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'Clinton Cash' doc set to stir up controversy as it debuts at Cannes

MSNBC got an exclusive first look at “Clinton Cash,” the flashy, hour-long film version of conservative author Peter Schweizer’s surprise 2015 bestseller.
A worker installs the red carpet in front of the Festival Palace ahead of the 69th Cannes Film Festival, in Cannes, France, May 10, 2016. (Photo by Julien Warnand/EPA)
A worker installs the red carpet in front of the Festival Palace ahead of the 69th Cannes Film Festival, in Cannes, France, May 10, 2016.

CANNES, France — A massive police force will be guarding the Cannes Film Festival this year. But the only scuffle on the horizon may come in response to the right-wing producers of a devastating new documentary about Bill and Hillary Clinton’s alleged influence peddling and favor-trading. That film, "Clinton Cash," screens here May 16 and opens in the U.S. on July 24 — just before the Democratic National Convention.

The allegations are as brazen as they are controversial: What other film at Cannes would come up with a plot that involves Russian President Vladimir Putin wrangling a deal with the alleged help of both Clintons, a Canadian billionaire, Kazakhstan mining officials and the Russian atomic energy agency — all of which resulted in Putin gaining control of 20 percent of all the uranium in the U.S.?

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MSNBC got an exclusive first look at “Clinton Cash,” the flashy, hour-long film version of conservative author Peter Schweizer’s surprise 2015 bestseller, which The New York Times called the "the most anticipated and feared book of a presidential cycle.” The Washington Post said that "on any fair reading, the pattern of behavior that Schweizer has charged is corruption." Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton's campaign manager John Podesta denounced the book as a bunch of "outlandish claims" with "zero evidence."

The film portrays the Clintons as a greedy tag team who used the family’s controversial Clinton Foundation and her position as secretary of state to help billionaires make shady deals around the world with corrupt dictators, all while enriching themselves to the tune of millions.

The movie alleges that Bill Clinton cut a wide swathe through some of the most impoverished and corrupt areas of the world — the South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, India and Haiti among others — riding in on private jets with billionaires who called themselves philanthropists but were actually bent on plundering the countries and lining their own pockets.

In return, billionaire pals like Frank Giustra and Gilbert Chagoury, or high-tech companies like Swedish telecom giant Ericsson or Indian nuclear energy officials — to name just a few mentioned in the film — hired Clinton to speak at often $750,000 a pop, according to “Clinton Cash.” When a favor was needed at the higher levels of the Obama administration to facilitate some of the deals, Hillary Clinton was only willing to sign off on them, the movie reports.

As a film, it powerfully connects the dots —  whether you believe them or not — in a narrative that lacks the wonkiness of the book, which bore a full title of “The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich.”

It packs the kind of Trump-esque mainstream punch that may have the presumptive GOP nominee salivating. He recently declared, “We’ll whip out that book because that book will become very pertinent."

RELATED: Clinton Foundation: 'We made mistakes'

The hour-long documentary is intercut with “Homeland”-style clips of the Clintons juxtaposed against shots of blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, villainous dictators and private jets, all set to sinister music.

Produced by Stephen K. Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News, with Schweizer as the film’s talking head, the documentary might be easy to dismiss as just another example of the “vast right-wing conspiracy” the former secretary of state referenced so many years ago.

But what complicates matters for Hillary Clinton’s campaign is that the book resulted in a series of investigations last year into Schweizer’s allegations by mainstream media organizations from The New York Times and CNN to The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, many of which did not dispute his findings — and in some cases gathered more material that the producers used in the film. More recently, some information uncovered in the Panama Papers has echoed some of Schweitzer’s allegations in the movie and book.

The Clinton campaign loudly denounced the book as a “smear project” last year and Schweizer’s publisher, the Murdoch-owned Harper Collins, had to make some corrections to the Kindle version. But the changes, in the end, involved seven or eight inaccuracies, some of which were fairly minor in the context of the larger allegations, Politico reported

Neither the Clinton campaign nor the Clinton Foundation responded to calls and emails requesting comment about the film Tuesday.

One of the most damning follow-ups to Schweizer’s most startling accusation — that Vladimir Putin wound up controlling 20 percent of American uranium after a complex series of deals involving cash flowing to the Clinton Foundation and the help of Secretary of State Clinton — was printed in The New York Times.

Like Schweizer, the Times found no hard evidence in the form of an email or any document proving a quid pro quo between the Clintons, Clinton Foundation donors or Russian officials. (Schweizer has maintained that it’s next to impossible to find a smoking gun but said there is a troubling “pattern of behavior” that merits a closer examination.)

But the Times concluded that the deal that brought Putin closer to his goal of controlling all of the world’s uranium supply is an “untold story … that involves not just the Russian president, but also a former American president and a woman who would like to be the next one.”

“Other news outlets built on what I uncovered and some of that is in the film,” Schweizer, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, told NBC News Tuesday. “To me the key message is that while U.S. politics has long been thought to be a dirty game, it was always played by Americans. What the Clinton Foundation has done is open an avenue by which foreign investors can influence a chief U.S. diplomat. The film may spell all this out to people in a way the book did not and it may reach a whole new audience.”