uranium one shithole countries
Foreign Affairs

‘Shithole countries’ tittle-tattle only served to mask the Uranium One fallout: the real scandal is yet to surface

Last Friday, President Trump was reported to have used the most crass terms when discussing admitting migrants from countries like Haiti into the United States of America. He denies the reported terminology, though not the underlying sentiment that immigration control is always a form of discrimination and that most countries both approve and practise some form of immigration control.

Those countries that do not exercise such control in the modern world tend to be failed states or those that few people want to take much trouble to live in. Some countries exercise migration control to prevent their peoples voting with their feet and leaving: they tend to be those whose people are living under the kind of failed regimes defended by HM current Leader of the Opposition, which might just be his own cunning plan to bring the UK’s own controversies in this area to a close.

“Immigration is a privilege not a right,” said the President, in a more decorous reported contribution to the debate. With that, he articulated the feelings of many in middle America and middle England. The President was talking at a cross-party White House meeting to which he had invited politicians from all quarters of Congress to address two important and longstanding controversies: how should the USA manage the flow of migrants wishing to embrace the American Dream, and what should be done with the 12 million people who either broke the law to enter the country or, more problematic, were born to those who did?

This is not a new problem. Everyone who runs for President, and all who have succeeded since Bill Clinton, have declared that an ‘immigration fix’ was necessary, and, up to now, all of them have bequeathed the problem to their successor. If nothing else, Donald Trump deserves credit for at least attempting to develop a bipartisan policy.

The allegation that he described Haiti as a ‘shithole’ has ignited a fresh chapter in US culture wars, which is unfortunate, and may not be accidental.

If you have never encountered Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, you should familiarise yourself with them. They are the blueprint for identity politics and have been utilised by Left and (more recently) Right alike, and the corralling of supporters into narrow voting blocs has become a major part of progressive political strategy over recent years. Assembling a coalition of minority identities – Black, Gay, Hispanic, Feminist – has been a key part of the Democratic Party strategy in recent decades.

Nobody attracts greater criticism from the Progressive Left than black conservatives who think outside of their denominated voting culture: ‘How could you?’ is often the bewildered response. Conservative Christians encounter a similar response in the UK from most of the Anglican hierarchy.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is a very independent Republican. He is no knee-jerk Trump supporter, but has raised the question of why Senator Dick Durbin considered it appropriate to place his ‘shithole countries’ allegation into the public domain, given the over-riding moral purpose of the meeting. Surely, Senator Paul reasoned, calling the President a racist was a calculated move to scupper the bipartisan talks which were intended to find a way forward in a policy area which has been side-stepped for too long.

The problem is a pressing one. Recent polling suggests that up to 700 million people would choose to settle in the ‘racist’ USA. More than doubling the population is hard to contemplate, even for a global superpower.

More pressingly, if the ‘dreamers’ – the US-born children of illegal migrants – are to have a regularised future, it surely needs a president who is willing to take risks with both supporters and opponents alike. That was what was being attempted in this meeting, and it was the work of an habitual deal maker; by no means an ignoble aspiration.

Senator Paul is well placed to contribute to the debate. He is an eye surgeon by profession and has undertaken charitable humanitarian work in Haiti to restore sight to the children of the poor. He reveals that his work was quietly funded by Donald Trump in the days before he became President. The Senator says Donald Trump is no hardhearted racist, and by his actions cannot be be described as a man prejudiced against the poor of Haiti. One might add that President Trump’s charity in that country now seems rather better evidenced that that of the Clintons, whose raising of post-earthquake relief funds is somewhat mired is controversy.

One of the problems is that nobody in the room seems to agree on what President Trump actually said. Was it ‘shithole countries’ or ‘shithole country’? Or was it ‘shithouse’? Or was it all just a shitstorm in a teacup? If you find this unusual, I commend the book Wittgenstein’s Poker – a highly entertaining account of a 10-minute argument between Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper in a Cambridge college in the presence of 30 of the country’s most brilliant minds, each of whom had a different account of what actually happened. If you have read that story, then the current controversy over what the President said or thought he said or implied or intended to imply falls into place.

But underlying this latest controversy lies a deeper problem.

President Trump is not the first President to employ salty language in the White House: Republican Richard Nixon (of Quaker origins) was shown on the Watergate tapes to be pretty foul mouthed; and the racial epithets employed by Democrat Lyndon B Johnson – even as he was signing the Civil Rights legislation into law – were far worse than the term attributed to the present incumbent of the White House. President Obama referred to the chaos of his Libyan policy as a ‘shitstorm‘, and Virginian GOP Senator Lyndsey Graham referred to the Third World countries from which many US migrants originate as ‘hellholes‘. Are hellhole countries worse than shithole countries? Don’t both terms essentially suggest an obvious truth, that the unsatisfactory character of some nations, governments and cultures is a significant driver of migration? Is one no longer permitted to allude to such factors?

What was happening last week, however, was not about the President’s uncouth forms of expression; it was fundamentally about building the case for his delegitimisation, which has been a basic narrative of the predominantly liberal-left media since his election on both sides of the Atlantic.

His unexpected election was as viscerally shocking to liberal America as the Brexit vote was to liberal Britain. Both responded in similar ways. The vote was not conclusive; the people were fools; they were lied to, and would surely come to their senses if only they would listen to us ‘smart people’.

Trump won where he needed to: he did well among working-class communities across the ‘rust belt’, which offended Democrats who seemed strangely shocked that Pennsylvanian coal miners, upon being told by Hillary Clinton that she intended to put them out of work, decided to switch their votes to the man who promised to secure their jobs – and has done so.

Next we had the whole Trump-Russia conspiracy story. A year on, nothing significant appears to have emerged which links the President to Russian interference in the Presidential Election, although, strikingly, the Democrats may have been hacked from Eastern Europe, but have refused to make their servers available for forensic examination by the FBI. Hm…

The reason may have something today with a news story which broke last Friday – the same day that Senator Durbin allegedly heard the President say ‘shithole countries’ (or something bad). This is a story that has not made the BBC News.

Black bloggers Diamond and Silk (‘Et tu Brute?‘) have written a piece highlighting the significance of an indictment published that day against the former co-president of a Maryland company responsible for transporting US nuclear waste both internally and abroad.

In a nutshell, the indictment accuses Mark Lambert of fraud and money laundering, based upon insider testimony, emails, and a money trail which implicates Vadim Mikerin, a Russian official at JSC Techsnabexport (TENEX), a subsidiary of Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation. With the support of the Obama administration, this company took over the US company Uranium One and in the course of their transactions allegedly paid bribes of tens of millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation.

These payments became known to Department of Justice officials in 2010, during the Obama years, but the investigation was never brought to a conclusion, doubtless because they were expecting the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to become the next President and thus a safe pair of hands to manage the risk of the scandal emerging. Unfortunately, Hillary dropped the ball.

The post-election claims of Donald Trump being implicated in Russia deals was met by an unexpected development. President Trump appointed Robert Mueller, a lawyer of widely acknowledged integrity, to investigate, and so far the most damaging Russia connection appears to be this one involving Mrs Clinton rather than President Trump. So, is it a coincidence that on the day the indictment of Mr Lambert was published, a senior Democrat emerges from a meeting with the President effectively saying, ‘Don’t look there – look over here – the President just called Haiti a shithole’?

The Dick Durbin allegation has been the leading news story in recent days, but if the Uranium One story has the evidential base implied by the terms of the Lambert Indictment, we should prepare for a much more significant controversy. If Russia bribed the Clintons, and if President Obama knew and either helped the cover-up or neglected to press for an investigation, it would be a scandal to dwarf Watergate.

Time will tell, but if there is a bad smell in the air, it may be emanating from Maryland, Washington and upstate New York rather than an impoverished island to the south.