Update (8:40 pm ET): The FBI informant who helped the Justice Department secure a conviction against the top official from the US subsidiary of Rosatom, the Russian atomic energy agency, but was blocked by the Obama Justice Department from testifying about Russian efforts to bribe and extort their way into possession of North American uranium assets - a process which was cleared by both Hillary Clinton's State Department and Robert Mueller's FBI - has as of moments ago been cleared to testify, the Justice Department announced on Wednesday evening.
The informant, who has yet to be named - perhaps out of concerns about his or her life - is being represented by Victoria Toensing, a former Reagan Justice Department official and former chief counsel of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Toensing joined Grassley in urging Attorney General Jeff Sessions to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the Uranium One deal, which was approved in 2011 by a committee on which former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sat. Around the time the deal was approved, Bill Clinton received a $500,000 speaking fee from a bank with ties to the Russian government, as well as millions more in "charitable contributions" to the Clinton Foundation from entities with ties to the Russian government. Russia’s Tenex nuclear sales arm also secured billions in new American nuclear fuel contracts around the same time.
The Obama administration said at the time they saw no national security reasons to block the deals, one of which gave Vladimir Putin control of 20 percent of America’s uranium stockpile. But last week a series of stories published in The Hill disclosed that before those decisions were made, the FBI had gathered extensive evidence that Vadim Mikerin. Tenex’s chief executive inside the United States, was directing a massive bribery scheme that compromised an American trucking company that shipped uranium for Russia.
The evidence was first gathered in 2009 but charges weren’t brought until 2014. Mikerin pled guilt a year later to a money laundering charge and is currently in prison.
But key members of Congress said they weren’t alerted to the case at the time and are now deeply concerned the Obama administration had a good security reason not to approve the deals given the corruption was uncovered.
Now, finally, we are about to hear the full story.
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“This cries out for a special counsel,” Toensing said on Fox News' “Hannity” Tuesday night. “Congressional committees are fine, but this is a criminal investigation and Jeff Sessions isn’t ever going to feel comfortable appointing that, and Rod Rosenstein is recused because he was the U.S. attorney.”
Toensing added that while Sessions can technically appoint a special counsel, he likely was “not going to be comfortable doing it.”
“He ought to get somebody in here and get this off their hands,” Toensing said.
According to the Hill, Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores confirmed the informant had been cleared to speak with Congress for the first time, nearly eight years after he first went undercover for the FBI. Two House committees, as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee, are investigating the deal. And the informant will now probably testify before one, or perhaps all, of the committees.
“As of tonight, the Department of Justice has authorized the informant to disclose to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, 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,” she said.
Earlier, Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., threatened to use his subpoena power to get access to the informant, who had signed an NDA with the FBI and was unable to speak publicly about Uranium One.
NY Rep. Peter King during an appearance on Fox News accused the FBI of stonewalling Congress.
Rep. Pete King: 'Very suspicious' that FBI is stonewalling on Trump-dossier investigation. pic.twitter.com/pX2ex31uda— Wired Sources (@WiredSources) October 26, 2017
The committees are keen to learn what the informant knows about any Russian efforts to curry favor with Bill and Hillary Clinton, to win Obama administration approval for Moscow’s purchase of large uranium assets in the United States or to secure billions in new contracts uranium sales contracts with American utilities.
“The FBI has informed me that they are releasing my client from his NDA so that he can testify to Congress about his work uncovering the Russian nuclear bribery case and the efforts he witnessed by Moscow to gain influence with the Clintons in hopes of winning favorable uranium decisions from the Obama administration,” Toensing said.
“He is now able and willing to talk with the confessional committees seeking his testimony though I will be working with all parties to ensure his identity remains confidential to ensure his safety,” she added.
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Hillary Clinton is back in the crosshairs of Congressional investigators after two House committees launched investigations into the circumstances surrounding the Obama-era Uranium One deal more than a year after suspicions of a quid-pro-quo were first raised by Peter Schweizer in his infamous “Clinton Cash” expose.
The Hill breathed new life into those allegations last week when it reported on an FBI investigation into attempts by Russian nuclear industry officials at the US-based subsidiary of Rosatom (the Russian nuclear agency) to bribe and extort their way into control of Canada-based Uranium One - and by extension, the 20% of US uranium assets it controls.
And now that the Uranium One story has found its way back into mainstream consciousness, Chuck Grassley, the widely respected head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is calling for the DOJ to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the deal. The thinking is, presumably, if Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein felt comfortable appointing a prosecutor to dig into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, he should be equally comfortable appointing a prosecutor to investigate these serious allegations from the Obama era. "Whoever in DOJ is capable" of launching an investigation into Uranium One should go ahead and do so, Grassley tweeted.
Whoever in DOJ is capable w authority to appoint a special counsel shld do so to investigate Uranium One "whoever" means if u aren't recused— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) October 25, 2017
Earlier this month, Grassley’s committee became the first to launch a probe into the Uranium One deal. Last night, it was joined by two House committees after House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said House Intel and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committees would be seeking to learn whether there was in fact an official FBI investigation into the Uranium One deal, and if so, why Congress wasn’t informed.
In addition, the chairmen of the House Judiciary and Oversight committees yesterday announced a joint investigation into the FBI’s handling of a probe into Clinton’s use of a private email server after emails showed earlier this month that former FBI Director James Comey drafted a letter exonerating Clinton before the investigation had been officially completed.
Looking ahead, we wonder if Grassley will be joined by Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on Grassley's committee who has previously expressed support for an investigation into Clinton’s campaign-era conduct (specifically whether the Clinton’s improperly colluded with former AG Loretta Lynch) or perhaps some other Democrat.