Epic Humiliation: Politifact Makes 13 Errors in a Single Clinton Cash Fact-Check

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton waves with her Democratic rival Sen. Be

Politifact, in its analysis of the Uranium One/Rosatom/State Department story first reported by the New York Times and based on research from the NYT bestseller Clinton Cash, ignores numerous key facts, conflates opinion for fact, deemphasizes other key facts, makes 13 errors, declares an incomplete donor record as complete, and takes the word of a major Clinton Foundation donor who has a demonstrable record of deceiving media outlets about basic facts in this deal. All of these errors curiously redound to the benefit of Hillary Clinton.

The fact-check article was written by Politifact staff writer Linda Qiu, who took to Twitter and joked about her newly acquired skill for searching SEDAR, Canada’s version of EDGAR for publicly traded companies.

Qiu, in her fact-check, made several factual errors — those inaccuracies and glaring omissions have been laid out below.

Politifact Claim: Politifact uses the opinion of Jeffrey Lewis to suggest that National Security implications of this deal were not serious. “Russia’s purchase of the company ‘had as much of an impact on national security as it would have if they set the money on fire,’ said Lewis. ‘That’s probably why (CFIUS and the NRC) approved it.’”

FACT: Mr. Lewis is entitled to his opinion, but the fact is the ranking members of the House Committees on Foreign Affairs, Armed Services, Financial Services, and Homeland Security wrote a 1,276-word letter expressing their “great concerns” about the deal and asked the Obama Administration to block it. Senator Barrasso of Wyoming, the state in which Uranium One’s flagship US property exists, also wrote the Obama Administration expressing his serious concerns about the deal.

Ms. Qiu also completely ignores the fact that State Department cables highlighted in WikiLeaks and reported in Clinton Cash raised questions and concerns about Russian attempts to corner the world uranium markets, specifically the mines in Kazakhstan involving Uranium One.

How and why did Ms. Qiu ignore these facts? Ms. Qiu substitutes Mr. Lewis’ opinion for these basic facts which are never even mentioned in the piece.

Politifact Claim: “For another, Russia doesn’t have the licenses to export uranium outside the United States, Oilprice.org pointed out, ‘so it’s somewhat disingenuous to say this uranium is now Russia’s, to do with what it pleases.’ The Kremlin was likely more interested in Uranium One’s assets in Kazakhstan, the world’s largest producer.”

FACT: Ms. Qiu ignores the facts presented by the New York Times (an article she cites) which completely contradicts and undermines this statement.  Specifically, that uranium has been exported by Uranium One since the acquisition:

“Asked about that, the commission confirmed that Uranium One has, in fact, shipped yellowcake to Canada even though it does not have an export license.”

Politifact Claim: Only one Clinton Foundation donor [Ian Telfer] was a major shareholder in Uranium One at the time of the State Department review. ”Using SEDAR, Canada’s filing system for public companies, we could only verify one UrAsia shareholder (Ian Telfer) who also owned stocks in Uranium One in 2010 and who chaired its Board of Directors. A New York Times investigation on the topic linked two others to Uranium One… So there’s evidence showing that one man involved with Uranium One (Telfer) donated millions to the Clinton Foundation at the same time as the deal. That certainly doesn’t look good for Hillary Clinton, but it’s a far cry from nine investors funneling $145 million.”

FACT: Clinton Foundation donor Frank Holmes was a shareholder in Uranium One through his fund US Global Investors as late as 2011. See the SEC’s Uranium One disclosure. See also the New York Times reporting on this matter.

Politifact Claim“On the contrary, the donations detailed by author Schweizer occurred at least two years before the deal.”

FACT: Politifact failed to report that ARMZ’s June 2009 purchase of %17 of Uranium One also required a CFIUS review – one that was completed in November 2009. This can be seen on page 16 of Uranium One’s third quarter Management Discussion & Analysis.

Politifact Claim“Russia didn’t get involved until two years later, in June 2009, when its nuclear agency started buying shares in Uranium One. The Kremlin upped its stake in the company from 17 percent to a controlling 51 percent the following year, and assumed total ownership of the company in 2013 (and renamed it to Uranium One Holding).”

FACT: ARMZ, the Rosatom subsidiary that made the three stage Uranium purchase, began discussions in July 2008.

See page 10 of this ARMZ presentation on the history of the ARMZ/Uranium One merger:

These two facts show the following. For nearly two years before the mid-2010 timeframe, both Uranium One’s shareholders and executives, as well as officials at Rosatom/ARMZ, were contemplating and then executing transactions covered by CFIUS. This brings many of the donations and the negotiations and transactions under question within a year of each other.

Politifact Claim: “So there’s evidence showing that one man involved with Uranium One (Telfer) donated millions to the Clinton Foundation at the same time as the deal. That certainly doesn’t look good for Hillary Clinton, but it’s a far cry from nine investors funneling $145 million.”

FACT: As we have seen already the history of negotiations for the Russian purchase of Uranium One extends back to at least July 2008. This purchase was always going to include a CFIUS review because of Uranium One’s U.S. Properties. But Ms Qiu omits another salient and widely reported point to make this claim. Throughout her piece, Ms. Qiu consistently and repeatedly acts as if the Clinton Foundation donation records are complete. This assumption is not only sloppy journalism, but runs completely contrary to the facts, as has been reported by Bloomberg, the Washington Post, and the New York Times.  Indeed, as has been widely reported, we still don’t know from Canadian donors the full amounts and actual names of all the contributors. Specifically, donations from Sergey Kurzin, who is highlighted in the piece, still have not been completely reported by the Clinton Foundation. In fact, Mr. Giustra admitted to Bloomberg that Mr. Kurzin and one of Mr. Kurzin’s companies, Dragon Capital, were undisclosed donors to the Clinton Foundation. Again, these are easily verifiable facts that have been widely reported, are central to Ms. Qiu’s narrative, and yet she completely ignores them.

Politifact Claim:

“Investor” Connection Donation Year
Frank Giustra* UrAsia Energy founder $131.3 million Late 2005 and June 2007
Frank Holmes* Executive at U.S. Global Investors, which held Uranium One shares $250,000 to $500,000 $100,000 in March 2008
Neil Woodyer* Advisor to Uranium One $500,000 March 2008
Robert Disbrow Broker at Haywood Securities, which provided $58 million in capital UrAsia-Uranium One merger, according to Clinton Cash $1 million to $5 million $1 million in 2007
Paul Reynolds* Financial advisor on UrAsia-Uranium One merger $1 million to $5 million $1 million in March 2008
Robert Cross UrAsia shareholder and director $500,000 March 2008
Egizio Bianchini Cohead BMO’s Global Metals and Mining group, underwriter for UrAsia-Uranium One Merger $600,000 March 2008
Sergey Kurzin UrAsia shareholder $1 million March 2008
Ian Telfer** Uranium One chairman $3 million March 2008
Total   $139.15 million to $146.9 million  

FACT: Politifact is confusing commitments to donate with the actual dates of donations.

Politifact Claim: “Third, most of their Clinton Foundation donations occurred before and during Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid, before she could have known she would become secretary of state.”

FACT: The absurdity of this statement boggles the mind. Of course she could not know she would be Secretary of State. She was planning to be president, and her donors had the same expectation. Why these donors would be happier knowing she was Secretary of State than believing she would be president of the United States is a truly bizarre assumption. Ms. Qiu should know that while the State Department must review and sign off on any CFIUS transaction, the president has final authority.

Politifact Claim: Politifact implies that all interested parties in the deal other than Ian Telfer gave money prior to the deal in 2010: “So there’s evidence showing that one man involved with Uranium One (Telfer) donated millions to the Clinton Foundation at the same time as the deal.”

FACT: Renaissance Capital, a company staffed by connected Russian officials, pays Bill for a speech in June 2010.

Renaissance Capital is the very definition of “involved with.” As has been repeatedly reported, Renaissance Capital was pushing Uranium One stock at the time and is closely tied to the Russian government.

Ms. Qiu never even mentions this payment despite the fact that it was reported not only by Clinton Cash but confirmed by the New York Times and the New Yorker.

Clearly, this is more than “one man involved with Uranium One.”

Politifact Claim: One caveat: The New York Times found that Ian Telfer donated between $1.3 million and $5.6 million to the Clinton Foundation during and after the review process for the Russian deal.

FACT: Ian Telfer’s donation was reported in Clinton Cash. Ms. Qiu never mentions the fact that these donations were never reported by the Clinton Foundation. An important fact, given that this story is about the possibility of quid pro quo or conflicts of interest.

Also, this shows a multi-million dollar donor to the Foundation was the head of the company that was bought by Russia. And Hillary’s State Department approved the deal without disclosing the conflict, a fact confirmed by the New York Times.

Politifact Claim: “Furthermore, the bulk of the $145 million comes from Frank Giustra, the founder of UrAsia Energy and a major Clinton Foundation donor. Guistra says he sold all of his stakes in Uranium One in the fall of 2007, ‘at least 18 months before Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State’ and three years before the Russian deal.”

FACT: Ms. Qiu takes Mr. Giustra at his word that he was no longer a shareholder after late-2007. Is he telling the truth? Who knows. But it would seem important for Ms. Qiu to point out that Mr. Giustra has not been honest when asked about the details of this story before. For example, Mr. Giustra denied to New York Times reporters that he had arranged a 2007 meeting between the senior Kazakh nuclear official and Bill Clinton. Only after being presented with a photograph of the meeting did Mr. Giustra admit his role in the meeting.

Politifact Claim: “The State Department’s principal representative on the committee, Jose Hernandez, told Time that Clinton ‘never intervened with me on any CFIUS matter.'”

FACT: Ms. Qiu and her editors are confusing Jose Hernandez with Jose Fernandez. Time Magazine also made this error, but Ms. Qiu apparently went no further than the Time Magazine reference. Had she simply gone to the State Department’s website, this error would have been avoided. Politifact did issue a correction later that Jose Fernandez should have been the name used.

Politifact is uncritically accepting this statement without any due diligence in checking the veracity of this statement. The highly-parsed construct “intervened with me” leaves a wide latitude of possible means by which Mrs. Clinton, her aides, or Clinton Foundation officials could have been involved in this matter.

Politifact Claim“The company in question, Uranium One, does have mines, mills and tracts of land in Wyoming, Utah and other U.S. states equal to about 20 percent of U.S. uranium production capacity. It churns out a smaller portion of actual uranium produced in the United States (11 percent in 2014), according to Oilprice.com.

But that’s less cause for alarm than Trump is suggesting. For one, the United States doesn’t actually produce all that much uranium (about 2 percent in 2015) and is actually a net importer of the chemical, according to Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear nonproliferation expert at Middlebury Institute and former director at the New America Foundation.”

FACT: This graph suggests that access to U.S. Uranium deposits didn’t matter to the Russians – and that the Kazakh mines were most important. No doubt the Kazakh mines were very important, but to dismiss Uranium One’s American assets ignores the Russian strategy.

From the introduction to the interview with Vadim Zhivov:

“Russia’s hunger for uranium is apparently insatiable. In fact, Vadim Zhivov, the director general of ARMZ Uranium Holding Company (ARMZ), AKA Atomredmetzoloto – one of the leaders in the world uranium mining industry – fears that the country might be faced by a deficit of uranium.”

Clearly, the Russians think these purchases are strategic. To the extent U.S. companies aren’t using U.S. Uranium in the world market, and the Russian state owns a major portion of that capacity that gives the Russians leverage in the world market it wouldn’t otherwise have.

Follow Jerome Hudson on Twitter @jeromeehudson


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