John Helmer: Did Hillary Clinton Take Money From Russia Oligarch Oleg Deripaska for a Favor in the General Motors-Opel Deal?

Yves here. This piece is a bit dense, but that goes with the territory of probing connections between Clinton Foundation dealings and Hillary Clinton’s actions as Secretary of State. So I trust you’ll get a cup of coffee.

Some of the issues Helmer highlights include the curious practice of Clinton’s staff members of referring to a pending sale of GM’s Opel operations to a German/Russian consortium as “Magna,” which was the name of a Canadian car parts company owned by a Canadian “of Austrian origin”. Magna made a donation of between $500,000 and $1 million to the Clinton Foundation. Helmer depicts Russian interest as the biggest beneficiaries, but the Germans expected to be winners too. The German government, including Angela Merkel herself, was firmly backing the deal, and German labor unions were keen to see it go through.

Yet Clinton nixed the acquisition. Was as much as $1 million, um, donation,  not enough? As Helmer writes:

That Clinton had trousered the Magna million, and ATF officials had passed assurances to Deripaska [the Russian oligarch behind Magna] through his $40,000 agent, but then failed to deliver, were what Putin meant when he referred to the “vey original culture” of American dealmaking.

Or is it simply that Clinton as a matter of policy was not consistent on delivering on inducements so as to be able to claim that they weren’t quid pro quos, and the Russians were a particularly attractive party to diss?]

By John Helmer, the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to direct his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and an advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. He is the first and only member of a US presidential administration (Jimmy Carter) to establish himself in Russia. Originally published at Dances with Bears

When Hillary Clinton  was US Secretary of State in 2009, she proved she could lie to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel; keep secret her hostility towards Russia even in her secret staff emails; and take money in her back pocket for an $8 billion deal between the US, Germany and Russia recommended by her subordinates. The record, recently revealed in US investigations of Clinton’s emails and donations to the Clinton Foundation, shows why the Kremlin assessment of Clinton is hostile and blunt – Clinton invites and takes bribes, but can’t be relied on to keep her bargains.

The newly disclosed records show that Clinton decided against allowing a bid by Oleg Deripaska (lead, right), then the second of Russia’s auto manufacturers, financed by the Kremlin and the German Government, to buy the Opel car works from General Motors (GM) and become the most powerful carmaker in Europe. Clinton overruled the advice of several of her Department subordinates who were in favour of the Russian Opel bid, including Deputy Secretary of State William Burns (below, left), a former US Ambassador to Moscow. Clinton pitted the State Department against the advice of other US officials on the Auto Task Force (ATF), set up by the White House, the US Treasury and Commerce Department to save General Motors from bankruptcy.

18491

 

Until the fresh Clinton releases, US reports, and the memoir of Steven Rattner (above, right), head of the ATF and coordinator of the GM rescue plan, have kept Deripaska’s role secret.  Rattner’s book doesn’t mention Deripaska at all; he refers to then-prime minister Vladimir Putin and the state Sberbank in passing just once.

Press investigations of millions of dollars of donations by foreigners to the Clinton Foundation have focused on the Ukrainian oligarch, Victor Pinchuk, but never come close to his Russian counterparts. Neither Deripaska nor any other Russian oligarch has been reported, directly or indirectly, as paying the Clinton family for the back-channel connections, policy influence and business advantage which have been documented in many cases.

US newspaper investigation of the takeover by Rosatom, the state nuclear monopoly, of the Canadian uranium miner Uranium One has identified the exchange of cash and favour between Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Canadian mining entrepreneurs Frank Giustra and Ian Telfer, who sold out to the Russians, but there is no trace of Clinton deal-making with the Russian themselves.

Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State between February 2009 and February 2013. Between June 2010 and August 2014, she operated a private email server which was kept secret from the State Department at the time. A total of 30,322 emails have been forced into the open by litigation; they were first compiled for publication in March of 2016 by Wikileaks. A further court-ordered release of 242 pages of the emails was issued by Judicial Watch late last month.

There is no mention of Deripaska and references to Russia are sparse. However, there are significant disclosures on Clinton’s involvement in Deripaska’s bid to buy the Opel car works. In the email indexing and the texts Clinton exchanged with her staff and Department officials, the Opel deal is made to appear as the acquisition of Opel by a Canadian car-parts business called Magna International, owned by by Frank Stronach, a Canadian of Austrian origin.

Russian involvement as the prime mover and beneficiary of the deal was a secret in the secret Clinton emails.

image015 Source: https://wikileaks.org/clinton-emails/?q=opel&mfrom=&mto=&title=&notitle=&date_from=&date_to=&nofrom=&noto=&count=50&sort=0

Huma Abedin, Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, wrote wrote to her on August 22, 2009: “The German government has come out strongly in favor of a bid by Canadian Auto Parts Manufacturer Magna and has financing contingent on acceptance of Magna’s bid. GM [General Motors] has concerns about this offer. [German Foreign Minister Fran-Walter] Steinmeier was an early supporter of Magna’s bid and came out early in the media to show leadership in protecting German jobs. Chancellor Merkel has since co-opted the issue and has thrown the full weight of the German government behind Magna. In May, Steinmeier spoke to you by phone about possible U.S. support for GM and the repercussions for Opel.”
18492 Huma Abedin and Hillary Clinton      Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Angela Merkel

Abedin then rehearsed with Clinton what the latter had decided to say in a planned telephone-call with Steinmeier: “Our government is taking a ‘hands off’ role. Any decision will be made independently by GM, based on commercial considerations. The United States government does not play an active role nor do we have a position on any particular bid.”

This was false. Clinton was lying to Steinmeier. Steinmeier knew it; he had to guess why. Abdedin and Clinton decided not to disclose that Clinton’s objection to the Opel sale was the Russian involvement – that of Putin’s, and of Deripaska’s. Clinton was also hostile to the economic integration of the Russian and German car industries as a threat to US car sales worldwide. Abedin emailed Clinton a copy of a newspaper report from the Dow Jones Berlin bureau, which appeared on August 21. The newspaper said Merkel and Steinmeier favoured the purchase of Opel by the “Austrian-Canadian car parts maker Magna International Inc. (MGA), in a consortium with Russian savings banks OAO Sberbank (SBER.RS), and Belgian private equity firm RHJ International SA (RHJI.BT)”.

Clinton already knew much more, as did all Officials sitting on the ATF. Not least that was because of the activities of Deripaska’s Washington lobbyist, Adam Waldman , and a small firm called Endeavor Group, which he operated at a modest office on K Street in Washington. As Deripaska’s retainer grew, Waldman and Endeavor moved up to premises on Pennsylvania Avenue, across the street from the White House.

According to Endeavor’s website, Deripaska’s retainer was something to be proud about, even boast of at the top of the company’s home page,although Deripaska’s name was kept in the dark. “One of the world’s leading industrialists is interested in both protecting and expanding his global business empire, which extends across Russia, Asia, Africa and North America. Endeavor was engaged to provide general counsel across a range of strategic, legal, regulatory, philanthropic and communications issues, and to facilitate investments, capital raising and merger & acquisition activities across borders. Endeavor acts as a core member of its Client’s holding company executive team, and is the sole representative of its Client’s myriad interests before the U.S. government.”

No mention of Deripaska by name in Endeavor’s selfie didn’t mean the secret could be kept from the US Government. Here’s how Waldman’s hiring started on May 8, 2009, as required for disclosure to the US Department of Justice’s Foreign Agent Registration (FARA) Unit. No contract was signed, though, so no paper needed to be disclosed. Instead, Waldman reported Endeavor had been “engaged at will”. Payments, which began running at $40,000 per month and have risen to almost $70,000 per month, have come from Deripaska through a UK company called Taviner Ltd; a Belize entity called Sea Chaika Corporation, and RTI Ltd., a Jersey company with this unusual record.

Here is how Waldman reported what he was doing for Deripaska:

image023

Days later, when the first press report of the lobbying appeared, Waldman tried to suppress the story and dissemble. Read that story in full.

In May of 2009, Waldman reported he had been lobbying for Deripaska on the Opel deal at a meeting with Rattner of the ATF and Commerce Secretary, Gary Locke:

image0251 Source: https://www.fara.gov/docs/5934-Supplemental-Statement-20091208-1.pdf 

Over several weeks into August, the negotiations of the Russian takeover of Opel modified
the terms of the new Opel shareholding agreed between the German and Russian governments. GM would sell down its share in Opel to 35%; Sberbank would take 27.5%; Magna, 27.5%; and the German carworkers union, the remaining 10%. Deripaska’s GAZ car works and his auto asset holding Russian Machines – although as insolvent at the time as General Motors — were to pay nothing but become the “industrial partner” and Russian producer of Opel cars. For background on the deal as it evolved, read this.

On September 12 Putin, then the prime minister, told a state-financed meeting with US academics called the Valdai Club: “I hope this decision [to purchase Opel from GM] is one of the first steps that will lead us to true integration in the world community.” Deripaska had assured him that GM had agreed to sell, and the ATF approved the terms, because that’s what Waldman had told Deripaska had been agreed in Washington. “GM made the right decision while taking into account the social consequences,” Putin declared.

Two days later, on September 14, Putin told the German newspaper Handelsblatt: “The Russian government, Angela Merkel’s government, and the [German] labor unions worked together intensively. There were close contacts. I myself met with representatives of IG Metall [German labor union] in my residence. Today’s achievement is the result of these efforts by the Russian and German governments, and the German labor unions”.The German government, it seemed to Putin, had agreed to subsidize the deal by providing €1.5 billion ($2.2 billion) in bridge credits and €4.5 billion Euros ($6.6 billion) in credit guarantees.

Catherine Belton, a Financial Times reporter and advertiser for Deripaska, claimedthe deal had been done. It was “a unique opportunity to gain access to much-needed technology for its outmoded car industry and rescue it from the brink of bankruptcy. Sitting on $200bn in oil windfall funds, for once Russia had the financial muscle to help fund the deal, as GM itself teetered towards bankruptcy. Magna meanwhile had pledged to help Opel grow out of the crisis by winning it entry to the Russian market.”

There is no sign of Deripaska, his companies, Waldman, or the Endeavor firm on the lists of donors the Clinton Foundation has released. However, Magna International, Deripaska’s frontman in the deal, is recorded as giving the Clinton Foundation between $500,000 and $1 million.

This week Craig Minassian, spokesman for the Clinton Foundation, refused to confirm whether the Magna money had been given in 2009. He also wouldn’t say whether the Clinton Foundation had received money from associates or advisors of Endeavor. Until Waldman stopped disclosing the firm’s names, they included a former spokesman for Clinton when she was a senator for New York; a former cabinet minister from Bill Clinton’s two terms; and financiers of Clinton political campaigns.

Between September and November of 2009, Clinton quietly led the opposition to the Opel sale. For details from the time, read this. Deripaska himself admitted in a BBC interview in July of 2009 that Clinton and the State Department were a problem. “They try to push me in a corner,” Deripaska said, “maybe believing I would cooperate with them [with information].” He had resisted, Deripaska claimed: “There is a Russian interest I would never go through.” Weeks later, when the US Government veto of the deal had become public, Deripaska was asked if the American attitude towards Russian business abroad “is still ambiguous”. He replied: “Unfortunately, yes. But in the Opel case, the US Department of State’s prejudices are also a problem.”

In 2009 Deripaska was asked to say why his US lobbying campaign for Opel had failed. A spokesman for Basic Element, Deripaska’s Moscow holding, said that questions about cars should go to the auto division of the holding, Russian Machines. From there, spokesman Yekaterina Pankova said her group would not comment on the Opel-Magna transaction. This week she requested an email but added: “the matter took place long ago so there is a little chance to receive an answer.”

On November 5, 2009, immediately after Washington had vetoed the Opel sale, Clinton emailed Philip Gordon , then the assistant secretary of state for Europe. “Will this decision be an issue for us in Germany? Also, I heard a rumor that [US ambassador to Germany] Phil Murphy was called in by Merkel over this? Is that true? See you tomorrow to discuss. Thx.”. Gordon replied: “Merkel is pretty steamed. She did not call in Phil Murphy over this, but he was with her in DC when GM called to break the news. (She did not take the call).”

On November 5 in Moscow Putin told a meeting of government ministers: “The last-minute refusal to complete the Opel deal is not harmful to our interests, but it shows that our American partners have a very original culture when dealing with counterparties. We will have to take into account this style of dealing with partners in the future, though this scornful approach toward partners mainly affects the Europeans, not us. GM did not warn anyone, did not speak to anyone… despite all the agreements reached and documents signed. Well, I think it is a good lesson.”

That Clinton had trousered the Magna million, and ATF officials had passed assurances to Deripaska through his $40,000 agent, but then failed to deliver, were what Putin meant when he referred to the “vey original culture” of American dealmaking.

Putin and Deripaska were furious at Clinton; Waldman is still on Deripaska’s retainer, and the tab has been growing. In Endeavor’s latest report to FARA for the six months to May 31, 2016,Waldman reports receiving $295,384.84 in “fees and expenses” from Deripaska. According to Waldman’s report, he “promoted UC Rusa.l’s business interests; Consulted with UC Rusal on matters related to the global bauxite markets, global forestry initiative, clean aluminium initiative; Chinese metal policy; Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, mining operations in Guinea and Jamaica; Russian ebola vaccine; energy policies… and served as legal counsel to Mr. Deripaska on a broad range of matters.”. The money also appears to be paying the tab for Waldman to advise Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “on political and legal matters as requested, including issues related to diplomatic matters.”

Waldman’s expenses came to $45,493.39, according to the latest report; half of it for travel. No donations to presidential campaigns or political gifts have been identified. Waldman has stopped reporting the names of government officials he has contacted.

In December 2015, Waldman acknowledged that for Deripaska’s fees ($268,397.62 for the second half of the year), he was providing “counsel” on “U.S. sanctions developments”. The same concern for US sanctions threatening Deripaska personally or his companies was reported in Waldman’s June 2015 filing, and in the December 2014 filing.

In his May 2014 report, just weeks after the war in Ukraine had started and Crimea had joined the Russian Federation, Deripaska, according to Waldman, was “investigat[ing] potential joint ventures and other business opportunities in the energy industry in the United States, including biofuel and natural gas.”

The war, US sanctions and Russian counter-sanctions have put a stop to Deripaska’s ideas of investing in the US. But if Waldman’s reports are clearly understood, Deripaska and his companies currently believe they are safe from US sanctions. Deripaska, whose family name originated in Odessa and who has substantial assetsin Ukraine, has told Waldman to drop US sanctions from the Endeavor agenda this year. For details of Deripaska’s business relationship in the Ukraine with another Washington lobbyist, Paul Manafort, read this.

Waldman was asked to clarify why Deripaska’s bid to buy Opel had been rejected by Washington. He did not reply.

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18 comments

    1. PlutoniumKun

      If (and this is a huge if) Clinton does have a serious illness which would preclude her serving a full term in full health, and senior Dems know this – then it is virtually the definition of a coup – they are using her to put in power someone they (not the electorate) will choose. But its still not clear to me that this is the real case – I find it hard to believe that anyone responsible in the establishment would allow that to happen. I think if it is true that she has Parkinsons or something similar, it is being kept secret within a very tight Clinton clique. What I don’t understand is the motivation of insiders to the clique if this is the case. If she died or became completely incapacitated after an election, then Kaine (who I don’t think can be considered a Clinton ‘insider’) would come to power – why would they want that in particular?. Or do they think that she could become a puppet (like the later, dementia crippled Reagan) for a small crew around her?

      The other scenario is that it was always part of the plan – or at least a Plan B – that she would withdraw at a strategic point, whereby someone ‘reliable’ would be drafted in. But that seems incredibly risky from the point of view of the Dem establishment – its hard to see Trump failing to beat a last minute Dem nominee, unless they picked someone very popular (apart from Sanders of course, but they will never allow him near the ticket).

      I’m a great believer in applying Occams Razor whenever there are whispers of conspiracies and so on – yet I really don’t see any explanation for what is going on that is in any way simple or straightforward. All we can say for certain is that Clinton’s team have been dishonest about her health – all else is speculation.

      As for the Automatic Earth article, the problem is that while Clinton is a lousy candidate and a hard sell, she is not (as is anyone) ‘unelectable’. Given the right circumstances and sufficient corruption, anyone can potentially be elected, and the reality is that she is still seemingly marginally ahead in the polls. If the election was tomorrow, she would probably win, despite everything.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          No I didn’t know that (I confess to knowing very little about him). But at the same time, lots of people have ‘contributed’ to the Clinton’s finances, while not being allowed into the inner circle, so I’m not sure it proves anything.

        2. DanB

          I recall reading that Terry Terry McAuliffe, another Clintonite and also from Virginia as is Kaine, helped swing the financing. I also recall -possibly incorrectly- that McAuliffe loaned them money for the downpayment. (Remember that Bill and Hillary were -ha,ha- “flat broke” when they left the White House -but lo and behold they still were able to buy two homes at that time.)

      1. Quanka

        Very thoughtful comments.

        The first thing that comes to mind is that that ClintonClique doesn’t trust anyone outside the inner circle. As such, like PK I find it hard to believe that Senior Dems would be aware of a major HRC health issue. Although admittedly, its not hard to fathom a situation where the Clinton’s let a few people in on such a secret – they probably just made a deal for secrecy, the Clinton’s are pros at that. I also don’t find the ‘Plan B’ to be overly persuasive, although certainly a possibility.

        Yves comments from time to time on human behavior, and this is perhaps a case study.

        It seems clear to me that HRC does have some health problems, most likely directly attributable to the enormous stress she is in (she puts herself in). IMO the most likely explanation is that she was sick at the start, but not deathly so. Maybe she even had a doctor tell her that she was sick, and point out that running for POTUS would worsen the symptoms. So whats a Clinton to do when she gets advice unwanted? Find a new insider, get a new professional opinion. Purely conjecture on my part, but I think HRC was sick and this whole POTUS run is starting to crack the armor. HRC will be the very last person to admit such a scenario.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          Thanks – I do tend towards ‘cock up’ rather than ‘conspiracy’ explanations in most cases. I think the Clinton reflex to secrecy has probably led to this situation of what may be a manageable health issue (in normal circumstances) to blow out of control. She may well be, as Yves suggests, in a Michael Jackson/Prince type situation where private doctors are making things worse by not challenging their patient.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            If Hillary did not run, who would have run? Biden is a clown, so he would give it the old college try and be wheeled off the stage with a month.

            No one else is a celebrity in those early states. Guys like Rahm and Mark Warner would test the waters and they were ignored. They are inconsequential to the left, the aware, and the vapid for different reasons. Quite simply, a random corporate Democrat would not do well well if say a Russ Feingold ran. Bill in 1992 was sane compared to Tsing as and Jerry Brown who might have been the inspiration for Rick Perry, they share MA you positions.

            The Team Blue elites live in a fantasy world where the corner will be turned tomorrow and they will be popular again. They know the environment is bad, a day they know there is a disconnect. Hillary is as large as a sitting President, she can avoid the town halls and questions people ask. No one will get the Obama treatment for some time where he was made into a celebrity. If Hillary is sick, 2020 is an open election where they can jockey for the keep spot when things have assuredly turned around. Team Blue is still operating on blind faith that they will win youth votes because of freedom or something.

            They may not have discussed the situation, but if a leftier Democrat made it, the corporate Dems would be out of the White House until at least 2024 which is too long for many of the current senators to wait.

            1. PhilU

              I could easily see someone like Haim Saban or another squillionaire digging around in the Clinton’s closet and finding at least a dozen skeletons that they would do anything to bury. As soon as said squillionaire found out about the Parkinson’s he went looking for dirt on plausible VP picks, found something on Kaine (why else would anyone pick him) and gave Hillary her marching orders. Obviously no proof on my end but I could easily see this happening. Having a President in your pocket could be very rewarding.

    2. Veri1138

      Did anyone look for a counter-bribe by others interested in scuttling the deal? And with Putin involved, Hillary Clinton has a personal grudge against him. If Putin were talking about the deal and Hillary heard, she’d scuttle the deal on personal grounds.

      Maybe the Russian methods were too direct…

      Looking at the Rosatom-Uranium One deal, the deal stopped at Giustra. Bill Clinton had no problem flying to Russia to give a speech for $500,000 during the Uranium One dealings.

      This deal was directly commented on by Russians, despite the fact of using a Canadian company.

  1. I Have Strange Dreams

    Have they checked Clinton’s lung for a Serbian sniper bullet? Imaginary bullets could cause imaginary infections. The woman seems to live in Cloud Cuckoo Land. I think things are going to get very messy.

  2. John Gilberts

    Another important and excellent piece by John Helmer. Apparently the Clintons also take donations from Canadian oligarchs….

    Canadian Affiliate of Clinton Foundation Defends Expenses
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/canadian-affiliate-charity-of-clinton-foundation-defends-expenses/article30845

    Canadian mining billionaire Frank Giustra has donated more than $31 million US to the foundation. As well the Trudeau government is known to be enthusiastic friends of the Dems. Canada’sTrade Minister Chrystia Freeland, currently championing CETA and TPP, recently stated that Clintonista Larry Summers was a longtime “guru”.

  3. Richard Thompson

    I’m not as surprised ,as many of the commentators seem to be, by the fact that most politicians and government officials are very much involved in financial manipulations between governments. Do we really think that they are more concerned with moral values and doing what is right? As far as the Clinton Foundation is concerned..as I understand it….none of the money goes directly to Bill or Hillary.Right? I’m not sure that I object to leaning on the king of Bahrain to fork over some money… 80% of which goes to fighting infectious diseases in Africa. We really could do worse.This is a far better use of the money than funding lobbyists.I’d like to hear more about the Trump Foundation.From what I’ve been reading,it’s functioning is much less potentially beneficent.I’m not a big Hillary fan….I think she is more of the same.But I do think of her as a lifeboat to the future (not THE future!) and Trump as potentially our Titanic moment.And come on. .dishonesty…..compared to who?

      1. Richard Thompson

        I read the article you cited on opednews.There is a major factual error.It states that 85% of the money (in the Clinton Foundation) goes to salaries ,travel,luxury hotels etc.” The Clinton Foundation raises money and then distributes it directly through services rather than through grants.This is like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Giving grants doesn’t work very well.Both charitywatch and factcheck.org give the Clinton Foundation a 14% overhead estimation which,they say, gives the foundation an A rating.Traveling to “luxury hotel” in Kenya in order to organize the distribution of Polio vaccines could hardly be called a perk as the article implies. The Trump Foundation is not even rated because they hold the money for more than 3 years( or at least until the election got underway). Once again…The Clinton Foundation is separate from Bill and Hillary’s personal assets.They monies are not commingled as most press reports fail to mention.By the way…I was a Bernie supporter.I do think ,however,that Trumps stirring of anger and racial hostility poses a much greater threat to this country that Hillary’s email or the Clinton Foundation

  4. Mick Steers

    Perhaps I’m just missing the point. I’ve no love of Clinton and the other Davos masters of the universe who so brilliantly co-mingle private fortunes and the levers of government. But didn’t the Foundation take some cash and pointedly not close the quid pro quo loop?

Comments are closed.