Politics

Senate Judiciary Chair Questions Hillary State Department’s ‘Unusual Arrangement’

Hillary Clinton is the only secretary of state to serve every single day of her term without a permanent inspector general since the watchdog position was created nearly 60 years ago, and Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley wants to know why.

Grassley, an Iowa Republican, sent a letter to Sec. of State John Kerry on Thursday arguing that the scandal over Clinton’s email use requires renewed scrutiny of the five-year inspector general (IG) vacancy.

“Although that extended vacancy was roundly criticized at the time, it has taken on a new significance in light of the controversies related to the former Secretary’s use of a nongovernment email server for her official communications,” Grassley wrote to Kerry.

President Obama did not offer a nominee for the position until months after Clinton left her post in Feb. 2013. That made the State Department the only agency that far into the Obama administration without a permanent or nominated IG.

Harold Geisel, a career State Department official, was appointed as acting IG during the George W. Bush administration and remained as placeholder until Obama nominated Steve Linick in June 2013. He was approved by the Senate that September and remains in the position today.

“Secretary Clinton is the only Secretary of State to have served every single day of her tenure without a permanent IG overseeing the Department since that watchdog position was created in 1957,” Grassley wrote to Kerry.

He noted that allowing Geisel to remain IG violated federal law which prohibits career diplomats from holding the office because of an “inherent conflict of interest.”

Grassley pointed out how much more thorough State’s IG has been under Linick’s direction compared to the “previous unusual arrangement.”

He noted an Oct. 2014 IG report which found that former Clinton aides and other State Department officials contributed to an “appearance of undue influence and favoritism.”

The investigation uncovered questionable behavior during an investigation into whether the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium solicited prostitutes as well as whether a department manager engaged in sexual misconduct. The IG report also noted that Clinton chief of staff Cheryl Mills appeared to exert undue influence in an investigation into whether there was an unauthorized release of communications related to a nominee for a U.S. ambassadorship.

Grassley seemingly believes that with a permanent IG during Clinton’s term, the Democratic nominee either would have avoided using a home-brew email set-up or would have been investigated for doing so. Grassley and others have raised questions about other unorthodox arrangements during Clinton’s term.

He’s repeatedly pressed Clinton’s longtime aide, Huma Abedin, over her work status at the State Department. She initially served as Clinton’s deputy chief of staff but soon obtained a special government employee waiver which allowed her to also work for Teneo Holdings, a consulting firm with close ties to the Clintons, and for the Clinton Foundation, the former first family’s charity.

In his letter, Grassley asked Kerry to produce correspondence between Clinton and her aides and the White House related to the vacant IG position and any potential candidates. 

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