KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Jeff Sessions might also find himself in the middle of a different Russia investigation, one that his boss is urging him to look into. On November 3, President Trump tweeted this. (Reading) Everybody is asking why the Justice Department and FBI isn't looking into all of the dishonesty going on with crooked Hillary and the Dems. Since the campaign, President Trump has accused Hillary Clinton of corruption involving Russia, a uranium deal and the Clinton Foundation, and now the Justice Department says it is considering a special counsel to look into it.
Here to talk about this is national security correspondent Greg Myre. Hi, Greg.
GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Hey, Kelly.
MCEVERS: All right, so tell us about this uranium deal that President Trump keeps talking about.
MYRE: So in 2010, Russia's state-run nuclear company buys a Canadian firm, Uranium One. Now, this Canadian firm has a few small uranium mines in the western U.S., in Utah and Wyoming. And the U.S. government therefore has to vote on it. And there's nine government agencies involved, including the State Department. They vote unanimously in favor. Hillary Clinton is apparently not directly involved. Although she's secretary of state, it's handled at a lower level. Few questions are raised, but it's not considered a big deal at the time.
MCEVERS: So then why would this require an investigation now?
MYRE: So the Republicans are really making two distinct charges here. One is that national security was compromised because Russia is gaining control over a portion of the U.S. uranium supply. And the other is about donations - millions of dollars in donations to the Clinton Foundation. Now, this has been looked at multiple times over several years, and the national security argument really is not holding up under scrutiny.
Uranium is something that gets bought and sold on world markets. It's not hard to purchase. It's freely available. It's not something that the U.S. and Russia need anymore for nuclear weapons. They made thousands and thousands of nuclear weapons during the Cold War, and they don't need highly enriched uranium. It's mainly for things like running nuclear power plants. But it's freely available places like Canada, Australia and other places. So it really isn't a national security question.
MCEVERS: OK, so the second claim is about donations to the Clinton Foundation. Who donated?
MYRE: Well, there's quite a few names and numbers that get tossed around, numbers as high as $145 million in donations to the Clinton Foundation. But I think the key figures here are several investors related to Uranium One that gave several million dollars - perhaps $4 million, $5 million - to the Clinton Foundation before and after this vote - 2009, 2010, 2011.
And this certainly raises some questions about appearances and ethics. But it's a recurring issue that we've seen with the Clinton Foundation where their public actions and their private donations can overlap. But this has been investigated by news organizations, fact-checking organizations and harsh Clinton critics. And they all say there are ethical issues that aren't quite answered, but there's no evidence of wrongdoing.
MCEVERS: And quickly, is it possible to untangle the politics of this from an actual investigation?
MYRE: There's a lot of politics in this. The Democrats say President Trump should not be ordering up investigations by the Justice Department, that he's trying to divert attention from his own investigation. And then also, Jeff Sessions, as we've seen today - he's been testifying about the Russia investigation, and yet he would be the person deciding whether or not there should be a special counsel looking into Hillary Clinton - so a lot of politics involved.
MCEVERS: NPR's Greg Myre, thank you so much.
MYRE: Thank you, Kelly. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.