Of all the Clinton Foundation/Clinton cash scandals, the one I’ve always considered most disturbing involves the Russians gaining control over a large share of America’s uranium. Relying on a New York Times report, I wrote about this scandal here.
Newly uncovered State Department documents shed additional light on this scandal. But before getting to the new material, I’ll summarize what the New York Times reported.
What we knew already
In 2005, Bill Clinton and Frank Giustra visited Kazakhstan. Giustra is a massive donor to the Clinton Foundation.
Giustra’s goal was to buy uranium mines in Kazakhstan. To this end, he and Bill Clinton met with leaders of the Kazakhstan government.
As a result of the visit, Giustra got major mining concessions, which were approved by the Kazakhstan government. Kazakhstan got Bill Clinton publicly to praise its alleged progress in democracy and human rights. The Clintons received a $31 million donation to their Foundation from Giustra, along with a pledge to donate $100 million more.
The deal with Kazakhstan made Giustra’s company, Uranium One, a major player. It proceeded to buy large amounts of holdings in the United States, and became an attractive target for Russia. A Russian company made a hugely attractive offer to purchase the company. Uranium One agreed to the purchase.
The deal required approval by the U.S. government, including by the Secretary of State — Hillary Clinton. During the period when the deal with Russia was under consideration, the Clinton Foundation reportedly $2.6 million from Uranium One. Its contributions were not disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Hillary had reached with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors.
During this period, Bill Clinton also received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank that was promoting Uranium One stock. This was more than his usual speaking fee.
Hillary Clinton duly approved the deal. It made the Russian company Rosatom one of the world’s largest uranium producers and brought Vladimir Putin closer to his goal of controlling much of the global uranium supply chain.
The deal left huge amounts of U.S. uranium under the control of Russia. The New York Times estimates this share at 20 percent. But Peter Schweizer, the author of Clinton Cash, say that it amounts to up to 50 percent of projected U.S. uranium output.
What we have recently learned
When Hillary Clinton was questioned about the deal, she said she had no reason to intervene in the decision. But Raphael Williams of Circa reports that memos contained on WikiLeaks show Clinton was warned about Russian attempts to flex its muscle in uranium markets. And members of Congress also sounded the alarm.
The State Department had obtained a “strategy paper” from Rosatom, the Russian company seeking to purchase Uranium One. The strategy paper alarmed U.S. diplomats because it confirmed fears that Russia was moving to control the long-term supply of nuclear fuel, shut Westinghouse out of the market, and extend Moscow’s influence over Europe.
The resulting diplomatic cable lays out what Williams calls “a clear warning from career U.S. officials about why expanding Russia’s control of uranium markets was bad for the United States and for its allies in Europe.”
In addition, members of Congress pointed to the dangers of the Rosatom deal. Sen. John Barasso said it “would give the Russian government control over a sizable portion of America’s uranium production capacity.” Rep. Peter King said it “would pose great potential harm to the national security of the United States.”
Clinton, then, had ample reason to intervene in the decision. But doing so would have been inconsistent with the interests of those who were donating so generously to her Foundation.
Despite the warnings from her own diplomats and from Congress, Clinton let the deal go through.
Who were the winners in the transactions that began with Bill Clinton’s visit to Kazakhstan and ended when the U.S. approved the Uranium One-Rosatom deal? The Russians, obviously, but not just them.
Frank Giustra won big. So did the Clintons who raised tens of millions, if not more, in this saga. Even Kazakhstan came away with something, though whether it contemplated Russia controlling its uranium is another matter.
Only America is the loser.