Bill Clinton has been accused of damaging his wife’s election campaign, after it emerged he met with the US’s top law officer the night before the release of a report into the controversial Benghazi attack and her role in it.
The former president spoke with Attorney General Loretta Lynch after they realised their planes were both on the tarmac of Phoenix Airport. Reports said that Mr Clinton walked onto her plane and began a conversation that they claimed ranged from grandchildren to the West Virginia coal industry.
But the meeting has sparked controversy, with Republicans led by Donald Trump suggesting that Mr Clinton was somehow seeking to influence the FBI investigation into his wife’s use of a private email server. It was the investigation into the Benghazi attack by the House Select Committee that originally exposed Ms Clinton’s use of the server, something that has created a large headache for the secretary of state.
The report into the attack in 2012, which left four Americans dead, including the US Ambassador to Libya, found no evidence of wrong-doing by Ms Clinton.
Ms Lynch insisted that no Justice Department business was discussed, when she met with Mr Clinton.
Speaking at a news conference in Phoenix on Tuesday, Ms Lynch confirmed the meeting and denied the two spoke about any matter pending before the Justice Department, according to the Associated Press.
“I did see President Clinton at the Phoenix airport as he was leaving and spoke to myself and my husband on the plane,” she said. “Our conversation was a great deal about grandchildren, it was primarily social about our travels and he mentioned golf he played in Phoenix.”
But opponents of Ms Clinton have tried to seize on the incident, suggesting it was further proof of her untrustworthiness.
Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump said Thursday the meeting was “terrible”, according to CNN.
“It was really a sneak,” Trump told conservative talk show host Mike Gallagher.
“You see a thing like this and, even in terms of judgment, how bad of judgment is it for him or for her to do this? Who would do this?”
Ms Clinton’s campaign has yet to comment on the incident. But some Democrats have said that it had created a bad impression.
Senator Chris Coons said Ms Lynch should not have met with Mr Clinton at this point in the campaign, even if it was “a brief, casual, social meeting with the former president.”
“I think she should have said, ‘Look, I recognise you have a long record of leadership on fighting crime but this is not the time for us to have that conversation’,” he said. “‘After the election is over, I’d welcome your advice'.”
Though he is thinner and greyed and has lost of his swagger, Mr Clinton is one of his wife’s most dedicated and effective campaigners. Yet, he has often been at the centre of controversy that has not helped his wife.
Earlier this year, he got into something of a shouting match with Black Lives Matter campaigners in Philadelphia when they criticised him for his 1994 Crime Bill, which many said discriminated against the African American community.
Ms Clinton has described her husband as her “secret weapon”, though many of her supporters believe he is also unpredictable.
In 2008, during his wife’s primary campaign against Barack Obama, Mr Clinton set off a firestorm of criticism for comments he made that were considered by some to be racially insensitive.
While in South Carolina, which Mr Obama won, he reminded people that Jesse Jackson won the state’s primary in his unsuccessful runs for the nomination in the 1980s. The remark was widely seen as a suggestion that Mr Obama’s success there was largely based on his race.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies