WASHINGTON – The sale of Uranium One, a Canadian firm with rights to mine U.S. uranium, to a Russian company is in the news again with the Department of Justice signalling it could appoint a special counsel to look into the matter.
President Donald Trump and his supporters have criticized the deal and suggested former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may be implicated in wrongdoing.
A look at the sale of Uranium One to Russia’s nuclear energy agency Rosatom:
Rosatom acquired a majority stake in Uranium One in 2010 and bought the remainder of the company in 2013. Because Uranium One had holdings in American uranium mines, which at the time accounted for about 20 per cent of America’s licensed uranium mining capacity, Rosatom’s 2010 purchase had to be approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. That committee, known as CFIUS, is made up of officials from nine federal agencies, including the State Department, which Clinton ran at the time. Other agencies represented on the committee include the departments of Treasury, Defence, Commerce, Energy and Homeland Security and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
Trump and his supporters have accused Clinton of overseeing the sale of 20 per cent of America’s uranium supply to Russia. They see her alleged role as a scandal, particularly amid charges the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 presidential election. Allegations have also been made that the approval of the sale of Uranium One benefited major donors to the Clinton Foundation, raising conflict-of-interest questions.
The matter took on new life after a report last month said the FBI was investigating possible Russian attempts to influence the U.S. nuclear sector at the time the CFIUS was considering the sale of Uranium One to Rosatom. The report said members of the committee, including Clinton, should have known about the investigation and it questioned why they would have approved it.
The Rosatom-Uranium One deal did not sell 20 per cent of America’s uranium to Russia. The 20 per cent figure cited by critics reflects only licensed uranium mining capacity in the U.S. at the time of the sale, not total uranium reserves or even actual production. And without a specific license to export uranium from Uranium One’s mines, which it did not have at the time, Rosatom would not be able to send it to Russia or elsewhere.
In terms of the CFIUS approval, Clinton has said she had nothing to do with it. As secretary of state, she technically had a seat on the panel. But most other Cabinet-level members historically have delegated such responsibilities to less senior officials.
The alleged relationship between the approval of the sale and the Clinton Foundation was first raised in 2015 by conservative author Peter Schweizer. He and others have pointed to some of the investors in the deal and their ties to former President Bill Clinton and his foundation.
In April 2015, The New York Times published an article echoing much of the Schweizer book, including one sensational contention that not long after the Russians said they wanted to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Bill Clinton received $500,000 for a speech in Moscow. The speech was paid for by a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin as it promoted Uranium One stock.
Canadian financier Frank Giustra, a top Clinton Foundation donor, sold his company, UrAsia, to Uranium One, which was chaired by Ian Telfer, also a Clinton Foundation donor. Giustra has said he sold his stake in the deal in 2007, while Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were vying for the Democratic presidential nomination.
PolitiFact found that the majority of the donations from individuals related to Uranium One and UrAsia were made before and during Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign — but before she became secretary of state.