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Politics & Policy

Yeah, Sure, It’s Perfectly Normal for Private Foundation Staffers to Ask for Diplomatic Passports

From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

Yeah, Sure, It’s Perfectly Normal for Private Foundation Staffers to Ask for Diplomatic Passports

Where did the Clinton Foundation end and the State Department begin? Ordinarily there would be all kinds of clear indicators, like are they getting paid by the taxpayers (whoops) or do they have a diplomatic passport. Whoops, again.

The Band-Abedin exchange went as follows.

FromDoug Band

To: Huma Abedin

Sent: Jul 27, 2009 10:32 AM

Subject:

Need get me/ justy and jd dip passports

We had them years ago but they lapsed and we didn’t bother getting them

From: Huma Abedin [Huma@clintonemail.com]

Sent: Monday, July 27, 2009 10:38:39 PM

To: Doug Band

Subject: Re:

Ok will figure it out

The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations strictly limits the granting of diplomatic passports to members of the Foreign Service, their family members, or those working on U.S. government contracts. According to 22 CFR 51.3:

A diplomatic passport is issued to a Foreign Service officer or to a person having diplomatic status or comparable status because he or she is traveling abroad to carry out diplomatic duties on behalf of the U.S. Government. When authorized by the Department, spouses and family members of such persons may be issued diplomatic passports. When authorized by the Department, a diplomatic passport may be issued to a U.S. Government contractor if the contractor meets the eligibility requirements for a diplomatic passport and the diplomatic passport is necessary to complete his or her mission.

The argument from the Hillary campaign is that this was a unique situation where Bill Clinton was going a not-quite-official, not-quite-unofficial envoy to North Korea to help get two Americans released.

Officials on Thursday said the passports were tied to a humanitarian mission: former President Bill Clinton ’s trip to North Korea later that summer to help free captive journalists. The passports were never granted. Instead, the North Koreans agreed not to stamp the passports of Mr. Clinton and the aides, including Mr. Band, who traveled with him to help free Euna Lee and Laura Ling. A person familiar with the matter cited concerns about having a North Korean stamp on individual passports.

Of course, the lack of clarity about whether this was an official U.S. government envoy traveling to Pyongyang and meeting with Kim Jong-il was precisely the point. Kim-Jong-il wanted a summit and to be treated as a legitimate ruler by the United States, and was using the American hostages as leverage. The Obama administration, to its limited credit, wouldn’t give the North Korean leader exactly what he wanted, but sent Bill Clinton as a consolation prize to secure their release.

Bill Clinton and his Clinton Foundation staff represented this semi-official entity, not quite the American government but not quite a purely private organization with no government ties, either. Of course, a foreign government can’t just write a check to the U.S. State Department to purchase a favor – “please approve this arms deal,” or “please be leninent in your next assessment of our human rights record.” But a foreign government can write a check for any amount to the Clinton Foundation, and hope that the donation brings them some goodwill with the Secretary of State.

I haven’t seen lines this blurred since the Robin Thicke video.

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