State Dept Official Charged with Lying About Gifts from Chinese Agents
A long-time U.S. State Department employee has been arrested and charged with lying to investigators about numerous contacts and gifts she got from Chinese intelligence agents. The Justice Department says Candace Marie Claiborne pleaded not guilty before a federal judge.
Claiborne has been a State Department Office Management Specialist since 1999. She had a Top Secret security clearance and was posted to embassies and consulates in Baghdad, Khartoum, Shanghai and Beijing.
Prosecutors allege Chinese officials showered Claiborne with tens of thousands of dollars in gifts when she was there, including cash, computers, meals, travel and an apartment. Prosecutors say in exchange for cash, a Chinese intelligence agent asked Claiborne to provide internal U.S. government analysis of a U.S.-Chinese economic conference.
Clairborne is charged with failing to tell the FBI about her contacts with the Chinese agents -- a requirement of her Top Secret security clearance -- and obstructing what the Justice Department calls an "official proceeding."
Justice officials say Claiborne "used her position and her access to sensitive diplomatic data for personal profit" and say U.S. employees will be held accountable if they fail to honor the trust placed in them. Claiborne faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.
Acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner said, "When a public servant is suspected of potential misconduct or federal crimes that violate the public trust, we vigorously investigate such claims. The Department of State is firmly committed to investigating and working with the Department of Justice and our other law enforcement partners to investigate any allegations of criminal activity and bring those who commit crimes to justice."
Senate Panel to Follow Russia Probe 'Wherever the Intelligence Leads It'
On the eve of closely watched public hearings, the Republican chairman and top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee pledged an exhaustive and impartial probe of Russian meddling in last year’s election, and any possible collusion by President Donald Trump’s inner circle.
“This investigation’s scope will go wherever the intelligence leads it,” Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, said at a news conference Wednesday. “We will get to the bottom of this,” concurred Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the committee’s ranking Democrat.
Burr said an "unprecedented amount of documents" have been received, and the committee is in "constant negotiation" with the intelligence community to gain access to additional material. He added that there will be at least 20 interviews to conduct, including with President Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who volunteered to speak with the panel.
Neither Burr nor Warner revealed any conclusions reached so far, except Russia’s aims. “Vladimir Putin’s goal is a weaker United States,” Warner said. “Weaker economically, weaker globally. And that should be a concern to all Americans regardless of party affiliation.”
Until now, the House Intelligence Committee had taken the lead in the Russia probe. But that committee cancelled open hearings this week amid a firestorm surrounding its chairman, Republican Congressman Devin Nunes, who personally briefed President Trump on classified material he had not yet shared with the committee.
With the House panel seemingly in disarray, its Senate counterpart is now in the spotlight. Burr said he cast his ballot for Trump last November, but he denied that party loyalty would color his work.
Even so, a growing number of Democrats say the full truth may never come to light in Republican controlled legislative committees.
The White House has complained of a smear campaign against the president’s team, but acknowledged the need for investigations to proceed.