Diary

Another Look at UraniumOne, Part 3: The "Investigation"

(AP Photo/Nicholas K. Geranios, File)

In part 1, I outlined the genesis of the UraniumOne deal.  In part 2 of this series, I examined the corruption investigation by the FBI into Vadim Milkerin and Tenex, a subsidiary of Rosatom- Russia’s atomic energy giant.

In May 2010, Bill Clinton informed the State Department that he wanted to meet while in Russia for a $500,000 speech with Arkady Dvorkovich who was a key adviser to the Kremlin and a board member of Rosatom.  It is not known if the meeting was approved or if it took place as Clinton secured a meeting with someone more important- Putin himself.  Aids to both Clintons assure us that Rosatom and Uranium One never came up in that meeting.  Meanwhile, there was some concern in Congress about the deal since Rosatom had helped Iran build the Bushehr nuclear facility.  A bill advanced in the House disapproving of the Obama administration’s attempt to resurrect the Bush nuclear agreement with Russia.

The FBI had built up a very credible case against Milkerin and Rosatom by mid-May 2010 based on the reports from CS-1.  To reveal these findings now would upset the Rosatom-Uranium One deal and likely lead to Congressional action to block it.  It would also likely end the reset initiative in which the Obama administration had invested so heavily.  As a policy towards Iran was developing in the State Department and through the Obama administration, Russia was seen as being a key cooperative ally in negotiating a deal with Iran.  Hence, the FBI investigation had to be kept quiet and we do not know if Mueller or Rosenstein even raised the issue with the CFIUS.  It does not appear likely or if it had, it would have gone through Eric Holder, but it appears he either was not briefed, or if briefed withheld the information from the CFIUS for some reason.  We know Clinton could not have since she apparently handed the ball off to Jose Fernandez.  Regardless, in October 2010, the CFIUS gave its blessing to the deal.

Even though the FBI had the goods on Milkerin by mid-May 2010, they allowed the racketeering scheme to continue until the summer of 2014 when Milkerin and his associates were arrested.  This brings in the question of timing.  Why the summer of 2014 and not sooner?  Geopolitics is the reason.

In March 2014, Putin annexed the Crimea.  He followed this up by amassing a military force on Russia’s border with Ukraine and was coordinating and conducting attacks in the Donetsk region, eventually capturing some territory.  The Clinton/Obama Russian reset was dead.  Further, the arrest and prosecution had been delayed for some reason so that the 5-year statute of limitations was about to expire for transactions in 2009.  Still, a lid had to be kept on the case.  It would have been a mortal blow to the Obama administration, but more importantly to Hillary’s 2016 presidential aspirations.  Prosecuting a national security case in order to protect Rosatom’s purchase of Uranium One and, by extension, 20% of American uranium reserves, whether in the ground or not, would have resulted in scandal.

The Obama administration needed the case to go away quietly.  This was a major case of Russian racketeering in the American energy sector yet the arrests were announced with little fanfare.  Usually, the FBI and DOJ hold major press conferences to announce such arrests, but not this time.  Just before Labor Day 2015, plea deals were completed and sentences were to start sometime around Christmas.  Milkerin was arrested on a complaint describing a racketeering enterprise that stretched back to 2004 and included extortion, fraud, bribery and money laundering.  Yet he pleaded guilty to a single count of money laundering.

Even that is false.  Section 1956 of the Federal Penal Code carries a maximum penalty of up to 20 years not only for conspiracy, but for each act of money laundering.  Instead, he was prosecuted and pleaded guilty under Section 371- a catch-all offense for any conspiratorial act against the United States.  That section carries a maximum penalty of zero to five years.  Justice Department guidelines state that when Section 156 involves serious crimes (which it lists as money laundering, racketeering, narcotics traffic, etc.) it steer clear of Section 371 prosecutions exclusively.  Specifically, Section 371 is for less serious conspiracy cases.  To do otherwise, according to those guidelines, would subvert the intent of Congress in granting larger sentences for the more serious enumerated crimes.

But, that is exactly what Rosenstein did in this case.  Hence, there were no RICO charges, no extortion, no fraud charges.  Further, the plea agreement spared any mention of Milkerin’s actions in 2009 or 2010 before the CFIUS approved the Rosatom-Uranium One deal.  Milkerin just had to plead guilty to the conspiracy charge insulating him from the more serious money laundering charges.  Milkerin received a four-year sentence for a national security crime.  Presented with the deal, he signed it and waived his right to appeal the sentence thus sparing the Obama administration a full airing of the facts.  The deal was worked out by the Fraud Division of the DOJ run at that time by Andrew Weissman.  He was a very close associate of Robert Mueller and would later be a key investigator in the Trump-Russian collusion investigation.

Still, there was one more problem that needed to be taken care of- CS-1, the lobbyist who alerted the FBI in 2009 to Milkerin.  With Milkerin headed off to jail, CS-1 was transforming into a whistleblower.  According to his lawyer, he wanted to inform Congress of the investigation, when he knew it, when he told the FBI and the full extent of it.  He also wanted to tell Congress of the conversations he had with Milkerin and his associates regarding their desire to get close to Bill and Hillary Clinton.  That problem was addressed however by the DOJ and FBI, now under the command of James Comey.  The FBI induced CS-1 to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and warned him about disclosures even to Congress.  CS-1 was not happy and had incurred financial losses and the only way to recoup those losses was through a civil suit against the FBI.  However, the DOJ intervened and threatened CS-1 with prosecution for violating the NDA if he went through with the civil suit.  

Again, for whatever reason, we see a circling of the wagons around Hillary Clinton.  The fact checkers can split rhetorical hairs and introduce nuance forever, but there are some serious questions involved in this entire episode.  Many of the key players in this part of the saga- first Muller and then Comey at the FBI, Holder and then Lynch at the DOJ, Clinton at State and Weismann and Rosenstein as prosecutors- have never fully explained their role in this other than to dismiss it as conspiracy theory.  This is a common theme whenever scandal starts to approach Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, or the Clinton Foundation.  Many of these fact checkers note that the Giustra donations to the Clinton Foundation were made before the Uranium One deal.  That is clearly false since although the first big payment was made in 2004 or 2005, Giustra pledged an additional $100 million over ten years which would have ended in 2014-2015. 

As part of Clinton becoming Secretary of State, she worked out a deal with the Obama administration regarding the Clinton Foundation and foreign sources of donations where they would be disclosed to ensure there was no pending business before the State Department with any donor or their entities.  Initially, donations from Giustra were simply not listed and when they became public, Bill Clinton explained that the payments were made to a joint venture between a Giustra philanthropic organization in Canada and the Clinton Foundation and, therefore, the donations did not violate the agreement since, although associated with the Clinton Foundation very closely, it was a Canadian organization and did not need to be disclosed.  Given the byzantine organization of the Clinton Foundation, this is how it usually operates.

Next: The confidential informant revealed