Hillary Clinton: Uranium One scandal

During the 2016 presidential campaign, the sale of Uranium One to a Russian company became one of the issues being debated.  Recently, Donald Trump brought the topic up again.  There is a couple claims associated with this scandal.

Claim #1: Donald Trump says that Hillary Clinton gave 20% of the United States uranium to the Russians.

Rank: falseDuring a speech by Trump on February 16, 2017, Trump started talking about the Russian controversy that his administration is facing.  He complained that Hilary Clinton was not held accountable for her giving 20% of the United State’s uranium supply to the Russians.

We had Hillary Clinton try to do a reset. We had Hillary Clinton give Russia 20 percent of the uranium in our country. 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.

But nobody talks about that. I did not do anything for Russia. I’ve done nothing for Russia. Hillary Clinton gave them 20 percent of our uranium.

According to the deal, what the Russians acquired was land, machinery, and mines.  It was not actual uranium that the Russians acquired; it was 20% of production capacity in the United States.  This is a subtle yet significant distinction.  As there was no uranium transferred to Russia, the claim, as Trump stated it, is false.

Claim #2: Hillary Clinton used her influence as Secretary of State to get the Uranium One deal approved.

Rank: falseDuring the 2016 presidential campaign, Clinton’s role as Secretary of State in the approval of the Uranium One deal became a topic of discussion.  She was accused of being involved in a quid pro quo as she and her husband, Bill Clinton, received millions of dollars in various forms (mostly donations to the Clinton Foundation) from people and banks involved in the deal.  In exchange, Clinton helped in getting the deal approved.

To get a sense of why the Uranium One deal became such a scandal, it is necessary to look at the timing of events.  The following is a rough timeline of the deal.

  • September 2005: Canadian Frank Guistra visits Kazakhstan with Bill Clinton.  Shortly afterward, his company, UrAsia, wins a major uranium deal with the country.
  • 2006:  Some time during 2006, Giustra donated $31 million to the Clinton Foundation.
  • September 2006: Giustra co-produced a charity event that raised $21 million for the Clinton Foundation.
  • February 2007: UrAsia merges with Uranium One and expands into the United States.
  • June 2008: Russian atomic agency Rosatom begins talks to acquire Uranium One.
  • 2008-2010:  During the course of 2008 through 2010, Uranium One and UrAsia investors donate $8.65 million to the Clinton Foundation.
  • June 2009:  Rosatom acquires 17% of Uranium One.
  • 2010-2011: Over the course of 20010 to 2011, the Clinton Foundation receives more donations from Uranium One investors.
  • June 2010: Rosatom requests approval for a majority ownership in Uranium One from the Committee on Foreign Investment.  The State Department is a member of the committee and must approve the request.  Rosatom promised to not purchase 100% of Uranium One nor to make it private.
  • June 2010:  Bill Clinton receives $500,000 to speak at a conference hosted by the Russian investment bank involved in the Rosatom transactions.
  • October 2010:  The committee approved the request to acquire a majority share in Uranium One.
  • June 2013:  Rosatom purchases the remainder of Uranium One and makes it into a private company.

Based on just this timeline, the timing of key events in the deal and money paid to the Clintons does seem to indicate some sort of quid pro quo.  However, some have noted that Clinton did not have any power to veto the deal.  The best that she could have done was to have it sent to Obama for a decision.

The State Department was only one of nine agencies that had a say in approving the deal. None of the other agencies had objected to the deal as well.  Plus, there does not appear to be any evidence supporting or denying the possibility that Clinton had influenced heads of the other agencies as claimed by her detractors.

The fact that the other eight agencies did not find anything objectionable to the deal and that Clinton did not have any real power to veto the deal gives support to the idea that Clinton was did not engage in quid pro quo.  On the other hand, there is a lot of circumstantial evidence that Clinton had received millions of dollars through the Clinton Foundation from parties interested the approval of the deal.  There is no evidence supporting or contradicting the possibility that Clinton used her influence to get the other agencies to approve the deal.  As a result, it is not possible to objectively say that Clinton used her influence to get the deal approved.  Thus, the claim is debatable.

Update 2/26/2017:  Struck out the language saying that there was no evidence that contradicted the possibility that Clinton used her influence.  This was a logical error because that would imply that there needs to be evidence to prove a negative.  Furthermore, the burden of proof is on the people who make the claim which in this case is the people saying that she used her influence.

Update 3/28/2017:  There is an aspect that was not considered originally.  Clinton became Secretary of State in January 2009.  The majority of the donations to the Clinton Foundation happened before she was even considered for the position.  If these donations are ignored, the case that she was acting inappropriate becomes much weaker.  Taking this fact into account changes the rating from debatable to false.

References:

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One thought on “Hillary Clinton: Uranium One scandal

  1. Pingback: Hillary Clinton: Uranium One scandal [Update] | Factually Challenged Nation

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