The Podesta e-mails indicate a close relationship between Hillary Clinton’s campaign team and Jose Fernandez, a key figure in the approval process of the controversial Uranium One sale.
After The New York Times obtained transcripts of “Clinton Cash” early in 2015, it sought clarification from Fernandez as to whether Secretary of State Clinton had tried to influence his decision on Uranium One, as the book alleged.
Fernandez said he had not — though WikiLeaks records show he was in contact with Clinton campaign manager John Podesta, to whom he pledged his loyalty to Clinton and from whom he received a position on the board of the liberal Center for American Progress.
As the secretary of state’s representative on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, Fernandez was key to approving the Uranium One deal with a Russian government-mining company named ARMZ Uranium Holding. The firm now controls one-fifth of uranium production in the U.S.
Access to a strategic resource like uranium — which can be used to produce nuclear weapons — put the sale under the microscope of CFIUS, which represents a conglomeration of government agencies like Treasury, Defense, Homeland Security, Commerce and Energy.
ARMZ, which is a subsidiary of Russia’s state atomic energy company, Rosatom, passed inspection.
According to “Clinton Cash,” Uranium One directors, including Ian Telfer, the president of the corporation, had donated millions of dollars into the coffers of the Clinton Foundations. A Clinton connection was suggested and seemed plausible.
But the accusation was quickly countered by Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon, who described suggestions that Clinton had influenced the sale as “baseless.”
Fallon went further. In correspondence with The New York Times on Apr. 22, 2015, he wrote:
“Apart from the fact that the State Department was one of just nine agencies involved in CFIUS, it is also true that within the State Department, the CFIUS approval process historically does not trigger the personal involvement of the Secretary of State. The State Department’s principal representative to CFIUS was the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs. During the time period in question, that position was held by Jose Fernandez. As you are aware, Mr. Fernandez has personally attested that ‘Secretary Clinton never intervened with me on any CFIUS matter.’”
But on April 17, 2015, just five days before Fallon sent his denial to The New York Times with Fernandez’s disclaimer, Podesta was in contact with Fernandez by phone.
Fernandez responded by enthusiastically declaring his loyalty to Hillary Clinton and his desire to do so in the future:
“John, It was good to talk to you this afternoon, and I appreciate your taking the time to call. As I mentioned, I would like to do all I can to support Secretary Clinton, and would welcome your advice and help in steering me to the right persons in the campaign.”
If Fernandez was not exactly an impartial observer, given his explicitly stated desire to assist in Clinton’s campaign, he was also connected to Podesta in another significant way – through membership on the board of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think-tank with close ties to the Clintons. John Podesta founded the organization.
In an e-mail on March 29, 2015, Fernandez attributed his recent good fortune to Podesta’s intervention:
“Hi John, I trust you are getting a brief rest after a job well done. Thanks no doubt to your recommendation I have joined the CAP [Center for American Progress] board of trustees, which I’m finding extremely rewarding.”
Fernandez accepted the new responsibility just before he “personally attested” that Clinton had not influenced his decision on Uranium One.
Neither the Clinton campaign, John Podesta nor Jose Fernandez responded to requests for comment on this story.