- President Donald Trump wants to revive an old scandal about a uranium deal with a Hillary Clinton connection.
- Proof of any quid pro quo remains unclear.
Propelled by conservative media and congressional Republicans, President Donald Trump revived a story about an Obama administration uranium deal that Hillary Clinton had tangential ties to.
“That’s your real Russia story,” Trump said during an informal exchange with reporters at the White House on Thursday. “That is one of the big stories of the decade.”
Trump’s statements highlighted the return of one of his recurring rhetorical attacks on Clinton during the 2016 campaign over her role in the approval of the sale of part of a company called Uranium One to the Russian government in 2010, which Republicans argued simultaneously endangered national security and enriched the Clintons.
On Tuesday, The Hill published a new report that described a “racketeering scheme” that was “designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow.”
The story made several suggestions:
- Before the deal was approved, the FBI had found evidence of wrongdoing by the Russian official who oversaw Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “nuclear expansion inside the US,” which had to be approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment, which is comprised of nine agencies that review foreign government acquisitions of US companies.
- Russian officials tried to “ingratiate themselves with the Clintons” by “the transmission of millions of dollars from Russia’s nuclear industry to an American entity that had provided assistance to Bill Clinton’s foundation.”
At a time when law enforcement officials and Congress are investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, right-wing media outlets and figures weaponized the story.
According to a survey of Snapstream by the left-leaning group Media Matters, there were 36 mentions of “Uranium One” since The Hill’s report was first published on Tuesday, with 24 of the mentions appearing on Sean Hannity’s show.
The Washington Times wrote in a headline: “Russia tables turn, roping Clinton, Obama, Holder, not Trump.”
And on Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter requesting more information from several agencies about the approval of the Uranium One deal.
Sen. Chuck Grassley asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions whether the Department of Justice was investigating the fact that former President Bill Clinton was paid for a speech around the time that the US government approved the Uranium One deal, and that Russians donated millions to the Clinton Foundation years before the uranium deal.
“This fact pattern raises serious concerns about improper political influence on the process by the Clintons during the Obama administration,” Grassley said.
The Uranium One deal is well-tread territory for both Republicans and Trump. It first emerged as a point of contention following Breitbart News editor Peter Schewizer’s 2015 book “Clinton Cash.”
Trump has a history of dubious claims about the deal.
On the campaign trail in October 2016, Trump said that Clinton gave uranium to Russia “for a big payment,” a claim that The Washington Post said was inaccurate.
When the transaction became politicized during the 2016 campaign, some experts cast doubt over the legitimacy of the Clinton connection, as well as the national security threat posed by the deal.
PolitiFact found that the US produces such little uranium that the “concerns were out of proportion,” and pointed out that there was no existing evidence of “quid pro quo” between Clinton Foundation donations and the approval of the deal.
In a 2016 piece, The Washington Post’s fact checker noted that although the State Department was one agency that had approval over the 2010 deal, there’s no evidence Clinton herself had significant influence over it:
“There is no evidence Clinton herself got involved in the deal personally, and it is highly questionable that this deal even rose to the level of the secretary of state. Theoretically, as Schweizer says, Clinton could have intervened. But even then, it ultimately would have been Obama’s decision whether to suspend or block the deal.”