Clinton-era State Department official sentenced for conspiring with Chinese agents

July 11, 2019

A former Bill Clinton-era appointee to the U.S. State Department broke down in tears Tuesday as she was sentenced to more than three years in prison and assessed a $40,000 fine for accepting cash and gifts from Chinese spies in exchange for handing over government secrets.

Candace Claiborne is the latest Clinton-era government official to fall victim to Chinese infiltration, and her conviction and sentencing marks another humiliating blunder for the Clintons, who have been the unwitting victims of multiple foreign influence campaigns.

“Sentencing is never easy,” U.S. District Court Judge Randolph Moss said as he handed down the 40-month term. He called Claiborne’s crime, “a truly grave offense, a betrayal of her employer and a betrayal of her country.”

Lock her up!

The FBI arrested Claiborne, 63, in March 2017 for handing over internal documents to agents from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and then willfully misleading and lying to law enforcement officials investigating her crimes. She pleaded guilty in April to a single charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States.

“I’m sorry for what I did,” Claiborne told the judge. “This is not what I had envisioned for my life… I still don’t know how I lost myself,” she continued. “I lost my job, reputation and the trust of the government. I made a terrible mistake and now I’m paying the price.”

Federal prosecutor Thomas Gillice, who pressed for the maximum five-year sentence in the case, had no sympathy for the Clinton appointee. “She did this repeatedly over a period of years and at the expense of her country,” he said.

Mountains of evidence

Prosecutors in the case produced extensive evidence showing that Claiborne frequently communicated with a pair of Chinese intelligence agents, sharing emails, text messages and voicemail. She handed over itineraries of visiting foreign dignitaries and documents detailing U.S. economic strategies.  

“I will help your kids and also you make money in China,” one agent told Claiborne. The State Department official received “cash, meals, tuition payments for a Chinese fashion school, vacations, a furnished apartment, a laptop, a phone and a monthly stipend,” according to Fox News.

The turncoat official also tried to hide evidence of her wrongdoing. Investigators uncovered a ledger within which Claiborne considered how to get away with her crimes. “Clean up Yahoo contacts,” one entry noted.

While none of the information Clairbone handed over to Chinese operatives was secret in nature, Moss explained to the court that the information was still internal in nature. The judge said he wanted to send a message that such actions were “unacceptable.”


Appointed to the State Department’s Office Management Specialist by Clinton in 1999, Claiborne served her country honorably for years in places like Baghdad, Khartoum, Sudan, Beijing, and Shanghai. Even Moss noted that she was a model citizen before she began interacting with PRC spies.

Claiborne is a relic of the Clinton era, when Chinese spies operated with impunity in America. While Russian election meddling tends to dominate the headlines in the Trump era, China interfered in U.S. politics without punishment throughout Clinton’s eight years in office.

“President Clinton and his senior foreign policy advisers disagree with senators of both parties who have concluded China had a plan to influence U.S. elections illegally,” a Washington Post headline from the late 1990s explained.

Clinton was so determined to establish warm relations with China that he ignored Chinese subterfuge in his own backyard. The PRC plan, uncovered the FBI via electronic monitoring, called for pumping more than $2 million into U.S. campaigns.

Johnny Chung, a known Clinton fundraiser, admitted to working with Chinese intelligence to influence U.S. elections, testifying in a 19-year-old video that he feared he would be assassinated if he refused to cooperate with his handlers. And Clinton did nothing.

Is it any wonder, then, that a mid-level State Department official who grew up under Clinton would continue to betray her country for so many years?


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Benjamin Baird

Benjamin Baird is a senior staff writer for the Conservative Institute. He is a veteran infantryman of Iraq and Afghanistan with over 1000 days in combat and holds a degree in Middle Eastern studies from the American Military University. Ben is Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and has written for dozens of conservative publications, including The Daily Caller, American Spectator, American Thinker, New English Review and Jewish News Syndicate.