As a senator, Hillary Clinton flip-flopped on a nuclear deal with India -- swayed by donations to her family’s foundation. At least that’s what Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer asserts.
Schweizer’s book -- which hit shelves May 5 -- purports to document a series of donations to the Clinton Foundation and other financial gifts that turned into special favors from Clinton while she was a senator and secretary of state. One such allegation, which Schweizer discussed in a May 1 interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, is that Clinton did not support a nuclear deal with India in 2006, but two years and millions of India-based donations to her foundation later, she changed her mind.
But is this an accurate account?
Mitchell said MSNBC’s research found that Clinton supported the nuclear deal with India all along. Schweizer responded that in 2006, Clinton supported nuclear cooperation -- with restrictions, which didn’t suit the Indian government’s position. But in 2008, she no longer supported those restrictions. This is evidenced by her votes on amendments that would have put limitations on the deal, he said.
"Amendments she supported and voted for in 2006, she no longer supported in 2008," he said.
Who’s right here? Did Clinton change position or not? We decided to look for ourselves and see if we could sort it out.
Apples and oranges
First, a very brief chronology. Congress first took up the issue of a civilian nuclear trade deal with India in 2006. That year, they passed legislation to change existing atomic energy law, necessary for the negotiations to move forward. Then in 2008, following diplomatic negotiations, Congress approved the final deal, which allowed the United States to export to India nuclear fuel and technology.
Clinton, a founding member of the Senate India Caucus, supported both measures. In 2006, Clinton released a public statement praising the legislation and voted for the final bill. In 2008, she voted for the deal, and the Indian press said Clinton had expressed her support in meetings with Indian leaders.
What about the amendments?
In 2006, Clinton did vote in the Senate in favor of three failed amendments that would have placed some limitations on the deal: One required India to end military cooperation with Iran, another called for assurances that the deal would not help India develop nuclear weapons, and the third declared support of a United Nations resolution regarding nuclear disarmament. Some supporters of the deal said these amendments could kill the deal.
Schweizer said Clinton no longer supported these amendments when Congress revisited the nuclear deal two years later. However, the 2008 bill only had one Senate amendment, and it was defeated by voice vote, meaning the votes were not recorded. Without a recorded vote, or any public comment from Clinton, it’s impossible to know whether she supported the 2008 amendment or not.
Further, the single 2008 amendment was fundamentally different than the amendments voted on in 2006. It laid out implications for the deal in the event that India detonated a nuclear weapon, while none of the 2006 amendments addressed this question.
So not only is comparing Clinton’s position on the 2006 and 2008 amendments impossible, given the fact that there is no documentation of Clinton’s support or opposition in 2008 -- but the amendments are apples and oranges that don’t offer a meaningful comparison.
We want to note that Schweizer pointed us to two statements of Indian business leaders to show that Clinton did not support the deal in 2006, though they aren’t without holes.
On June 29, 2006, the leader of the conservative Indian-American Republican Council, said Clinton had "made little effort to support the agreement despite being India Caucus co-chair." However, Clinton put out a press release on the same day that said she intended to vote for the legislation, noting that the Senate version was an improvement upon the White House version.
Hotelier Sant Chatwal -- a major fundraiser for the Clintons who was recently found guilty of skirting campaign finance laws -- advocated for the nuclear deal, and he said (in 2010) that Clinton didn’t favor the deal as of May 2006. But again, she expressed public support about a month later. Maybe Chatwal helped change her mind between May and June 2006, or maybe not. Either way this does not show a change in position from 2006 to 2008.
Schweizer said, "Amendments (Hillary Clinton) supported and voted for in 2006, she no longer supported in 2008," showing she changed positions on an India nuclear deal.
We know Clinton voted for several amendments on Indian nuclear deal-related legislation in 2006. The 2008 legislation, however, had just one amendment, and the vote was not recorded. Because we don’t know how she voted, and she did not make any public statements about it, it’s impossible to know her position on the 2008 amendment. Additionally, the 2008 amendment was fundamentally different than any of the amendments the Senate considered in 2006. Even if we knew whether she supported the 2008 amendment, it wouldn’t necessarily show a change in position.
What’s more, Clinton showed public support for a deal in 2006, and she voted in favor of the deal in both 2006 and 2008. We rate Schweizer’s claim False.