For a country that is ranked as one of the world’s poorest to offer a whopping $650,000 to former President Bill Clinton for a speech and two photos is not only perturbing but also questionable.
Why would the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) part with such large amounts for ‘negligible’ items? What else did the DR Congo seek in return for its investment? Two snaps and a speech; that does not seem like much of a return!
These are questions that linger in many peoples’ minds especially when one looks at the fact that the $650,000 would have been equal to the annual per-capita income of 2,813 Congolese, according to Forbes.
DR Congo’s unusual offer to Clinton first came to light in a batch of Hillary Clinton’s emails released in August last year, where it attracted a little attention at the time. But with the newly, controversial leaked documents, the ‘Panama papers’, the matter is now in the open with the documents showing the misdoings of DR Congo’s corrupt leaders.
The State Department e-mails obtained by ABC News reveal Bill Clinton’s well-paid speaking engagement and how he and the Clinton Foundation sought to get approval for invitations to North Korea and the Democratic Republic of the Congo- two of the most oppressive countries in the world.
The proposed 2012 contract indicates that the organizers of the event expected a speech and at least a photo with the leaders of the DR Congo and the Congo. It appeared as if the two African countries were willing to split the royal honorarium. Bottom line, this deal is playing at the two extreme ends- luxurious for Clinton and depleting for DR Congo. So, what else did DR Congo want for this kind of money?
While Hillary Clinton worked as Secretary of State, Bill Clinton traveled the world giving speeches to world leaders and overseas interests earning at least $48 million . To avoid conflict of interests between the two offices, the State Department had to vet all of the international speeches of the former president. The newly revealed emails show speech requests that the State Department refused to approve.
Further, it shows how the Clinton Foundation sought to pursue the DR Congo offer. The foreign policy director at the Clinton Foundation, Amitabh Desai, emailed the request to accept the $650,000 to a State department official, writing “WJC [William Jefferson Clinton] wants to know what state thinks of it if he took it 100% for the foundation”.
In May 2012, another invitation from North Korea came through and once again, Desai wrote to Clinton State Department chief of staff Cheryl Mills and two other State Department officials –Jake Sullivan, then-director of Policy Planning Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff, and Michael Fuchs, then a special assistant to the Secretary of State who now serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Strategy and Multilateral Affairs in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
“Is it safe to assume [the U.S. Government] would have concerns about WJC accepting the attached invitation related to North Korea?” Desai wrote in the email.
In response to the email, Mills said the offer should be declined.
The conversation does not end here, according to ABC News. The Clinton Foundation followed up on the matter three weeks later seeking clarification on the specific concerns over the invitations, adding that the invite came via Hillary Clinton's brother Tony Rodham.
"We would be grateful for any specific concerns that we could share,” Desai wrote. “Tony is seeing WJC in a couple hours.”
Mills wrote back to tell Bill Clinton, “If he needs more let him know his wife knows and I am happy to call him secure when he is near a secure line."
What did Joseph Kabila of DR Congo want?
Forbes gives two possibilities of what the African nation needed from the US through Bill and Hillary Clinton.
One, Forbes elucidates that President Joseph Kabila sought US permission to ignore Congo’s constitution and stay in power beyond his two-term limit which comes to an end in 2016. Secondly, he wanted to shield his overseas assets from international investigators.
At the time, Hillary, in particular, could have helped in each situation if they wanted to. Forbes thinks that staying in power and keeping billions in sinister gains would undoubtedly be worth $650,000 if that was the deal that Kabila had in mind.
Since nobody exactly knows what the deal was, the Clintons and their foundation should shed a light on the deal: how the $650,000 sum was arrived at? What DR Congo wanted in return and if the Clintons offered to provide any help?
This is the first batch of e-mails released as part of the public records requests originally submitted by Citizens United back in 2014, according to ABC News. After failing to provide the e-mails, Citizens United filed a lawsuit against the State Department earlier this year. The State Department delivered the material to the organization last week, and more messages are expected to come in the next month.
Image credit: Spencer Platt/Getty