The Truth Behind President Donald Trump's Tweets About "Big Uranium"

March 28th 2017

Mike Rothschild

Likely seeking to deflect attention from the controversy involving his election and Russian interference, President Donald Trump took the House Intelligence Committee to task Monday evening, using Twitter to dredge up an old claim about Hillary Clinton.

Trump's reference to "big uranium" going to Russia repeats a claim he made on numerous occasions during his campaign: that in her role as secretary of state, Clinton presided over the sale of 20 percent of America's uranium to Russia, giving our enemy the means to build atomic weapons while making a hefty profit for the Clinton Foundation.

The reality of what Trump is talking about has been dissected and debunked as a conspiracy theory by a number of news sources. But what makes the matter tricky is that there was a transaction involving 20 percent of U.S. uranium mining capacity being purchased by a Russian company, and it happened when Clinton was secretary of state.

In 2009, Russia’s state nuclear energy agency, called Rosatom, started buying shares in Uranium One, a mining company with extensive holdings in the United States, according to a timeline put together by the Washington Post. Over the next few years, Rosatom bought more and more of Uranium One, transactions approved by a collection of federal agencies called the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS.)

By 2013, according to the Post, "Russia assumed 100 percent ownership" of Uranium One, a deal that "gave Russia control of about 20 percent of U.S. uranium extraction capacity, according to a 2010 CNN article about the deal. In other words, Russia has rights to the uranium extracted at those sites, which represents 20 percent of the U.S. uranium production capacity."

To parse Clinton's role in the transaction, it's important to examine what CFIUS is, and who runs it.

Founded in 2007, CFIUS "vets potential national security impacts of transactions where a foreign government gains control of a U.S. company," as the Post reports. It comprises nine government agencies, of which the State Department is one.

While Clinton ran the State Department at the time, CFIUS matters likely were handled at lower levels (exact details of the transaction remain confidential) and Clinton had no power to approve, stop, or reject the Uranium One deal. This is a power only former President Barack Obama would've had at the time - a power Trump has now.

There was a deal for a Russian state-owned company to purchase a company that held land with 20 percent of America's uranium mining capacity. But Clinton didn't personally hand it over, didn't realize a profit from it, and had no oversight or approval of the deal.

Trump continues to make reference to the Uranium One deal in a way that simply never took place.