‘Clinton Cash’ & NYT Fail to Prove Any Connection Between Hillary Clinton & Russian Purchase of Uranium Assets

Relying largely on research from the conservative author of Clinton Cash, today’s New York Times alleges that donations to the Clinton Foundation coincided with the U.S. government’s 2010 approval of the sale of a company known as Uranium One to the Russian government. Without presenting any direct evidence in support of the claim, the Times story — like the book on which it is based — wrongly suggests that Hillary Clinton’s State Department pushed for the sale’s approval to reward donors who had a financial interest in the deal. Ironically, buried within the story is original reporting that debunks the allegation that then-Secretary Clinton played any role in the review of the sale.

The Times’ own public editor has taken issue with the paper’s arrangement with the author of Clinton Cash, saying, “The Times should have been much more clear with readers about the nature of this arrangement” and “I still don’t like the way it looked.” It certainly doesn’t look any better that the lead Times reporter appeared in a taped interview for a Fox News documentary attacking the Clintons on this matter prior to receiving our responses to her questions.

The facts drawn from the Times’ own reporting undermine the innuendo in the Times story about Hillary Clinton’s role in this matter.

1. The essential fact is that Hillary Clinton was not involved in the State Department’s review of the sale to the Russians. While it is true that the State Department sits on the multi-agency, inter-governmental panel that reviews deals like this one, Hillary Clinton herself did not participate in the review or direct the Department to take any position on the sale of Uranium One. This is consistent with past practice; historically, matters pertaining to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (C.F.I.U.S.) do not rise to the Secretary’s level. Rather, it is the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs who serves as the State Department’s principal representative to C.F.I.U.S. The individual who held that post in 2010 was Jose Fernandez, and he has personally attested that then-Secretary Clinton never interfered with him, saying “Mrs. Clinton never intervened with me on any C.F.I.U.S. matter.”

2. The main Clinton Foundation donor that the Times suggests stood to gain from the sale of Uranium One to the Russians had actually sold his stake in the company three years earlier. In its article, the Times focuses on Frank Giustra, a Canadian businessman and known philanthropist whose donations to the Clinton Foundation date back to 2005. It is true that Mr. Giustra was the owner of a predecessor firm to Uranium One, the company whose sale was being reviewed by C.F.I.U.S. But by the time of Uranium One’s proposed sale in 2010, Mr. Giustra no longer held a position with the company. In fact, as he told the Times, he had liquidated his stake in Uranium One entirely back in 2007 and thus had no reason to have sought any favor from Clinton’s State Department.

3. A second Clinton Foundation donor referenced in the Times has specifically said he never spoke to her about the deal. In addition to Mr. Giustra himself, the Times points to a second Clinton Foundation donor and longtime business associate of Mr. Giustra by the name of Ian Telfer. It is true that, unlike Mr. Giustra, Telfer — as the acting head of Uranium One in 2010 — had a financial interest in the company’s sale to the Russians. It is also true that he had previously donated to the Clinton-Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative. But in a statement to the Times, Telfer told the paper he made the donations based on his wish to personally support Mr. Giustra in his charitable work, not based on any relationship to the Clintons. And most importantly, he told the Times that he never spoke to either President Clinton or then-Secretary Clinton about his company, Uranium One.

4. The Times fails to accurately describe the process, ignoring the fact that the State Department was just one of nine agencies involved in the U.S. government’s review of the sale of Uranium One. In addition to the fact that Hillary Clinton herself did not have a role in the State Department’s review of the deal, the Department itself was just one player — and not even a major one — in the C.F.I.U.S. process. It is the Treasury Department that serves as the lead agency in all C.F.I.U.S. matters, and seven other U.S. agencies besides State — including the Departments of Justice, Energy and Commerce — sit on the panel. To the extent a deal like the sale of Uranium One could be said to raise any national security concerns, both the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security also sit on the panel, and would have been party to the overall approval. Moreover, the 2010 sale of Uranium One was approved by more than just C.F.I.U.S. It was also green-lighted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Utah Department of Radiation and the Canadian government. In addition, the Union of Concerned Scientists affirmed that the deal did not raise national security concerns.

5. The Times ignores that U.S. regulators accepted a subsequent sale of the remaining stake in Uranium One to Russia after Clinton left the State Department. The 2010 sale at issue in the Times story involved the Russians purchasing a 51 percent stake in Uranium One. But nearly three years later, the company announced that the Russians would be increasing their ownership to 100 percent. The company notified U.S. regulators of this in late January 2013, giving those bodies the opportunity to subject the new transaction to a review. Both the NRC and C.F.I.U.S. declined to do so, which was tantamount to green-lighting the deal. Notably this acceptance of the Russians’ complete takeover of Uranium One came after Secretary Clinton exited the State Department.