Fox News host is alleging that State Department call logs showing Clinton Foundation chief operating officer Laura Graham “leaving almost 150 telephone messages for Hillary Clinton’s top aide at the State Department,” Cheryl Mills, reveal a “pay-for-play scam” and “quid pro cash.” But Fox News’ own original report on the call logs states that “there is no evidence of any misconduct in the calls or contacts between Graham and Mills,” and according to State Department spokesman Mark Toner, the “calls could well be ... simply coordinating on” relief efforts after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti given that Mills led State’s response to the disaster and former President Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation played key roles during the aftermath.
Fox News Reports That “A Senior Executive At The Clinton Foundation Left Almost 150 Telephone Messages For Hillary Clinton’s Top Aide”
Fox News: “A Senior Executive At The Clinton Foundation Left Almost 150 Messages For Hillary Clinton’s Top Aide.” According to a FoxNews.com report, “A senior executive at the Clinton Foundation left almost 150 telephone messages for Hillary Clinton’s top aide at the State Department within a two-year time frame.” According to Fox, Clinton aide Cheryl Mills received “at least 148 messages from Laura Graham – then the Clinton Foundation’s chief operating officer – between 2010 and 2012,” which, Fox says, “reflect[s] a wide cross-section of individuals angling for the secretary’s ear.” From FoxNews.com’s August 23 report:
A senior executive at the Clinton Foundation left almost 150 telephone messages for Hillary Clinton’s top aide at the State Department within a two-year time frame, according to previously unpublished documents obtained by Fox News.
A review of State Department call logs for Cheryl Mills, the longtime Clinton confidant who served as chief of staff for the entirety of Clinton’s four-year tenure as America’s top diplomat, reflects at least 148 messages from Laura Graham – then the Clinton Foundation’s chief operating officer – between 2010 and 2012. No other individual or non-profit appears in the logs with anything like that frequency or volume, the review found.
The telephone records were released by the State Department to the conservative advocacy group Citizens United as part of a long-running lawsuit over the Freedom of information Act. [FoxNews.com, 8/23/16]
Fox Host Calls Report Evidence Of “Pay-For-Play Scam” And “Quid Pro Cash”
Fox’s Steve Doocy: “If You Wanted To Get Some Face Time With The Secretary Of State, Give The Clinton Foundation Cash. Quid Pro Cash.” Fox News host Steve Doocy, citing the FoxNews.com report, concluded that the phone log “goes to show you that something was going on between the Clinton Foundation and the Department of State,” referring to the alleged relationship as “a pay-for-play scam” and “quid pro cash.” From the August 23 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): We’ve got a Fox News exclusive. As it turns out, the Clinton Foundation -- one of the executives there, the COO, left 148 messages, according to phone logs that have been obtained, leaving phone calls to Hillary’s top aide, Cheryl Mills. And what’s interesting about this, and what is important as well, because that is an abnormally high number, is nobody else called her with such frequency. And it just goes to show you that something was going on between the Clinton Foundation and the Department of State. And, as has been suggested by the political right, it's a pay-for-play scam. If you wanted to get some face time with the secretary of state, give the Clinton Foundation cash. Quid pro cash. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/23/16]
But Fox’s Own Report Notes That “There Is No Evidence Of Wrongdoing,” And State Provided Explanation For Phone Logs
Fox’s Own Report Notes That The Phone Logs Provide “No Evidence Of Any Misconduct In The Calls Or Contacts Between Graham And Mills.” According to the FoxNews.com report, “Absent additional detail, there is no evidence of any misconduct in the calls or contacts between Graham and Mills.” [FoxNews.com, 8/23/16]
State Department Spokesperson Mark Toner: “Cheryl Mills Personally Led” Coordination Of Haiti Earthquake Relief Efforts, And “Calls Could Well Be … Simply Coordinating On What Was One Of The … Most Significant Foreign Relations Issues At The Time.” State Department spokesperson Mark Toner spoke about the phone records at the department’s August 22 daily press briefing, explaining that “Cheryl Mills personally led” international and U.S. coordination of earthquake relief efforts in Haiti in 2010 and 2011. He added that the “calls could well be ... simply coordinating on what was one of the premier or most significant foreign relations issues of the time." Toner continued: “[I]n this case, it’s likely that what they were dealing with during many of these calls was the immediate aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.” From the Department of State’s August 22 press briefing:
QUESTION: Fox News has obtained and shared with your office roughly 180 pages of call logs from the office of Cheryl Mills covering a two-year period when she was chief of staff to Secretary Clinton. As you have seen, the individual who left the greatest number of messages for Ms. Mills in that period of time by an exponential order was Laura Graham, then the chief operating officer for the Clinton Foundation – close to 150 in the two-year timeframe. As you know, this evidence arises at a time when many questions have been raised about whether the Clinton State Department and specifically Ms. Mills maintained an appropriate distance from the Clinton Foundation. Can you tell us why Ms. Graham and Ms. Mills were in such close and constant contact?
MR TONER: Well, a couple of things to say about this. First of all, just to step back and to address what James is referring to, these are logs that were in effect spreadsheets that were maintained by – who was then an assistant to chief of staff Cheryl Mills to track, as you can imagine, the large volume of incoming calls that she received about a range of issues. And these documents were released through the FOIA process, I think back in April. So it’s no surprise, of course, as I just think I said to Arshad, that State Department officials are in contact with a range of outside individuals and organizations, including nonprofits, NGOs, and, of course, think tanks and others. And that’s certainly true with Ms. Mills.
I would also state – and again, I don’t know if I’m inferring from your question; I wouldn’t want to do that – but Secretary Clinton’s ethics agreement at the time did not preclude other State Department officials from engaging with or having contact with the Clinton Foundation.
So you’re right; there are these, I guess, 100 and – approximately 150 messages. I can’t give you a readout of every one of those messages or every one of those calls, rather, and in fact, how many of the calls were returned and – or connected. All I can say – and I would go back to, again, what I just said – explained to Arshad, is I would note that the State Department at the time was – and certainly, Cheryl Mills individually was a coordinating hub for U.S. and international efforts to – relief efforts in the wake of the 2011 Haiti earthquake. And as I said, Cheryl Mills personally led those efforts throughout her tenure here. And former President Clinton also played a role as a coordinator for relief efforts in his role as the U.S. special envoy – or UN special envoy for Haiti.
So again, I don’t want to speculate, but that could well be the reason why there were these calls, simply coordinating on what was one of the premier or most significant foreign relations issues of the time.
QUESTION: On one occasion, Ms. Graham left a message for Ms. Mills referencing, quote, “our boss,” unquote. Did Ms. Graham and Ms. Mills have the same boss?
MR TONER: I can’t speculate as to who they were referring to. I just don’t know.
QUESTION: I didn’t ask you to do that. I just asked: Did they have the same boss?
MR TONER: They did not have the same boss. I can answer that.
QUESTION: With these call logs fresh in mind, can you still assure the American people that the Clinton State Department maintained at all points an appropriate distance from the Clinton Foundation?
MR TONER: Again, we have seen no evidence of any behavior, any relations with the Clinton Foundation that weren’t completely above board. And in this case, it’s likely that what they were dealing with during many of these calls was the immediate aftermath of the Haiti earthquake. [State.gov, 8/22/16]