Everything You Need to Know About 'Clinton Cash'

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Paper Cuts: A look inside the new book looking to cause trouble for Hillary Clinton. Harper-Collins

There's no two ways about it: Clinton Cash reads like a hatchet job. The forthcoming book purports to show the Clinton family's willingness—eagerness, even—to accept lavish donations and speaking fees from foreign donors at times when—conveniently, the author wants you to know—the State Department was considering whether or not to award big contracts to groups and people affiliated with those donors.

"Given my previous focus on bipartisan self-dealing and corruption, why am I now focused on one couple?" author Peter Schweizer asks in his none-too-subtly titled first chapter, "The Lincoln Bedroom Goes Global."

"Do I simply have it in for Bill and Hillary?” he asks. “Am I somehow trying to derail her prospects of being elected president in 2016?"

Sure looks that way. Clinton Cash reads like a legal brief against a second Clinton presidency. To beg the question (Schweizer's preferred method of argument, or argumentative fallacy, as Aristotle named it), isn't the timing a bit too perfect? Why else would Schweizer publish Clinton Cash, which surely took years of research and writing to prepare, within a month of Hillary Clinton announcing her intention to seek the oval office, unless his goal was to "derail her prospects of being elected president in 2016?"

But just because the book's author, who has written for Breitbart News, is widely considered a right-wing guttersnipe, to adopt the language of Bill O'Reilly, doesn't mean he's wrong.

Well, at least not entirely wrong. He gets various dates and figures wrong, as Clinton's juggernaut communications machine and others began to point out almost immediately after The New York Times published the first of its Schweizer-inspired stories. The Clinton campaign and various media outlets have poked holes in some of Schweizer's research. Mostly, though, it raises intriguing questions without ever really convicting.

Among the big claims in Clinton Cash: In Chapter two, titled "The Transfer: Bill's Excellent Kazakh Adventure," Schweizer writes Canadian mining magnate Frank Giustra plied Bill Clinton with plush fees for speaking engagements and gave the former president access to his private jet at the same time that Clinton's wife, then a senator, allegedly "pressured Kazakh officials" to grant Giustra's company, UrAsia Energy, mining rights in Kazakhstan. When the deal stalled on the Kazakh end, Schweizer writes, Hillary canceled a meeting with Kazakh prime minister Karim Massimov, according to Mukhtar Dzhakishev, then president of Kazatomprom, Kazakhstan's nuclear energy agency. The implication, according to Dzhakishev, was that Hillary, and her influence, were being held back until the deal went through. But, other than Dzhakishev's assertion, there's no proof. Were there other reasons Hillary canceled the meeting? Did Bill's speaking fees and use of Giustra's private jet influence Hillary's thinking? Disparate facts are treated like a logical series of events—a classic case of post hoc ergo propter hoc, Latin for "after this, therefore because of this," another argumentative fallacy.

Schweizer’s style is on display in the first press story to emerge from the book. It appeared in The New York Times, which got early access to Clinton Cash and tasked reporters with investigating Schweizer's claims. In the book, Schweizer alleges that Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state, approved a deal for Russia's nuclear energy agency, Rosatom, to buy Uranium One, which Giustra controlled after UrAsia merged with Uranium One in 2007. The deal, which, according to the Times "gave the Russians control of one-fifth of all uranium production capacity in the United States," required State Department sign-off because uranium, used in the construction of nuclear weapons, is considered a strategic resource.

Schweizer writes that Clinton could have "vetoed" the deal, an assertion the candidate's camp rightly denies: At the time, Clinton sat on the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS), an interagency group, which according to FactCheck.org "is required by law to investigate all U.S. transactions that involve a company owned or controlled by a foreign government." While CFIUS did indeed review the Uranium One sale, Clinton did not have "veto" power—any one of the nine voting members of the committee can object to a deal, but the president has final say.

Asked by FactCheck to explain, Schweizer said "he meant that Clinton could have forced the issue to the president’s desk."

But if eight other department and agency officials were OK with the deal—not to mention the president—why the implication that Clinton was somehow bought?

The book contains many more lurid examples of Bill and Hillary doing things that look bad—from Bill taking juicy speaking fees from a major investor in the Keystone XL pipeline while Hillary's state department reviewed the pipeline deal, to the Clinton Foundation accepting donations from a Swedish mining investor who more or less financed a coup in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

None of these actions are illegal. And it’s not even clear if they’re related. The rooster doesn’t cause the sun to rise, but this is the thrust of Schweizer's argument. He never proves any laws were broken—in fact, he practically begins the book by hedging his accusations: "I realize how shocking these allegations may appear. Are these activities illegal? That's not for me to say. I'm not a lawyer."

Indeed not. Nor are the vast majority of American voters. And this fact is what Schweizer is counting on, presumably, because, while he points out many instances of Hillary and Bill Clinton doing things that look bad, he doesn't include any instances that rise to lawbreaking.

"Even if nothing illegal occurred," Schweizer writes, "one has to wonder about the political judgment involved." A very fair point. Clinton put herself in any number of compromising positions over the years. But throwing up a bunch of dots and not connecting them isn’t great judgment either.