Amy Davidson | Five Questions About the Clintons and a Uranium Company

Amy Davidson, The New Yorker:

1. Was there a quid pro quo? Based on the Times reporting, there was certainly a lot of quid (millions in donations that made it to a Clinton charity; a half-million-dollar speaker’s fee) and multiple quos (American diplomatic intervention with the Russians; approvals when the Russian firm offered a very “generous” price for Uranium One). The Clinton perspective is that, although the approvals were delivered by the State Department when Clinton led it, there is no evidence that she personally delivered them, or of the “pro” in the equation. The Clinton campaign, in its response to the Times, noted that other agencies also had a voice in the approval process, and gave the Times a statement from someone on the approvals committee saying that Clinton hadn’t “intervened.” The Clinton spokesman wouldn’t comment on whether Clinton was briefed about the matter. She was cc’d on a cable that mentioned the request for diplomatic help, but if there is a note in which she follows up with a directive—an e-mail, say—the Times doesn’t seem to have it.

This speaks to some larger questions about political corruption. How do you prove it? Maybe the uranium people simply cared deeply about the undeniably good work the foundation is doing, and would have received the help and approvals anyway. In cases like this, though, how does the public maintain its trust? Doing so becomes harder when the money is less visible, which leads to the second question:

2. Did the Clintons meet their disclosure requirements? The Times writes, of the $2.35 million from Telfer’s family foundation, “Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors.” This is one of the more striking details in the story, because it seems so clear-cut that the donation ought to have been disclosed. Moreover, the Times says that the foundation did not explain the lapse. I also asked the foundation to explain its reasoning. The picture one is left with is convoluted and, in the end, more troubling than if the lapse had been a simple oversight. The legalisms can be confusing, so bear with me:?? the Clinton Foundation has several components, including the Clinton Global Initiative and—this is the key one—the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership, formerly known as the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative. The memorandum of understanding makes it clear that the donor-disclosure requirement applies to each part of the foundation.

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