Emails obtained by ABC News show former president Bill Clinton sought approval for paid speeches "tied to two of the most oppressive regimes in the world" while his wife was Secretary of State, Jonathan Karl reported Friday for Good Morning America.
The emails show "just how far Bill Clinton was willing to go to earn those lucrative fees," Karl said.
While Hillary Clinton served as Secretary of State, Bill Clinton earned speaking fees around the globe totaling more than $48 million — speeches that had to be vetted by the State Department to ensure there were no conflicts of interest with his wife's work as America's top diplomat. These newly revealed emails show speech requests that the State Department refused to approve.
The emails — which have come to light because of a public records request by the conservative group Citizens United, which sued the State Department to get the documents — show just how far Bill Clinton was willing to go to earn those lucrative fees — seeking approval for appearances with ties to two of the most brutal countries in the world.
One email sent in June 2012 to Clinton State Department chief of staff Cheryl Mills from Amitabh Desai, a foreign policy director at the Clinton Foundation, passed on an invitation for a speaking engagement in Brazzaville, Congo.
The catch? The dictators of Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo would both be attending — and required photos with Bill Clinton. The speaking fee? A whopping $650,000.
Karl said the Harry Walker speaking agency's vetting of Congo concluded that the "prevalence and intensity of sexual violence against women in eastern Congo is widely described as the worst in the world" and expected Clinton would want to decline the offer.
However Desai still wondered whether it was still ok to do if Clinton gave the money to the Clinton Foundation:
Desai forwarded the e-mail to Mills and other State Department employees, including long-time Clinton aide Huma Abedin, asking for state’s opinion on whether Bill Clinton could do the speech but give the money to the Clinton Foundation.
"WJC wants know what state thinks of it if he took it 100% for the foundation," Desai wrote using Clinton’s initials. "We'd welcome your thoughts."
A second email thread in May 2012 showed another "potentially thorny event," as ABC put, with the subject of "North Korea invitation."
"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 an e-mail to 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.
Mills two-word response? "Decline it."
But the Clinton Foundation followed up three weeks later, saying 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."
Clinton did not deliver either of the speeches in the end.