End of Mueller shifts focus to existing probes
Bill Clinton sought State’s permission to meet with Russian nuclear official during Obama uranium decision
As he prepared to collect a $500,000 payday in Moscow in 2010, Bill Clinton sought clearance from the State Department to meet with a key board director of the Russian nuclear energy firm Rosatom - which at the time needed the Obama administration's approval for a controversial uranium deal, government records show.
Arkady Dvorkovich, a top aide to then-Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and one of the highest-ranking government officials to serve on Rosatom's board of supervisors, was listed on a May 14, 2010, email as one of 15 Russians the former president wanted to meet during a late June 2010 trip, the documents show.
"In the context of a possible trip to Russia at the end of June, WJC is being asked to see the business/government folks below. Would State have concerns about WJC seeing any of these folks," Clinton Foundation foreign policy adviser Amitabh Desai wrote the State Department on May 14, 2010, using the former president's initials and forwarding the list of names to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's team.
The email went to two of Hillary Clinton's most senior advisers, Jake Sullivan and Cheryl Mills.
The approval question, however, sat inside State for nearly two weeks without an answer, prompting Desai to make multiple pleas for a decision.
"Dear Jake, we urgently need feedback on this. Thanks, Ami," the former president's aide wrote in early June.
Sullivan finally responded on June 7, 2010, asking a fellow State official "What's the deal w this?"
The documents don't indicate what decision the State Department finally made. But current and former aides to both Clintons told The Hill on Thursday the request to meet the various Russians came from other people, and the ex-president's aides and State decided in the end not to hold any of the meetings with the Russians on the list.
Bill Clinton instead got together with Vladimir Putin at the Russian leader's private homestead.
"Requests of this type were run by the State Department as a matter of course. This was yet another one of those instances. Ultimately, President Clinton did not meet with these people," Angel Urena, the official spokesperson for the former president, told The Hill.
Aides to the ex-president, Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation said Bill Clinton did not have any conversations about Rosatom or the Uranium One deal while in Russia, and that no one connected to the deal was involved in the trip.
A spokesman for Secretary Clinton said Thursday the continued focus on the Uranium One deal smacked of partisan politics aimed at benefiting Donald Trump.
"At every turn this storyline has been debunked on the merits. Its roots are with a project shepherded by Steve Bannon, which should tell you all you need to know," said Nick Merrill. "This latest iteration is simply more of the right doing Trump's bidding for him to distract from his own Russia problems, which are real and a grave threat to our national security."
Current and former Clinton aides told The Hill that the list of proposed business executives the former president planned to meet raised some sensitivities after Bill Clinton's speaker bureau got the invite for the lucrative speech.
Hillary Clinton had just returned from Moscow and there were concerns about the appearance of her husband meeting with officials so soon after.
In addition, two of the Russians on the former president's list had pending business that would be intersecting with State.
The first was Dvorkovich, who was a chief deputy to Medvedev and one of the Russian nuclear power industry's cheerleaders. He also sat on the supervisory board of Rosatom, the state owned atomic energy company that was in the midst of buying a Canadian uranium company called Uranium One
The deal required approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an intergovernmental panel represented by 14 departments and offices that approve transactions and investments by foreign companies for national security purposes. Approval meant that control of 20 percent of U.S. uranium production would be shifting to the Russian-owned Rosatom's control.
CFIUS approved the transaction in October 2010, saying there was no national security concerns. Hillary Clinton has said she did not intervene in the matter and instead delegated the decision to a lower official, who said he got no pressure from the secretary on any CFIUS matters. Any one of the participating offices and departments could have sought to block the deal by requesting intervention by the president.
The Hill reported earlier this week that the FBI had uncovered evidence that Russian nuclear officials were engaged in a massive bribery scheme before CFIUS approved the deal, raising new questions in Congress and drawing attention from President Trump. Uranium "is the real Russia story," he told reporters, accusing news media of ignoring the new developments reported in The Hill.
The second person on the list that caught attention was Russian businessman Viktor Vekselberg.
Two days after Hillary Clinton's visit to Russia, Vekselberg was named by Medvedev to oversee a new technology investment project called Skolkovo, designed to be Russia's new Silicon Valley, according to media reports.
Hillary Clinton had directly discussed the Skolkovo project with Medvedev, and her State Department was whipping up support for it among U.S. companies, creating the potential appearance for a conflict. She even attended a major event with the Russians in 2010 to promote the project.
"We want to help because we think that it's in everyone's interest do so," she was quoted as saying at the time.
A third issue that emerged was Renaissance Capital, a Russian bank that actually paid the $500,000 speaking fee to the former president for his 90-minute June 29, 2010, speech, one of the largest one-day fees Bill Clinton ever earned.
Renaissance Capital had ties with the Kremlin and was talking up the Uranium One purchase in 2010, giving it an encouraging investment rating in Russia right at the time the U.S. was considering approval of the uranium sale, according to reports in The New York Times in 2015.
The Hill was alerted to Bill Clinton's attempted meeting with Dvorkovich from a nonpolitical source involved in the FBI investigation into Russian nuclear corruption. The Hill then scoured through thousands of pages of documents released under Freedom of Information Act requests over the past four years and located the Bill Clinton emails in a batch delivered to the conservative group Citizens United.
The head of that group, David Bossie, said Thursday the documents forced into the public by federal lawsuits continue to shed light on new questions arising from Hillary Clinton's time at State, and that Citizens United still gets documents released almost every month.
"Citizens United continues to unearth important information about the relationship between Hillary Clinton's State Department and the Clinton Foundation through our ongoing investigations and litigation," he said.
A source familiar with that FBI investigation says an undercover informant that Congress is currently trying to interview possesses new information about what Russian nuclear officials were doing to try to win approval of the Uranium One deal.
The importance of CFIUS's approval was highlighted in Rosatom's annual 2010 report that listed Dvorkovich as one of its supervisor board directors. The report crowed the U.S. approval was one of its most "striking events" of the year and allowed Russia to begin "uranium mining in the United States."
The head of Rosatom boasted in the report that the Uranium One deal was part of a larger Putin strategy to strengthen "Russia's prestige as a leader of the world nuclear industry."
Inside the Clintons' inner circle, there also was a debate in 2010.
A close associate of Bill Clinton who was directly involved in the Moscow trip and spoke on condition of anonymity, described to The Hill the circumstances surrounding how Bill Clinton landed a $500,000 speaking gig in Russia and then came up with the list of Russians he wanted to meet.
The friend said Hillary Clinton had just returned in late March 2010 from an official trip to Moscow where she met with both Putin and Medvedev. The president's speaker's bureau had just received an offer from Renaissance Capital to pay the former president $500,000 for a single speech in Russia.
Documents show Bill Clinton's personal lawyer on April 5, 2010, sent a conflict of interest review to the State Department asking for permission to give the speech in late June, and it was approved two days later.
The Clinton friend said the former president's office then began assembling a list of requests to meet with Russian business and government executives whom he could meet on the trip. One of the goals of the trip was to try to help a Clinton family relative "grow investments in their business with Russian oligarchs and other businesses," the friend told The Hill.
"It was one of the untold stories of the Russia trip. People have focused on Uranium One and the speaking fees, but opening up a business spigot for the family business was one only us insiders knew about," the friend said.
Conservative author Peter Schweizer, whose 2015 collaboration with The New York Times first raised questions about the Uranium One deal and Clinton donations, said Thursday the new emails were "stunning they add a level of granularity we didn't have before."
"We knew of some sort of transactions in which the Clintons received funds and Russia received approvals, and the question has always been how and if those two events are connected," he said. "I think this provides further evidence the two may be connected."