Like Trump’s recent calls for an investigation of Uranium One, this demand is nonsense — and his push for criminal investigations of his adversaries is a shocking violation of our democratic norms.
Let’s begin with the “Tweeter-in-Chief’s” response on Thursday to the claim that Clinton used a joint fundraising committee to control the DNC during the presidential primaries: “This is real collusion and dishonesty. Major violation of Campaign Finance Laws and Money Laundering – where is our Justice Department?”
That is not to say that the DNC should not review the allegations. As a political matter, parties are supposed to remain even-handed during primaries. But even assuming the claims are accurate (and we note they are contested) that is an issue for political party governance, not for the Justice Department.
It would be bad enough if this were the only example of President Trump trying to go on the offensive by pushing an alternative and baseless Democratic or Clinton scandal — but it is not. Before today, his diversion campaign centered on a seven-year old transaction involving the sale of a portion of Uranium One, a Canadian uranium company, to Rosatom, the Russian state-owned nuclear energy company.
The President has obsessively tweeted about the need for investigating Hillary Clinton for wrongly making the sale happen, claiming that it resulted in the United States turning over uranium to Russia. Trump has been touting this since the campaign trail, where he said that Clinton “gave up 20 percent of America’s uranium supply to Russia” and “You know what people do with Uranium, don’t you? It’s called nuclear.”
First, the sale of the Canadian company Uranium One needed US approval because of the company’s rights to mine uranium in the United States. It was unanimously approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a group consisting of nine government agencies led by the Treasury Department and including the State Department.
Second, President Trump’s claims that this sale provided Russia with the uranium to use are false. The only right that Rosatom had was to mine the uranium in the United States. The Russia agency had no right and has never been given an export license to take the uranium out of the United States.
Third, the original owner of Uranium One, Frank Giustra, gave and pledged more than $100 million to the Clinton Foundation (by way of the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership) as claimed. But Giustra had sold his interests in the company in 2007, three years before the approval occurred and before Hillary Clinton ever became secretary of state.
According to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker analysis, “Given that Uranium One’s production is only 2 percent of an already small total US production — not 20 percent — the overwrought claims that Clinton “gave away” 20 percent of the US nuclear supply or that Russia controls that much US uranium are simply absurd.”
Thus, we end up with President Trump, White House Chief of Staff Kelly and various congressional allies misusing their office to pursue blatantly partisan investigations of matters in which there is no evidence of legal violations. This undermines the special counsel’s investigation and misleads the American people.
That will produce a firestorm the likes of which has not been seen in this country since President Richard Nixon had special prosecutor Archibald Cox fired — and we all know how that ultimately ended.