Asked about the exploding scandal over his alleged ties to Russia and its president Vladimir Putin at his White House press conference Thursday morning, Donald Trump made a startling assertion. He claimed that Hillary Clinton had somehow gifted to Russia an astonishing 20 percent of the United States uranium supply.
Uranium is the fissionable material used in some types of nuclear weapons, as well as in nuclear power reactors.
If true, the claim — made by Trump repeatedly during his presidential campaign — would appear to paint the former secretary of state and Democratic presidential nominee in a worse light with regard to Russia than anything Trump himself has been accused of.
However, the claim is false.
"We had Hillary Clinton try to do a reset. We had Hillary Clinton give Russia 20 percent of the uranium in our country. You know what uranium is, right? It's this thing called nuclear weapons. And other things. Like lots of things are done with uranium. Including some bad things," Trump said."But nobody talks about that. I did not do anything for Russia. I've done nothing for Russia. Hillary Clinton gave them 20 pecent of our uranium," he continued. "Hillary Clinton did a reset, remember with the stupid plastic button that made us all look like a bunch of jerks?"
Trumps' reference to a "plastic button" recalled a 2009 incident in which Clinton, then secretary of state, presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a red plastic button with the printed word "reset." The attempt at a lighthearted gesture reflected President Barack Obama's belief that newly elected Russian President Dmitry Medvedev represented an opportunity to "reset" soured U.S.-Russia relations while Putin served as prime minister, a theoretically lower-ranking position.
The claim that Clinton "gave them 20 percent of our uranium," however, originated with the anti-Clinton pseudo-documentary Clinton Cash, written and produced by Stephen K. Bannon — who now serves as a top White House counselor to Trump, and guided Trump's presidential campaign as CEO.
The facts that gave rise to the false claim restated by Trump on Thursday involve the 2013 sale of a Toronto, Canada, uranium mining company, Uranium One Inc., to the Russian state-run nuclear energy company Rosatom.
By purchasing the mining company, Russia came to effectively control 20 percent of the U.S. capacity to produce uranium — uranium that has not been mined yet and may never be mined. Even more importantly, Russia has no license to import uranium from the United States. In other words, none of the uranium mined by the Toronto company may be legally sent to Russia — unless the current administration or a future one changes course and issues the necessary license.
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Additionally, the United States produces only about 2 percent of the world's uranium. Uranium One, however, also holds large mining interests in Kazakhstan, which is the world's most prolific uranium mining country and believed to be the real reason that Rosatom purchased the Toronto mining company.
Nine government agencies were required to sign off on the sale to allow it to go through. One of those nine was the State Department, which Clinton as secretary of state headed at the time the deal was in the works. Whether Clinton personally signed off on the sale at the time remains uncertain. But what is certain is that the Trump claim that "we had Hillary Clinton give Russia 20 percent of the uranium in our country" is a false statement.
[Featured Image By Mario Tama/Getty Images]