Attorney General Jeff Sessions has inquired about the need for a special prosecutor to investigate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s role in approving the 2010 acquisition of U.S. uranium stockpiles by a Russian energy company — a complicated deal that has come to be known simply as Uranium One.
Uranium One was the name of the Canadian company with large uranium stakes in North America and overseas — including some in the U.S. — that was purchased by the Russian energy giant, Rosatom, with the blessing of the Obama administration.
President Donald Trump and other Clinton detractors say she approved the Russian takeover as part of pay-for-play deal that saw lucrative kick-backs by Uranium One to the Clinton Foundation while she was secretary of state. Throughout her presidential campaign, Clinton adamantly denied any wrongdoing and said the decisions about the deal were not made at her level.
Here’s what you need to know:
The Uranium One deal was approved in 2010 under the Obama administration, but it was not approved by the State Department alone.
In fact, the Department of Treasury led an interagency group called the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., which considers input from nine members, including representatives the Departments of State, Defense, Homeland Security, Commerce, Energy and the White House. The committee reviews foreign investments that could pose national security risks.
Given the wide ranging input, approval of this sale could not have been Clinton’s doing alone.
The conditions of the deal also conflict with any narrative that the sale put the U.S. at risk.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission stipulated that “no uranium produced at either facility [in Wyoming] may be exported.” The NRC added that stockpiles cannot leave Canada without the approval of the United States. If exceptions were made, uranium could not be used to make nuclear weapons, pursuant to preexisting nuclear cooperation agreements with Russia.
The pay-to-play accusations are tricky. While money did flow to the foundation while the decisions were being made, money was also flowing well before Clinton was secretary of state and potentially in a position to influence any decision to approve that deal and also well before Uranium One’s takeover by the Russian firm .
For example, the New York Times reported that, from 2009 through 2013, Uranium One’s chairman made four donations totaling $2.35 million to the Clinton Foundation.
Uranium One’s predecessor company, UrAsia, also based in Canada, gave lots of money to the Clinton Foundation well before Clinton was secretary of state.
In 2006, Canadian mining financier Frank Giustra, who at the time owned UrAsia, gave $31.3 million to the Clinton Foundation.
In 2007 UrAsia merged with a South African mining company and became Uranium One.
Separately, Bill Clinton spoke at a Moscow conference in June 2010 after the Russian takeover had been announced, but before it had been approved by the committee. He was paid $500,000 by a Russian group with links to the Kremlin, according to financial disclosure documents reviewed by ABC News.
Separately, Republicans also want to know if there was an FBI investigation during the Obama administration into the Uranium One deal.
Recently the DOJ has cleared an FBI informant to talk to Congress about his undercover efforts to learn more about the Russian nuclear deals in North America.
It’s unclear what he knows, but the mere existence of this informant has helped fuel speculation there were corrupt dealings involving Clinton.