Hillary Clinton (Ryan Remiorz/Associated Press)

DID HILLARY CLINTON sell the country's uranium to Russia in return for donations to the Clinton Foundation? Did the Democrats collude with Russian nationals to tip the election against Donald Trump?

No, and no. Which raises a third question: Why is any of this relevant, particularly now? A fair look at the facts suggests only one option. President Trump needs a distraction, and his surrogates, some Republican members of Congress, right-wing media and even some people in mainstream outlets are helping him gin up outrage against a woman who is not, was never and will never be president. It is a measure of the power of partisanship to warp people's judgment that this bald trickery is getting any traction.

Here are the facts. In 2010 Rosatom , the Russian nuclear authority, bought a piece of Uranium One, a Canadian company that held rights to mine a share of U.S. uranium deposits. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States approved the deal. The State Department, then run by Ms. Clinton, was one of nine agencies represented on that committee, though the Treasury Department had the lead. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission also had to approve the deal, and President Barack Obama had the final call.

The conspiracy theory is that people related to Uranium One had given money to the Clinton Foundation, mostly before the 2008 election, and therefore Ms. Clinton pressed the deal through. But given the structure of the committee, the separate NRC approval and the president's role in the process, it was not really Ms. Clinton's decision to make, even if the Russians had tried to influence her. In fact, a key premise of the conspiracy theory — that the United States gave up a big chunk of its uranium to the Russians — is simply wrong; none of the uranium could legally be exported, anyway.

Claims that the Clinton campaign colluded with Russia are similarly perplexing. Ms. Clinton's campaign helped pay for a dossier of unconfirmed accusations about Mr. Trump, some of which a British former intelligence official gathered from Russian contacts. It's fair for Congress to want the full story on this and to be frustrated that it has been emerging in fits and starts. But U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that insofar as the Russian government's efforts to sow discord boosted any one candidate, the Kremlin aimed to help Mr. Trump, not Ms. Clinton. The Russian government did not get the dossier's content published on WikiLeaks — as it did a variety of emails it stole from the Democrats — or anywhere else before the election.

The real scandal in all this is the cynicism of the president and others trying to distract Americans and draw moral equivalencies where none exist. Even White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, at one time considered to be among the more sober members of the administration, called Monday for an investigation into Ms. Clinton. Mr. Kelly should think about what this does to his credibility — and to the country's. The party in power is demanding the investigation and possible prosecution of its defeated political rival on trumped-up claims of wrongdoing. This is what happens in banana republics, not the world's greatest democracy. Even if this is just a strategy to divert attention, it is unbecoming of the leaders of a rule-of-law state and a disservice to their oaths.