note, important to take care of" said person, who this e-mail is from. Huma Abedin then returns the e-mail, "We have all had him on our radar, personnel has been sending him options." Understand that Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills at the time are working for the State Department.

A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Right. And Huma Abedin ended up with four paychecks from a private firm, from the State Department, from the foundation, and I believe personal funds from the Clinton family as well. But she is sort of the worst case example. But all of them have interwoven interests and potential conflicts that are overlapping, and it's clear that you don't have to read the book to know that the foundation was tied into her tenure at the State Department.

Any Democrat who doesn't believe there is a possibility of a big document dump of e-mails indicating that this kind of access was provided -- and I'm not even talking about, maybe favors on policy prescriptions were not provided. But any kind of pattern of access and pattern of just answering people's questions who were donors really could end her candidacy. And if they don't think that could happen, Democrats have their head in the sand.

BAIER: Here is Mike Pence, the GOP vice presidential nominee moments ago talking about this very issue.


GOV. MIKE PENCE, REPUBLICAN VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: And we just found out today that actually the -- a few months back the FBI discussed opening up a public corruption investigation of the Clinton Foundation, and the Obama administration's Department of Justice shut it down.


PENCE: You know, the American people are tired of pay-to-play politics, and when Donald Trump and I arrive at the White House, we're going to bring it to an end on day one.


BAIER: Any observer, Charlie, looking at the State Department briefing yesterday could say that they had a horrible time dealing with this and trying to answer these questions.

CHARLES HURT, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: Even, "Am I speaking a foreign language with these questions."

BAIER: Yes. So now Pence is hitting it, Trump is hitting it. Does this play or does it get, you know, overtaken by the daily Trump story of the day?

HURT: Well, if Donald Trump can stop making the headlines every day, maybe it won't. But I think a real problem here is the public has been putting up with Clinton scandals for 25 years. Granted, these I think are far worse than anything we've ever encountered before. But I do think that people at some point, they get scandal fatigue and they start losing interest in these things.

But of course -- and the Clintons of course have an endless appetite and energy for spinning and dissembling and deceiving people about all this stuff. And talking about the Cheryl Mills thing, their explanation was that Cheryl Mills going into New York, as chief of staff for secretary of state, going to interview for a new leader of the Clinton Foundation was volunteering her personal time to help out a charitable organization. You know, it's staggering. It really is.

BAIER: Very little time on this today, A.B., on other channels. A lot of time about President Obama and Hillary Clinton, the founders and co- founders of ISIS.

STODDARD: Well, I think Donald Trump has himself to thank for that. He said it last night. He said it again today numerous times. He is not backing down from it. I can't find the words to say how offensive I think it is. But I think if he thinks he's going to pick up some vote margin from undecided and swing voters by calling the current commander in chief the founder of ISIS, good luck with that.

HURT: And that's an important point, too, because I am absolutely not offended by it. I think obviously he's speaking loosely when he says they're the founders of is. But the point is, he knows what the media is going to do.

STODDARD: When they ask, when they give him the out several times today, you mean his policies led to ISIS. He said no, he's the founder.

HURT: That's what I mean by he's speaking loosely about it. As Hillary Clinton might say, he's short circuiting it. But your point I totally agree with. He knows what the media is going to do with it and the media is going to spend all the time talking about that instead of this. And that's a bad thing for him.

BAIER: Go ahead.

HAYES: He did say when he was pressed by Hugh Hewitt in his radio interview this morning, Hugh Hewitt said, well, of course, you didn't really mean that. And he said yes, I did in fact really mean that. But this I think is the problem. It makes it harder for people who want to make a fact-based, evidence-based critique of the Obama administration's handling of the war on terror, I would say disowning of the war on terror. There's abundant material to make that with. Why you have to say something that you know will be inflammatory and is silly and preposterous I think is a good question.

BAIER: One of the things that is abundant is a story that's breaking today.

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