- President Donald Trump called the Obama administration’s approval of the 2010 sale of American uranium to a Russian-backed company a “modern-age” Watergate.
- Trump has recently brought renewed focus to the uranium deal, which he accused Hillary Clinton of brokering during the 2016 presidential campaign.
- Democrats have called a new Republican investigation into the 2010 deal a partisan distraction.
President Donald Trump called the Obama administration’s approval of the 2010 sale of American uranium to a Russian-backed company a “modern-age” Watergate.
“I think the uranium sale to Russia and the way that it was done, so underhanded with tremendous amounts of money being passed, I actually think that’s Watergate, modern-age,” Trump told reporters outside the White House on Wednesday afternoon.
Rep. Devin Nunes, the embattled chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, announced Tuesday that he had opened an investigation in conjunction with the House Oversight Committee into why the FBI did not inform Congress of its reported concerns about a Russian bid to control a Canadian mining firm with holdings in the US.
Nunes’ announcement came one week after The Hill published a report on a “racketeering scheme … designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favourable decision to Moscow.”
The New York Times reported in 2015 that “as the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation.” The Times’ reporting built off of “Clinton Cash,” a book by the conservative author Peter Schweizer that the Clintons dismissed as partisan conspiracy-mongering.
The Hill’s report largely echoed those claims, alleging that Russian officials tried to “ingratiate themselves with the Clintons” by transferring “millions of dollars from Russia’s nuclear industry to an American entity that had provided assistance to Bill Clinton’s foundation.”
Trump took an immediate interest in the story after The Hill published its report, tweeting on Thursday that the “Uranium deal to Russia, with Clinton help and Obama Administration knowledge, is the biggest story that Fake Media doesn’t want to follow!”
Trump used the uranium deal to try to undercut Clinton during the campaign and draw scrutiny away from his own potential Russia ties. He claimed in October 2016 that Clinton gave uranium to Russia “for a big payment,” which The Washington Post later said was inaccurate.
Democrats have characterised the attacks as blatantly partisan attempts to distract attention from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Trump again called the investigation into Russian meddling in the election and possible collusion between his campaign and the Russian government a “hoax” on Wednesday.
“This was the Democrats coming up with an excuse for losing an election,” Trump said. “They didn’t know what to say, so they made up the whole Russia hoax. Now it’s turning out that the hoax is turned around and you look what’s happened with Russia and you look at the uranium deal and you look at the fake dossier, so that’s all turned around.”
Fact checkers more broadly have been quick to push back on characterizations of the uranium deal as a quid pro quo between Clinton and Russia, and PolitiFact found that the US produces such little uranium that the “concerns were out of proportion.”
The Post’s fact checker reported last year that although the State Department was one of several agencies that would have been able to approve the 2010 deal, “there is no evidence Clinton herself got involved in the deal personally, and it is highly questionable that this deal even rose to the level of the secretary of state.”
“Theoretically, as Schweizer says, Clinton could have intervened,” The Post reported. “But even then, it ultimately would have been Obama’s decision whether to suspend or block the deal.”
Watch the clip below:
Natasha Bertrand and Max Tani contributed to this report.
“I think the uranium sale to Russia…I actually think that’s Watergate, modern age”, Pres. Trump says https://t.co/woZKgfaR29 pic.twitter.com/DteqDGLEya
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) October 25, 2017
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