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John Weaver, Russia, uranium and cui bono

by Resurgent Insider Read Profile arrow_right_alt

A couple of weeks ago, the Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay uncovered something of a scoop: John Kasich adviser, Russia-basher and renowned leaker-of-dirt-involving-his-clients #nevertrump political consultant John Weaver had inked a $350,000 lobbying contract with a subsidiary company of state-owned Russian uranium company Rosatom.

The story blew up, partly over the irony of a prominent Russia hawk who walks a close line verging on Russia conspiracy theorism deciding to do work for a Russian state-owned business.

But it also earned extra attention because of Weaver’s startling– and not exactly accurate– claim that “The U.S. nuclear power industry relies heavily on uranium from Russia.”

That was music to the ears of American uranium mining companies who are tight with Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), who has been single-handedly leading an effort to get the Trump administration to slap Section 232 (“national security”) tariffs on uranium imports or institute uranium quotas to benefit US producers.

So the theory goes, the more Trump can be persuaded he needs to institute these tariffs or quotas to combat any appearance of being “soft” on Russia, the more likely he is to do it. And it may just be that the US uranium industry and/or its political allies were eagerly making hay out of Markay’s discovery to force dramatic, and problematic action on tariffs and quotas that Trump has to date resisted.

Suspicion was rife when the Weaver story broke that it wasn’t just Weaver-haters pushing it around; it was someone more “corporate” dabbling in a little bit of “fake news” to advance their own agenda. Cue the US uranium industry and its cheerleaders.

Here’s how aggressive pushing of the story around Washington DC could prove damaging to Trump, and just plain stupid. Time and again, Trump has proved that if he’s accused of being “soft” on Russia, he’ll respond with actual policy that is fairly tough on Russia. In this case, the objective would be to force him to hammer Russia by looking like if he doesn’t, he’s going wobbly while aiding and abetting a known Trump-hater.

The gambit might end up working, even though Weaver’s contract was apparently terminated right after the news broke, and even though relatively little uranium supplied to the US comes from Russia. Over half comes from massive, known national security threats Canada and Australia (cue some Weaver fact-checking).

It also might work even though tariffs and quotas would raise the cost of electricity generated by nuclear, which currently is about 20% of what’s generated in the US

Nuclear industry sources say their workers went for Trump in a big way in 2016. But right now, rising electricity prices associated with nuclear are threatening their jobs. If prices go higher thanks to tariffs and quotas, plant closures will disappear and so will jobs. That could easily be pinned on Trump– and easily benefit Weaver’s other boss, Kasich, if he primaries Trump, or more likely Joe Biden, who seems to be camping out in Pennsylvania ready to pick off every swing voter he can.

There is exactly zero chance that by signing this lobbying contract, Weaver was playing some three dimensional chess game designed to make Trump self-implode with his own voters and elevate Kasich or Democrats. That said, it could have that inadvertent effect– if the media collectively treats Weaver as a reliable source, as they are very accustomed to doing, and Trump takes the bait. He shouldn’t.

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