President Donald Trump and conservative media figures like Sean Hannity have been practically shouting it from the rooftops: The mainstream media, they say, has completely ignored the Uranium One deal — in which they believe Hillary Clinton benefited from a pay-for-play scheme.
And so, on Thursday, MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace indulged Trump, Hannity, and others by devoting several minutes of her show, Deadline: White House, to Uranium One, and the allegations surrounding Clinton.
Based on the information presently available, this amount of coverage was, frankly, quite generous.
To summarize, for those who haven’t been following, the story involves a mining company called Uranium One — which controls one-fifth of the American uranium supply. The outfit was primarily owned by a Canadian-based company until 2010, when Rosatom — Russia’s nuclear agency — purchased a majority stake.
This purchase was subject to U.S. approval because of the American uranium, which is considered to be a material of importance to national security. The nine-member Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States was required to sign off on Rosatom’s acquisition of Uranium One. It did so.
Hillary Clinton sat on that committee. And the Clinton Foundation reportedly received $145 million from nine investors who, at one time, had a stake in Uranium One.
But according to The New York Times, only one of the donors contributed to Clinton while the deal was on the table — giving an amount slightly in excess of $2 million. The primary donor, who gave the Clinton Foundation $131 million, sold his stake in Uranium One years before the Russia deal went down, according to Forbes.
Clinton didn’t have the authority to push the sale through — or even to help it much, really. She was just one of nine on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. And the committee cannot veto deals like the Uranium One transfer. The President is the only one with that power.
Further, the uranium itself, despite being owned by Russian interests, was still controlled by U.S. subsidiaries of Uranium One. The uranium could not be exported.
Still, as NBC’s Ken Dilanian said during his report on Wallace’s show Thursday, “it is not a great story for the country, or for Hillary Clinton.” No one with a shred of credibility would say otherwise.
But it was all covered, extensively, back in 2015 by outlets including The New York Times — which broke the story in April of that year.
Uranium One is back in the news this week thanks to new reporting by The Hill, which detailed the FBI’s uncovering a Russian bribery plot. The plot was designed to grow Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s atomic energy business inside the U.S. The Clinton Foundation was an intended beneficiary of the scheme.
The Hill also reported that former President Bill Clinton took a $500,000 speaking fee in 2010 from a Russian bank with ties to the Kremlin which supported the deal. He also sought State Department approval for a meeting with a Rosatom board director — a meeting Clinton ultimately did not take.
What we have here is lots of smoke, but not a bit of fire. Nothing has come out proving a quid-pro-quo from either of the Clintons on this deal (a quid-pro-pro which they couldn’t even truly fulfill). There is no smoking gun. There is no evidence of wrongdoing.
There is no there there.
And so the media is justified in largely ignoring what remains, for now, a non-story. Nicolle Wallace’s coverage, in my judgment, was perfect. The new revelations demand a few minutes of broadcast time, but no more. Not until there’s something solid.
Sean Hannity argued Thursday night that the media has been maniacally overhyping the investigation into allegations surrounding Trump collusion with Russia, while dramatically underplaying the Uranium One probe. On the former point, Hannity has a legitimate beef. The media has devoted way too much time hyping special counsel Robert Mueller‘s probe, without — for the time being — sufficient supporting evidence. (For the record, we’re skeptical that Trump actually colluded with the Russians. To quote Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Trump hasn’t even been able to collude “with his own staff.”)
There’s an investigation underway exploring the question of whether. That investigation should be monitored by the media. And any new details should be brought to light.
The same standard should apply to Uranium One. We would not discourage continued behind-the-scenes reporting. Any new lead should be pursued. The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to investigate the matter. Their probe, like Mueller’s should be followed.
But as to Hannity’s claim of “media malpractice” on Uranium One? It is — what else? — fake news.
Joe DePaolo is a senior writer and the sports editor for Mediaite. Follow him on Twitter @joe_depaolo.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.