A top aide to Hillary Clinton at the State Department agreed to try to obtain a special diplomatic passport for an adviser to former President Bill Clinton in 2009, according to emails released Thursday, raising new questions about whether people tied to the Clinton Foundation received special access at the department. The request by the adviser, Douglas J. Band, who started one arm of the Clintons' charitable foundation, was unusual, and the State Department never issued the passport.
We talked just yesterday about the assorted Hillary Clinton "controversies" littering the political landscape, each of which turn out to be pretty underwhelming after a little scrutiny. Today's example of the same phenomenon is arguably the most striking yet.
The New York Times' headline this morning certainly gives the impression of a notable scoop: "Emails Raise New Questions About Clinton Foundation Ties to State Dept." Here's the lede:
RedState, a prominent far-right website, quickly alerted readers to the idea that it "looks like" the Clinton Foundation "illegally obtained diplomatic passports."
Except, it doesn't "look like" that at all. In reality, that description is pretty much the opposite of what happened.
In 2009, two Americans were being held in North Korea, and former President Bill Clinton went to negotiate their release. As part of the trip, a Clinton aide reached out to one of Hillary Clinton's aides at the State Department, asking for diplomatic passports -- strictly as part of this mission.
The State Department rejected the request. Bill Clinton and his team were acting as unofficial emissaries, so they weren't eligible for diplomatic documents. The former president and his team went anyway and brought the hostages home.
That's it. That's the story. It's what we're supposed to believe "raises questions" about ... something.
Vox's Matt Yglesias wrote this morning, "It's common at this point in the Clinton Foundation pseudo-scandal cycle for the person in my position to point out that there's no quid pro quo and no evidence of wrongdoing, and then for the skeptics to say that corruption can take more insidious forms than a quid pro quo. But honestly, what questions does this raise?"
I haven't the foggiest idea. On the list of not-so-controversial Clinton controversies, this is probably the thinnest and least compelling. With some of the others, one can fairly say there's smoke but no fire. The new report in the Times, however, is an unlit match.
If the routine revelations "raise new questions," no one seems able to point out exactly what those lines of inquiry might be.