It’s hard to believe it has been nearly 20 years since a Clinton has been on a national ticket, and there is a generation of voters who were not born or too young to remember the Clinton years in the White House. Many of these people probably never heard the name Sidney Blumenthal. Today’s Review & Outlook in the Wall Street Journal examines “the many roles of Hillary’s secret diplomatic advisor:”
Sidney Blumenthal has served in many roles for Bill and Hillary Clinton, from political Svengali to opposition hit man. So it was probably inevitable that the man who whispered to reporters that Monica Lewinsky threw herself on Bill Clinton would eventually show up in Hillary’s State Department email imbroglio, and in ways that illuminate the Clinton family mores.
The New York Times reported Monday on email records showing that Mr. Blumenthal was on the payroll of the Clinton Foundation at the same time he was being paid by groups helping Mrs. Clinton’s presidential run, at the same time he was advising a U.S. business seeking Libyan contracts, at the same time he was secretly advising Secretary of State Clinton about Libya. Every top American diplomat apparently needs a good man Friday who no one else knows about.
The news raises questions about whether Mr. Blumenthal’s work with Mrs. Clinton at State in any way benefited his private dealings, or how any of it fit into his work for the foundation. Mr. Blumenthal isn’t talking, and Mrs. Clinton’s emails are still conveniently being vetted for future release by the State Department (at least the ones she didn’t erase).
Mrs. Clinton emerged from a month of silence Tuesday to declare that “I want those emails out,” though she’s helpless because “they’re not mine. They belong to the State Department.” Yet even the details we know offer broader lessons about the Clinton political method.
They reinforce, for starters, that the Clinton Foundation is not and never has been a charity. Bill and Hillary created it in 2001 as a vehicle to assist their continuing political ambitions, in particular Mrs. Clinton’s run for the White House. Any good the foundation does is incidental to its bigger role as a fund-raising network and a jobs program for Clinton political operatives.
The Times reports that Mr. Blumenthal was paid to do “research, ‘message guidance,’ and the planning of commemorative events.” Was he also paid by the Clinton Foundation—which is funded in part by foreign governments—to write memos for the Secretary of State?
We are also learning more about other appendages of the Clinton campaign machine, including so-called progressive “watchdog” groups. The Times reports that Mr. Blumenthal was also cashing paychecks from Media Matters and the liberal Super Pac American Bridge, both of which happen to be founded by Blumenthal protégé and professional Clinton hit man David Brock.
American Bridge describes itself as a “communications organization committed to holding Republicans accountable,” which is another way of saying it works—under Mr. Blumenthal’s tutelage—as Mrs. Clinton’s attack machine. Media Matters is a propaganda operation that got its start with help from the Center for American Progress, which was founded by John Podesta, who is now chairing Hillary’s presidential campaign.
The Blumenthal Files are the latest reminder that Mrs. Clinton’s email deletions deserve a criminal investigation. Recall that Mr. Blumenthal was barred by the Obama Administration from working at the State Department, despite Mrs. Clinton’s request to hire her old pal. We now know she worked with him anyway, potentially in violation of State rules, and that both used private email addresses.
The only reason we know this, however, is because a Romanian hacker a few years back infiltrated Mr. Blumenthal’s email and posted some correspondence with Mrs. Clinton online. Mrs. Clinton has now turned over (some of) her Blumenthal correspondence to the State Department. How many other private emails, which weren’t exposed through a hack, did Mrs. Clinton delete?
The Blumenthal memos also deserve Justice Department scrutiny. Team Clinton wants the world to think Mr. Blumenthal was simply offering his old friend some helpful intelligence gleaned in the course of his Libya work. A less charitable view is that Mr. Blumenthal was funneling information to the nation’s top diplomat in hopes that it would trigger actions to benefit his business interests.
The Times reports that in one memo Mr. Blumenthal provided Mrs. Clinton the name of what he viewed to be one of the “most influential” advisers to the new Libyan government. It happens this was also the adviser the Blumenthal business group was hoping would provide it with financing. Even as Mr. Blumenthal was whispering in Mrs. Clinton’s ear, one of his business associates reached out to a senior Clinton aide to “introduce the venture” and seek a meeting with the U.S. ambassador in Libya.
Meanwhile, among the details in the hacked Blumenthal emails is that he passed along a memo to Mrs. Clinton from an adviser to Georgia billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili—then running for prime minister, opposed by President Mikheil Saakashvili—asking the State Department to give support to his candidate. Mr. Blumenthal warned in his memo that Georgia could be “a potential hot spot a month before the  US elections,” leaving the impression he thought she should take the plea seriously.
This is highly dubious behavior. In early April a conservative-leaning ethics group, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, requested that the Justice Department investigate whether Mr. Blumenthal had violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act. This is the law requiring that anyone lobbying—defined broadly—for a foreign government must register with the Attorney General. Justice brushed off the request, as it always has during this Administration, but the query ought to be renewed in light of Mr. Blumenthal’s work regarding Libya.
House investigators now intend to interview Mr. Blumenthal, and let’s hope they can uncover more about this pal of Hillary’s job as unofficial political and foreign-policy adviser to a Secretary of State.
The broader point is that this is how the Clintons operate—on the edge of the law, mixing business and politics, the personal with the official, in a way designed to help the Clintons and their friends profit from both.