Tens of millions of dollars from uranium investors flowed into the Clinton Foundation, and Bill Clinton received a $500,000 speaking fee from a Russian bank tied to the Kremlin before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton helped decide whether to approve the sale to the Russian government of a company that held one-fifth of America's uranium capacity.
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That's the "deal" that Donald Trump referenced in a tweet Tuesday morning in which he essentially said that if Congress really wants to find evidence of U.S. politicians colluding with the Russians, it should investigate the $145 million in donations the Clintons' received from uranium investors before Russia's energy agency Rostatom secured the purchase of Uranium One.
Trump tweeted: “Why isn’t the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Bill & Hillary deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia, Russian speech."
He followed up with: “… money to Bill, the Hillary Russian “reset,” praise of Russia by Hillary, or Podesta Russian Company. Trump Russia story is a hoax. #MAGA!”
Meanwhile, Congress is examining allegations that the president and his aides colluded with Russia to defeat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
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The 2010 deal for a majority stake of Canadian-based Uranium One – which required approval from Clinton’s State Department and eight other federal agencies – and its plausible connection to major donations to the Clinton Foundation was exposed by author Peter Schweizer in his book "Clinton Cash and confirmed in a 3,000 word, front-page story by the New York Times.
Former Uranium One chairman Ian Telfer was among several individuals connected to the deal who made donations to the Clinton Foundation. Telfer made four foreign donations totaling $2.35 million, the Times reported.
The donations flowed as the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013. Snopes and other "fact checkers" who insist there was no quid pro quo have argued that most of the donations were made in 2008, before Hillary Clinton became secretary of state. But she was running for president at that time.
The origin of the deal traced back to 2005, when mining financier Frank Giustra traveled with Bill Clinton to work out an agreement with the government of Kazakhstan for mining rights.
Giustra has donated $31.3 million to the Clinton Foundation.
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In June 2010, shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Bill Clinton personally received a speaking fee of $500,000 from a Kremlin-tied Russian investment bank connected to the uranium deal.
The Times pointed out that the Canadian tax records show the contributions to the Clinton Foundation were not publicly disclosed, which violated an agreement Clinton signed with the Obama administration when she became secretary of state to disclose all foreign donations.
Meanwhile, the Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group reported last week Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign chairman, John Podesta, may have opened himself up to a Russian “influence campaign” designed to temper his views of the Kremlin. Podesta possibly violated federal law when he failed to fully disclose his membership on the executive board of an energy company that accepted millions from a Vladimir Putin-connected Russian government fund.
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Russia 'conquers the world'
After Rostatom finally secured 100 percent of Uranium One in 2013, the Russian-government news website Pravda declared: "Russian Nuclear Energy Conquers the World."
The acquisition of uranium-mining stakes stretching from Central Asia to the American West made Rosatom one of the world’s largest uranium producers and brought Putin closer to his goal of controlling much of the global uranium supply chain, the New York Times said.
In an interview after the U.S. government approved the deal, Putin sat down for a staged interview with Rosatom’s chief executive, Sergei Kiriyenko.
“Few could have imagined in the past that we would own 20 percent of U.S. reserves,” Kiriyenko told Putin.
The agreement came as the Obama administration, led by Hillary Clinton's State Department, famously was seeking to “reset” strained relations with Russia.
Because uranium is considered a strategic asset that has implications for national security, the agreement had to be approved by a panel of representatives from a number of United States government agencies, including the State Department.
The Times noted that both Rosatom and the U.S. government made promises intended to ease concerns about ceding control of the company’s assets to the Russians, but the promises were repeatedly broken.
The Times commented that while it can't be proved that the donations had a direct impact on the approval of the uranium deal, "the episode underscores the special ethical challenges presented by the Clinton Foundation, headed by a former president who relied heavily on foreign cash to accumulate $250 million in assets even as his wife helped steer American foreign policy as secretary of state, presiding over decisions with the potential to benefit the foundation’s donors."
When the Times prepared its story during the 2016 election campaign, it obtained a statement from Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon, who insisted no one “has ever produced a shred of evidence supporting the theory that Hillary Clinton ever took action as secretary of state to support the interests of donors to the Clinton Foundation.”
Fallon argued that the Canadian government and other U.S. agencies also had to sign off on the deal.
“To suggest the State Department, under then-Secretary Clinton, exerted undue influence in the U.S. government’s review of the sale of Uranium One is utterly baseless,” he said.
The appearance of undue influence, however, prompted the Clinton Foundation to announce changes, including limiting donations from foreign governments and barring Russia from giving to all but its health care initiatives.
But the Times noted the foundation continued to "accept contributions from foreign sources whose interests, like Uranium One’s, may overlap with those of foreign governments, some of which may be at odds with the United States."
The Times got insight into the significance of the deal from Michael McFaul, who served under Clinton as the U.S. ambassador to Russia.
“Should we be concerned? Absolutely,” he said.
“Do we want Putin to have a monopoly on this? Of course we don’t. We don’t want to be dependent on Putin for anything in this climate.”
Bill Clinton at his side
Russia's acquisition of American uranium deposits began in 2005 in Kazakhstan, where Canadian mining financier Giustra orchestrated his first big uranium deal.
Bill Clinton, strategically, was at his side, the Times noted.
"Clinton Cash" author Schweitzer explained the importance of Clinton's role, in an interview with Breitbart News Daily in March 2016.
Giustra had wanted a large uranium concession in Kazakhstan but had never been able to get it from the country's repressive dictator, Nursultan Nazarbayev.
"Bill Clinton shows up, declares at a press conference that Nazarbayev is a wonderful leader, should actually lead an international human rights organization," Schweizer said. "And lo and behold, a couple of days later, Nazarbayev gives Frank Giustra this uranium concession.
"A few weeks after that, Bill Clinton's Clinton Foundation gets more than $30 million from Frank Giustra."
The Times noted Bill Clinton undercut "American foreign policy and criticism of Kazakhstan’s poor human rights record by, among others, his wife, then a senator."
Giustra’s fledgling company, UrAsia Energy Ltd., signed a preliminary deal with Kazakhstan giving the company stakes in three uranium mines controlled by the state-run uranium agency Kazatomprom.
UrAsia merged in 2007 with Uranium One, a South African company with assets in Africa and Australia, which soon began purchasing companies with assets in the United States.
By June 2009, Uranium One’s stock had dropped 40 percent, but Russia, lacking domestic uranium reserves, was eyeing a stake in the company.
That's when Uranium One pressed the U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan, which was under Hillary Clinton's authority, to talk with Kazakh officials about clearing the way for a deal.
American cables show the U.S. Embassy energy officer met with Kazakh officials, and three days later, a wholly owned subsidiary of Rosatom completed a deal for 17 percent of Uranium One.
Within a year, Russia sought a 51 percent controlling stake.
The only obstacle to the deal was that the U.S. government, namely the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, had to sign off on it.
The Times pointed out that when a company controlled by the Chinese government sought a 51 percent stake in a tiny Nevada gold mining operation in 2009, it set off a secretive review process in Washington. Officials were worried about the mine’s proximity to a military installation and the possibility that minerals at the site, including uranium, to come under Chinese control.
The U.S. officials killed the deal.
Schweizer pointed out that when the Uranium One deal was under way, “a spontaneous outbreak of philanthropy among eight shareholders in Uranium One" took place.
“These Canadian mining magnates decide now would be a great time to donate tens of millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation,” he said.
The national security issue at stake in the Uranium One deal was not primarily about nuclear weapons proliferation but about American dependence on foreign uranium sources.
While the U.S. gets one-fifth of its electrical power from nuclear plants, it produces only about 20 percent of the uranium it needs, according to Marin Katusa, author of “The Colder War: How the Global Energy Trade Slipped From America’s Grasp.”
"The Russians are easily winning the uranium war, and nobody's talking about it," Katusa told the Times. "It’s not just a domestic issue but a foreign policy issue, too."
Giving the Russians control
Four members of the House of Representatives signed a letter expressing concern about the Uranium One deal. Two more began pushing legislation to kill it, including Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wy., who wrote to President Obama, saying it “would give the Russian government control over a sizable portion of America’s uranium production capacity.”
The Times observed: "Still, the ultimate authority to approve or reject the Russian acquisition rested with the cabinet officials on the foreign investment committee, including Mrs. Clinton — whose husband was collecting millions in donations from people associated with Uranium One."
A person with knowledge of the Clinton Foundation’s fund-raising operation, who requested anonymity to speak candidly about it, told the Times that for many people, the hope is that money will in fact buy influence:
“Why do you think they are doing it — because they love them?”
Two months later, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States began its review.
Did the committee weigh the U.S. desire to improve bilateral relations with Russia against the potential risks of allowing the Russian government control over the biggest uranium producer in the United States?
That information has never been disclosed, but the deal was approved in October after, the Times said, citing two people involved, "a relatively smooth process."