90 Miles From Tyranny : 6 Key Elements in Understanding the Tangled Uranium One Scandal

Friday, November 17, 2017

6 Key Elements in Understanding the Tangled Uranium One Scandal

Two House committees are investigating the tangled deal involving Russia, its acquiring of U.S. uranium, and Bill and Hillary Clinton. But the multiple layers that lawmakers, and potentially a special counsel, will explore take some unpacking.

The probe addresses unanswered questions about the Uranium One mining company’s ties to the Clinton Foundation, the nonprofit founded by the former president, during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.

In a 2010 deal approved by a committee including Hillary Clinton and eight other members of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, a Kremlin-connected entity obtained 20 percent of America’s uranium production by acquiring Canada-based Uranium One.

Although a joint investigation by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is just getting under way, many congressional Republicans already are calling for a special counsel to look into the facts.

A Clinton Foundation spokesperson, citing numerous news storiesand fact-checking organizations, told The Daily Signal that the Uranium One-related allegations against Hillary Clinton, Democrats’ 2016 nominee for president, have been debunked. A spokesperson for Uranium One did not respond to The Daily Signal’s phone and email messages Wednesday.

Here are six major elements to the scandal now known as Uranium One.

1. What Is the Deal, and Who Approved It?

Uranium One announced in June 2010 it was selling a majority of the mining company to ARMZ, part of Rosatom, a Russian-owned nuclear energy company. Promoters of the Russian company were involved in a $500,000 speaking engagement for Bill Clinton in Moscow.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a panel charged with approving any merger where national security questions emerge, approved the deal in October 2010.

National security came up in this case because uranium is the primary fuel for nuclear energy and can be used either to make weapons or produce electricity.

The foreign investment panel is made up of nine Cabinet members, two ex officio members, and others as appointed by the president. So, neither Clinton, who was secretary of state from 2009 until 2013, nor the State Department were in a sole position to approve the deal in which Russian interests acquired Uranium One. These officeholders frequently are represented on the foreign investment panel by lower-ranking officials.

If any member of the Foreign Investment Committee opposes a sale, then the president, in this case Barack Obama, is the only one who can step in to block it, according to Treasury Department guidelines.

Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, led by ranking member Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, warned against the sale in an October 2010 letter to then-Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, arguing:
The transaction could give Moscow control of up to 20 percent of the U.S. national uranium extraction capability and a controlling interest in one of the country’s largest uranium mining sites. … Russia’s record of transferring dangerous materials and technologies to rogue regimes, such as those in Iran and Syria, is very troubling.

2. What’s All This About Racketeering?

Most recently, The Hill news organization reported the foreign investment panel of Obama administration officials charged with approving the Russia-backed purchase of U.S. uranium resources was not made aware of an in-depth FBI criminal investigation related to Uranium One.

“I would hope the board and decisionmakers are as aware as possible of all factors, so they would know what they are voting on,” Ron Hosko, a former assistant director at the FBI, told The Daily Signal this week in a phone interview.

The FBI investigation appeared to be quite broad, The Hill reported that it found “substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion, and money laundering designed to grow [Russian President] Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States.”

The FBI probe began in 2004 when Robert Mueller, now the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, was director of the bureau. The probe ended in three convictions of individuals for money laundering and violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a federal law.

Rod Rosenstein, then U.S. attorney for Maryland and now the Trump administration’s deputy attorney general at the Justice Department, supervised the FBI investigation.

After Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself early this year from probes of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, Rosenstein—No. 2 to Sessions at Justice—appointed Mueller as special counsel.

“There was a criminal investigation related to Uranium One already and it seems because of political considerations, it was kept from the American people,” Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a conservative government watchdog, told The Daily Signal.

“Uranium One is just the tip of the iceberg regarding foreign money when Hillary Clinton was the secretary of state,” Fitton said in a phone interview. “With the information about the [Clinton] foundation and the State Department, there is easily enough to form the basis for a criminal investigation.”

Published reports have focused on numerous cases in which countries that gave money to the Clinton Foundation also had business before the State Department.

In August 2015, the Justice Department announced the guilty plea of Russian official Vadim Mikerin, a resident of Chevy Chase, Maryland, for his role in arranging more than $2 million in payments to corruptly influence the awarding of private contracts with Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy corporation.

Mikerin was head of Tenam Corp., a U.S.-based subsidiary of Moscow-based Tenax, the supplier and exporter for Russian uranium to nuclear power companies. Tenax was aligned with Rosatom, the Russian energy company, at the time Rosatom acquired Uranium One.

Daren Condrey of Glenwood, Maryland, also pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and conspiring to commit wire fraud. Boris Rubizhevsky of Closter, New Jersey, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The Justice Department press release explained:
According to court documents, between 2004 and October 2014, Mikerin conspired with Condrey, Rubizhevsky and others to transmit funds from Maryland and elsewhere in the United States to offshore shell company bank accounts located in Cyprus, Latvia and Switzerland. Mikerin admitted the funds were transmitted with the intent to promote a corrupt payment scheme that violated the FCPA [Foreign Corrupt Practices Act]. Specifically, he admitted that the corrupt payments were made by conspirators to influence Mikerin and to secure improper business advantages for U.S. companies that did business with TENEX. …
According to court documents, over the course of the scheme, Mikerin conspired with Condrey, Rubizhevsky and others to transfer approximately $2,126,622 from the United States to offshore shell company bank accounts.
Hosko, the former FBI official, said he doesn’t believe the bureau’s past investigation would pose a conflict for Rosenstein, Sessions’ No. 2 at the Justice Department.

Hosko also said he doesn’t think the racketeering case should bear on Mueller’s current investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and suspected collusion between Russians and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, since an FBI director likely wouldn’t be aware of every investigation.

3. How Is the Clinton Foundation Involved?Read More HERE

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