News and Commentary

MILLER: Uranium One Redux: The Real Russian Collusion Story

For some 20 years, American businessman William Douglas Campbell maintained a relationship with Kazakhstan’s and Russia’s nuclear energy industries. Because of those ties, Campbell developed another one, with FBI counterintelligence.

On February 7, 2018, in testimony before the Senate Judiciary, House Oversight, and House Intelligence Committees, Campbell provided testimony that would confirm allegations about the role of the Clintons in Russia’s purchase of 20% of America’s uranium supply.

The Russians bragged to Campbell that they would acquire all the properties of Canadian energy company Uranium One, which held 20% of America’s uranium assets. They were confident because the Clintons would ensure that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States would approve the purchase.

As predicted, the Russians did, and so too did CFIUS.

Campbell testified about his inability and frustration in trying to get the Obama administration to prevent the sale.

As investigative journalist Sara Carter notes, even Campbell’s revelation that a subsidiary of Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy behemoth Rosatom was providing Iran with technology for its nuclear reactors could not stop the sale.

The Uranium One story begins in 2005, when private citizen Bill Clinton flew to Alma-Ata with Frank Giustra, who owned UrAsia Energy, on Giustra’s private jet to meet with Kazakh strongman Nursultan Nazarbayev. At the time, the Bush administration was trying to isolate Nazarbayev because of his deplorable record on human rights.

At a news conference, Clinton lavished praise on the dictator and spoke of bringing him to head the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a statement that gave legitimacy to his government.

Shortly thereafter, Giustra acquired the highly valuable assets of Kazakhstan’s uranium company.

According to The New York Times, the deal transformed Giustra’s UrAsia Energy from a virtual shell company into one of the world’s largest uranium producers and enriched Giustra personally by tens of millions.

Giustra then became involved in the creation of the charitable organization that became the Giustra-Clinton Foundation.

After the purchase, UrAsia Energy became Uranium One. The men who built Uranium One and who ultimately received permission to sell it to a subsidiary of Russia’s Rosatom all were big donors to the Clinton charities.

Defenders of the Clintons note that Giustra sold his interest in 2007, long before the Rosatom takeover in 2013.

There are problems with this defense. A company’s stock is based on expectations of its future value. Putin’s interest in becoming the dominant player in the world’s uranium market was no secret. Uranium One, with its Kazakh holdings, was an obvious target. The Russians consummated their takeover in 2013, but they began buying into Uranium One in 2009, noting in 2010 their intention to take a controlling interest. The takeover was not one purchase in 2013 but three, starting in 2009. All of which was easily anticipated.

Add to this Campbell’s testimony that the Russians bragged that the fix was in for CFIUS to approve the deal.

Then there are the contributions from Uranium One’s chairman Ian Telfer, who donated millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation while the deal was being made with the Russians. Telfer asserts that the contributions were because of his admiration for the Clintons’ charitable work.

And perhaps his contribution to the Clinton charities had nothing to do with needing help from the American Embassy in Kazakhstan to keep the Kazakh government from retaking its mines in 2009.

Through an alleged foundation error, Telfer’s contribution went unreported.

Shortly after Rosatom’s announcement to acquire all of Uranium One, Renaissance Bank invited Bill Clinton to give a speech in Moscow. Renaissance Bank has strong ties to the Kremlin.

Bill Clinton received $500,000 for his speech.

The ostensibly strongest argument made by Clinton defenders is that the Department of State has only one vote of nine on the CFIUS committee and the vote was unanimous.

The people who serve on the committee are part and parcel of the administration. Generally, there is one agency that has a higher stake in an issue than the others, a lead agency, whether appointed as such or simply de facto.

If the administration makes its position known and the lead agency is aggressive, the other agencies can provide mere window dressing.

While CFIUS was approving the deal, the FBI was investigating Rosatom for criminal activity in the United States. Why did the Department of Justice, which is represented on CFIUS, not bring the investigation to its attention?

For his part, Giustra has risen to the Clintons’ defense, claiming there was no need for even Bill Clinton’s influence in the original deal for Kazakhstan’s uranium as the deal did not require government approval.

But as The New York Times points out, Giustra’s statement is challenged by Mukhtar Dzhakishev, former head of Kazakhstan’s Kazatomprom, a man who knows how things work in his country.

Uranium One’s chief executive Jean Nortier also contradicted Giustra’s downplaying of Bill Clinton’s role.

Outside of Gillette, Wyoming, on Bob Christensen’s 35,000-acre ranch, the Russians now own the mining rights to his uranium that was not supposed to be exported. Christensen talks of yellow cake being trucked across the border to Canada.

Defenders of the Clintons claim the deal was insignificant. But the Russians disagree. In an interview with Rosatom’s chief executive Sergei Kiriyenko, Kiriyenko turns to Vladimir Putin and says, “Few could have imagined in the past that we would own 20 percent of US [uranium] reserves.”

But then few could have imagined the Clintons.

Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati, and a distinguished fellow with the Haym Salomon Center. Follow him @salomoncenter