DOJ gives FBI informant green light to testify on Russian uranium efforts
Posted October 25, 2017 8:34 p.m. EDT
WASHINGTON (CNN) — The Justice Department has given a former FBI informant the green light to testify before Congress about what he learned in an investigation of Russian nuclear industry efforts to buy uranium in the United States during the Obama administration.
The news that the former informant will be allowed to testify comes as House Republicans announced a probe into the circumstances surrounding the sale of a Canadian uranium mining company, Uranium One, to Russia's Atomic Energy Agency, Rosatom, that was approved by the Obama administration in 2010.
The deal had to be approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a committee that is composed of representatives from several US government agencies, including the State Department, which at the time was led by Hillary Clinton.
The Justice Department on Wednesday authorized the former informant to disclose to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate judiciary, House oversight and House intelligence committees, as well as one member of each of their staffs, "any information or documents he has concerning alleged corruption or bribery involving transactions in the uranium market, including but not limited to anything related to Vadim Mikerin, Rosatom, Tenex, Uranium One, or the Clinton Foundation," Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores confirmed in a statement.
According to The Hill, the former informant, who had signed a nondisclosure agreement with the FBI, had worked undercover gathering intelligence on the Russian industry's attempt to build its nuclear energy business in the United States.
The informant's lawyer, Victoria Toensing, told The Hill on Wednesday that the FBI told her it is releasing her client from his nondisclosure agreement so he can discuss his work "uncovering the Russian nuclear bribery case and the efforts he witnessed by Moscow to gain influence with (former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) in hopes of winning favorable uranium decisions from the Obama administration."
Toensing said she "will be working with all parties to ensure his identity remains confidential to ensure his safety" now that he is willing and able to testify, The Hill reported.
The Hill reported this week that while the Uranium One deal was being reviewed and approved, the FBI was in the beginning stages of a racketeering and extortion investigation into a US subsidiary of Rosatom.
The Hill's reporting raises questions about whether decision-makers on the uranium deal, including members of Congress, were informed of the ongoing racketeering investigation. Sources cited by the newspaper indicated that Russian nuclear officials routed millions of dollars to the United States that were designed to benefit the Clinton Foundation at the same time the deal was approved. The Hill does not indicate there's any evidence to show that Clinton was influenced by this.
Although the claims are currently not proven, some Republicans, including President Donald Trump, have alleged that Russian interests sought to donate to the Clinton Foundation to persuade Clinton to support the deal.
Trump seized on the new reporting, telling reporters on Wednesday that he feels the newly announced investigations into the sale are "Watergate, modern age."
"I think the uranium sale to Russia, in the way it was done, so underhanded with tremendous amounts of money being passed, I actually think that is Watergate, modern age," he said.
The FBI criminal probe resulted in the sentencing of Vadim Mikerin, an executive at Tenex (a subsidiary of Rosatom), to a 48-month prison sentence for conspiracy to commit money laundering. Mikerin pleaded guilty for his role in a bribery scheme where Russian interests had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks.
Court documents connected with the case reviewed do not reference donations to the Clinton Foundation or attempts by US or Russian interests to influence the Uranium One deal decision.
Since these allegations have resurfaced in the wake of recent reporting, Clinton and members of her staff have disputed claims that anything improper occurred surrounding the approval of the Uranium One deal.
Clinton said in an interview with C-SPAN this week that any allegations that she was bribed to approve the deal were "baloney" and that they had been "debunked repeatedly."
Jake Sullivan, former director of Clinton's State Department Policy Planning Office, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in an interview last week that "there was really nothing to" the allegations of Clinton influencing the decision based on donations made to the Clinton Foundation. Sullivan said that Clinton did not participate in the CFIUS decision, since the approval went through a "nine-agency committee ... there was nothing here other than a normal process."
On Tuesday, House intelligence committee Chairman Devin Nunes announced his panel would be looking into the Obama-era uranium deal in a joint investigation with the House oversight committee.