WASHINGTON (AP) — Re-airing campaign allegations, President Donald Trump is pointing to an Obama era uranium deal as the "real Russia story" in contrast to a broader inquiry into Russian meddling during the 2016 election.
Trump told reporters Thursday in the Oval Office that media outlets have failed to adequately cover the purchase of American uranium mines by a Russian-backed company in 2010, an issue which Democrats have dismissed as widely debunked. The agreement was reached while Hillary Clinton led the State Department and some investors in the company had relationships with former President Bill Clinton and donated to the Clinton Foundation.
"That's your real Russia story. Not a story where they talk about collusion and there was none. It was a hoax. Your real Russia story is uranium," Trump said during a meeting about Puerto Rico's hurricane recovery.
As he attempts to push back against the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, Trump has sought to link his former Democratic presidential rival to Russia's purchase of Uranium One and accused Hillary Clinton of selling one-fifth of the nation's uranium. Democrats contend Trump is seeking to deflect from the Russia probe and his friendly rhetoric toward Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has launched an investigation into a Russian nuclear bribery case after a series of stories by The Hill that showed the FBI had evidence that Russian nuclear officials were involved in fraudulent dealings in 2009 before the uranium deal was approved.
During his 2016 campaign, Trump frequently cited the deal for the uranium, which is used in nuclear reactors, and has returned to the issue at rallies during his presidency. Trump tweeted about the uranium deal on Thursday morning and administration officials have sought to bring attention to the transaction, which also was explored in "Clinton Cash," a 2015 book by conservative author Peter Schweizer.
Clinton's State Department, however, was one of nine U.S. government agencies that had to approve the deal and her campaign and former State department officials said she was not involved in the approval process by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS.
Clinton said in a June 2015 interview with WMUR in New Hampshire that she "was not personally involved because that wasn't something the secretary of state did." Only the president can suspend or block a transaction reviewed by CFIUS.
Republicans have also pointed to some of the investors in the deal and their ties to the former president. Canadian financier Frank Giustra, a top Clinton Foundation donor, sold his company, UrAsia, to Uranium One, which was chaired by Ian Telfer, also a Clinton Foundation donor. Giustra has said he sold his stake in the deal in 2007, while Clinton and Barack Obama were vying for the Democratic presidential nomination.
And PolitiFact found that the majority of the donations from individuals related to Uranium One and UrAsia were made before and during Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign — before she became Secretary of State.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Thursday requested the Justice Department to lift a non-disclosure agreement he said prevented a former FBI confidential informant from speaking to Congress about the handling of a criminal probe linked to the deal. Grassley said the Justice Department had threatened to prosecute the informant if he disclosed details of his involvement in the investigation.