Bill Clinton does not give many magazine interviews, but in September 2013, he sat with Modern Farmer— a food lifestyle publication with a small but trendy audience—to discuss global agriculture and his charitable work with farmers in the developing world.
The magazine, which suspended production earlier this year, is owned Frank Giustra, a longtime friend of Clinton's and a major donor to his charitable efforts. Giustra is also a central figure in a new, in-depth New York Times story that details how one-fifth of the uranium production capacity in the United States was sold to Russian-government controlled company, in a deal requiring the approval of the State Department while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. The story originated with reporting from a new book, Clinton Cash, which investigates the Clinton family foundation and financial interests.
Giustra had "significant involvement in brokering" the Modern Farmer interview, a major coup for the magazine's second issue, a former staffer told BuzzFeed News. The Times noted last year that he had "persuaded" Clinton to do the interview. At the time, the magazine's founding editor, Ann Marie Gardner, reportedly asked if a reporter could fly with Giustra and Clinton, but Giustra said no. Instead, he "delivered Clinton for a conversation," the New Yorker reported last year. Gardner did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
The Modern Farmer interview itself is somewhat perfunctory — Clinton discusses some of his earliest memories of agriculture. He also describes the work his foundation had done in Malawi, and with the assistance of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim and Giustra, work done in Cartagena, Colombia.
"Over the last few years we've added about $3.5 million dollars to the total income of our small producers, which, given what they were living on, is a very meaningful boost," Clinton told Modern Farmer. In May 2013, Clinton visited Colombia and Peru with Slim and Giustra.
On Thursday, the Times reported on Giustra's business dealings with uranium. In 2005, Giustra's UrAsia agreed to buy stake in three Kazakh mines a few days after Giustra visited the country with Bill Clinton to meet with the president, Nursultan Nazarbayev. UrAsia then merged with the South African company Uranium One in 2007; Giustra sold his stake in the company that year, a Giustra spokesperson told the Times.
Uranium One then purchased a series of American uranium assets, before eventually being taken over by a ARMZ, a subsidiary of the Russian atomic energy agency Rosatom. Several figures in the deals, including the chairman of Uranium One, made large donations to the Clinton Foundation, the Times reported.
Nowhere in the Times story is there evidence of any type of quid pro quo between donations and business favors.
A spokesman for the Clinton Foundation said Thursday that Clinton "welcomed the opportunity" to discuss the foundation's agricultural work with Modern Farmer.
"The Clinton Development Initiative (CDI) is helping more than 56,000 smallholder farmers in Malawi, Tanzania, and Rwanda increase their incomes by giving them access to high-quality inputs, better farming techniques, technology and markets, and Modern Farmer is a major journal about farming, so President Clinton welcomed the opportunity to discuss the work," Clinton Foundation spokesperson Craig Minassian told BuzzFeed News. "Frank's program also helps empower farmers in Latin America and he obviously was involved with the magazine."
Matthew Zeitlin is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Zeitlin reports on Wall Street and big banks.
Contact Matthew Zeitlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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