President Trump and the conservative media are trying to shift the focus of the Russia probe toward two stories regarding Hillary Clinton and the funding behind the so-called “Russian dossier” and a 2010 Uranium deal with a Russian corporation. William Brangham puts the stories in context and looks at the truth behind the allegations.
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As the Russia probe continues, President Trump and conservative media outlets are promoting two stories about Hillary Clinton that they say should be the real focus of an investigation.
But what’s the truth behind those allegations?
Our William Brangham is here to put them in context.
President Donald Trump:
And you look at what’s happened with Russia and you look at the uranium deal and you look at the fake dossier.
With Uranium One, the FBI had mountains of evidence of Russian bribery.
The Clinton campaign and the DNC paid $12 million for a dossier to connect Donald Trump to Russia.
The president and much of the conservative media are arguing that these two stories about the infamous Russian dossier and the so-called Uranium One deal are evidence that not only is the Russia story a hoax, but that Hillary Clinton should be investigated, not President Trump.
First, the dossier.
The so-called Russian dossier was compiled by this man, former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. He got his information from various Russian contacts, some of whom he paid for their info. Steele was working at the time for a company called Fusion GPS.
In January, BuzzFeed News released a copy of the dossier. It contained as yet unproven allegations that the Russians had wanted Mr. Trump to win the election, that Russians had shared valuable information about Hillary Clinton with the Trump campaign, and that Russia had compromising sexually explicit video of Mr. Trump that could be used as blackmail.
The conservative news site The Free Beacon initially paid Fusion GPS to gather material against Mr. Trump. It was gathered for Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign because The Beacon’s largest funder was a big Rubio supporter.
That funding stopped when Mr. Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination. After that point, Marc Elias, Elias, a top lawyer for the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign, continued paying Fusion GPS, and that’s when the Steele dossier was compiled.
It’s these payments that the White House says proves the Clinton campaign was behind the whole Russia story. They seem to be arguing that, because Christopher Steele got his information from Russian sources, that means the Clinton campaign was colluding with the Russians and creating this false narrative.
Here’s how White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders put it today:
There’s clear evidence of the Clinton campaign colluding with Russian intelligence to spread disinformation and smear the President to influence the election.
The White House’s theory ignores the broad consensus shared by U.S. intelligence agencies that the Russians did try and influence our elections, in part by hacking e-mails from the DNC and Clinton campaign chair John Podesta.
The second story is about the so-called Uranium One deal, which President Trump has called this era’s Watergate.
It dates back to 2010 and the sale of a controlling interest in a company called Uranium One. It’s a Canadian mining company that partly operates in the United States, and it was sold to a state-owned Russian corporation, Rosatom.
The sale involved control of about 20 percent of the United States’ uranium reserves, and the sale required a review by the U.S. government. The claim is that Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time, approved the sale in exchange for $145 million in contributions to the Clinton Global Initiative.
President Donald Trump:
Hillary Clinton gave them 20 percent of our uranium, gave Russia, for a big payment.
So, let’s break this down.
First, Secretary Clinton didn’t have the authority to approve the deal. Several different U.S. agencies had to sign off on the deal, all of which did. There is no evidence that Clinton was informed or involved in the sale at all.
Second, the uranium never left the country. It’s not legal to export uranium produced in U.S. mines.
The Clinton Foundation did receive $145 million in contributions from individuals connected to Uranium One, beginning at least a year before the sale. And, in 2010, the year of the sale, former President Bill Clinton received $500,000 from a Russian bank for a speech he gave in Moscow.
For now, those all have been deemed legal transactions.
But, still, today, Mr. Trump once again stoked these stories on Twitter, suggesting now that even the Obama campaign might have been in on creating the dossier.
And on Capitol Hill, congressional Republicans continue their calls to investigate the Clinton campaign.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m William Brangham.