NEW YORK — Jonathan M. Winer, the Obama State Department official who acknowledged regularly interfacing and exchanging information with the author of the largely discredited 35-page anti-Trump dossier, headed a firm that helped the company owned by the United Arab Emirates government in its controversial failed bid to take over some terminal operations at major American ports.
The events known as the Dubai Ports World controversy saw DP World, the holding company owned by the United Arab Emirates, face backlash when their attempted ports takeover prompted an American national security debate in 2006. DP World hired Winer’s company to help them purchase Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation, which had the contract to operate some of America’s biggest ports.
Involvement in the deal represents another possible link between Winer and the Clintons. Breitbart News first reported that Winer served as senior vice president of another firm that did extensive pro bono work for the Clinton Global Initiative. Breitbart News also first reported that the firm where Winer worked in a senior capacity lobbied for the U.S. subsidiary of a Russian state company that purchased a controlling stake in Uranium One, the Canadian uranium mining company with operations in the U.S. The purchase was approved by the Obama administration in a decision that is currently being probed by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
In the Dubai ports scandal, Hillary Clinton, then a New York senator, vigorously attacked then-President George W. Bush for supporting the ports deal. This while her husband Bill Clinton was reportedly strategizing with Dubai on how to save the deal and temper domestic opposition. Clinton also reportedly attempted to broker a gig for his former White House press secretary, Joe Lockhart, to serve as spokesperson for DP World at the height of the scandal.
The Clintons have deep financial ties to the UAE. Bill Clinton gave speeches in Dubai in 2002 and 2005, reportedly for $300,000 each. Some reports said Clinton earned $1,175,000 for speeches in the UAE. The UAE contributed to the Clinton Presidential Library, and is listed as a donor to the Clinton Foundation in the $1 million to $5 million range. Separately, the UAE is listed as having pledged funds for a $50 million Clinton Foundation “commitment to action” plan to “establish a new biomedical center” called Abu Dhabi Bio City.
Winer, Sidney Blumenthal and the dossier
After his name surfaced in news media reports related to probes by House Republicans into the dossier, Winer authored a Washington Post oped in which he conceded that while he was working at the State Department he exchanged documents and information with dossier author and former British spy Christopher Steele.
Winer further acknowledged that while at the State Department, he shared anti-Trump material with Steele passed to him by longtime Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal, whom Winer described as an “old friend.” Winer wrote that the material from Blumenthal – which Winer in turn gave to Steele – originated with Cody Shearer, who is a controversial figure long tied to various Clinton scandals.
Steele was commissioned to produce the dossier by the Fusion GPS opposition research firm, which was paid for its anti-Trump work by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
The Steele dossier was reportedly utilized by the FBI in part to conduct its probe into Trump over unsubstantiated claims of collusion with Russia. According to House Intelligence Committee documents, the questionable dossier was also used by Obama administration officials to obtain a FISA warrant to conduct surveillance on Carter Page, who briefly served as a volunteer foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign. The political origins of the dossier and issues relating to Steele’s credibility as a source were kept from the FISA court, a House Republican memo documents.
Winer and the Dubai ports deal
The Bush administration initially approved the deal, which would have seen the Dubai-owned DP World lease the management of port operations in some of America’s busiest sea terminals, including in New York, Newark, Baltimore and Miami. This after DP World outbid other firms to purchase British-based Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation, or P&O, which already had the contracts to manage those ports. The issue exploded into domestic controversy due to national security concerns regarding the prospects of a foreign-owned company overseeing ports where a large volume of cargo enters the United States, with many of incoming containers not subject to inspection.
President Bush defended the deal and even threatened to veto any legislation attempting to block the transaction, pitting the White House against some Republicans and Democrats who opposed the port operations lease. “It would send a terrible signal to friends and allies not to let this transaction go through,” Bush said at the time.
Winer at the time was a partner at the law firm of Alston & Bird, which was hired in 2005 by DP World to help it purchase P&O.
Winer’s name and signature were on Alston & Bird’s application for two of its employees to register as lobbyists on behalf of DP World.
Hillary Clinton took a lead role in publicly opposing the deal. “In a post-9/11 world, we cannot afford to surrender our port operations to foreign governments,” Clinton said. “Port security is national security and national security is port security.”
At the same time, Bill Clinton was reportedly huddling with Dubai to help them save the deal. The Financial Times broke the story on Clinton’s behind-the-scenes efforts, getting a comment from his spokesperson admitting that he advised Dubai’s leaders to, as the newspaper characterized it, “propose a 45-day delay to allow for an intensive investigation of the acquisition.” The delay was meant to soothe opposition to the deal. The suggestion came in a phone conversation with Dubai officials.
Hillary Clinton supported the 45-day delay to allow time for an investigation. She denied talking with her husband about his conversation with UAE officials where he reportedly proposed the delay.
Robert D. Novak, writing in the Washington Post, reported that while Hillary Clinton was opposing the deal, Bill Clinton was not only busy advising Dubai on the transaction, but also was “pushing for one of his favorite White House aides to be hired to defend the deal.”
The former president proposed to the United Arab Emirates his onetime press secretary Joe Lockhart, as Washington spokesman for the UAE-owned company, Dubai Ports World.
According to well-placed UAE sources, the former president made the suggestion at the very highest level of the oil-rich state. His relationship with the UAE is far from casual. The sheikdom has contributed to the Clinton presidential library and brought Clinton to Dubai in 2002 and 2005 for highly paid speeches (reportedly $300,000 each). He was there in 2003 to announce a scholarship program for American students traveling to Dubai.
Lockhart did not flatly deny to me that Clinton had made a pitch for him; instead he said he did not know whether the former president was involved. Lockhart said he was recommended by another Clintonite: Carol Browner, the former Environmental Protection Agency chief who is now a principal in the Albright Group lobbying firm. The company, headed by former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, is representing DP World. Lockhart told me “money was not the problem” as he turned down the offer.
Eventually, the deal fell apart and DP World announced it was withdrawing and instead transferring the port leases to an American company.
Winer was exec at lobbying firm for Russians who bought Uranium One
The failed Dubai ports deal is not Winer’s only tie to controversial deals that have U.S. national security considerations. He also served as senior vice president of a firm that did lobbying work for Tenex, the U.S. subsidiary of Rosatom, the Russian state corporation headquartered in Moscow that purchased a controlling stake in Uranium One.
In a statement to Breitbart News, APCO Worldwide, where Winer served as senior vice president from 2008 to 2013, denied that the firm’s work for Rosatom’s subsidiary Tenex was related to the purchase of Uranium One or to the acquisition of uranium in general. Instead, APCO said its work for Tenex, which took place in 2010 and 2011, focused on sales of fuel to the U.S. energy market. APCO also denied that Winer did any work related to Tenex.
A contract previously obtained by Circa shows that from 2010 to 2011, APCO was paid roughly $3 million by Tenex, the U.S. subsidiary of Rosatom.
Circa reported that it saw the contract between Tenex and APCO, which agreed that the “total fee is comprised of the fixed quarterly fee which shall be $750,000 per each of the four three-month periods of rendering Services here under during the validity period of this contract, including the 18 percent Russian VAT payable in the territory of the Russian Federation.”
Asked to clarify its work for Tenex, APCO last month sent Breitbart News a statement that “as clearly reported in APCO’s public filings from 2010 and 2011, available to anyone online, APCO’s work for Tenex focused entirely on the company’s interest in continuing sales of fuel to the U.S. energy market.”
“At the time, Tenex provided half of the fuel used by U.S. nuclear energy producers under a Bush administration program,” the APCO statement continued. “Any claim that APCO was involved in the Uranium One transaction or any related CIFIUS matter is completely false.”
As Breitbart News reported, in addition to its work for Tenex, APCO did extensive pro bono work for the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) from 2007 until 2016.
APCO Worldwide recently faced controversy when The Hill reported that paid FBI informant Douglas Campbell, who infiltrated the Russian nuclear business world, claimed to three separate congressional committees in a written statement that Russia hired APCO to influence the Obama administration, singling out Hillary Clinton.
Campbell claimed he was told by Russian nuclear executives that there was a connection between APCO’s CGI volunteer efforts and work that APCO did for Tenex.
In a statement to Breitbart News, APCO Worldwide strongly denied that its work for CGI was in any way related to work the firm did for Tenex. The statement added that “Winer had no involvement on any matters related to Tenex or the Clinton Global Initiative. In fact, the four senior staff on the Tenex project included two former Bush administration officials and a former staff member for a Republican member of the Senate.”
“APCO’s pro bono work for the Clinton Global Initiative is a matter of public record as part of our giving commitment reported to the UN Global Compact,” the statement added. “This volunteer work began in 2007, three years before any discussion with Tenex, and continued until 2016, five years after the Tenex engagement ended. These engagements were unrelated and any suggestion that they were connected is a deliberate falsehood. APCO’s work on each of these projects was transparent, publicly documented and entirely proper.”
Campbell, the FBI informant, however, claimed that Russian nuclear officials “told me at various times that they expected APCO to apply a portion of the $3 million annual lobbying fee it was receiving from the Russians to provide in-kind support for the Clintons’ Global Initiative.
“The contract called for four payments of $750,000 over twelve months. APCO was expected to give assistance free of charge to the Clinton Global Initiative as part of their effort to create a favorable environment to ensure the Obama administration made affirmative decisions on everything from Uranium One to the U.S.-Russia Civilian Nuclear Cooperation agreement.”
In a separate statement on the matter to Circa last October, APCO Worldwide Inc. stated, “APCO was not involved in any aspect of Uranium One.”
‘Creepy Clinton Confidante’
Winer, meanwhile, served under Bill Clinton’s administration as the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for international law enforcement. He wrote in his recent Washington Post oped that he rejoined the State Department in 2013 at the insistence of John Kerry. “In 2013, I returned to the State Department at the request of Secretary of State John F. Kerry, whom I had previously served as Senate counsel,” he wrote.
In the Post piece, Winer related that while he was at the State Department, he repeatedly passed documents from Steele related to Russia to State officials, including to Victoria Nuland, a career diplomat who worked under the Clintons and served as assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs under Kerry. “Over the next two years, I shared more than 100 of Steele’s reports with the Russia experts at the State Department, who continued to find them useful,” he wrote.
Winer wrote that in the summer of 2016, Steele “told me that he had learned of disturbing information regarding possible ties between Donald Trump, his campaign and senior Russian officials.”
Winer says that he met with Steele in September 2016 to discuss details that would later become known as the anti-Trump dossier. Winer wrote that he prepared a two-page summary of Steele’s information and “shared it with Nuland, who indicated that, like me, she felt that the secretary of state needed to be made aware of this material.”
Besides bringing Steele’s dossier information to the State Department, Winer conceded that he also passed information from Blumenthal to Steele, specifically charges about Trump that originated with Shearer.
Winer described what he claimed was the evolution of his contacts with Blumenthal regarding Shearer’s information:
In late September, I spoke with an old friend, Sidney Blumenthal, whom I met 30 years ago when I was investigating the Iran-Contra affair for then-Sen. Kerry and Blumenthal was a reporter at the Post. At the time, Russian hacking was at the front and center in the 2016 presidential campaign. The emails of Blumenthal, who had a long association with Bill and Hillary Clinton, had been hacked in 2013 through a Russian server.
While talking about that hacking, Blumenthal and I discussed Steele’s reports. He showed me notes gathered by a journalist I did not know, Cody Shearer, that alleged the Russians had compromising information on Trump of a sexual and financial nature.
What struck me was how some of the material echoed Steele’s but appeared to involve different sources.
Shearer has numerous close personal and family connections to the Clintons and has reportedly been involved in numerous antics tied to them. National Review previously dubbed Shearer a “Creepy Clinton Confidante” and “The Strangest Character in Hillary’s Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy.”
In his Washington Post oped, Winer does not say whether he knew at the time he interfaced with Steele that the ex-British spy was working for Fusion GPS, or that Fusion was being paid by the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign via the Perkins Coie law firm.
In the Post piece, Winer also failed to mention his work for APCO as well as the firm’s ties to the Clinton Global Initiative and to the company whose parent purchased Uranium One.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.
Joshua Klein contributed research to this article.