On Tuesday evening, the media world went gaga over Fox News’ Shepard Smith “debunking” the so-called Uranium One scandal.
Smith went after President Trump’s characterization of the situation; Trump stated that Hillary Clinton’s State Department had approved “transfer of 20% of America’s uranium holdings to Russia. Well, nine investors in the deal funneled $145 million to the Clinton Foundation.” Smith stated that the Clinton State Department “had no power to approve or veto that transaction,” continuing:
The accusation is predicated on the charge that Secretary Clinton approved the sale. She did not. A committee of nine evaluated the sale, the president approved the sale, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and others had to offer permits, and none of the uranium was exported for use by the U.S. to Russia.
Smith also pointed out that most of the money supposedly funneled to the Clinton Foundation came from Frank Giustra, who had divested from the uranium company years before the sale.
So, here’s what’s true about the Uranium One deal.
Giustra owned a company called UrAsia, which was sold to Uranium One; Giustra then says he divested his personal stake in the company, though his shareholders still owned 60% of the company, and there is no way to confirm the truth of his claim. In 2009 and 2010, Rosatom, Russia’s atomic energy agency, was poised to buy a majority of the company. Rosatom was barred by law from exporting American uranium abroad, so Russia couldn’t exactly mine in Wyoming and build nukes in Moscow.
In 2013, Russia bought the rest of Uranium One with the approval of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, as well as the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Utah agencies. The CFIUS includes the State Department. Clinton claimed she had nothing to do with the greenlighting, and pointed to the fact that multiple agencies had approved the sale.
So, how much money actually flowed from Uranium One beneficiaries to the Clinton Foundation? If we don’t include Giustra, the amount drops from $145 million to $4 million.
But this is a bit too simplistic. The New York Times reported that the Uranium One acquisition actually began in 2005, while Giustra still owned the company, “with Mr. Clinton at his side.” According to the Times:
The two men had flown aboard Mr. Giustra’s private jet to Almaty, Kazakhstan, where they dined with the authoritarian president, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev. Mr. Clinton handed the Kazakh president a propaganda coup when he expressed support for Mr. Nazarbayev’s bid to head an international elections monitoring group, undercutting American foreign policy and criticism of Kazakhstan’s poor human rights record by, among others, his wife, then a senator.
Within days of the visit, Mr. Giustra’s fledgling company, UrAsia Energy Ltd., signed a preliminary deal giving it stakes in three uranium mines controlled by the state-run uranium agency Kazatomprom.
If the Kazakh deal was a major victory, UrAsia did not wait long before resuming the hunt. In 2007, it merged with Uranium One, a South African company with assets in Africa and Australia, in what was described as a $3.5 billion transaction. The new company, which kept the Uranium One name, was controlled by UrAsia investors including Ian Telfer, a Canadian who became chairman. Through a spokeswoman, Mr. Giustra, whose personal stake in the deal was estimated at about $45 million, said he sold his stake in 2007.
Soon, Uranium One began to snap up companies with assets in the United States. In April 2007, it announced the purchase of a uranium mill in Utah and more than 38,000 acres of uranium exploration properties in four Western states, followed quickly by the acquisition of the Energy Metals Corporation and its uranium holdings in Wyoming, Texas and Utah. That deal made clear that Uranium One was intent on becoming “a powerhouse in the United States uranium sector with the potential to become the domestic supplier of choice for U.S. utilities,” the company declared. … The Times published an article revealing the 2005 trip’s link to Mr. Giustra’s Kazakhstan mining deal. It also reported that several months later, Mr. Giustra had donated $31.3 million to Mr. Clinton’s foundation.
Furthermore, questions about Rosatom’s control of uranium isn’t about the Russians crafting nukes — they already have them. It’s about shortages of uranium in the United States, and dependence on foreign sources for that material. It was also about Rosatom purchasing a huge stake of nuclear material in Kazakhstan.
And the Clintons were still involved. Here’s the Times again:
Mr. Telfer’s undisclosed donations came in addition to between $1.3 million and $5.6 million in contributions, which were reported, from a constellation of people with ties to Uranium One or UrAsia, the company that originally acquired Uranium One’s most valuable asset: the Kazakh mines. Without those assets, the Russians would have had no interest in the deal: “It wasn’t the goal to buy the Wyoming mines. The goal was to acquire the Kazakh assets, which are very good,” Mr. Novikov, the Rosatom spokesman, said in an interview.
Amid this influx of Uranium One-connected money, Mr. Clinton was invited to speak in Moscow in June 2010, the same month Rosatom struck its deal for a majority stake in Uranium One.
The $500,000 fee — among Mr. Clinton’s highest — was paid by Renaissance Capital, a Russian investment bank with ties to the Kremlin that has invited world leaders, including Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, to speak at its investor conferences.
So no, it’s not at all unclear that the Clintons were unrelated to Uranium One. And it’s not unclear that they’d have no interest in pushing Uranium One — Giustra still had an interest in maintaining faith with his former shareholders, and the Clintons had intervened in the past to help out the company beyond Giustra’s involvement. That doesn't mean that Hillary signed off on the Uranium One sale. But to downplay the sale itself or the Clintons' interest in it would neglect facts in evidence.