The Uranium One story is a prime example of fake news. It is a GOP talking point known to be false. That knowledge, however, is not very important to the Republicans, who have gone to great length to keep America talking about it this week. The opposition has spent an awful lot of money to kick off the conversation.
The whole thing is a cheap attempt to shift the Russiagate narrative by blaming it all on Hillary Clinton.
As this was being written, the first news came back that Paul Manafort and his sidekick Rick Gates were indicted on money crimes going back to their Ukraine days. A jubilant Trump tweeted out a statement distancing himself from these activities.
But Mueller wasn’t finished. The true bombshell was yet to come.
It turns out that former foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, had admitted lying to the FBI about contacts with foreign officials close to the Russian government who discussed “dirt” relating to emails linked to Clinton. He was quietly arrested on July 27. He’s been fully cooperating with the government ever since.
This is why we’ve spent the week hearing about the Uranium One deal.
The relation of truth to a given subject is not a considered factor when we’re talking about the Trump administration. This story was manufactured conservative disinformation from beginning to end. It has been threaded back into the national narrative as a political countersuit against Democrats.
It’s just Trump’s old Manhattan real estate strategy in his new role as president. This is the political equivalent of a countersuit. The ghost of Roy Cohn has got to be gnashing its teeth in glee, down there in hell.
Joy Reid recently summed up the Trump strategy by quoting from the presidential debate last summer. “I’m no puppet. You’re a puppet”.
The idea is that to relieve the pressure on him, Trump will attempt to shift the nation’s attention and anger toward Hillary Clinton. Accuse your enemy, of that which you are guilty of. The concept is called swiftboating. Its purpose is to scare Democrats into shutting up and going home. To make us tap out due to fear for the safety of our leader. “You leave me alone, and I’ll leave you alone. If not, there will be trouble.”
This is the face of fascism. Manufactured excuses. Rampant what-aboutism. Legitimate science is either discarded or adapted. It all becomes part of the new authoritarian ideology. It is then gradually dripped into the heads of the people by the likes of Boris Epshteyn and Sebastian Gorka.
This concept is not abstract, or something that only happens elsewhere. Companies like the Sinclair Broadcasting Company, which is said to be in talks with conservative TV show host Bill O’Reilly, will be threading pro- Trump messaging into every aspect of television. Their virulent brand of right-wing commentary and so-called “classic propaganda” may soon reach three-quarters of US households.
Insofar as Democratic involvement is concerned in the U1 deal, there’s nothing controversial at all. It’s an attempt to shift the national narrative back against Trump’s enemies and give his supporters some new and soothing lie to hold on to.
The important issue here is why this ordinary transaction was cooked up into a scandal in the first place; and the troubling implications that it has for the future of American democracy.
As to the details of the controversy surrounding Uranium One, they are not very controversial.
The company is a subsidiary of Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned nuclear technology corporation. In 2010, while Hillary Clinton was secretary of State, Rosatom wished to acquire a majority share of Uranium One. In order for it to share in the control of uranium mines in the United States, the sale had to be approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment In the United States (CFIUS).
Because the deal would ultimately place Uranium One in control of 20% of U.S. uranium production capacity, the transaction required federal approval. During the 2016 election campaign, Trump asserted that Clinton “gave 20% of our uranium — gave Russia for a big payment.” This is untrue on every level.
The mining licenses remained with U.S. subsidiaries controlled by U.S. persons. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission reviewed the transaction and gave its approval. All nine members of the CFIUS board voted for it with a clear conscience and say today they’d do the same again.
Uranium One does not hold the proper export license, so none of its uranium can be exported. It can never be taken to Russia and turned into nukes.
All the committee members have told everyone Clinton was not involved in the decision.
This “scandal” consisted of a Canadian company, the Northern Uranium Corporation, selling a Russian company some stock in uranium.
The nuclear recycling angle, specifically the Koch Industries interest in the valuable uranium that comes out of them, is likely of tantamount importance here. The educated guess of one expert who spoke with Millennial Democrats under the conditions of anonymity is that the Kochs did not want the competition from recycled uranium.
Most likely, this was why they needed a reason to keep recycled uranium politically unpopular. They also needed a reason to keep Hillary Clinton unpopular. It would seem they put two and two together.
These two things have nothing to do with one another, but it proved easy to make it seem otherwise. This is where the slanderous spin on Uranium One came from.
This libel has no basis in any historical record. It comes out of a wingnut book called Clinton Cash. Its production was financed by an organization called the Government Accountability Institute. This is a conservative nonprofit founded by the book’s author, Peter Schweitzer. They teamed up with Breitbart’s Steve Bannon to conduct the research for the book. Billionaire Robert Mercer, the same guy who is still paying the bills for Breitbart News, signed the check on this one, too.
Needless to say, it has been thoroughly dismantled by experts.
The story was ridiculous and crooked back then, but its revival in the national dialogue at this particular time is troubling in the extreme. It means the RNC is willing to drag a private citizen into government affairs, for no reason other than to deflect attention from the truth. You don’t prosecute your political opponents using show trials and Congress in order to attack anything but the fabric of our democracy.
Going forward, the Uranium One slander serves as an excellent case study for the examining and reverse-engineering of Republican propaganda. There will be more of this to come than we can imagine; Russian ads alone reached over 120 million on Facebook this year.
By thinking critically and staying alert, however, we can spot these things as they come. We can dismantle them, dissect them, and lay bare their innards to the light. In this manner, we will come to see how they work.
Then we hold them up as examples of the disingenuity of our opponents. Our job is to expose lies and bear witness.
There’s still a lot we can do. We still have everything it takes to fight the attempts of Trump and Putin at tyranny. The time-honored power of the vote can still save us. Make a specific plan for voting, and do what you can to get others to do the same. Once we take back the Congress, we can rid ourselves of Trump. In short, #RiseAndOrganize.