The transfer of 20 percent of America’s uranium to a Russian-controlled company, first exposed in Clinton Cash and confirmed by the New York Times, has become a central subject of the presidential campaign. Donald Trump has referenced it in his speeches and news media “fact checkers” have been furiously writing about it.
Set aside for a minute how candidates might inartfully describe a complex transaction or the semantic games that might be played by “fact checkers.” The usually curious news media is going to absurd lengths to pretend that there is nothing here so the issue will go away.
Briefly, a Russian government sought federal government approval to purchase a Canadian company called Uranium One which controlled 20 percent of American uranium assets. This required the approval of several federal government agencies, because the deal involved a material (uranium) of national strategic importance.
Hillary Clinton’s State Department was one of those agencies which signed off on the deal.
Nine shareholders connected to Uranium One contributed a combined $145 million to the Clinton Foundation before or during the time the review took place. Some of those donations were not publicly disclosed at the time, as the Clintons promised they would.
There are three primary defenses that Team Clinton has offered to the story that certain elements of the news media has gobbled up eagerly.
There were nine agencies that reviewed this deal and approved it—so there is nothing to see. What they ignore, of course, is that no other agency head received $145 million in donations from nine shareholders in the deal. The fact that other government agencies approved this deal is irrelevant.
Imagine if a jury of nine individuals is hearing a murder case and one of the jurors had financial ties to the individual on trial. If the jury came back 9-0 for acquittal, does that mean no bribery took place or no conflict of interest existed? Of course not.
The Assistant Secretary of State with responsibility in this area says that Hillary was not involved in the decision, so there is nothing to see. The Clinton campaign and the news media, including Washington Post “fact checkers,” trot out Assistant Secretary of State Jose Fernandez to say ”Secretary Clinton never intervened with me on any CFIUS matter.” (The professionals at Time Magazine and PolitiFact both incorrectly called him Jose “Hernandez”).
Set aside the fact that Fernandez was a political appointee. Is he credible? The news media never seems to ask this question, nor ask for any evidence.
Newly released emails via Wikileaks, however, provide clear evidence that Fernandez is deeply entrenched in the Clinton political operation. As he wrote to John Podesta on April 17th, 2015, “I would like to do all I can to support Secretary Clinton, and would welcome your advice and help in steering me to the right persons in the campaign.” He also wrote John Podesta on March 30th, 2015, “Thanks no doubt to your recommendation I have joined the CAP board of trustees, which I’m finding extremely rewarding.” Does this sound like someone who is an impartial source? Or a political operative?
It’s a coincidence that shareholders in Uranium One were contributors to the Clinton Foundation. One of the most ridiculous defenses of this deal that has been offered is that Uranium One was a Canadian company that just happened to send money to the Clinton Foundation. This completely ignores the fact that the Clintons helped Uranium One acquire its most important uranium assets.
As the New York Times recounted in a 2008 article, Bill Clinton traveled to Kazakhstan to help Frank Giustra acquire the rights to uranium mines in Kazakhstan. After Giustra acquired those rights, Giustra sent $30 million to the Clinton Foundation.
As the Washington Post further reported in 2010, the Kazakh official who authorized the transfer of those rights to Giustra said in a video deposition that he was also pressured by then-Senator Hillary Clinton to hand over those assets. So the relationship between the Clintons and Uranium One is not tangential. They were central to Uranium One becoming a uranium company, one that the Russian government would want to acquire.
The lack of curiosity by the news media on this is astounding. Imagine for a moment that Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon intervened in a matter that benefited a defense contractor and its shareholders. And imagine if nine shareholders in that company donated $145 million to a Rumsfeld family foundation. Would the news media take the word of his deputy that he didn’t directly intervene in the matter? Would they say there is no story because other government agencies were involved in that decision? Of course they wouldn’t.
Furthermore, the media shrugs its shoulder that millions of dollars in the donations to the Clintons involving the Uranium One deal (including those from the Chairman of the company) were undisclosed. This despite the fact that they had signed a written agreement with President Obama that they would do so, and Hillary told the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the American people that she would do so.
Ordinarily, “millions in secret contributions” gets the media moving. I guess hidden donations and flows of money involving other political figures will not be of interest in the future.
We now know that the Clinton Foundation operated with a quid pro quo when it came to donations during Hillary’s tenure as Secretary of State. We know this because the Podesta emails revealed an internal review of the Clinton Foundation done by the law firm Simpson Thacher which states precisely that.
The review done in 2011 found that some donors “have an expectation of quid pro quo benefits in return for gifts.” The firm went so far as to “recommend that the Foundation establish a gift acceptance policy and procedures to ensure that all donors are properly vetted and that no inappropriate quid pro quos are offered to donors in return for contributions.”
Clearly, the law firm was deeply troubled by the pay to play culture at the Foundation. There is no evidence that they implemented these suggestions.
The Clinton defense in the Uranium One deal rests entirely on us taking their word for the fact that there is nothing to see. But of course, that is what they said about the email server. And we now know how widely they lied about that scandal. The fact that the news media is playing lap dog and not watch dog in this case does enormous damage to the integrity of our government.
It’s time for an independent federal investigation of this deal.