Trump's campaign is highlighting Clinton's State Department work related to Russia
The Trump campaign points to several links between Clinton or her associates and Russia
Donald Trump is pushing back against reports about his campaign chairman’s links to a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine by claiming Hillary Clinton also has ties to Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin.
Trump’s campaign is highlighting a series of connections between Russia and Clinton’s State Department activities, her top campaign allies and her family’s foundation.
“Clinton’s close ties to Putin deserve scrutiny,” the campaign said in the headline of a news release this week.
What Trump’s campaign omitted: Many of its allegations were incomplete – inaccurately citing government reports and comments and ignoring that many of Clinton’s efforts came as part of the Obama administration’s broader efforts to improve ties with Russia. More recently, she and the Obama administration have been extremely critical of Putin. And Russian hackers are suspected of leaking internal Democratic National Committee emails.
There’s also the reality that Trump himself has repeatedly insisted on the campaign trail that Clinton does not, in fact, have close ties to Putin.
“You know she hates Putin and Putin hates her. Right? That’s what I hear,” he said in Green Bay, Wisconsin, this month.
“She has terrible relationships with Putin,” Trump said three days earlier, in Ashburn, Virginia.
The move to accuse Clinton of being too cozy with Russia came after Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was named in an investigation by Ukrainian authorities looking at whether he and others received millions in illegal payments from Ukraine’s former pro-Russian ruling party, according to the Ukrainian National Anti-Corruption Bureau.
On Wednesday, Trump layered over Manafort, adding a new campaign manager as well as Steve Bannon – the far-right Breitbart News executive who co-wrote the “Clinton Cash” documentary based on Peter Schweizer’s book of the same name – in a campaign shake-up.
The Trump campaign points to several links between Clinton or her associates and Russia, though it offers no proof that the actions she took were motivated by donations made to the Clinton Foundation.
“Donald Trump continues to push pro-Putin policies and is trying to deflect from the bombshell news about troubling connections between his team and pro-Kremlin elements in Ukraine by hurling false attacks from the author of the widely-debunked book ‘Clinton Cash,’” Clinton spokesman Josh Schwerin said in an email.
“We have called on Trump to disclose campaign chair Paul Manafort’s and all other campaign employees’ and advisers’ ties to Russian or pro-Kremlin entities, including whether any of Trump’s employees or advisers are currently representing and or being paid by them,” he said. “That call still stands.”
Here’s a look at the claims Trump’s campaign made:
The claim: “Clinton sold out American military technology to Putin as secretary of state in exchange for Russian money for her foundation.”
What we know: In an op-ed published in July by The Wall Street Journal, Schweizer scrutinized Clinton’s efforts to aide a Silicon Valley-style tech city in Russia called Skolkovo.
He argued that Skolkovo was a thinly-veiled effort to help Russia obtain American companies’ secrets – but appears to have incorrectly characterized an Army report and an FBI op-ed in drawing that conclusion.
As part of the Obama administration’s effort to “reset” relations with Russia, Clinton attracted major US companies to Skolkovo. But defense- and weapons-related activities have been among those tech initiatives, Schweizer wrote, citing research that he attributed to the US Army Foreign Military Studies Program – even though the article he cited specifically stated its conclusions were the view of the author and not the US military.
The FBI’s Boston office in 2014 issued a warning to the area’s businesses through an op-ed in the Boston Business Journal written by Lucia Ziobro, assistant special agent at the FBI’s Boston’s office.
“The FBI believes the true motives of the Russian partners, who are often funded by their government, is to gain access to classified, sensitive and emerging technology from the companies,” the op-ed said.
However, Ziobro later told The Boston Globe there was no evidence this had occurred – pointing to concern that had resulted from Chinese firms’ theft of US companies’ intellectual property.
It wasn’t just Clinton who supported the Skolkovo effort. Condoleezza Rice, who was secretary of state under President George W. Bush, took her Stanford University students there in 2011.
Many high-ranking figures in companies tied to Skolkovo have also donated to the Clinton Foundation. Schweizer cited Andrey Vavilov, the chairman of Skolkovo’s nuclear research arm, who donated between $10,000 and $25,000 to the foundation.
Podesta family ties
The claim: “Clinton’s campaign chairman sat on the board of a Skolkovo-based company that received millions from a Putin-connected investment fund.”
What we know: Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, was a member of the board of Skolkovo-based energy company Joule Unlimited – which got an investment of $35 million from Rusnano, an investment firm founded by Putin, just two months after Podesta joined the board.
Podesta’s brother, Tony Podesta, a bundler for Clinton’s presidential campaign, has lobbied for Russia’s Sberbank, which has ties to Putin and his associates, according to the Organized Crime and Reporting Project.
Also worth noting: Sberbank was a sponsor of the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. Trump met with one of the bank’s officials during his trip to Russia for the pageant, the Daily Mail reported.
Uranium One deal
The claim: “Clinton helped push through an agreement giving Russia a controlling stake in a uranium company in exchange for money for the Clinton Foundation.”
What we know: Trump’s campaign was highlighting The New York Times’ 2015 reporting on the sale of a Canadian uranium mining company to Russia’s atomic energy agency Rosatom.
The deal underscored the limits of restrictions put in place by the Obama administration to avoid appearances of conflict between the United States and the Clinton Foundation.
The sale gave Russians control of one-fifth of the uranium production capacity of the United States. Because of that, the deal needed – and received – the approval of a 14-agency panel called The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which includes Clinton’s State Department.
The State Department and other US agencies accepted a subsequent sale of Uranium One after Clinton left the State Department. But what Trump’s campaign focused on was money that flowed from businessmen involved in the deal to the Clintons and their foundation.
As the deal was completed in three transactions from 2009 to 2013, the Canadian chairman of what became Uranium One used his family foundation to pump $2.35 million in donations into the Clinton Foundation.
Bill Clinton, meanwhile, was paid $500,000 to deliver a speech to a Russian investment bank that was promoting Uranium One stock, and was connected to the Kremlin.