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FBI opens new investigation into Clinton Foundation activities

The Justice Department is launching a new investigation into the Clinton Foundation, and examining whether the charitable foundation promoted “pay-to-play” politics and other illegal activities while Hillary Clinton was serving as secretary of state. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The Justice Department is launching a new investigation into the Clinton Foundation, The Hill reported.

What are they investigating?

Law enforcement officials and a witness told The Hill that the investigation is examining whether the charitable foundation promoted “pay-to-play” politics and other illegal activities while Hillary Clinton was serving as secretary of state. FBI agents from Little Rock, Arkansas, are leading the investigation, according to the report.

Part of the investigation centers on whether donors were given leverage to influence government policies, or special access to important decision-makers in the Obama administration. Also under review is whether “tax-exempt assets were converted for personal or political use and whether the Foundation complied with applicable tax laws,” the report said.

A witness interviewed by the FBI told The Hill that questions centered on whether foundation donors received favorable treatment from the Obama administration. The witness spoke only on the condition of anonymity, according to the report. The FBI declined to offer an official comment.

Nick Merrill, the chief spokesman for Hillary Clinton, called the reopening of the investigation “disgraceful.” He also said it’s nothing but a distraction for the investigation into alleged Russian ties to President Donald Trump.

"Let’s call this what it is: a sham," Merrill told The Hill. "This is a philanthropy that does life-changing work, which Republicans have tried to turn into a political football. It began with a now long-debunked project spearheaded by Steve Bannon during the presidential campaign. It continues with Jeff Sessions doing Trump’s bidding by heeding his calls to meddle with a department that is supposed to function independently."

Foundation spokesman Craig Minassian said the new investigation won’t stop the charity from continuing its work.

“Time after time, the Clinton Foundation has been subjected to politically motivated allegations, and time after time these allegations have been proven false. None of this has made us waver in our mission to help people," Minassian told The Hill. "The Clinton Foundation has demonstrably improved the lives of millions of people across America and around the world while earning top ratings from charity watchdog groups in the process."

Why is this coming up now?

In November, Justice Department leaders indicated they would revisit some of the issues investigated during the Obama years. In part, the renewed focus into the Clinton Foundation was reportedly spurred by repeated tweets by President Donald Trump that refer to the "crooked" Clintons.

Multiple media outlets have reported numerous stories about how donations to the Clinton Foundation seemed to happen about the same time favorable decisions were made by Hillary Clinton’s State Department.

Conservative author Peter Schweizer wrote about the foundation in his book, "Clinton Cash." The book provided ammunition for a call to a new investigation, The Hill noted. In addition, The Wall Street Journal reported in November that several FBI offices, including the Little Rock office, have been gathering information on the Clintons for more than a year.

An investigation into the Clinton Foundation ended with a thud in 2016. It ended partly because Justice Department officials feared that it might appear investigators were trying to hurt Clinton's presidential bid, according to published reports.

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