Fact Check

State Dept. Employee Candace Claiborne Arrested on Treason Charges?

Department of State employee Candace Claiborne was arrested and charged in connection with her improperly receiving gifts from Chinese agents.

Published April 15, 2017

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Candace Claiborne, who worked for Barack Obama, has been arrested and charged with treason.
What's True

U.S. State Department employee Candace Claiborne has been indicted on charges she improperly exchanged information for gifts and compensation from Chinese agents.

What's False

Claiborne has not been charged with treason, nor did she work directly for Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

In mid-April 2017, multiple online sources reported that former U.S. State Department employee Candace Claiborne (purportedly an employee of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton) was arrested on charges of treason:

candace claiborne obama

The indictment in question was real, although many online reports covering it were inaccurate. Claiborne was arrested on specific charges related to improperly receiving gifts in exchange for her providing information to Chinese agents — “obstructing an official proceeding” and “making false statements to the F.B.I.” — not "treason," as noted in a Justice Department press release about the case:

A federal complaint was unsealed charging Candace Marie Claiborne, 60, of Washington, D.C., and an employee of the U.S. Department of State, with obstructing an official proceeding and making false statements to the FBI, both felony offenses, for allegedly concealing numerous contacts that she had over a period of years with foreign intelligence agents.

The charges were announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary B. McCord for National Security, U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips of the District of Columbia and Assistant Director in Charge Andrew W. Vale of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

“Candace Marie Claiborne is a U.S. State Department employee who possesses a Top Secret security clearance and allegedly failed to report her contacts with Chinese foreign intelligence agents who provided her with thousands of dollars of gifts and benefits,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord. “Claiborne used her position and her access to sensitive diplomatic data for personal profit. Pursuing those who imperil our national security for personal gain will remain a key priority of the National Security Division.”

“Candace Claiborne is charged with obstructing an official proceeding and making false statements in connection with her alleged concealment and failure to report her improper connections to foreign contacts along with the tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and benefits they provided,” said U.S. Attorney Phillips. “As a State Department employee with a Top Secret clearance, she received training and briefing about the need for caution and transparency. This case demonstrates that U.S. government employees will be held accountable for failing to honor the trust placed in them when they take on such sensitive assignments”

“Candace Claiborne is accused of violating her oath of office as a State Department employee, who was entrusted with Top Secret information when she purposefully mislead federal investigators about her significant and repeated interactions with foreign contacts," said Assistant Director in Charge Vale. "The FBI will continue to investigate individuals who, though required by law, fail to report foreign contacts, which is a key indicator of potential insider threats posed by those in positions of public trust.”

Claiborne is required to report any contacts with persons suspected of affiliation with a foreign intelligence agency.

Despite such a requirement, the affidavit alleges, Claiborne failed to report repeated contacts with two intelligence agents of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), even though these agents provided tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and benefits to Claiborne and her family over five years. According to the affidavit, the gifts and benefits included cash wired to Claiborne’s USAA account, an Apple iPhone and laptop computer, Chinese New Year’s gifts, meals, international travel and vacations, tuition at a Chinese fashion school, a fully furnished apartment, and a monthly stipend. Some of these gifts and benefits were provided directly to Claiborne, the affidavit alleges, while others were provided through a co-conspirator.

Claiborne wasn't an "employee" of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, other than in the sense that she held a mid-level (not a "deep state operative") job at the State Department, which was headed by Clinton from 2009-2013 (in her position as Secretary of State) and is a part of the executive branch, which was headed by Barack Obama from 2009-2017 (in his position as President of the United States). By that standard, Claiborne would also have been an "employee" of Donald Trump and Rex Tillerson, as the affidavit that accompanied the criminal complaint against her noted she was still working for the State Department at the time of her arrest:

Candace Claiborne is a 60-year-old Office Management Specialist with the Department of State. She is a United States citizen who resides and works in Washington, D.C. Claiborne has a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and law enforcement from the University of the District of Columbia. She joined the State Department in 1999, and has served in a variety of places, including Washington, D.C., Baghdad, Iraq, Beijing and Shanghai, China, and Khartoum, Sudan. According to State Department records, Claiborne has language proficiency in Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish. She currently works at the Department of State headquarters in Washington, D.C. in the Office of Caucasus Affairs and Regional Conflicts. Claiborne has held a TOP SECRET security clearance since 1999.

Candace Claiborne pled "not guilty" at her 29 March 2017 court appearance, and a preliminary hearing for her case was scheduled for 18 April 2017.


Dmitry, Baxter.   "Former Hillary Clinton Employee Arrested on Treason Charges."     YourNewsWire.com.   12 April 2017.

Gerstein, Josh.   "State Department Aide Charged for Hiding Gifts from Chinese Agents."     Politico.   29 March 2017.

Miller, John.   "Obama’s 'Deep State' Operative Just Got Arrested for Committing Treason — The First Domino Has Fallen."     America's Freedom Fighters.   29 March 2017.

The United States Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs.   "State Department Employee Arrested and Charged With Concealing Extensive Contacts With Foreign Agents."     29 March 2017.

United States Code, Title 18.   "Chapter 115: Treason, Sedition, And Subversive Activities."     Accessed 14 April 2017.

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.