A top prosecutor on Special Counsel Jack Smith’s team recommended that the FBI shut down an investigation into the Clinton Foundation in 2016, despite ample evidence of suspicious activity related to hundreds of thousands of dollars in foreign transactions, Fox News reported.
In his May 2023 report on the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation, Special Counsel John Durham identified Ray Hulser, the former chief of the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section (PIN), as the official who “declined prosecution” of the Clinton Foundation. Hulser now serves on Smith’s team currently prosecuting former President Donald Trump for alleged crimes related to January 6.
According to Durham’s report, in late 2014, the FBI began investigating a “well-placed” confidential source’s claims that two foreign governments had attempted to make illegal donations to buy influence with Hillary ahead of her presidential campaign.
By early 2016, three different FBI field offices, in Washington, D.C., Little Rock, Arkansas, and New York, had opened investigations into the Clinton Foundation for “possible criminal activity,” but Hulser shut them down, claiming there was “insufficient predication” for opening the investigations. He reportedly declined to prosecute during a meeting on February 1, 2016.
An individual present for the meeting told Durham that the Justice Department’s reaction to the Clinton Foundation briefing was “hostile.”
According to Durham’s report, the investigation out of Washington was opened as a “preliminary investigation, because the case agent wanted to determine if he could develop additional information to corroborate allegations in a recently-published book, ‘Clinton Cash’ by Peter Schweizer, before seeking to convert the matter to a full investigation.”
Durham asked Hulser about his decision to shut down the Clinton Foundation probes as part of his investigation. Hulser told Durham that he thought the “FBI briefing was poorly presented and that there was insufficient predication for at least one of the investigations due to its reliance on allegations contained in a book.”
However, the New York and Little Rock investigations included predication “based on source reporting that identified foreign governments that had made, or offered to make, contributions to the Foundation in exchange for favorable or preferential treatment from Clinton,” according to the special counsel’s report.
Durham included the incident to show “the contrast” between how the FBI handled Clinton investigations in comparison to the Trump-Russia probe, in which members of Trump’s campaign team were improperly surveilled, legally harassed and some prosecuted for unrelated financial crimes and process crimes.
The Durham report revealed that because three different FBI field offices opened investigations related to the Clinton Foundation, there was a “perceived need to conduct coordination meetings between the field offices, FBI Headquarters, and appropriate U.S. Attorney’s offices,” as well as “components” from main Justice Department.
“These meetings likely were deemed especially important given that the investigations were occurring in an election year in which Clinton was a declared candidate for President,” the report states, including details from those meetings.
One meeting detailed in the report took place on Feb. 1, 2016. Present for that meeting were several FBI officials, as well as Criminal Division Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell and Hulser, who, at the time, was Public Integrity Section chief.
“Hulser downplayed information provided by the New York Field Office CHS [confidential human source] and recalled that the amount involved in the financial reporting was ‘de minimis,’” the report states.
However, Durham’s team reviewed the financial reporting to better “understand the allegations”—and found otherwise.
“The reporting, which in itself is not proof of wrongdoing, was a narrative describing multiple funds transfers, some of which involved international bank accounts that were suspected of facilitating bribery or gratuity violations,” the Durham report states. “The transactions involved occurred between 2012 and 2014, and totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
While the Durham report does not explicitly state the words “Suspicious Activity Report” (SAR), the activity described within “would normally be the subject of such reports,” Fox News reported.
A source familiar with the matter told Fox that “there were multiple SARs filed related to the Clinton Foundation,” including in 2012, when Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state.
Banks have a duty to file SARs, but it is up to the Justice Department to determine if there is any criminality.
Due to the Clinton name, the Clinton Foundation or Clinton-related accounts likely had a “PEP” designation within financial institutions. PEP is short for politically exposed person, meaning the individual, through their prominent position or relationships, could be more susceptible to being involved in bribery or corruption.
The Hunter Biden federal criminal investigation was predicated, in part, by SARs on funds from “China and other foreign nations.” Those SARs have been reviewed as part of the House impeachment inquiry against President Biden, led by House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky.; Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio; and Ways & Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo.
Although Hulser in 2016 “declined prosecution” of the Clinton Foundation on behalf of the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section, he told Durham that he “made it clear” that “his decision was not binding on the various U.S. Attorneys’ Offices or FBI field divisions.”
“There are mega indications that the Obama Justice Department slow-walked and discouraged the Clinton Foundation investigation, including discouraging the FBI from pursuing it,” former federal prosecutor and Fox News contributor Andy McCarthy said.
With regard to Hulser, McCarthy told Fox that “it has been obvious from the beginning that the decision by the Biden Justice Department to appoint a special counsel was utterly political and done to create distance between the attorney general and the president from the decision to bring charges against Trump, that Smith has conducted it throughout with an eye on the election calendar.”
“Nobody should be surprised if people on Smith’s staff have been involved in situations that make it politically conflicting for them to be involved in this,” McCarthy said.
As for the Clinton Foundation probes, in another meeting in February 2016, then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe “initially directed the field offices to close their cases, but following objections, agreed to reconsider the final disposition of the cases.”
According to current Deputy FBI Director Paul Abbate’s interview with Durham’s team, he recalled McCabe stating that the DOJ said “there’s nothing here” and “why are we even doing this?”
At the end of the meeting, it was announced that for “any overt investigative steps to be taken,” McCabe’s approval “would be required.”
Meanwhile, by May 2016, then-FBI Director James Comey directed the FBI’s New York Field Office to “cease and desist” from the Clinton Foundation investigation due to “some undisclosed counterintelligence concern.”
Durham was “not able to determine what the counterintelligence issue raised by Comey was.”
“As an initial matter, the NYFO and WFO investigations appear to have been opened as preliminary investigations due to the political sensitivity and their reliance on unvetted hearsay information (the Clinton Cash book) and [confidential human source reporting],” the report states. “By contrast, the Crossfire Hurricane investigation was immediately opened as a full investigation despite the fact that it was similarly predicated on hearsay information.”
Durham also pointed out that while the DOJ appeared to have had “legitimate concerns” about the Clinton Foundation investigation occurring so close to the presidential election, “it does not appear that similar concerns were expressed by the Department or FBI regarding the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.”
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation yielded no evidence of criminal conspiracy or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the 2016 presidential election.
Durham found that the FBI “failed to act” on a “clear warning sign” that the bureau was the “target” of a Hillary Clinton-led effort to “manipulate or influence the law enforcement process for political purposes” against Trump ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
Hulser was the top prosecutor for the government’s 2015 corruption case against New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, which was dismissed after a hung jury failed to reach a verdict. He also was involved in the Justice Department’s prosecution of former Trump White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, who was convicted of contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the Jan. 6 committee.
On Thursday, Trump’s attorneys filed a motion calling for a federal judge to hold Smith in contempt of court for allegedly “repeatedly violating” a stay order in his 2020 election investigation.
Smith’s case against Trump, the 2024 GOP frontrunner, is on pause as Trump’s attorneys appeal the case and argue that presidential immunity protects him from being prosecuted. The trial had been set to begin on March 4.
“The Stay Order is clear, straightforward, and unambiguous,” Trump attorney John Lauro wrote in the filing. “All substantive proceedings in this Court are halted. Despite this clarity, the prosecutors began violating the Stay almost immediately.”
Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges related to Smith’s investigations into Jan. 6, 2020 election interference, and his handling of classified records.