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Donald Trump made this claim in his February 16, 2017, press conference. Did Hillary Clinton give Russia 20% of the US's uranium? What is the source for this claim?

Transcript

Now tomorrow, you’ll say “Donald Trump wants to get along with Russia, this is terrible.” It’s not terrible. It’s good. We had Hillary Clinton try and do a reset. We had Hillary Clinton give Russia 20 percent of the uranium in our country. You know what uranium is, right? This thing called nuclear weapons like lots of things are done with uranium including some bad things.

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    Are we talking weapons-grade uranium, depleted uranium, or what? – JAB Feb 16 '17 at 18:57
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    I honestly don't know but he just made this claim – ford prefect Feb 16 '17 at 19:06
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    Most of the uranium in this country is still in the ground. The US military has also "given" quite a bit of it to various countries in the form of depleted uranium weaponry. – jamesqf Feb 16 '17 at 19:58
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    The scary thing is that he probably doesn't know the difference between weapons-grade enriched and ore straight from the ground. Plus, Russia really doesn't need more nukes, they already have more than enough. – Kaithar Feb 17 '17 at 12:02
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    "This thing called nuclear weapons like lots of things are done with uranium including some bad things." This sentence alone is absurd. He starts with fear mongering nuclear weapons, then slips in like lots of things to cover himself when people call out facts that not all uranium is nuclear, then sandwhiches it with another fear mongering bad things to remind people that this 20% probably has to be nuclear... – DasBeasto Feb 17 '17 at 14:33
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This claim comes from Peter Schweizer's book Clinton Cash.

The Washington Post notes that the details mentioned above are correct:

The deal gave Russia control of about 20 percent of U.S. uranium extraction capacity, according to a 2010 CNN article about the deal. In other words, Russia has rights to the uranium extracted at those sites, which represents 20 percent of the U.S. uranium production capacity. (emphasis mine)

However, tying it to Clinton is misleading at best. The evidence seems to rest on two facts:

  1. A Canadian businessman (as noted above) that was instrumental in the sale was also a Clinton donor.
  2. The State Department was 1 of 9 agencies surveying the deal.

Details about the deal are not very available, but the State Department did not have the authority to stop the deal. Only the President could, according to the Post.

Clinton has denied that she was involved, and the consensus seems to be that the Secretary would mostly likely not be involved in the details.

There were some concerns raised, but they didn't go to her: Some Republican lawmakers in 2010 did raise concerns about the deal — but they sent their letter to then-Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. (Treasury chairs the CFIUS.) Final approval was given by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which noted that the mines would remain under the control of U.S. subsidiaries.

And, as @jeffronicus mentions above, the deal gave the Russian company the right to the profits from the uranium, but not to acquire the uranium itself.

So, in the absence of hard facts, it looks like her agency was one of many involved in approving the deal to sell extraction rights, but that she probably was not involved. In any case, she was not the deciding vote on the review process. You could argue that maybe she could have stopped it, but to answer the question: she was not in the position to "give" anyone anything.

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    This answer could be enhanced with the fact mention in the comment to the other answer that while the Russians "own" the uranium in that they derived the economic benefit from it, they don't have the right to export it from the US. – antlersoft Feb 16 '17 at 21:45
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    Also, if the Washington Post article has its facts correct, neither Clinton nor anyone else GAVE the Russians anything. They bought the company, fair and square. Your basic market economy at work, no? – jamesqf Feb 17 '17 at 4:56
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    @cbmeeks No uranium was sold, rights to economically exploit uranium was sold. By a Canadian company, to a Russian company. But the uranium remains in the US, and cannot (legally) be removed from the US. We’re just now paying a Russian company to extract it for us, instead of paying a Canadian company to do that. Which doesn’t really change anything for us; we neither get nor lose anything, we’re just an interested observer on this transaction. Or, alternatively, whether it’s a Canadian or a Russian company, the deal provides us with uranium—specifically, uranium that’s usable, not buried. – KRyan Feb 17 '17 at 14:19
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    In other words, the answer to the specific claim being made is that no, neither Clinton nor anybody else gave Russia any amount of uranium. The United States gave Russia access to the profits from 20% of its uranium production capacity, which is very different and which doesn't give any actual uranium to Russia. – aroth Feb 17 '17 at 15:03
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    @arot: Even the United States didn't GIVE anybody anything. Though I'm not claiming to be an expert in mining law, my understanding is that mineral rights are basically private property, and those rights were SOLD along with the Canadian company that owned them. – jamesqf Feb 17 '17 at 18:13
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Politifact evaluated a number of claims from Trump's press conference, including this one.

They referred back to a campaign fact check where they rated a similar claim Mostly False:

The reference is to Russia’s nuclear power agency buying a controlling interest in a Toronto-based company. That company has mines, mills and tracts of land in Wyoming, Utah and other U.S. states equal to about 20 percent of U.S. uranium production capacity (not produced uranium).

Clinton was secretary of state at the time, but she didn’t have the power to approve or reject the deal. The State Department was only one of nine federal agencies that signed off on the deal, and only Obama had the power to veto it.

For a statement that contains only an element of truth, our rating is Mostly False.

So the kernel of truth to the claim is that 20% of the uranium production capacity of the US is now controlled by a Russian agency. The problems are that this is production, not uranium. Also, Russia doesn't "have" it. They can't export uranium from the US, so the uranium being produced in the US is still being sold in the US.

Note: while the US uranium is probably safe, Russia has more control over the Kazakhstan uranium. But that's not what Trump said. While there is a real event here, he did not describe it correctly, today or previously.

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    I'm curious what it means to "sign off" on something that you don't have "the power to approve or reject". – Josh Caswell Feb 16 '17 at 23:40
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    @JoshCaswell, in at least some contexts -- I can't say this one -- one can sign off that one has reviewed and provided feedback on a document or process, without that feedback being in and of itself dispositive (absent actions taken by the entity consuming it). – Charles Duffy Feb 17 '17 at 0:13
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    @DP_: Is "to make a profit" a sufficient answer? – Oddthinking Feb 17 '17 at 7:20
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    @DP_ According to the linked Politifact article, "It made Russia’s atomic energy agency one of the world’s largest uranium producers and brought Russian President Vladimir Putin "closer to his goal of controlling much of the global uranium supply chain."" – reirab Feb 17 '17 at 7:51
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    As I said, most sources think that the point was to buy the Kazakhstan uranium supply and the US uranium just came along for the ride. Which is noteworthy because Kazakhstan produces more uranium than the US does and is a net exporter rather than a net importer. But I don't know that this is the place to get into the geopolitical implications. My point was just that there are legitimate reasons to oppose the deal. It's just that control of the US uranium is not one of them. – Brythan Feb 17 '17 at 14:43
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According to a 2015 New York Times Article,

At the heart of the tale are several men, leaders of the Canadian mining industry, who have been major donors to the charitable endeavors of former President Bill Clinton and his family. Members of that group built, financed and eventually sold off to the Russians a company that would become known as Uranium One.

Beyond mines in Kazakhstan that are among the most lucrative in the world, the sale gave the Russians control of one-fifth of all uranium production capacity in the United States. Since uranium is considered a strategic asset, with implications for national security, the deal had to be approved by a committee composed of representatives from a number of United States government agencies. Among the agencies that eventually signed off was the State Department, then headed by Mr. Clinton’s wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

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    Noteworthy from the linked story: "The Nuclear Regulatory Commission wrote to Mr. Barrasso assuring him that American uranium would be preserved for domestic use, regardless of who owned it. 'In order to export uranium from the United States, Uranium One Inc. or ARMZ would need to apply for and obtain a specific NRC license authorizing the export of uranium for use as reactor fuel,' the letter said." – jeffronicus Feb 16 '17 at 19:20
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    Did Clinton herself approve/sign-off on the deal, or just someone from the State Dept. while she was Secretary? If not she herself, is there evidence she was (or was not) aware of the deal? – iamnotmaynard Feb 16 '17 at 19:53
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    @iamnotmaynard The website of the Treasury Department suggests that Clinton herself sat on the committee in question. At any rate, if the Secretary of State wasn't aware of a deal involving a large percentage of the uranium production in the U.S. being sold to a company controlled by a foreign power, that would be a very big cause for concern in itself. – reirab Feb 17 '17 at 7:58
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    @iamnotmaynard The NYT (and WaPo), linked above, quote the State Department's then-Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs, Jose Fernandez, (grand)parent of the Office of Investment Affairs, the organization involved, that Clinton "never intervened" with him on CIFIUS. – Matt Nordhoff Feb 17 '17 at 23:31
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    While this information is relevant (and many other questions mention this info), I don't see an actual answer to the question. Did Clinton "give Russia" the uranium? Or was she not personally involved at all? – Ellesedil Feb 18 '17 at 5:47
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We had Hillary Clinton give Russia 20 percent of the uranium in our country.

To the contrary, the claim 'the United States delivered lots of uranium to Russia' has it backwards!

Between 1993 to 2013, Russia sold the United States 15000 tonnes of low enriched uranium (LEU), downblended from 500 tonnes of weapons-grade high enriched uranium (HEU). This was the Megatons to Megawatts Program.

The idea of physicist Thomas Neff, the program was announced by President Bush in 1992 and signed by President Clinton in 1993. In the United States, the uranium fuel—at below market cost—generated as much as 10% of electricity for 20 years. In Russia, the program provided a bankrupt state the funding to secure and pacify weapons-grade uranium in crumbling facilities across five volatile young republics. In my opinion, superb policy.

For more information, read Richard Rhodes Twilight of the Bombs.

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    This answer does not address the 20%. It also needs references. – Jan Doggen Feb 17 '17 at 11:13
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    @Jan Doggen: It does indirectly address the 20%. That is, if it was OK for the US to buy Russian uranium, why is it a problem for the Russians to buy American uranium - or rather, the mining rights for it? – jamesqf Feb 17 '17 at 18:53
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    @jamesqf: The question was not about whether it was "OK" for one party to buy another's uranium; such a question would not be on-topic here. The question was about whether Hillary Clinton "gave" Russia uranium, which this so-called "answer" completely fails to address. – jwodder Feb 18 '17 at 5:24
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    @jwodder: Most good questions raise follow-on issues like this, which should be addressed. – jamesqf Feb 18 '17 at 7:08
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    @jamesqf Well, since this answer doesn't really have anything to do with this question, that would be a good thing. – David Conrad Feb 18 '17 at 18:17
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No, Hillary Clinton did not "give Russia 20 percent of the uranium” in the US

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

  • 2
    There is a delete reason on Stack Exchange: link-only answer. Please either quote or summarize the content of the link. Or both. Not only will that help for people who do not want to click the link, it preserves the answer in the face of future changes in the content of the link. – Brythan Feb 19 '17 at 17:53
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    @Brythan Technically this isn't a link-only answer (at least not by the standards of StackOverflow; I don't remember if it's defined differently on Skeptics). It does answer the question ("No") and the link presumably supports this, whereas a link-only answer would be "Click here for the answer." It is, however, low quality, since it gives nothing more than the short answer "No", doesn't go into any detail, doesn't even tell what source it's linking to or why it should be believed. – iamnotmaynard Feb 19 '17 at 18:13
  • In fact, the linked source (Vox) is fairly biased, and the only part of the source that is credible and valuable for this question is the part which cites Politifact, so that's the source which this answer should cite (and quote the relevant parts), except that it would just be repeating another answer (@Brythan 's, in fact). – iamnotmaynard Feb 19 '17 at 18:18

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