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About the Uranium

Uranium-stock-720x350So, now that the heat is getting turned up on the investigation of Russia interference in the 2016 elections, we are starting to hear more about how we really ought to be looking at the Clintons from certain media outlets.  Indeed, this insistence deep into the first year of the Trump administration that Clinton needs to be locked up would be comedic if the context wasn’t so serious.  Let me note that I think the question of what the Russians did (or did not) do in the 2016 elections should be a nonpartisan concern (although I recognize that this is a near impossibility in our polarized political climate).  It should be an over-arching, serious concern that a foreign government attempted to subvert our democratic campaign processes through a series of activities.  These include, social media manipulation, aiding opposition research, hacking of DNC e-mails, and meeting with representatives of the Trump campaign.

But, one might ask, what about the uranium deal?

For a lengthy piece on the topic of how a Russian company acquired control of a Canadian company with access to mining in the US, see the NYT from April of 2015:  Cash Flowed to Clinton Foundation Amid Russian Uranium Deal.  It is, as the title suggests, critical of the presence of the Clinton Foundation in this story.  Specifically, the piece points to this issue:  ”American political campaigns are barred from accepting foreign donations. But foreigners may give to foundations in the United States.”   The piece (and the uranium story in general) is really one of corporate investment politics as well as the economic nationalism of Vladimir Putin (which has been strongly linked to the energy sector).  As the article notes:

The headline on the website Pravda trumpeted President Vladimir V. Putin’s latest coup, its nationalistic fervor recalling an era when its precursor served as the official mouthpiece of the Kremlin: “Russian Nuclear Energy Conquers the World.”

The article, in January 2013, detailed how the Russian atomic energy agency, Rosatom, had taken over a Canadian company with uranium-mining stakes stretching from Central Asia to the American West. The deal made Rosatom one of the world’s largest uranium producers and brought Mr. Putin closer to his goal of controlling much of the global uranium supply chain.

Of course, uranium talk makes people think about nuclear weapons (and, indeed, I think a lot of the stories about this topic imply that this is the focus).  However:

The national security issue at stake in the Uranium One deal was not primarily about nuclear weapons proliferation; the United States and Russia had for years cooperated on that front, with Russia sending enriched fuel from decommissioned warheads to be used in American nuclear power plants in return for raw uranium.

Still, the focus has really been on what sounds really (pardon the word choice) explosive:  ”the sale gave the Russians control of one-fifth of all uranium production capacity in the United States.”

This is the focus on FNC, at Breitbart, and elsewhere:  Clinton gave Russia 20% of US uranium!

The NYT piece provided the following:

Mr. Christensen, 65, noted that despite assurances by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that uranium could not leave the country without Uranium One or ARMZ obtaining an export license — which they do not have — yellowcake from his property was routinely packed into drums and trucked off to a processing plant in Canada.

Asked about that, the commission confirmed that Uranium One has, in fact, shipped yellowcake to Canada even though it does not have an export license. Instead, the transport company doing the shipping, RSB Logistic Services, has the license. A commission spokesman said that “to the best of our knowledge” most of the uranium sent to Canada for processing was returned for use in the United States. A Uranium One spokeswoman, Donna Wichers, said 25 percent had gone to Western Europe and Japan. At the moment, with the uranium market in a downturn, nothing is being shipped from the Wyoming mines.

The “no export” assurance given at the time of the Rosatom deal is not the only one that turned out to be less than it seemed. Despite pledges to the contrary, Uranium One was delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange and taken private. As of 2013, Rosatom’s subsidiary, ARMZ, owned 100 percent of it.

However, as WaPo notes:

no uranium produced at U.S. mines may be exported, except for some uranium yellowcake which is extracted and processed in Canada before being returned to the United States for use in nuclear power plants.

More completely see the following from James Conca at ForbesClaims of Clinton-Russia Uranium Collusion Are A Real Empty Barrel:

Clinton’s State Department and several government agencies on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States unanimously approved the 2010 partial sale of Canadian mining company Uranium One to the Russian nuclear giant Rosatom, supposedly giving Moscow control of more than 20% of America’s uranium supply.

Obama and Clinton colluding to hand over 20% America’s strategic uranium to the Russians? On cue, Fox News gabber Sean Hannity said this could be ‘the biggest scandal’ in American history.

But here’s the thing ― by 20%, we really mean almost zero.

Those U.S. facilities obtained by Russia produce almost nothing. The uranium deposits are of relatively poor grade and are too costly to compete on the uranium market. But the facilities do have good milling capacity to process ore, if anyone gives it to them, which hasn’t happened in about 10 years. Theoretically, they could process 20% of our ore, but that will never happen. Uranium One couldn’t give these facilities away.

Besides, Russia can’t export any uranium they produce in the U.S. They do not possess a Nuclear Regulatory Commission export license.

[…]

As Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear nonproliferation expert at the Middlebury Institute, described it, Russia’s purchase of the company ‘had as much of an impact on national security as it would have if they set the money on fire. That’s probably why (all the U.S. agencies involved) approved it.’

At a minimum, the distinction between fuel for nuclear power and for nuclear weapons needs to be made clearer as this story is discussed.

It should be noted that the main progenitor of the uranium story was a fellow named Peter Schweizer (back to the NYT story):

Some of the connections between Uranium One and the Clinton Foundation were unearthed by Peter Schweizer, a former fellow at the right-leaning Hoover Institution and author of the forthcoming book “Clinton Cash.” Mr. Schweizer provided a preview of material in the book to The Times, which scrutinized his information and built upon it with its own reporting.

Not noted in the NYT piec is that Schweizer is a long-term writer for Breitbart.   This does not make Schweizer’s research wrong, but is very much raises questions of his objectively in analyzing that information. If one reviews his pieces at Breitbart it is rather clear he was not a neutral journalist/research on the topic of the Clintons.  This connection is the least important part of this story in terms of judging what it really means in terms of the facts, but it is noteworthy given the political significance it plays currently in right-wing media over the last several years into the current moment.

The real fundament of this story is one of corporate maneuverings that are not all that uncommon in the world of multinational corporations.  It becomes political for three reasons:  the Putin government’s economic nationalism, the activities of the Clinton Foundations, and the power of right-wing media.

It is now in the news because Trump supporters (such as Breitbart) need a squirrel! to distract from (or at least to muddy the waters around) whatever it is the Mueller is about to reveal.

A couple of side-observations:

-It is weird to watch pro-Trump actors to try and tout this uranium deal as a huge national security threat, when they have otherwise been trying to downplay Russia as an adversary.

-The NYT piece cited above illustrates the degree to which claims that the “mainstream press” were in the bag for Clinton are simply false.

-I can understand how stories like this raised questions about the Clinton Foundation.

-On that media point, it is amazing to watch people who will buy into the “Fake News” narrative will gladly rely on reporting from WaPo or the NYT if they like the content (as we have seen here at OTB this week for commenters who are more than happy to tout a WaPo story that connected the Clinton campaign to the dossier research.

-To reiterate a point I made above:  the most important issue here should be figuring out how the Russian government has attempted to influence our elections.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. teve tory says:

    current foxnews.com headline:

    President fires on Fusion, Uranium One and Hillary scandals as Mueller preps ‘collusion’ announcement

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. Jen says:

    Oh, good grief. I had no idea that the genesis of this nonsense was the Clinton Cash clown. That “book” has been ripped to shreds with its shoddy research and poor writing.

    Another idiotic “scandal” that has nothing behind it. Squirrel, indeed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 2

  3. Daryl's other brother Daryll says:

    It’s amazing to me how silly 38% of this country is.
    Cheeto-Dick throws out Clinton and Uranium and Russia in a tweet and the base goes into full-on swamp fever mode. But we live in an age of alternative facts and facts being called fake news.
    Meanwhile the adult in the room goes about his business. I don’t think Mueller’s indictments will be earth-shattering. But they will be real news.
    Two things I can’t stop focusing on:
    1). Russia attacked us, continues to attack us, and 38% of the country just doesn’t care.
    2). Supposedly principled Republicans have abandoned all principles in the singular quest for tax cuts for the rich. Welcome to Kansas, Toto.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  4. teve tory says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Daryll:

    Like most sensible people I avoid breitbart, limbaugh, foxnews, gateway pundit, etc. But a significant fraction of the US populace gets all of its information strictly from sources like that. You can’t do that year after year and not wind up completely divorced from reality.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  5. teve tory says:

    in RWNJ land, hillary’s arrest and prosecution and enjailment is imminent, like, any day now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  6. MBunge says:

    the most important issue here should be figuring out how the Russian government has attempted to influence our elections.

    You should be happy then that there’s been a good bit of information on this already produced and the general point is that any Russian attempt to influence the 2016 election was minuscule in comparison to the size and scope of the campaign and was focused on general disruption and sowing of mistrust rather than promoting one candidate over another.

    Mike

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 28

  7. michael reynolds says:

    @MBunge:

    None of that is true.

    And again, why can’t you answer this simple question? http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/bregrets-theyve-had-a-few-brits-beginning-to-regret-brexit/#comment-2257713

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  8. @michael reynolds: I had not seen that thread, but, of course, Mr. Bunge is not a fan of answering questions.

    I did see, to my amusement, this:

    Countries OTB no longer talks about: Russia.

    Mike

    Oops.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  9. Rick Zhang says:

    Well, I do concede that in MBunge’s ramblings, he has managed to unearth a nugget of a statement that I agree with.

    any Russian attempt to influence the 2016 election was minuscule in comparison to the size and scope of the campaign and was focused on general disruption and sowing of mistrust rather than promoting one candidate over another.

    I think Russian trolling in the election season was about discrediting one candidate and stoking feelings of racism, nationalism, and fear in a certain portion of the electorate that is 1. gullible and 2. located in swing states. It’s probably true that they didn’t directly influence votes, but rather hearts and minds, which is easier to do and pays more long term dividends.

    Their ongoing trolling mostly seen in the comments sections of blogs, social media, and even mainstream media is to sew doubt, division, and fear. It’s easy to recognize due to features of:
    1. Simplicity of thought
    2. Seeking to master or change the narrative, redirecting attention away from the feature topic onto a sideshow
    3. When faced with an overwhelming controversy, seek to at least inject doubt and divert attention by focusing on minutia such as “gunshots coming from everywhere” = proof of a government conspiracy
    4. In other cases, try to create moral equivalence by making the other guys out to be just as bad. e.g. Hillary is corrupt. Look at her dirty foundation dealings.
    5. Repeat the same memes/themes over and over again, such as with the Obama birther things, coming up with one excuse and demand after another (moving the goalposts) whenever new documentation is produced
    6. Hypocrisy. Hyping up Benghazi to be some sort of major scandal, while saying/doing nothing about the equivalent Trump scandal (e.g. Niger ambush).
    7. Refuse to answer or resort to ad hominem attacks when challenged by someone with reason

    If you guys want a good business opportunity that will perpetuate the decline of modern American society, you can create a counterbalancing left wing internet troll HQ where paid volunteers (bored Sanders supporters?) use the above tactics to drum up outrage and even sprinkle in some fake news to demoralize Trump supporters, turn off educated independents, and enrage the liberal base. Then all forums and comments sections will truly become a place for bots and paid trolls to shout meaninglessly at each other.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

  10. Daryl's other brother Daryll says:

    @MBunge:

    any Russian attempt to influence the 2016 election was minuscule

    As was Cheeto-Dicks win in the EC.
    But the truth is that you cannot even begin to quantify the impact. You and yours are so willing to swallow and disseminate lies that the impact is inscrutable. We just know it is real. Not fake. And Clinton won by 3,000,000 votes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  11. michael reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    People like @MBunge only know what they’ve gleaned from headlines on Breitbart or Fox. Challenged they either run away, change the subject or simply reiterate the same rote nonsense.

    I’m not entirely sure some of these people could pass a Turing test. They don’t examine what they believe, they just download beliefs like so many apps and install them. They can’t quite explain what they believe or why, any more than I can explain how my TripIt app works.

    We’ve never taught critical thinking skills in schools, and with people losing or abandoning institutions, religious ones in particular, they look for some new set of pat answers. Weak people need certainty. Weak people need to be led. What’s been depressing is just how many of my fellow Americans are either incapable of, or simply avoiding, dealing with reality. It’s all very Invasion of the Bodysnatchers.

    The Trump line is that we’re all ‘butthurt,’ with said line endlessly repeated by people like @MBunge and @JKB with deplorable but unsurprising lack of originality. The truth is we’re creeped out by the discovery that so many people can be so devoid of even the most basic integrity. I’d imagined my opinion of my fellow Americans was low enough. Obviously rather than being the cynic I thought I was, I was being an idealist.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 1

  12. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @michael reynolds: As is true in gambling, it’s hard to go wrong hedging toward pessimism.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    CLINTON!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  14. mike shupp says:

    Steven Taylor:

    You’ve got roughly 40 % of American voters convinced there’s a book in the Bible, somewhere between Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, that spells out absolutely and forever that Hilary Clinton is a crook who needs to be thrown in jail until she dies, and this seems unlikely to change in the lifetime of anyone here.

    Maybe political scientists should be thinking about throwing in the towel, and start organizing discussion of how we build a successor American government?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  15. @mike shupp: “The Song of Benghazi”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  16. Mikey says:

    Now there’s this moron who wants to haul CFIUS before Congress to testify under oath about why they approved the Uranium One deal. It’s just beyond imbecilic.

    If he deserves credit for anything, it’s knowing what CFIUS is and its role in approving such transactions, because he’s the first Trumpist dipshit I’ve seen who actually does.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  17. gVOR08 says:

    The real story here, and the real tragedy, is that the supposedly liberal MSM followed Breitbart et al down this rabbit hole a year ago, and now they’re happily doing it all over again.

    Why are they so terrified of being accused of bias (toward reality). Everybody knows FOX is biased, doesn’t seem to hurt them. Or is this a Clinton Rules deal?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  18. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Mikey: Money quote from the comment thread of the column you linked:

    It’s not a coincidence that Muller comes out with this now that all heck is about to break lose on the democrats, Hillary, DNC and possibly Muller and Comey
    Every time things start to turn right for Trump the Democrats play some card.

    Unforking believable! I realize it’s Real Clear Politics, but wow!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  19. Mikey says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: It’s simply a total disconnect from reality.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  20. MarkedMan says:

    @michael reynolds: Michael, you may well be onto something when you observe that Bunge might not pass a touring test. Basic rule for a bot: change the subject when you are asked a question.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  21. Kylopod says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Basic rule for a bot: change the subject when you are asked a question.

    In the HBO movie Game Change (which bears only a scant relationship with the book co-written by a recently exposed sexual predator), there’s a scene where Steve Schmidt is watching Sarah Palin at the debate, she’s asked a question about health care, he mutters to himself “Pivot, pivot, pivot…” and then Palin quickly changes the subject and he cheers.

    At the time it became something of a dogma among Republicans that Palin “won” the debate against Biden, despite the fact that post-debate polls showed no evidence that the electorate agreed. They considered it a victory that she didn’t end up blubbering the way she did during the infamous Couric interviews, even though there was no substance to her performance, it was just rote recitation of pre-digested lines she’d rehearsed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  22. dmichael says:

    @michael reynolds: Lily Tomlin: No matter how cynical you become, it’s never enough to keep up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  23. R.Dave says:

    Best subtitle ever!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: No, they think there are some missing chapters in Revelation which will show that Bill and Hillary are emissaries of Satan and that Barack Hussein Obama is a clever acrostic for “I was born in Kenya, but I really fooled you guys.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. gVOR08 says:

    @mike shupp:

    You’ve got roughly 40 % of American voters convinced there’s a book in the Bible, somewhere between Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, that spells out absolutely and forever that Hilary Clinton is a crook who needs to be thrown in jail until she dies, and this seems unlikely to change in the lifetime of anyone here.

    More importantly, NYT and much of the supposedly liberal MSM seem to believe this, hence the Clinton Rules.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. Franklin says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Tsssssss!

    (That’s the sound of a complete burn. I shook my head when he wrote that. He really is acting like a classic troll, dropping a bomb and then running off. We should no longer pay attention to him. And moderators should consider banning him until he backs up what he says.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  27. david7134 says:

    @Jen:
    No, it has not been “ripped to shreds”. Rather than concern yourself with proper writing, why not answer the charges in the book.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  28. david7134 says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Daryll:
    Don’t know much about our election process, do you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  29. CET says:

    I have a (cynical) proposition:

    Yea, the Uranium One thing is obviously just a way to throw up a smokescreen and deflect attention from the Trump/Russia thing. But the GOP and rightwing media have played their hand fairly well on this and have captured some large fraction of the moron vote. Fine. Good for them.

    I propose that we compromise. The Clinton Foundation will be dissolved and the Clintons will be barred from engaging in political work. The Trump administration will dissolved and Trump will be barred from engaging in political work. The country wins on both counts, and we can all celebrate.

    Now, if I could just get Reid and McConnell to start taking my phone calls…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1