Donald Trump wants the FBI to drop its investigation of possible collusion between his election campaign and the Russian government, to focus instead on what he calls the “real scandal” of Hillary Clinton taking a Russian bribe to give that country a fifth of America’s uranium via a Canadian front company. The CBC and other outlets have debugged the charges to provide a more accurate account of events.
“We had Hillary Clinton give Russia 20% of the uranium in our country,” Trump told an audience in February. “You know what uranium is, right? It’s this thing called nuclear weapons. And other things. Like lots of things are done with uranium. Including some bad things.”
Recently, pressed on his own campaign’s Russian connection, Trump has revived the allegation, tweeting in late October: “Uranium deal to Russia, with Clinton help and Obama Administration knowledge, is the biggest story that Fake Media doesn’t want to follow!”
Trump’s cheerleaders in right-wing media have take up the allegation. Fox News’ Tucker Carlson “questioned whether it was wise to ‘give’ Russia 20% ‘of our uranium supplies.’” His colleague Sean Hannity raged that “America’s national security was sold out” in one of the “biggest scandals in American history. People will need to go to jail.”
Unpacked, the Hilary Clinton/‘Uranium One scandal’ (2.3 million Google hits in 0.46 seconds) amounts to the allegation that the former Democratic presidential candidate and secretary of state accepted Russian bribes, sometimes reported as high as US$145 million, to hand over a fifth of the United States’ store of uranium to Russia via a Canadian company, Uranium One.
The facts, as CBC News, Vice, and Vox establish them, are quite different, and thoroughly distorted in the Trump/Hannity telling.
In 2010, Russia’s nuclear authority Rosatom purchased a 51% stake in Toronto-based Uranium One—mainly for its resource holdings in Kazakhstan and in Canada. The same company owns a low-grade uranium mine in the United States whose output could in theory be raised to 20% of America’s total production, but which according to Vice has not been at that level for years.
The trumped-up allegations hang this mine and its theoretical output.
Because the Rosatom acquisition entailed that U.S. mine property, it came under a national security review by an inter-agency committee on which both the FBI and the State Department—then run respectively by now-Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller and Clinton—were represented (in neither case by those individuals). The committee allowed the acquisition.
The Russian agency’s purchase did not in fact “give” it automatic access to uranium from its new U.S. mine. That would have needed another review and an export permit from U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
It is true that at least two individuals associated with Uranium One—Frank Giustra and Ian Telford—donated to the Clinton Foundation—more than US$30 million in Giustra’s case. But both men are extremely well known and respected in Canadian resource finance circles, and unlikely conduits at best for Russian bribes. Moreover, CBC notes, Giustra sold his stake in Uranium One in 2007, three years before the Russia deal. Telfer, who was chair of Uranium One at the time of the Rosatom acquisition, donated a relatively paltry C$2.35 million to the Clintons’ charitable foundation in several contributions.
Former U.S. president Bill Clinton, a well-paid fixture on the international speaking circuit, also received $500,000 from “a Russian investment bank that had links to the Kremlin and was promoting Uranium One stock,” for an appearance and a speech in Moscow, CBC notes.
However, suggesting that her husband’s speaking fee and those donations motivated Clinton to influence a low-level decision from which the alleged beneficiary gained nothing—much less the apocryphal one-fifth of America’s uranium—is “complete B.S.,” Texas-based uranium resource consultant Michael Campbell told CBC.
“There wasn’t anything about quid-pro[-quo]. This business about the Clintons getting money for speeches, that was so different. The timing was so separate you could see there was no relationship.”
That has not stopped Trump and his allies from demanding that Mueller step down as special prosecutor for his “role” in the affair, or that Clinton face yet another Congressional investigation for the alleged “scandal”.