How The Obama Administration’s Leading Cabinet Members Helped Russia Gain Control of 20% of U.S. Uranium Reserves
American political campaigns are prohibited from accepting foreign donations, but charitable foundations based in the U.S. are under no such restriction. Nevertheless, before Hillary Clinton could assume her post as President Barack Obama‘s Secretary of State in 2013, the White House—in an effort avoid the appearance of any conflicts of interest—demanded that she sign a memorandum-of-understanding that not only barred her family foundation, the Clinton Foundation, from accepting any foreign government donations while Mrs. Clinton was in the State Department, but also required the Foundation to publicly disclose the identity of all its contributors during that time.
But the Clinton Foundation, as well as Bill and Hillary Clinton, egregiously and repeatedly violated these agreements while enriching themselves and compromising American national security. They were assisted in their malfeasance by the Obama administration. The details of what occurred were first uncovered by author Peter Schweizer in his 2015 book, Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich.
The roots of this particular matter go back to 2005, when Clinton Foundation donor and board member Frank Giustra—owner of the Canadian-based uranium mining and development company UrAsia Energy Ltd.—flew aboard his own private jet along with Bill Clinton to Almaty, Kazakhstan, where the pair dined with that nation’s authoritarian president, Nursultan Nazarbayev. In a move that contradicted and undermined American foreign policy and U.S. criticism of Kazakhstan’s poor human-rights record at that time, Mr. Clinton publicly expressed support for Nazarbayev’s bid to head an international elections monitoring group. Nazarbayev was greatly pleased by the propaganda that Clinton issued on his behalf.
Clinton’s appearance in Kazakhstan also proved extremely profitable for Frank Giustra. Just days after he and Clinton met with President Nazarbayev, UrAsia Energy Ltd. signed a preliminary deal that gave it stakes in three uranium mines controlled by Kazakhstan’s state-run uranium agency, Kazatomprom. The Kazakhstan mines have long been among the most lucrative in the world.
Fast-forward to 2007, when UrAsia merged with a South African uranium-mining company named Uranium One, which had assets in Africa and Australia. The newly formed entity kept the name Uranium One and was controlled by a number of UrAsia investors. One of those investors was a Canadian named Ian Telfer, who became Uranium One’s chairman.
Meanwhile, Frank Giustra—whose personal stake in the $3.5 billion merger was approximately $45 million—sold his stake in 2007.
Also in 2007, Uranium One—in a bid to become “a powerhouse in the United States uranium sector with the potential to become the domestic supplier of choice for U.S. utilities”—began to purchase mining companies with uranium assets in America. In April 2007, for instance, Uranium One acquired a uranium mill in Utah, as well as 38,000+ acres of uranium exploration properties in four Western states. Soon thereafter, Uranium One purchased the Energy Metals Corporation and its uranium holdings in Wyoming, Texas and Utah.
In 2007 as well, Uranium One chairman Ian Telfer gave the Clinton Foundation a donation in an amount that did not exceed $250,000, though the exact sum is unknown.
Even after Frank Giustra’s involvement with Uranium One was finished, he maintained his close relationship with the Clinton Foundation. In the spring of 2008, Giustra pledged $100 million to the the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative (CGSGI), a Clinton Foundation project promoting leftist environmental and labor practices in the natural resources industry. To help reach that goal, Giustra on CGSGI’s behalf held a fundraiser that generated $16 million in pledges. Ian Telfer was one of those in attendance at the fundraiser, along with such luminaries as Elton John, Shakira, Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Robin Williams.
Through his Canadian-based family charity known as the Fernwood Foundation, Telfer also gave the Clinton Foundation millions of additional dollars in donations.
By June 2009, Uranium One had fallen on hard times. Its stock value had declined by some 40% in a year. And Moukhtar Dzhakishev, the head of Kazatomprom, had recently been arrested on charges that he had illegally sold uranium deposits to foreign companies, including some of those belonging to Uranium One. Thus, there were questions as to whether Uranium One’s licenses for the Kazakh mines were even valid anymore. Company officials were afraid that they might lose their rights to mine in Kazakhstan.
American diplomatic cables that were later made public by WikiLeaks indicated concerns that Dzhakishev’s arrest may actually have been part of a Russian scheme to seize control of the Kazakh uranium assets. Those concerns were later buttressed by documents belonging to Rosatom, the Russian atomic energy agency, indicating that Russia was indeed intent on acquiring a stake in Uranium One, given that Russia’s domestic reserves of uranium were insufficient to meet its own industry needs.
On June 10, 2009, Uranium One pressed the American Embassy in Kazakhstan, as well as Canadian diplomats, to provide Kazakh officials with official written confirmation that its mining licenses were still valid. The American Embassy made Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to whom it ultimately reported, aware of the matter. And on June 10 and 11, the American Embassy’s energy officer met with Kazakh officials to discuss the issue.
A few days later, a wholly owned subsidiary of Rosatom completed a deal in which it acquired 17% ownership of Uranium One.
A year later, in June 2010, the Russian government made an extremely generous offer to Uranium One’s shareholders. If the offer were to be accepted, Russia would have a 51% controlling stake in Uranium One. But because Uranium One now controlled some 20% of all U.S. uranium reserves—and uranium is considered a strategic asset with implications for American national security—the deal with Russia could not be permitted without the approval of the American government. Specifically, that approval could be granted only by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which is composed of several of the most powerful members of the cabinet—the Attorney General as well as the Secretaries of the Treasury, Defense, Homeland Security, Commerce, Energy, and State. The seven Obama cabinet members who constituted the CFIUS at that time were Attorney General Eric Holder as well as the Secretaries of the Treasury (Timothy Geithner), Defense (Robert Gates), Homeland Security (Janet Napolitano), Commerce (Gary Locke), Energy (Steven Chu), and State (Hillary Clinton). Without the approval of these seven Obama administration officials, Russia’s acquisition of Uranium One could not have taken place.
The seriousness of the matter was heightened even further by the fact that the U.S. produces only about one-fifth of all the uranium it needs to run its nuclear energy plants, and most of those plants have only 18 to 36 months of uranium reserves.
Notwithstanding the enormous implications of the proposed Russian acquisition of Uranium One, the CFIUS wasted no time in approving the deal in June 2010.
Meanwhile, Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation were collecting millions of dollars from people associated with Uranium One. They had begun collecting these millions a few years earlier, and would continue to collect them for at least another two years thereafter. For example, Uranium One chairman Telfer used his Canadian-based family charity, the Fernwood Foundation, to make four donations to the Clinton Foundation totaling $2.35 million. These included donations of $1 million in 2009; $250,000 in 2010; $600,000 in 2011; and $500,000 in 2012. Notwithstanding Hillary Clinton’s aforementioned pledge that all donors to the Clinton Foundation would be publicly identified, these contributions from Telfer were never disclosed by the Clintons.
Moreover, a number of additional people with ties to Uranium One and the former UrAsia gave the Clinton Foundation between $1.3 million and $5.6 million in contributions.
In June 2010—the very month in which the Russian acquisition of Uranium One was approved by the CFIUS—Bill Clinton was invited to speak in Moscow for the astronomical sum of $500,000. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin personally thanked Mr. Clinton for speaking. Clinton’s half-million-dollar fee was paid by Renaissance Capital, a Russian investment bank with ties to the Kremlin. According to The New York Times: “Renaissance Capital analysts talked up Uranium One’s stock, assigning it a ‘buy’ rating and saying in a July 2010 research report that it was ‘the best play’ in the uranium markets. In addition, Renaissance Capital turned up that same year as a major donor, along with Mr. Telfer and Mr. Giustra, to a small medical charity in Colorado run by a friend of Mr. Giustra’s. In a newsletter to supporters, the friend credited Mr. Giustra with helping get donations from ‘businesses around the world.’”
Uranium One’s shareholders were alarmed by the Russian acquisition of majority control over their company. As Uranium One spokesman Sergei Novikov put it, they were “afraid of Rosatom as a Russian state giant.” In an effort to calm those investors, Rosatom chief executive Sergei Kiriyenko promised that Rosatom would not break up the company and would keep in place the same management team, including Chairman Telfer. Another Rosatom official stated publicly that the agency had no intention of increasing its investment beyond the 51% level, and that Uranium One would remain a public company. But this pledge was soon broken. Uranium One was delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange and taken private.
In short, the Russian government—with the blessing of the Obama administration and its Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States—now controlled fully 20% of all uranium production capacity in the United States.
Four members of the House of Representatives signed a letter expressing concern about this development. Two additional House members pushed legislation designed to invalidate the deal. In a letter to President Obama, Republican Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming said the transaction “would give the Russian government control over a sizable portion of America’s uranium production capacity.” “Equally alarming,” Mr. Barrasso added, “this sale gives ARMZ”—a Russian uranium mining company that is wholly owned by Atomenergoprom, a part of Rosatom—“a significant stake in uranium mines in Kazakhstan.”
In January 2013, a Pravda headline proclaimed: “Russian Nuclear Energy Conquers the World.” As The New York Times puts it, the accompanying article The article “detailed how the Russian atomic energy agency, Rosatom, had … [become] one of the world’s largest uranium producers and brought Mr. Putin closer to his goal of controlling much of the global uranium supply chain.”
Michael McFaul, who served under Hillary Clinton as the American ambassador to Russia, says of the Russian acquisition of Uranium One: “Should we be concerned? Absolutely. Do we want Putin to have a monopoly on this? Of course we don’t. We don’t want to be dependent on Putin for anything in this climate.”
Marin Katusa, author of The Colder War: How the Global Energy Trade Slipped From America’s Grasp, has warned: “The Russians are easily winning the uranium war, and nobody’s talking about it. It’s not just a domestic issue but a foreign policy issue, too.”
Cash Flowed to Clinton Foundation Amid Russian Uranium Deal
By Jo Becker and Mike McIntire