Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney joined me on the program today to discuss this story from The New York Times about the Clintons’ friends in the uranium business.
HH: Pleased to welcome back to the program former Massachusetts Governor and 2012 Republican nominee for president, Mitt Romney. Governor Romney, always a pleasure, welcome back.
MR: Thank you. It’s good to be with you, Hugh.
HH: Governor Romney, I know you’ve had a chance to read, I assume you’ve had a chance to read the Jo Becker/Mike McIntire New York Times piece today about the cash flowing into the Clinton Foundation from the Russians as they got control of Uranium One. What’s your reaction to this story?
MR: You know, I’ve got to tell you, I was stunned by it. I mean, it looks like bribery. I mean, there is every appearance that Hillary Clinton was bribed to grease the sale of, what, 20% of America’s uranium production to Russia, and then it was covered up by lying about a meeting at her home with the principals, and by erasing emails. And you know, I presume we might know for sure whether there was or was not bribery if she hadn’t wiped out thousands of emails. But this is a very, very serious series of facts, and it looks like bribery.
HH: I just asked Senator Lindsey Graham last hour if they would hold hearings into the donors to the Clinton Family Foundation, because if the Russians can give them that much money, is it possible the Iranians have as well, Governor Romney?
MR: Well, we don’t know who gave money, and the IRS apparently is making it known that the filings of the Clinton Foundation did not include the fact that foreign governments were making contributions. And they had misstated their filings over the past several years. This is obviously a very troubling setting. But even what we do know, based on what was written by the New York Times, and is being reported by Fox and others, it has every earmark of bribery. And this is from the office of Secretary of State. This is a very troubling set of facts, and clearly, there’s got to be some kind of investigation to find out what the truth is here, because around the world, people are going to look at Hillary Clinton, a potential candidate for president, a former Secretary of State, and say gosh, is this a person who could be trusted? And I think the American people are asking that question as well.
HH: Now Governor Romney, Brian Fallon, a spokesperson for Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign, said, “No one has produced a shred of evidence supporting the theory that Hillary Clinton ever took action as Secretary of State to support the interests of donors to the Clinton Foundation. To suggest the State Department under then-Secretary Clinton exerted undue influence in the U.S. government’s review of the sale of Uranium One is utterly baseless.” Is that a sufficient response?
MR: Well, it’s blah, blah, blah. The story that came from the New York Times is pretty straightforward, which is that millions upon millions of dollars were given to the Clinton Foundation at the same time by a group of people who had uranium assets, and shortly thereafter, these people came to the State Department for approval to be able to sell these assets to Russia for a huge price tag. And those are the facts. And if those things are connected, as they certainly seem to be, it’s a form of bribery. And that’s what it appears to be, and that is of course what’s going to have to be delved into, and I’m afraid this is a, this is bigger than just her presidential campaign. I mean, this is a question about whether or not the United States Secretary of State was bribed to grease the sale of strategic assets to Russia.
HH: We also have to look at…
MR: This is a serious potential setting.
HH: Yeah, we have to look at Paragraph 8 of the story. “Shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One,” the New York Times reports, “Mr. Clinton received a half million dollars for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that were promoting Uranium One stock.” Then very deep in the story, it says, “The $500,000 dollar fee was paid by Renaissance Capital, a Russian investment bank with ties to the Kremlin.” Now you were an investment banker, Governor Romney, before you went into politics, before you rescued the Olympics. Were you in the habit of paying people a half million dollars to speak at your conferences?
MR: No, we’re a little more jealous with the receipts of our funds to do that. But again, I mean, this is money, we say it’s going to Bill Clinton, but this is going to Bill and Hillary, because obviously, they are a married couple. Their assets are comingled. This is the same thing as if a half a million dollars went to Hillary Clinton. And as Secretary of State, you just can’t have foreign governments or groups that are associated with foreign governments, or fronts for foreign governments, giving money to the United States Secretary of State. This, you know, her responsibility as Secretary of State is the centerpiece of her presidential campaign. And at best, it’s an ethical morass. That’s at best.
HH: Do you think she’ll withdraw? Do you think this is a campaign killer?
MR: You know, we’re going to see what the facts say. And what comes out, I think there are going to have to be, there’s going to have to be an investigation. But I think the Democrats are going to want to have someone who can be trusted by the American people, and someone who is not embroiled in what appears to be a form of bribery.
HH: Now I don’t know if you knew Senator Warren from your days in Massachusetts, Governor Romney. But at this point, doesn’t she have to be rethinking? Don’t all Democrats have to be rethinking the viability of Team Clinton?
MR: Well, I think anybody who is in the Democratic Party has got to say is she the right person to go forward. This is, this keeps happening. It’s always something with the Clintons. And this is a lot worse than anyone had expected. There’s going to be more in this story. There are going to be more settings where we’re going to find out about donations to the Clinton Foundation. And by the way, this Clinton Foundation really promotes the prestige and influence of Hillary and Bill Clinton around the world. It’s, people say well, it’s not going into their pockets. Well, it’s effectively the same thing, because it allows them to do what they want to do around the world. And I think this is going to be a real problem for her, and I think you’re right. I think people are going to rethink this race on the Democratic side, and as for Elizabeth Warren, boy, I sure hope it’s not her. Let me tell you, but there may be some others who are more palatable.
HH: Now Governor Romney, in the 2012 campaign, you warned about Vladimir Putin, and President Obama mocked you, said the 80s called, they wanted their foreign policy back. We’ve now seen the Crimea and Ukraine. But were you aware, was your campaign aware at the time of this Uranium One deal and of this cash flowing in, because Hillary Clinton promised transparency. She didn’t deliver it. The New York Times said that in the story. But was your team aware that they were essentially renting the Clintons for Uranium One purposes in Moscow?
MR: You know, we were not aware of the Uranium One deal. I wish we would have been. That would have had an influence on the election, potentially. But we didn’t know about it. One thing we knew, however, was that the foreign policy that Hillary Clinton, that Barack Obama has structured, was seriously flawed, that they misunderstood geopolitics and what was happening in the world. And as a result, Hillary Clinton presses a reset button with Russia, and basically the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton give Russia what they want, which is removal of our missile defense system from Central Europe. One thing after the other, apparently, they give to Russia. And it was such an extraordinary lack of foresight and judgment that we’re now suffering the consequences not only as Americans, but as people around the world as Russia has exerted its strong bear arm over Ukraine.
HH: Now I want to ask specifically about the Clinton server and email erasure. You mentioned it earlier. Do you suppose, Governor Romney, if they hadn’t been erased, we would find Uranium One in the subject line of one of those emails?
MR: Absolutely. What you would anticipate is that if we had the thousands upon thousands of emails, is we’d find out whether there was a connection between actions taken by the Secretary of State and contributions to the Foundation, as well as speaking fees. We might not just find about Uranium One, but also other entities that contributed to the Foundation. This thing is, I mean, it really, it just stinks to high Heaven. And it’s so inappropriate for a Secretary of State to come anywhere near this kind of thing. And that’s what’s so frustrating to watch, is that Hillary Clinton is an accomplished person. She understood what was, her future might entail, and yet, you know, for the sake of making millions upon millions of dollars, I mean, now they’re worth over $100 million dollars. She left the White House, she said, bankrupt. This accumulation of wealth based upon, to a certain degree, her status as Secretary of State, is a very ugly setting.
HH: Now the tax returns of the Clinton Family Foundation, you were pressed for the release of your tax returns. It was an issue in the 2012 campaign. Should they be releasing all of the Clinton Foundation tax returns for the years that she was the Secretary of State, as well as their personal returns?
MR: Well, no question if she runs for president, Bill and Hillary Clinton will have to release their joint returns, not just her return, but their joint returns, because assets are comingled. And number two, yes, the Foundation would have to release its returns as well. I’m not asking for ten years, but I’m saying they ought to give at least three years of returns so we can see where the money’s been coming from.
HH: And a last question, when you decided not to run, Governor, you said it was time for a new generation of leaders. Have you seen any of those, yet? Have you picked one?
MR: I’ve not picked one. I intend to be aggressively independent and neutral in this contest. But there are a number I’m impressed with. You know that Jeb Bush, in many respects, is leading in the national polls. Marco Rubio and Scott Walker lead in some of those polls. All three of them, I think, are very strong and capable people. Lindsey Graham, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, there are a number of folks who I think could be a very strong contender for the presidency in 2016.
HH: Do you counsel them to go after this Uranium One issue hard?
MR: You know, I don’t know whether that’s going to be part of their approach to the campaign, but my guess is by the time we have a nominee, that nominee is going to be looking very carefully at everything to do with Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, and it’s a fruitful field for investigation.
HH: Governor Mitt Romney, it’s always a pleasure to talk to you, Governor, come back early and often between now and 2016.
End of interview.