WASHINGTON — Only days before the presidential election, the FBI released a 17-year-old archive of documents from a long-closed investigation into Bill Clinton’s presidential pardon of a fugitive financier, prompting questions from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign about its timing.
The release comes amid the bureau’s controversially timed review of emails from a Hillary Clinton aide.
The 129 pages of heavily censored material were published Monday on the FBI’s Freedom of Information Act webpage and noted by one of the bureau’s Twitter accounts Tuesday. Earlier in October, the FBI unit published historical files as far back as 1966 about Donald Trump’s father, Fred Trump.
An FBI official said the documents had been requested under the federal records law, but the bureau did not answer questions from The Associated Press about the timing and propriety of the release.
The Clinton campaign questioned the bureau’s decision to make the file public so close to next Tuesday’s election.
“Absent a (Freedom of Information Act) deadline, this is odd,” Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon tweeted. “Will FBI be posting docs on Trumps’ housing discrimination in ’70s?” Fallon’s reference was to news accounts of a 1973 federal housing discrimination lawsuit, later settled, against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
The newly released FBI documents are from a 2001 federal investigation into Bill Clinton’s pardon at the end of his administration of Marc Rich, who was indicted in 1983 and fled to Switzerland to evade prosecution. Rich died in 2013.
In addition to being a US citizen, Rich also held Spanish and Israeli citizenships. He was born to a Jewish family in Antwerp, Belgium who fled the country for the US in 1941 to escape the Nazis.
The files briefly cited the Clinton Foundation in connection with a large donation in support of Clinton’s presidential library. The FBI documents cited public records showing that an unidentified person donated to “the William J. Clinton Foundation, a foundation that supports the Clinton presidential library.”
Rich’s ex-wife, Denise Rich, pledged a $450,000 donation to the Clinton Foundation’s project to develop and build the presidential facility. According to news accounts at the time, FBI agents sought to talk to Denise Rich as part of the probe into her former husband’s pardon.
The federal probe started under then-US Attorney Mary Jo White, who now heads the Securities and Exchange Commission for the Obama administration. When White left office in 2003, she was replaced by James Comey, the FBI director now under fire for notifying Congress last week about his agency’s decision to review emails to and from Clinton aide Huma Abedin.
The Rich investigation did not lead to federal charges under Comey and the case was closed in 2005.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he saw the FBI tweet shortly before he boarded Air Force One with President Barack Obama for a trip to Columbus, Ohio, to campaign for Hillary Clinton, but was unaware that anyone at the White House was consulted about the material before it was released.
“I’ve not spoken to anybody who has any awareness of being consulted about that material before it was released,” Earnest told reporters traveling with the president.