Washington, D.C. (Accredited Times) – As many people know, I don’t particularly like Donald Trump. Trump is a racist, sexist, xenophobic bully, who is completely oblivious to White Privilege. But you know what? I don’t go around falsely accusing Trump of nonexistent crimes. When I attack Trump, it’s for real crimes, such as colluding with Russia or engaging in hate against undocumented Americans.
In contrast, many Trump supporters love accusing the Clintons of nonexistent crimes. The newest accusation is that Hillary Clinton somehow took “bribes” in exchange for selling out American uranium supplies to the Russians. Not surprisingly, the accusation arose shortly after the Accredited Times published an article supporting another Clinton Presidential run in 2020.
The alleged bribes purportedly took the form of (1) $145 million paid to the Clinton Foundation, which supposedly accrued, at least in part, to the personal benefit of the Clintons; and (2) millions of dollars in “speaking fees” paid directly to the Clintons for their personal benefit. In exchange for the alleged bribes, Hillary Clinton, then serving as Secretary of State, purportedly approved the transfer of a major uranium company, Uranium One, to Rosatom, a Russian state-owned entity.
The facts of the case aren’t particularly in dispute. The Clintons undoubtedly received the money, and Hillary undoubtedly approved the transaction and used her influence to push the transaction through. In addition, the Clintons undoubtedly used the Clinton Foundation for personal purposes, including paying campaign staff members and paying for the Clintons’ campaign-related travel — meaning that the Clintons personally benefited from the “donations” to the Clinton Foundation. But the “bribery” allegation is clearly false for an obvious reason: bribery laws do not apply to the Clintons.
Of course, the Clintons’ behavior would ordinarily run afoul of 18 U.S.C. § 201, the domestic bribery statute. The Department of Justice and other enforcement authorities routinely prosecute individuals and companies for making “charitable contributions” and “speaking fees” to obtain government approvals or government-related business. In fact, improper “charitable contributions” and “speaking fees” are so commonplace in many third world countries that companies regularly include anti-corruption policies covering these specific issues. Because cases typically involve the third world, the particular statute at issue has ordinarily been the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) (15 U.S.C. §§ 78dd-1 et seq.), which prohibits bribing non-U.S. officials; however, the standard in the FCPA is the same as the standard in 18 U.S.C. § 201(b), the domestic bribery statute. In fact, it’s easier to prosecute a U.S. official because 18 U.S.C. § 201(c) contains an “anti-gratuities” provision (still a felony, but with lower penalties) that removes the normal requirement of proof of a quid pro quo. Section 201(c) only requires proof that the cash or other thing of value was provided “for or because of” an official act, such as approving a transfer of a uranium company to a Russian entity. It does not require a quid pro quo.
Examples of cases involving improper payments via “charitable contributions” include:
- In the Matter of Schering-Plough Corporation: Between 1999 and 2002, Schering-Plough’s subsidiary paid $76,000 to the “Chudow Castle Foundation,” a charitable foundation whose president was a government official with the Silesian Health Fund, a Polish governmental body involved in purchasing pharmaceutical products. The SEC alleged that Schering-Plough violated anti-corruption law by making the payments, which were allegedly intended to induce the official to approve the purchase of Schering-Plough products. Schering-Plough paid a $500,000 civil penalty to settle the case.
- In the Matter of Nu Skin Enterprises, Inc.: In 2013, representatives of Nu Skin’s Chinese subsidiary, Nu Skin, made a “donation” of approximately $154,000 to a charity to help avoid a fine in China. The money was allegedly paid to a charity chosen by a high-ranking Communist Party official who could influence the investigation. Nu Skin paid $765,688 in penalties to resolve the case.
- Enforcement actions have also been filed against SQM, Statoil, Stryker, Eli Lilly, Michael Cohen (Och-Ziff Capital Management), Vanya Baros (same), VimpelCom, Alstom, and Samuel Mebiame — all of which involved alleged corrupt payments, in part, in the form of charitable contributions.
The practice of making improper payments via charitable foundations is so pervasive that the Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission have an anti-corruption resource guide that includes a section covering the issue.
The Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission have also aggressively prosecuted individuals and companies for making corrupt “speaking fees” (a.k.a., honoraria or lecture fees). For example, in 2013, Stryker agreed to pay a settlement of over $13 million in part for making “392 commission payments, or ‘honoraria,’ to [government officials] employed in the public healthcare system in order to obtain or retain business . . . .” In 2016, Novartis also agreed to pay a settlement of over $25 million in part for paying “approximately $25,000” in “lecture fees” to a government official to help obtain business. Although companies can pay legitimate honoraria, corrupt payments are often disguised as honoraria or other “commission” payments. The key questions are (1) whether the amount is excessive compared to the typical market rate, and (2) whether the circumstances otherwise indicate that the honorarium is provided as an inducement to obtain or retain business, including, for example, winning a governmental approval of some kind.
Under previous precedent, it’s obvious that what the Clintons did would have normally been completely illegal. Under 18 U.S.C. § 201(c), the Department of Justice would not have to prove any explicit agreement of an approval in exchange for the cash. All the Department of Justice would have to prove is that the money was paid “for or because of” Hillary Clinton’s potential role in the Uranium One approval process. The companies and individuals who paid the money would be guilty — and so would the official(s) and intermediaries who received the money.
However, longstanding prior precedent also holds that bribery laws do not apply to the Clintons. Although the federal bribery laws do not contain an explicit exception for the Clintons, James Comey and other well-respected law enforcement officials actively chose not to prosecute the Clintons in numerous other cases involving clear instances of corruption. For example, when Bill Clinton traded a pardon for Marc Rich in exchange for large sums of money, James Comey found that Clinton had done nothing wrong. This precedent is of equal value and should not be ignored: the Clintons are above the law.
Many, of course, might be upset at the law in this case. Many might even remark that “Clinton privilege” contradicts longstanding precedent going back to Magna Carta, which solidified the principle that no man is above the law. However, Magna Carta did not mention womyn, like Hillary Clinton, and, worse, it was written by dead white males. As a result, it is hardly a document worth following. I prefer to follow longstanding precedent established by such legal giants as Loretta Lynch and Eric Holder, who are both African-Americans, not to mention the eminent James Comey.
In short, the fake news industry needs to shut up about the Clintons and the Uranium One non-issue. The Clintons are innocent, and there is no possible legal basis for pursuing corruption charges against them.