It’s here again. The Uranium One scandal is in our faces again as President Donald Trump and not a few other Republicans are calling for a special counsel to investigate it. Attorney General Jeff Sessions seems to be saying, hmmm, probably not, and a good part of the press says the whole thing is bosh. It is not bosh. It is corruption writ large.
What this scandal is about is the Clinton involvement in a Canadian company selling Russia its vast uranium holdings, including 20 percent of U.S. uranium resources. Before, during and after the deal, the Clinton Foundation got something like $145 million from people associated with that company, and the deal had to be OK’d by agencies including the State Department, then headed by Hillary Clinton. A consequence was to give Russia a huge strategic advantage over the United States, not so much on the issue of weaponry as on the issue of energy.
“Do we want [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to have a monopoly on this?” Mike McFaul, an ambassador to Russia under Clinton is quoted by The New York Times as asking. “Of course we don’t,” he answers, and any number of other experts absolutely agree. Our uranium satisfies only about a fifth of our annual needs in nuclear plants, and we have to go out to a foreign market now dominated by Russia.
Clinton defenders say there is no evidence that Clinton as secretary of state had a word to say about ratifying the deal. And let’s assume legal innocence even as we note that when an ex-president, a senator, then a secretary of state and possible presidential candidate have a foundation getting lots of money from foreign governments, there is a problem. There is a conflict-of-interest problem, a corruption problem, a problem of putting personal interests over one’s country.
Look, for instance, at how Bill Clinton accompanied a financier of a Canadian company that later became Uranium One to Kazakhstan. As related by the Times, the financier, Frank Giustra, wanted to obtain an interest in some money-gushing, big time uranium mines there, and Clinton lent a mighty hand.
At a dinner with the country’s rights-abusing, dictatorial president, he gave support for this guy being in charge of an international group that monitors elections. This was contrary to American foreign policy at the time and in contrast to what Hillary Clinton as a senator had said about this leader, the Times reported. It obviously pleased the autocrat, though, and pretty soon the country’s uranium agency had signed a deal with Giustra. A few months later, the Clinton Foundation received $31.3 million donation from Giustra.
What you see here is the power of an ex-president to influence events, not least of all when his wife is a senator or a secretary of state or when she is running for president. Does anyone truly believe that some of the corrupt regimes sending the foundation gobs of money were truly doing it to help people in distress?
Here is something we do know.
Early on, when Hillary Clinton first became secretary of state, it was agreed that the foundation would publicly announce all donations from foreign governments. It in fact did not disclose early millions in donations from the chairman of Uranium One until the Times dug up the information in Canada.
The Clintons got some personal dough out of all of this, too. A Russian bank involved in the Uranium One transaction gave Mr. Clinton $500,000 for a 20-minute speech after which Putin is said to have thanked him. Consider that it would take a median-income worker in the United States more than 15 years to earn that much without a thank you from Putin. Some rules just don’t apply to everyone.
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service