First on CNN: Inside the debate over probing the Clinton Foundation

Story highlights

  • Clinton Foundation is under increased scrutiny this week
  • Newly released emails raised questions about State's relationship with the Clinton Foundation

(CNN)Officials from the FBI and Department of Justice met several months ago to discuss opening a public corruption case into the Clinton Foundation, according to a US official.

At the time, three field offices were in agreement an investigation should be launched after the FBI received notification from a bank of suspicious activity from a foreigner who had donated to the Clinton Foundation, according to the official.
    FBI officials wanted to investigate whether there was a criminal conflict of interest with the State Department and the Clinton Foundation during Clinton's tenure. The Department of Justice had looked into allegations surrounding the foundation a year earlier after the release of the controversial book "Clinton Cash," but found them to be unsubstantiated and there was insufficient evidence to open a case.
    As a result, DOJ officials pushed back against opening a case during the meeting earlier this year. Some also expressed concern the request seemed more political than substantive, especially given the timing of it coinciding with the investigation into the private email server and Clinton's presidential campaign.
    The FBI's investigation into Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and his tie to a Clinton Foundation donor was also raised during the meeting. DOJ said that probe could continue but declined to open a case on the foundation.
    Representatives from the Clinton Foundation, FBI and DOJ declined to comment.
    The Clinton Foundation is under increased scrutiny this week. Newly released emails from Clinton's tenure as secretary of state raised questions about the nature of the department's relationship with the Clinton Foundation.
    A CNN investigation found that Clinton aide Cheryl Mills was involved in the Clinton Foudnation while she was also employed as Chief of Staff to the Secretary of State. On a trip to New York in 2012, Mills interviewed two executives for a top position at the Clinton foundation. The State Department said she was on personal time. Mills' attorney says she was, doing "volunteer work for a charitable foundation. She was not paid."
    The Clinton campaign issued a statement, "It was crystal clear to all involved that this had nothing to do with her official duties. The idea that this poses a conflict of interest is absurd."
    In a hearing last month on Capitol Hill, FBI Director James Comey declined to say whether the Clinton Foundation was under investigation, saying "I'm not going to comment on the existence or non-existence of any investigation."
    For there to be criminal conflict of interest, there would have to be evidence showing a government employee received something of value in exchange, such as a job post-employment or money.
    There doesn't appear to be anything so far suggesting that in the newly released heavily redacted emails from Judicial Watch, but those emails do raise questions about whether the relationship between the State Department and Clinton Foundation was too cozy, particularly after Clinton pledged she would not be involved with the foundation when she became secretary of state in an effort to prevent an inappropriate relationship.
    In a case where there's a possible conflict of interest that's not necessarily criminal, the inspector general can look into it and take an administrative remedy if necessary. The State Department OIG has been looking into connections between the State Department and Clinton during her term as Secretary of State since earlier this year, but has not said anything about the matter.