The FBI wanted to pursue an investigation into the Clinton Foundation after obtaining secret recordings of a suspect discussing alleged deals brokered by the Clintons, but the bureau faced opposition from Justice Department prosecutors who brushed aside the comments as political gossip, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
An internal feud broke out between the two agencies beginning in February as FBI agents argued they had enough evidence, based on interviews with informants and recordings from unrelated corruption probes, to investigate the foundation. Corruption prosecutors within the Justice Department did not believe the evidence was strong enough, eventually telling FBI officials to "stand down" from the probe.
The Clinton Foundation first came under FBI scrutiny in 2015 after conservative writer Peter Schweizer published a book called Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich. The case set out to determine whether Clinton Foundation donors received favors from the State Department while Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state.
Officials told the Wall Street Journal that the FBI's No. 2 official, deputy director Andrew McCabe, had tried preventing agents from pursuing the case over the summer. Defenders of McCabe reject those charges, claiming the Justice Department was to blame for blocking the investigation.
The Journal had previously reported that the political action committee of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton ally, donated nearly $500,000 to the state Senate campaign of McCabe's wife in 2015. McAuliffe and McCabe denied any connection between the donations and ongoing FBI investigations into the Clintons.
Despite ongoing disagreement between the FBI and Justice Department, Fox News reported on Wednesday that FBI agents will "actively and aggressively" move forward with their investigation into the foundation. Multiple unnamed sources said the case has now taken a "very high priority" within the bureau.
Pay-to-play accusations that foundation donors were given special access to Hillary Clinton's State Department during her tenure as secretary of state have raised concerns among government officials. Donald Trump has repeatedly called on the charity to close down over potential conflicts of interest.