Fox News has been regularly trying to tie Hillary Clinton to a uranium sale involving Russia, but host Shepard Smith angered viewers by dismantling many of the claims against Clinton in the so-called "Uranium One scandal" in a sex-minute segment on Tuesday. It's a topic often brought up by many of President Trump's strongest supporters, and Trump himself played up the scandal while campaigning last year. They argue she was involved in approving a 2010 sale of American-sourced uranium to a Russian-owned company, but as Smith showed, that's not the case.
Smith explained that Clinton on her own had no authority either to approve or block the sale of roughly 20 percent of U.S. uranium to the Russian-owned company, Uranium One. As he laid out in detail, that authorization has to come from Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS. According to Foreign Policy, CFIUS "is charged with making sure that foreign acquisitions of American firms do not present a threat to U.S. national security." All representatives from the nine federal agencies that make up CFIUS must unanimously approve any deal before it gets a green light.
Smith also called into question whether Clinton had any real involvement on the panel to begin with. He pointed out that former assistant secretary Jose Fernandez, the State Department's CFIUS appointee for the Uranium One deal, has said Clinton "never intervened" during the approval process.
The segment sparked angry responses on Twitter from Fox News viewers who didn't appreciate Smith laying out all the facts around the deal.
There were other important points Smith made that called into question just how many on the right have framed the Uranium One deal. One of the more common talking points criticizing the sale of American uranium to a foreign power like Russia is how that kind of move might upset the balance of nuclear power. However, Smith reported that exports of uranium aren't legal, which means all the product retrieved in U.S. mines — by both foreign and domestic companies — must be sold within the United States. "It’s somewhat disingenuous to say this uranium is now Russia’s, to do with what it pleases," Colin Chilcoat, an expert on Russian energy, notes at Oilprice.com.
A major theme of much Fox News coverage of the Uranium One deal has been pushing for a special counsel or other congressional investigation into the matter. Ohio's Rep. Jim Jordan pressed Attorney General Sessions repeatedly about the issue during a U.S. House hearing, at one point bluntly asking, "What’s it going to take to get a special counsel?" Sessions seemed to push back in response, saying, "It would take a factual basis that meets the standards of the appointment of a special counsel."
Still, it's unlikely the"Uranium One "scandal" will go away any time soon, at least on Fox News. While Smith poked plenty of holes in the theory that Clinton was singlehandedly responsible for trading away one-fifth of America's uranium stockpile, there remain questions about the $140 million given to the Clinton Foundation by investors in Uranium One. Several of the Canadian company's original owners donated large sums to the Clinton Foundation during the same time period that Rosatom, Russia's atomic energy agency, acquired a majority stake in the company. As Joe Becker and Mike McIntire also note in the New York Times, during that same period former President Bill Clinton was paid $500,000 to give a speech by a Kremlin-linked Russian investment bank "that was promoting Uranium One stock."
Some suggest that the nonstop Fox News focus on Clinton is a way to avoid reporting on the current investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. Arguing that Republicans are "terrified" of what special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation might turn up, Zeeshan Aleem writes at Vox, "they’re desperate for ideas to distract people from Trump’s scandals — including reviving a false and debunked claim about the uranium deal."
Based on the huge amount of angry Twitter responses to Smith's debunking of the latest Clinton scandal, Fox News viewers are not ready to accept defeat on the subject of Uranium One.