Fox News is agog over a cooked-up, seven-year old “scandal” involving Hillary and Bill Clinton, uranium and the Russians that Sean Hannity has successfully massaged from the right-wing fringe into a Congressional investigation designed to suggest that it is the “real” Russia scandal.
Media Matters has an excellent and detailed explanation of the whole sordid mess that should be called the real uranium scandal. But I digress.
The story began with author Peter Schweizer, supported by the Bannon-founded Government Accountability Institute, bogusly alleging, in his 2015 book, that Hillary Clinton was instrumental in approving the 2010 purchase of Uranium One by the Russian government’s nuclear agency. In fact, the Clinton State Department was only one of many departments to review the deal and she probably had nothing to do with it.
But Schweizer didn’t let the fact stop him from speculating that she approved the deal because the Russians had donated money to Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation.
Now, with the Mueller investigation closing in on Trump, Hannity, who has dismissed investigations into Russia’s meddling in U.S. elections as a “tin foil hat conspiracy” promoted by liberals and the “destroy Trump media,” has suddenly fixated on this old news as an urgent matter of national security.
Hannity has been aided and abetted in this duplicity by his old pal Sara Carter (the same Sara Carter who alleged, but seems to have forgotten about, that Hezbollah was smuggling drugs and people into the U.S. via Mexican drug routes) and her former partner at the Sinclair-owned Circa website, John Solomon. Solomon is now executive vice president of The Hill. Media Matters found that Carter has appeared on 30 episodes of Hannity, Solomon on 14, in a little over three months, from May 15 through the end of August.
About a week ago, Solomon promoted a new story from Carter which, in turn, Hannity promoted. Media Matters explains:
Hannity was promoting a report by John Solomon, the executive vice president of The Hill, which purported to advance the Uranium One story. According to Solomon’s anonymous sources, “Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. 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 favorable decision to Moscow.” Solomon provides no evidence that the Clintons were aware this was happening, and of course the underlying conspiracy theory that Clinton pushed the Uranium One deal through still makes no sense. But it’s something the right-wing press can use to try to shift attention away from Trump.
Of course, proof and truth are for other people, not Hannity. He not only promoted the story, he demanded that Congress investigate. Not surprisingly, Trumpers at Fox and then in Congress fell in line. From Media Matters:
Over the next few days, Trump’s allies on Fox and elsewhere worked themselves into a frenzy over the “real collusion” story (per Alex Jones, the “Beginning Of The End For Clinton Crime Family”). On the morning of October 19, apparently spurred on by a Fox & Friends segment on Solomon’s story, Trump himself joined the fray, tweeting, “Uranium deal to Russia, with Clinton help and Obama Administration knowledge, is the biggest story that Fake Media doesn’t want to follow!”
And now Nunes—who had to recuse himself from Russia-related investigations earlier this year due to ethics charges that resulted from his effort to do the White House’s bidding and scuttle the Trump-Russia investigations—is taking a hand. At a press conference [yesterday], he announced that he would be launching an investigation into the Uranium One allegations. He will be working alongside the House Oversight Committee, helmed by the former chairman of the Benghazi Committee, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC).
Yes, this is shades of Benghazi… a scandal with no there there. But I believe the real goal here is not just to smear the Clintons (and deflect from the Trump disgraces) but to damage the Mueller investigation. I hope to have more on that aspect in a later post.
Watch Hannity demand that Mueller drop his current investigation and start investigating Uranium One below, from the October 17, 2017 Hannity. For those who dismiss Hannity as an over-the-hill hack, don't forget, just one week later, Congress complied with his demand.
First, Hannity has been desperately trying to drum up attention for anything he can that might look sinister about President Obama’s White House for the past 8 years, so this is not a new idea. We just need look back on his earlier hit songs like “Joe Sestak” and “Solyndra” and “Fast & Furious” and “IRS” and, well, the list could go on for days. Sadly, Hannity has never been able to make any of that stuff stick, so he just keeps trying to throw the mud, figuring that his audience won’t remember which story he told last.
Second, none of Hannity’s sources here are reliable by any means. Ellen correctly notes that Peter Schweizer’s work has been roundly discredited by anyone who actually took the time to examine his outrageous claims. If anything, Schweizer is simply one of a line of Clinton and Obama attackers who regularly get platforms on Fox News. Ed Klein is another of the group. There’s another one in the bunch who Hannity regularly tries to sneak in: Victoria Toensing, a discredited attorney who has made a career with her husband of trying to spread blatant smears about Dems. Toensing has not only been discredited; she’s actually been repudiated by some GOP congresspeople for her attempts to promote outlandish smears as a way of making money for herself.
And of course, there’s John Solomon and Sara Carter and Circa News. The linked article from Media Matters makes a crucial point – Circa News is not the independent mobile device news service it once was. When Sinclair bought it in 2015, it became a reliably pro-Trump hard-right resource for people like Hannity and Fox News. John Solomon may now be EVP at The Hill (which is a pretty right-wing operation if you actually read the materials they regularly distribute), but he is better known for his time at the Far Right Washington Times. He’s been known to peddle in conspiracy theories before and is not considered to be a reliable journalist by any stretch. As for Sara Carter, she made her career by peddling the infamous Ramos & Compean myth to AM radio in the 2000s – it didn’t matter to her that her story was almost completely false. (The Ramos & Compean story is one that is quite illustrative of how Right Wing media tends to play on the prejudices of many gullible listeners. Sara Carter actually had AM listeners to shows like “John and Ken” in Los Angeles donating time and money to a couple of guys who had been convicted of attempted murder.)
I should also note that multiple AM radio guys are trying to push this story, and to push its publication in The Hill as some kind of legitimacy. Armstrong & Getty tried this tactic, telling their listeners that “The Hill is a left-wing publication, so if they’re saying it too, you’ve gotta think there’s something to it.” Again, they’re betting that their listeners are gullible enough to believe that idea just because they said it. The reality is that multiple Right Wing and pro-Trump media services are trying to push this as a way of deflecting from the real mess that surrounds the Pence White House.
And what is the actual reality of the Uranium One story? This is where the story gets fun, because it doesn’t line up with the Right Wing spin at all. In reality, Uranium One is a company that has gone through a bunch of hands over the past decade. They have mines and resources all over the world, having merged and acquired multiple companies in this field. Their resources include many in Asia and I believe in Kazakhstan. The US resources actually cover about 20 percent of our CAPACITY to produce uranium, but in reality they produce very little here – maybe 2 percent. A Russian consortium started to build up interest in this company in the latter 2000s and was finally approved to get a majority control of it after 9 separate US agencies and departments looked at it, including the completely non-partisan Nuclear Regulatory Commission as well as the regulators in Utah. All the departments approved the deal as part of a resetting of our relations with Russia, and mostly because the deal was considered to be of no real impact to national security anyway. It was a good-faith thing, showing we could be a good business partner. Nothing really sinister about it, and no real indication that Hillary Clinton had anything to do with it beyond eventually hearing about it along with President Obama, with all the departments telling them this was a no-brainer.
Hannity and the Right Wing would like you to believe that as soon as this deal went through, the Russians poured 140 million dollars into the Clinton Foundation and paid 500K for Clinton to give a speech. Most of that assertion is nonsense once you look at the actual records. In reality, it looks like perhaps 1-5 million actually was donated to the Clinton Foundation around the time this sale was approved, by a single investor (Ian Telfer), who is or was the Chairman of Uranium One. The rest of the donations were pledged and put in motion years before this sale was approved. Nearly all of that big figure comes from donations from Frank Giustra, who put over 130 million into the Clinton Foundation between 2005 and 2007, when Hillary was in the Senate and not involved in this stuff. It was known that she would run for President, but this deal wasn’t even started at that time. Some of the other donations look like they happened in 2008, when she was in the midst of her presidential run, but those don’t look like they were intended to make this sale happen – they look like the typical lobbying that happens when various investors court presidential campaigns. As for Bill Clinton’s speech, yes, he was paid a LOT of money to give speeches, with that amount really going up once President Obama took office and his wife was the Secretary of State. He wasn’t just paid amounts like that by Russians – he was getting paid by anyone who wanted him to speak at their event. Keep in mind he’s always been an excellent speaker and motivator, and he remains a very popular President, known for presiding over a period of considerable prosperity.
So where’s the conspiracy here? Where do we see someone trying to change news stories or trying to dissuade Americans from voting? Where do we see Russians actually trying to generate false or misleading stories in US press and social media? The easy answer is that it’s not in this story. A congressional investigation into this is a fairly boring dead end. But I do agree with Hannity on one point – when the Mueller investigation is finished, it is quite possible that some people will in fact be going to jail. I just don’t think Hannity will be happy to see who that turns out to be…