Federal investigators formally investigated top Hillary Rodham Clinton aide Huma Abedin for the crime of embezzlement after confirming she took a “Babymoon” vacation and maternity time at the State Department without expending her formal leave, resulting in thousands of dollars of pay she wasn’t entitled to receive, The Washington Times has learned.
The probe also gathered evidence she filed time sheets charging the government for impermissible overtime and excessive hours after she converted from a full-time federal employee to a State Department contractor.
Those timecards were filed during a period that remains under investigation over questions about possible conflicts of interest, documents gathered by the State Department inspector general show.
Ms. Abedin, who served as a deputy chief of staff to Mrs. Clinton from 2009 to late 2012, told investigators she hadn’t noticed she had received a $33,000 lump sum payment — about a third of which investigators determined was improper — when she left the State Department.
She suggested her husband, the disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner, failed to let her know.
“My husband handles all the finances in our household,” she told investigators during a recorded interview in October 2014.
She said she only learned of the payment after being contacted by investigators two years after her departure. “I did ask my husband to look up our bank statements, and we did have a deposit,” she said during her interview.
She also acknowledged it was likely she did not fill out the required form when she went on a two-week vacation to Europe in 2011 while she was pregnant — a trip she called a “Babymoon” in emails and her interview.
The failure to file the form resulted in her having excessive vacation time cashed out to her in the lump payment upon leaving government, investigators concluded.
“You are 100 percent right on the Babymoon. I don’t recall. One hundred percent right. I don’t recall filling out any paperwork saying I was taking leave,” she told the investigators. “I’m not even going to blame it on my pregnancy brain.”
The State Department’s inspector general formally concluded that Ms. Abedin failed to correctly submit multiple required time sheet and leave forms covering her vacation and maternity leave, resulting in an overpayment of $10,674.32 that she wasn’t entitled to receive when she left her job.
The Abedin investigation’s existence has been known for weeks, but the contents and findings have never been publicly released.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican and chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, has repeatedly questioned Ms. Abedin’s compensation and work arrangements under Mrs. Clinton, suggesting she was overpaid and may have engaged in conflicts of interest when she worked both for State as a contractor and a firm in New York connected to friends of the Clinton family.
Charges of smear job
Ms. Abedin’s lawyer, Miguel Rodriguez, has accused the senator of a smear job in suggesting there was any criminality.
The documents provided to The Times by a source outside the Senate or the IG’s office make clear, however, the inquiry was clearly criminal in nature and ultimately referred to federal prosecutors.
Mr. Rodriguez did not immediately return a call seeking comment from The Times on Wednesday.
However, he sent a letter to the OIG disputing its conclusions, saying investigators should have credited Ms. Abedin for the time she worked while off rather than demand she repay the money.
“I am deeply troubled by gaps in the OIG’s investigation, holes in its methodology, unsupported allegations, as well as its conclusory demand (contradicted by evidence in the report itself) that Ms. Abedin refund the Department’s alleged overpayment,” he wrote.
“Further, while it is undisputed that Ms. Abedin worked during her periods of leave — and indeed that she was known as a workaholic who rarely took vacation — absolutely no effort was made to calculate the amount of time Ms. Abedin worked during the periods in question and whether her work hours amounted to at least eight hours a day. Any State Department employee — indeed any government employee — deserves better, and so does Ms. Abedin,” Mr. Rodriguez wrote.
The FBI was first alerted that the IG was conducting a “criminal investigation” of Ms. Abedin in a memo dated Oct. 22, 2013, the records show.
After 15 months of extensive document-gathering and interviews, the IG submitted the case for review by the Justice Department public integrity division, which declined to prosecute Ms. Abedin. The “alleged violations” cited were improperly requesting and approving annual leave and “embezzlement,” the documents state.
“The case was not declined based on the merits of the investigation,” stated the final investigative report, dated Jan. 26.
Such a designation usually means federal prosecutors decided not to pursue a case, but only because they didn’t think it worth the resources, not because the facts and evidence couldn’t support a case.
The designation opened the door for the department to seek reimbursement of $10,674.32 in payments that investigators concluded Ms. Abedin was not entitled to receive, the documents show.
Investigators concluded that while they could not prove Ms. Abedin had intended to defraud the government, “the investigation substantiated that Abedin, on several occasions, failed to submit a Request for Leave or Approved Absence.”
The failure left her with paid leave that should have been expended during her vacation and maternity, inflating her final payout when she left government.
Reputation as workaholic
In her interview, Ms. Abedin offered several explanations, stressing repeatedly she always worked during her vacations and maternity leave.
She said she left it to a “timekeeper” in the department to fill out her forms for her when she was a full-time employee and believed she had the proper permission to take her maternity leave. She also claimed that, after the fact, she had been told the department had simply decided not to charge her for her maternity leave because she often worked during that time.
Investigators found some email evidence that a special arrangement was discussed to possibly let Ms. Abedin avoid claiming leave time for her maternity but no evidence it was ever formalized.
“Abedin was unable to say who made the determination to credit her hours. She also was unable to provide an accounting of the hours she worked while on maternity leave,” investigators wrote in their final report.
The investigators also interviewed a co-worker who clearly recalled telling Ms. Abedin she needed to fill out formal paperwork to claim maternity leave, a document that was never located.
Investigators concluded the missing paperwork allowed Ms. Abedin, among other things, to be paid eight hours by taxpayers on the day she actually delivered her son, the documents show.
(Over)time as a contractor
In her interview with investigators last fall, Ms. Abedin acknowledged she personally filled out her time sheets when she returned to the department after maternity leave and came back as a contractor working out of New York, known in federal parlance as a “special government employee.”
That admission could affect an ongoing investigation into Ms. Abedin’s simultaneous work in 2012 as both a special contractor at State and for a private firm in New York. Congress has asked the inspector general to investigate whether there were any conflicts of interest during that work.
In interviews with Ms. Abedin’s colleagues, the inspector general agreed that handwritten time sheets governing her work as a contractor were in fact filled out by Ms. Abedin in summer 2012.
Those time sheets claimed both improper overtime and excessive work hours not allowed under her SGE contract, the reports show.
The investigators questioned one administrative official in the department who processed timecards about two time sheets in which Ms. Abedin claimed she worked “no duty hours and 18 overtime hours” and another pay period where 13 hours of overtime were claimed when she was a special government employee.
One of the IG reports recounted an interview with the State Department administrative employee about the overtime.
“When asked if she was aware SGEs did not receive overtime,” the report states, the employee told investigators she had been instructed to “keep track of Abedin’s hours in the same manner as when she was” a regular full-time employee and could receive overtime.
A separate investigative report indicated Ms. Abedin’s contractor time sheets “indicated she worked 1,290 hours while employed as an SGE” over six months but that federal regulations mandated “SGEs are to work no more than 1,040 hours in a calendar year.