The Clinton Cash: The Russian Uranium Indictment And The Lingering Questions Over Influence Peddling [UPDATED]

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Clinton_Foundation_logoBelow is my column in the Hill Newspaper on the recent major indictment handed down in the Uranium One scandal.  As I have stated in the media, the indictment does not alter my skepticism over the likelihood of any criminal charges against Clinton. However, it does reaffirm lingering questions over the many millions of dollars pocketed by the Clintons personally or given to their Foundation  I think that there is little question about this money being given with the hopes of influencing the Clintons, and particularly Hillary Clinton.  The only question is whether it succeeded. For that, we would need an independent and full investigation.

UPDATED: This column was updated to more clearly distinguish the two contracts involved in the Russian transport of uranium (in the Lambert indictment) and the purchase of U.S. uranium holdings (in the Uranium One purchase). The indictment concerns a contract to transport uranium with a subsidiary of Rosatom.  This is the same agency at the heart of the Rosatom/Uranium One scandal but the contract occurred years before the purchase of Uranium One. 

When the indictments came down against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his aide, Rick Gates, the headline of a Washington Post article declared, “With money laundering charges against Paul Manafort, Trump’s ‘fake news’ charge is harder to defend.”

It did not matter that Manafort’s indictment was entirely removed from any campaign connection and involved financial dealings well before his association with Trump. The desire for an independent and full investigation of Donald Trump is understandable, given the serious allegations of Russian influence.

Yet, the same logic does not appear to apply outside of Trump World. The same politicians and experts have dismissed efforts to investigate allegations of influence peddling, Russian conspiracies and special deals involving Hillary or Bill Clinton.

One such controversy involves the sale of a company, Uranium One, that holds 20 percent of our uranium resources. Last week, the Justice Department secured an 11-count indictment in a controversy linked to the Russian nuclear agency at the heart of the Uranium One controversy.  The indictment was brought against Mark Lambert, former head of a Maryland-based transportation company.

Uranium One was a Canadian uranium mining company with operations in the United States and other countries. In January 2013 Rosatom, the Russian state-owned uranium monopoly, bought the company at a value of $1.3 billion. The sale required the approval of a federal board that included then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, because these uranium reserves involve serious national security implications.

The Lambert indictment describes both a cover-up and a bribery scheme tied directly to activities of Rosatom, the Russian nuclear agency at center of the Uranium One scandal. While the specific contract involving these bribes dealt with a contract made years earlier for transportation of uranium, it revealed the depth of corrupt practices used by this subsidiary of Rosatom. Moreover, this is the third such indictment of officials associated with Rosatom contracts.

Lambert is accused of bribing a Russian official with Rosatom and hiding the payments with code words like “lucky figures,” “lucky numbers” and “cake.” Ultimately, Vadim Mikerin, the head of U.S. operations of a subsidiary of Rosatom, was sentenced to four years in prison for money laundering and other crimes. The indictment sheds more light on the corrupt practices associated with Rosatom.

I have previously stated that, while I believe this is an allegation worth investigating, I fail to see a strong case for a criminal charge against Hillary Clinton based on what we know of the deal. She was just one member of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). Nine government agencies participated on that board, and there does not appear to have been any dissenting votes. Ultimately, President Obama, not the board, approved the sale.

The sale, however, raises continuing concerns over the massive amounts of money given to the Clintons or their foundation. The payments peaked during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of State and the period leading up to her widely anticipated announcement as a presidential candidate. (They dropped sharply after she was defeated in November 2016.) Even State Department employees raised concerns over the Clintons receiving hundreds of millions for speeches or foundation contributions. At the same time, Bill Clinton was raking in millions from foreign sources with dealings with the State Department, including some of the world’s most shady figures.

While the Russian deal was pending, he received $500,000 for a speech to a Kremlin-tied bank supporting the sale. During this period, nine Uranium One investors gave the Clinton Foundation some $145 million. The company’s chairman alone donated $2.35 million to the foundation during the pendency of the Uranium One deal. The Clinton Foundation failed to report some foreign contributions, despite an agreement to do so, as well as a pledge by Hillary Clinton in prior congressional testimony. The omitted payments reportedly included some money linked to Uranium One.

Few people think all of these government and foreign sources poured money into the coffers of the Clintons or their foundation out of the goodness of their hearts. As the Washington Post has acknowledged, “There can be little doubt that Russians who donated to the Clinton Foundation were trying to curry favor with the secretary of State.” If so, why are such efforts by the Russians and other countries not worthy of a full investigation?

Notably, the Clinton controversy not only has allegations of Russian influence but efforts to collude. Unlike claims of the Russians trying to influence the election by revealing Clinton emails, these allegations involve concrete economic benefits and contracts being sought by corrupt means. It has been reported that the Russians pursued every possible avenue to influence Hillary Clinton, much as they did during the Trump campaign with figures such as George Papadopoulos.

An attorney for a former FBI informant in the Tenam case was quoted in The Hill as saying her client “witnessed numerous, detailed conversations in which Russian actors described their efforts to lobby, influence or ingratiate themselves with the Clintons in hopes of winning favorable uranium decisions from the Obama administration.”

As I have previously stated, none of this establishes a case for a pay-to-play scheme or some quid pro quo. However, it is curious how so many commentators and politicians cannot countenance even the investigation into such allegations, even after this major indictment. Like the Washington Post, most of us agree that millions were given to the Clintons, either personally or to their foundation, with a desire to influence them. The question is simply whether any of this money led to concrete benefits — or whether some of the world’s sleaziest figures were just hopeful chumps.

While it is certainly a challenge to prove a quid pro quo criminal case, it is equally difficult to prove some crime associated with collusion. Yet, that has not diminished the call to find if Russian information was used to secure access or action from Trump officials. Here, hundreds of millions of dollars were passed to the Clintons or their foundation, but critics insist there is “nothing to see here.”

Despite objections over their accepting this money, the Clinton recklessly accepted millions from every conceivable source. After being “dead broke” (according to Hillary Clinton) at the end of the Clinton administration, the couple soon amassed a reported fortune worth more than $150 million. Their conduct warrants investigation, not just on Uranium One but a host of possible special-dealing allegations.

The long-standing allegations of influence peddling involving the Clinton have never been fully investigated, and the call for such an investigation is not prejudging the results. I have long questioned the likelihood that Trump committed a crime associated with Russian collusion during the campaign. Nevertheless, I supported the special counsel investigation and the congressional investigations.

In the same vein, I fail to see why the public should not have an equally transparent, independent investigation of the Clinton controversies. The Trump allegations raise concerns over foreign influence in our election while the Clinton allegations raise concerns over foreign influence in our government.

The government may not be able to supply complete answers, but it can supply a complete record. The result is likely to embarrass many in Washington, in both parties, but the public is being played like chumps by those manipulating these investigations for political advantage. Without a full investigation on both sides, we are unlikely to remove the doubts of so many citizens about the conduct of our leaders.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

 

169 thoughts on “The Clinton Cash: The Russian Uranium Indictment And The Lingering Questions Over Influence Peddling [UPDATED]

  1. American politics is on a trajectory which is not survivable. Our elections are decided on the basis of which crook is worse, e.g. Trump or Clinton. Soon, we will slide into the status of a banana republic in which the loser in an election shortly thereafter goes to prison. We do not debate policy differences; we debate who is dirtier, who commited more felonies.

    In most other societies, this goes hot in that one candidate sensing a loss at the polls resorts to violence, attempts a coup d’etate. And our federal police force works under the sword of Damocles, if I prove my case and the target is elected President, what happens to me?

    Our legal and political systems can not sustain these attacks.

  2. Has anyone else heard that shadow is not the absence of light? Astrophysicists discovered that shadow is a ‘thing’ and it is one of two things in the universe actually faster than light. The other thing faster than light is the alacrity with which Jonathan Turley leaps in front of any TV camera to voice his considerable opinion. I love science.

  3. Why are right wingers so damn obtuse about the public interest in the Mueller investigation? Trump has a criminal background a mile long –106 money laundering crimes, Trump U. -defrauded 1000s of Americans out of $40 million, mob ties in the US and Russia to the extent Trump was denied a gaming license in Sydney, 22 sexual assault allegations, drug dealer connections and on and on–and it has been proven conclusively that Russia sabotaged the election in his favor and Trump’s son was hot to work with them.

    We want to know if our President is a traitor to the country. How on earth could that not be front page news every day? Bc right wing ideologues and jilted law professors want to add a 14th investigation of Hillary Clinton. Sad.

    • “The GOP has systematically set out to dismantle the economic strength of the nation, shield traitors, attack those who work, and strip protections from the vulnerable…. ” (Carol Anderson, Emory University)
      She characterizes it as the right wing’s hatred for America.

  4. Some people on the internet call Hillary “an ugly dog”. I think that is very unfair to canines. Even calling her an ugly “hog” would be unfair to animals. She looks like she came out of some “shithole”. I have heard that word bandied about lately in the news.

    • You have no talent. You just embarrass yourself. Too bad you can’t understand what any thinking person sees as obvious.

      Tell us again how ugly Hillary is….smh

    • I guess you’ll believe anything big business tells you. The facts we do know? Tax cuts are always a net loss to the government. This particular tax cut is worse bc money is being borrowed to fund the cut…which the benefits of equal 83% of the total to the top 1% economic royalists…far in excess of what they paid into the system. It’s a tax cut funded by a credit card so to speak.

      Stock buybacks are what’s going to happen with this bribe…I mean tax cut. Wages aren’t going up. That’s for sure.

      • Darrin, OK, I’ll accept you believe what you do, but I believe it far better for $350 Billion to enter this country. $350 Billion here is better than $350 Billion + elsewhere and considering that many countries wouldn’t have taxed Apple anything I think it is a big deal.

        Wages and bonuses have gone up for many.

        You seem to believe that tax revenue comes free. It doesn’t. It comes at the cost of a loss in economic production. Do you understand that simple point? That doesn’t mean taxes aren’t necessary. It means that one has to weigh the benefit of the tax against the loss of production. Is that any clearer?

        • Allan,
          The estimates of cash “stored” overseas by U.S. companies are mostly in the $2-3 Trillion range.
          It’s unlikely that the overseas cash would be brought back to the U.S. at a 35% tax rate.
          We’ll see how much comes back at the new 21% rate.
          The 35% rate × no repatriated funds brings in $0 in tax revenue.
          If the 21% rate results in even $1 Trillion of repatriated firiegn cash, that would be $210 Billion in tax revenue.
          The debate over the corporate tax rate is not a new one.
          Part of that debate boils down to whether it’s preferable to generate $0 in tax revenues at the 35% rate, or $Billions at a 21% rate.

            • Apple will pay $38 Billion tax on its repatriated funds.
              By my calculations, $38 Billion is greater than zero, but I won’t try to explain that to you, Linda.

          • Re the possible deployment of the repatriated cash, Tim Cook of Apple
            just announced Apple’s plans.
            It’ll be interesting to see how much of the money comes back to the U.S., and how it’s used.

              • Is that one of your informed decisions, Linda?
                Based on looking at Apple’s proposals?
                Don’t let any facts get in the way of your core beliefs….that would be too traumatic for you.
                Stick with your “oligarchy, Kochs, Mercers, Waltons, Gates “etc. mantra

          • I’m more interested in the additional capital that can build business and employ people. Forgive Darrin. He can’t count.

        • Da bill to da state of Wisconsin is still goin up for Apple supplier Foxconn. These headlines mostly don’t pan out. Always a back story that comes out
          Later and later.

    • The American middle class Right Wingers despise elitists. So what do they do? They elect literally a comicbook caricature of a corrupt country club billionaire to the White House.

      Trump inherited his wealth, in his elite ivory tower.

      He was denied a Sydney gaming license because of his many mob ties.

      He’s been pinched for 106 criminal money laundering violations in a 4 year period at ONE casino.

      His eponymous Trump University: “More than 5,000 people across the country who paid Donald Trump $40 million to teach them his hard-sell tactics got a hard lesson in bait-and-switch,”; “Mr. Trump used his celebrity status and personally appeared in commercials making false promises to convince people to spend tens of thousands of dollars they couldn’t afford for lessons they never got.” Trump settled the case for $25 million so apparently crime does pay.

      Then there’s the stiffing of laborers, the ties to drug dealers, the allegations of bribery, the 22 sexual assault allegations and on and on. And not a lick of political experience or knowledge. (at least Obama was a constitutional scholar).

      This guy is living filth, corrupted before entering office, yet he gets whole-hearted support from Joe Sixpack. Astonishing. The party of law and morality honors neither the law or morality by selling out to this conman.

      I hear Montgomery Burns is running for the White House in 2020, I’m certain he’ll be the republican front runner.

      “Still better than Clinton…heh heh…”, raves the diseased right wing lunatic mind.

      • re “Still better than Clinton…heh heh…”, raves the diseased right wing lunatic mind.”

        You are delusional trying to cast all of us as right wingers – non party affiliated Independents did not get behind Crooked Hillary either.

        If you wanna educate yourself about Clinton Corruption delve into Wikileaks.

      • Trump Tower paid a fine of c. $500,000 for reporting violations that occured in the early 1990s.
        Among those violations, the primary offense seemed to be failure to result player winnings of over $10,000.
        A casino recently paid $47 Million on fines for the same kind of reporting violations.
        I don’t think criminal charges were brought in either case, but I can see why some would like to present the fines against Trump Tower as Trump “being pinched for 106 criminal money laundering violations”.
        People can do their own research…if they find indictments for “criminal laundering violations”, I’ll stand corrected.
        An analogy might be a company fined by OSHA for safety violation.
        If fines are imposed as a result of the violations, it’s not the same thing as the company executive being charged with “criminal violations”.
        Criminal charges might be brought in some cases against management, but it’s a mistake to categorize administrative/ civil fines as criminal violations.

        • Trump promised to release his returns upon election. Another lie and another supporter rationalizing the plain spoken conman in the White House.

          • Darrin, I don’t think you are correct. I think he said he would consider releasing them when the IRS was through auditing his returns.

            There is no rule that a Presidential candidate has to release his tax returns. When people voted they already knew he hadn’t released his tax returns to the public and it didn’t dissuade his supporters. He is now President so it is time for you to accept that fact as hard as it may be. That is what happens after an election. One gracefully accepts defeat or victory.

            I note you don’t seem to complain that Hillary hasn’t released all of her emails or the information generally required for 501 C 3 charitable foundations. How come those violations are so unimportant to you?

            • Allan,
              I saw Trump repeatedly state that he’d release his tax returns after completion of the IRS audit.
              So it was the “audit completion timeline”, not the election timeline for releasing his returns.
              Trump’s latest statement ( as far as I know) is that he might release the returns after he’s out of office.
              So there’s either an ongoing, “never-ending” audit, or Trump reneged on his pledge to release the returns after the audit.

              • Ya think?
                Trump lies, it’s widely reported and documented, why don’t you know that? Wait…. I know your answer, “what about ______(you fill in the blank)”.

                • You need to have somebody explain to you the meaning of what I wrote about Trump’s tax returns.
                  Maybe they’ll assist you in commenting with something other than the nonsensical reply you just wrote, Linda.
                  I don’t expect any kind of logic from you, Linda.
                  But it would be better if you were at least rational.

              • He’s probably still being audited, but if I were him I wouldn’t release my tax records even if they were 100% perfect where not all the deductions were taken. Every slip of paper is being made into a conspiracy theory by the left. I have friends who were conservatives that for some reason were continuously audited under the Obama administration because of their political views and donations.

      • Darrin Rychlak, surely you know that you’re going up against a group of drooling blawg-hounds who have been thoroughly conditioned into Pavlovian reflexes. They, too, expected Hillary to win. And by “too” I mean that Trump expected Hillary to win, too. You see, Breitbart News commissioned the Uranium One Scandal as an “insurance policy” for the inevitable Hillary Rodham Clinton Impeachment Trial in The United States Senate. It’s so unfair that they don’t get to conduct that much ballyhooed spectacle just because Crooked H lost the election. It’s not fair. It’s not fair. It’s not fair.

        They want their Crooked H Impeachment Trial. And they want it now! Who the blazes did James B. Comey think he was to deprive Trump’s supporters and defenders of the Grand Prize they’ve all been awaiting for so very long by swooping in at the last possible moment and getting Trump’s Russian mob-connected self elected POTUS, instead. Why else would Trump have fired Comey? He had to fire Comey. Comey put Trump in Hillary’s place. It’s so unfair. It’s not fair. It’s not fair. It’s not fair.

        • Along that line, many of the posts by the dupes are so ridiculously irrational that I’ve come to suspect that some teenagers in Vladivostok or some other BFE area of Mother Russia are trolling here.

          • Mark M. said, “Along that line, many of the posts by the dupes are so ridiculously irrational that I’ve come to suspect that some teenagers in Vladivostok or some other BFE area of Mother Russia are trolling here.”

            Mark M., just because Ivan Pavlov was a Russian psychologist doesn’t mean that every last Pavlovian blawg-hound that comes down the turnpike is a Putin-puppet. That’s one of those logical thingies . . . a fallacy of composition, or whatever.

            Besides, why should the alt.righties be the only poor schnooks laboring under The Yoke of Clockwork Orange? It’s only fair that the rest of us should be so afflicted as well.

            Horrorshow! The Scotch-Tape came off my eyelids–again. When will I stop blinking?

        • James Comey is finished. Greed did him in. He shouldn’t have hooked up with Hillary doing the arms deals with 17 different nations when he was on the board of Lockheed Martin. The Clinton Foundation got all the kickbacks and bribes. All he got was a measly $6m from Lockheed Martin.

        • “…you know that you’re going up against a group of drooling blawg-hounds who have been thoroughly conditioned into Pavlovian reflexes….”

          Pardon me while I towel off… but yes, I do want a trial for HRC, and I want it now. Also, I would like to hear about a platform from the Democratic party–and I mean something other than, “but…. Trump!!!” I’m an independent voter looking for some sound planning, I have surely not been seeing any of that, just kicking and screaming, mainly.

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