The latest installment in the ongoing saga of shady Clinton Foundation finances is a story involving a deal in which Russians took take greater control of a company, Uranium One, which controlled a significant amount of U.S. uranium.
The details are somewhat involved, but the gist is that because the takeover deal involved uranium, a strategic asset, it required approval from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Around the same time the deal was going through, the Clinton Foundation took millions of dollars in donations from a foundation run by the founder of Uranium One and did not disclose the transaction, in defiance of an arrangement made with the Obama administration to identify Clinton Foundation donors. In addition, Bill Clinton was paid $500,000 by a Russian financial firm linked to the Kremlin for a speech in Moscow as the deal was happening. The New York Times has an extensive report, building on work from Peter Schweizer's book about the Clinton Foundation's foreign funding, Clinton Cash, here.
The questions raised by the story are obvious: Did the millions in donations to the Clinton Foundation, and the hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to Bill Clinton for his speech, have any influence on Clinton's decision as Secretary of State to approve the project?
The details of the story that have been reported so far establish no direct causal link between the donations or the speech and Clinton's approval of the deal. But at minimum the report highlights the complicated and potentially ethically dicey ways that the Clinton's massive, globally connected foundation intersected with Hillary Clinton's work as America's top diplomat.
The reaction to the story from team Clinton, meanwhile, does not exactly inspire confidence that the Clintons have been entirely transparent about what transpired.
For example, Fox News reporters, also drawing from Schweizer's book, dug into various aspects of the story, and found evidence that officials from Kazakhstan's state-owned energy company Kazatomprom visited with Bill Clinton at his home in New York to inquire about a possible deal with Westinghouse, which is also involved in the nuclear energy business. When contacted about the meeting by Fox News, a Clinton Foundation spokesperson denied that the meeting had ever happened. But when Fox News produced photos of the meeting, the Clinton spokesperson changed the story and said that it had happened.
In short, Clinton's spokesperson flatly lied about a meeting Bill Clinton had with foreign officials, and admitted the truth only when presented with evidence to the contrary.
As I said earlier this week, these sorts of report,are likely to dog Hillary Clinton's campaign for a while, in part because of the book's impending release and in part because major news organizations have made arrangements with Schweizer to follow up on his reporting. But they're also going to stick, I think, because they play into the public perception of the Clinton's as vaguely shady and corrupt, as power players and dealmakers who can never be fully trusted. That the Clinton foundation failed to report key donations, and that Clinton representatives have plainly lied to reporters about Bill Clinton's dealings, only amplifies this impression.
So far, Hillary Clinton's campaign hasn't responded to particular questions about the book or related stories. Instead, the campaign and its allies have dismissed Schweizer as a smear artist while insisting that the book has no credible evidence of any real wrongdoing. The evidence, however circumstantial, appears to be strong enough though that it is raising questions amongst some of Hillary Clinton's supporters. Noting the Clinton team's dismissals as well as its disinclination to respond to various questions, Politico reported today….
But that might not be enough to quell the firestorm on a day when a spokesman for Clinton's foundation told Reuters that the charity would review and refile its non-profit tax forms for several recent years — to correct errors and omissions. And some longtime Clinton backers were feeling a little queasy.
"I think it should be a concern, yes. It's a legitimate concern and I think that Sec Clinton needs to be able to explain this in a straightforward, constructive, thoughtful way," said Clinton fundraiser Peter Buttenwieser, a philanthropist from Philadelphia. "And I think the sooner that she does that, the better. And I assume that she will rise to the occasion and work through this, it's part of running and I think it's critical that she do it and not wave it off."
(Watch the entire Fox News report on the uranium deal below. The relevant bit is between the 5 and 6 minute mark.)