Clinton aide delayed financial data sought by State Dep't

AP News
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Posted: Sep 25, 2015 5:07 PM
Clinton aide delayed financial data sought by State Dep't

WASHINGTON (AP) — After Hillary Rodham Clinton designated long-time aide Huma Abedin for a job as a special adviser working for her at the State Department in 2012, Abedin delayed providing personal financial information repeatedly sought by the department's ethics officials to determine if she had any potential conflicts of interest, newly-released emails show.

As secretary of state, Clinton approved Abedin's official job description in March 2012 as a "special government employee" working under contract for her, according to documents obtained by the conservative legal group Judicial Watch in a lawsuit against the State Department.

After previously working for three years as Clinton's deputy chief of staff, Abedin shifted from her full-time post to the consulting job for Clinton in June 2012. But the emails show Abedin's approval for the special adviser job was pushed through even as State Department ethics, personnel and legal officials warned that she had failed to provide financial data necessary to rule out any potential conflicts.

Abedin's lawyer, Miguel Rodriguez, said Friday, "there's nothing in the tenor of her emails that shows she's trying to stonewall." The emails do not show whether Abedin provided all the records sought by the department, but Rodriguez said it was his impression that she was cooperative and eventually turned over the material.

State Department officials were seeking information about Abedin's finances including assets owned by her husband, former Rep. Anthony Weiner. Even on the day of her hiring, a State Department legal official told Abedin that she had still not provided necessary information on a government ethics form requiring her to disclose any outside agreements or transactions.

Despite relaying those concerns, the lawyer appeared to approve Abedin's ethics form. "They want you cleared today if possible," the official told Abedin in an email.

Congressional critics have said that Abedin may have skirted ethics guidelines in her 2012 work as a special adviser for Clinton while she also worked for Teneo Holdings, a consulting firm co-founded by Douglas Band, a former aide to President Bill Clinton. Abedin also reportedly worked during that period for the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, the family charity that Hillary Clinton later helped run before separating from the board earlier this year when she announced her run for the Democratic party's presidential nomination.

None of the newly-released emails mention Teneo or the Clinton Foundation. Rodriguez noted that Abedin was not yet working for Teneo when she was dealing with the State ethics requests.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, told Secretary of State John Kerry in July that Abedin may have been improperly designated as a special government employee and asked for records about the decision.

Judicial Watch's president, Tom Fitton, said Friday that the emails show "Huma Abedin received special treatment contrary to law." The Judicial Watch findings were first reported by Politico.

The documents show that State Department officials initially told Abedin in March 2012 she was scheduled to start her work as a special government employee in April. But the plans were delayed, partly because Abedin held off on providing ethics officials with information about financial assets held by her husband.

"Anthony filed his separate disclosure last June. Nothing has changed. I don't need to include his stuff on mine right?" Abedin emailed an ethics official in April 2012. The official replied: "I have confirmed with the Legal Office that his assets are imputed to you so his assets are reportable."

A State Department official said it was not unusual for State job applicants to be in touch with the department's financial disclosure officials over their filings.

Abedin had still not provided the information about Weiner's finances even five days after her hiring, according to the emails.

Sarah E. Taylor, the chief of the department's Financial Disclosure Division, warned Abedin in early June that "the documents I have do not have all the information needed." Taylor said "we cleared you for the other position already, this information is necessary to close out" her previous job under Clinton.

"I am happy to ask him," Abedin replied. "We are just both confused about what we need to be doing."