uranium one

Uranium One: The Facts and the Fiction

Republicans have concocted yet another faux-scandal and phony outrage to once more slander Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.  This further abuse of taxpayer dollars — as with the millions spent on fruitless Benghazi investigations that repeatedly showed now wrongdoing on Clinton’s part — the proclaimed party of fiscal responsibility wants to use their majority powers to do Sean Hannity’s bidding and investigate Uranium One.

Uranium One, for those unaware, is a spooky sounding name for a supposed scandal that involves Clinton, the Obama administration, and Russia.  Donald Trump has called it the “real Russia story” and the fever swamps have flooded Twitter with poorly constructed and grammatically incorrect memes alleging corruption.  The facts, however, are mundane, and thus are why Republicans overlook them in their hysteria.



History of Uranium One

In 2007, Clinton donor, Frank Giustra,who  owned Uranium One, which has mines in Wyoming, Utah, and other states, sold his personal stake in the company to UrAsia.  The merge kept the Uranium One name despite new ownership.

Two years later, in 2009, a Russian nuclear agency named Rosatom bought a 17 percent stake in Uranium One, which it sought to increase to 51 percent in 2010.

The possibility that a foreign corporation would own a majority stake in Uranium One meant that the Committee of Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) had to approve the transaction, as did the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Utah’s nuclear regulator.

The CFIUS Process

CFIUS consists of a consortium of potentially interested parties, including a representative from the State Department, the Attorney General, the secretaries of the Treasury (CFIUS’s chair), Defense, Commerce, Energy, and Homeland Security, as well as the heads of the Office of U.S. Trade Representative and the Office of Science and Technology Policy.  No one individual could approve the deal.  CFIUS approved the transaction and by 2013, Russia assumed 100 percent ownership of Uranium One.

Then-Secreatry Clinton did not play a role in the Uranium One deal because CFIUS did not include the Secretary of State.  Jose Fernandez, the assistant secretary of state for economic, energy, and business affairs, represented the State Department and said that Clinton “never intervened with me on any CFIUS matter.”  Almost all CFIUS reviews in the State Department are handled by lower-ranking staffers and appointees.



A Politically-Motivated Investigation

So, given the number of parties who had to approve the deal and Clinton’s clear lack of involvement in the affair, why are Republicans pursuing this nonsense?

The answer is political: They want to deflect attention from the Russia investigation that clouds the president.  Their ploy will take media attention and present Trump — and Fox News — with ceaseless hours of boring whataboutism, the only means by which Trump maintains support.  It also consumes enough time and resources that Republicans would be unable to investigate Trump’s abuses of power, and emoluments clauses violations.

Ostensibly, however, Republicans seek to investigate why the United States allowed Russia to control “20 percent of domestic uranium production” and how such a decision related to $145 million in donations the Clinton Foundation received from parties in involved with Uranium One.



Trump’s Uranium One Lies

Controlling Uranium Production

First of all, Trump’s claim — a claim echoed by right-wing provocateurs and followers — misses the mark of truth.  Uranium One controlled about 20 percent of US uranium production capactiy but only bout 11 percent of actual production.

Russian control of Uranium One is also entirely insignificant as Russia doesn’t have a license to export uranium outside the U.S.  Owning Uranium One does not give them free reign to do with the uranium what they please.

As Jeffrey Lewis, a leading expert on nuclear nonproliferation, said Russia purchasing Uranium One “had as much o an impact on national security as it would have if they set the money on fire.”

The United States likely let this benign transaction take place as part of its effort to “reset” relations with Russia and to get the Kremlin on board with the Iran nuclear deal.

Clinton Foundation Donations

Nine individuals at one point connected to Uranium One did donate a total of $145 million to the Clinton Foundation.  However, around $140 million came from Giustra, who sold his entire stake in Uranium One in 2007, at least 18 months before Clinton became the Secretary of State and three years before the Russia deal.  He could not profit from the deal and so his donation to the Clinton Foundation could in no way have been pay-to-play, as ignorant Republicans allege.  That leaves just $4 million more other parties.

Trump’s charge of pay-to-play has absolutely no bearing in reality.  Clinton did not profit the deal; neither did a large donor to the Clinton Foundation.



Why is Uranium One Relevant Again?

This story has surfaced again after The Hill published a report stating that while CFIUS considered the Uranium One deal, the FBI had been investigating whether Russia sought to gain influence in the US nuclear industry and had “gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States.”
Such a story complicates no matters and implicates neither Clinton nor the Obama administration because the FBI did not release information until well after the Uranium One deal, leaving the public and Congress in the dark about Russia’s nuclear corruption and opportunism even as the Obama administration made decisions regarding the same subject.

There is no evidence that Clinton, who could not have single-handedly approved the deal, as Trump wrongly claimed, knew about the FBI investigation.  

The assistant FBI director in charge of criminal cases during the investigation did not know of the investigation.  Neither did the chair of the House Intelligence Committee.  We have no reason to suspect Clinton or any other cabinet secretary knew of the investigation.



Conclusion

Republicans opened the Uranium One investigation to again make Clinton a villain — only that rallies and unifies the party.  It distracts from Trump’s improprieties as Republicans move ahead with a tax reform bill.

Most importantly, it shows Republicans abusing their investigative powers to hound political opposition rather than focusing on actually important matters (eg, Trump’s abuses of power or the government granting a 2 year old company with 2 employees based in Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s hometown a $300 million electric bid for Puerto Rico).  This move further wastes taxpayers dollars just to continue an irrational fatwa.

America, take note: Republicans want to lie to you.  They willingly distort information and ignore facts.  They don’t treasure taxpayer dollars.  They just want to vilify the political opposition.  This isn’t how liberal democracies thrive.