Editor’s note: This story is updated with new information, including a retraction from a national news source.
For the second time in three days, U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., referred on a national media outlet to the Clinton Foundation as a “money laundering” operation.
Appearing Thursday (Nov. 3) on “Fox & Friends,” Cotton responded to a report by Fox News that the FBI has been investigating the Clinton Foundation for more than a year, and an indictment is possible.
“The more we learn … the more it becomes clear that the Clinton Foundation may be the world’s largest money-laundering and influencing-peddling operation, and in fact with two investigations swirling around Hillary Clinton – both the email investigation and the Clinton Foundation investigation, I think it may become clear that those are really the same controversy,” he said. “One reason why Hillary Clinton probably wanted to set up a private email server is so she could advance her pay-to-play agenda at the State Department for Clinton Foundation donors, giving perks and benefits to dictators and shady oligarchs all around the world.”
On Nov. 1 on The Hugh Hewitt Show, Cotton was discussing a report by the Wall Street Journal that senior Department of Justice officials had discouraged the FBI’s investigation into whether contributors to the Clinton Foundation received special treatment from the State Department while Clinton was secretary of state.
“I suspect that that was a very high ranking Department of Justice political appointee who was carrying water for the Clinton machine and wanted to shut down an investigation into the Clinton Foundation, which increasingly looks like one of the largest money laundering and influence peddling operations in the world,” Cotton said. “This is why, if Hillary Clinton wins this election and they don’t shut down the Clinton Foundation and come clean with all of its past activities, then there is no telling the kind of corruption that you might see (in) the Clinton White House. They did it in the State Department. Of course they are going to do it in the White House.”
On Wednesday, Fox News’ Bret Baier reported that FBI agents have been investigating the possible “pay for play” interactions between the Clinton Foundation and Clinton while she was secretary of state, and that the investigation is a high priority. Agents have a lot of information, are interviewing and re-interviewing people associated with the case, and are using information provided by WikiLeaks. He said his sources said that, “barring some obstruction in some way,” the investigation will lead to “likely an indictment.” He also reported that her private email server had almost certainly been hacked by at least five foreign intelligence sources.
Cotton offered no additional proof on the Clinton Foundation allegations, other than the news reports, one of which was retracted.
On Friday, Baier retracted his story, claiming that his use of the word “indictment” was “inartful.”
“I explained a couple of times yesterday the phrasing of one of my answers to [Fox News host] Brit Hume on Wednesday night, saying it was inartful the way I answered [a] question about whether the investigations would continue after the election. And I answered that, yes, our sources said it would, they would continue to likely an indictment. Well that wasn’t just inartful. It was a mistake. And for that, I’m sorry,” Baier said.
A recent release of WikiLeaks emails detailed how former President Bill Clinton had personally profited from the Clinton Foundation through private relationships with the donors. Laureate International Universities, for example, had donated $1.4 million to the foundation and paid Clinton $3.5 million annually as a consultant and honorary chairman, according to a 2011 memo.
The Clinton Foundation declined comment on Cotton’s charges but instead pointed to a guest column by foundation Executive Director Stephanie Streett in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette published Aug. 29.