Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified before the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
Some of his testimony pertained to allegations about Trump campaign collusion with Russia, and Sessions made an important concession on that subject, which has dominated press coverage of his testimony.
But there were some fascinating exchanges on other subjects, including the “Uranium One” deal which some of the right believe is a graver scandal, one more deserving of investigation, than anything in which the Trump campaign may have been involved.
On Monday, Sessions had director prosecutors to “evaluate certain issues” concerning Uranium One, and to report to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein “as appropriate,” recommending whether any new investigations need to be done, whether any existing investigations need “further resources,” or whether any matters “merit the appointment of a Special Counsel.”
In June 2010 a Canadian based company, Uranium One, announced that it had signed an agreement to sell a majority of its equity to ARMZ, the mining arm of the Russian nuclear energy agency, Rosatom. But such an agreement requires approval by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS). This is a committee with nine members, all high ranking government officials. One of the nine ex officio members of the committee is the Secretary of State who, in 2010, was Hilary Clinton.
As noted above, Uranium One wasn’t a US based company. It was Canadian. Still, much of the uranium it mines is in the United States, and the CFIUS could have recommended against approval. (IF it had, that recommendation itself would not have stopped the deal – President Obama would have had to act upon it do that.)
Right Wing View
The Uranium One deal became a political issue only five years later, when author Peter Schweizer came out with a book, Clinton Cash, concerning the Clinton household, its foundation, and their connections.
One chapter of Schweizer’s book detailed that the Clinton Foundation had received millions in donations from people with ties to Uranium One, and had failed to disclose those donations. Schweizer painted this as a quid pro quo. Uranium One through intermediaries gave a lot of money to the foundation, and Clinton as Secretary of State, and member of CFIUS, saw to it that there was no obstacle to the deal with Rosatom. This alleged quid pro quo has been sensationalized and statements of it have shortened further by critics over the last two years, who now say simply that Clinton sold US uranium to the Russians for millions of dollars for her foundation.
There was naturally then some eagerness among conservatives to see what Sessions would say about the matter on Tuesday. Since there is a special counsel who is looking into possible Trump-Russia connections, shouldn’t there be a special counsel looking into Clinton-Russia, meaning at a minimum looking into the Uranium One matter?
The blog RedState declared it a “safe bet” that “there is an active investigation into Uranium One and probably the Clinton Foundation.”
But Sessions disappointed them at the hearing. When Rep. Jim Jordan pressed the point with regard to a special counsel, the AG replied, “We will use the proper standards and that’s the only thing I can tell you, Mr. Jordan. You can have your idea but sometimes we have to study what the facts are and to evaluate whether it meets the stands it [a special counsel] requires.” He clearly was not going to commit.
Left Wing View
At this point little that the AG of this administration could say (while remaining in that post) would earn him any praise from the left, but the rebuff of Rep. Jordan’s suggestions came close.
Alex Ward, in Vox, wrote that Republican’s claims about the Uranium One deal are “demonstrably not true,” and that this would make “a special counsel appointment very odd.”
Zeeshan Aleem, also in Vox, wrote that since the State Department, which Clinton headed, was only “one of nine federal agencies and a number of additional independent federal and state regulators that signed off on the deal,” the notion of a simple quid pro quo that Clinton controlled is plainly fallacious.
In Slate, Elliot Hannon writes that POTUS is “a conspiracy theorist casting about untethered from any common understanding of the truth,” and his minions are invoking the supposed Clinton/UraniumOne deal as a “whatabout,” a way to distract attention from Trump’s own misdeeds, his leaping from “lie to lie.”