The Justice Department lifted a gag order Wednesday that will allow a former FBI informant to speak with Congress about information he uncovered involving a Russian bribery scheme linked to a controversial uranium deal in 2010.
The move comes as Congress renews its focus on the Obama administration’s approval of Russian-owned energy company Rosatom’s purchase of Uranium One, a company based in Canada that controlled 20 percent of U.S. uranium.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led the State Department when it approved the deal back in 2010. Eight other U.S. government agencies also approved the deal.
Three congressional committees launched investigations into the deal last week after The Hill reported that the FBI had gathered substantial evidence that the Russian nuclear industry officials involved in the deal were involved in a racketeering scheme as early as 2009.
However, the Department of Justice waited until 2014 to bring any charges on the evidence first gathered in 2009 and 2010.
The CEO of Tenex, a subsidiary of Rosatom, pleaded guilty to money laundering in 2015.
Congressional Republicans now seek to discover who knew what, and when. Republicans have also expressed concerns about Clinton’s connection to the interested parties in the nuclear deal. The Clinton Foundation reportedly received millions of dollars in contributions from interested parties in the transaction, and former President Bill Clinton received $500,000 for a speech in Russia around the time of the deal.
The FBI informant, who hasn’t been identified by name, went undercover for five years to obtain intelligence on Russia’s efforts to acquire a share of the U.S. uranium market.
Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior said the DOJ would cooperate with the three open congressional investigations.
“As of tonight, the Department of Justice has authorized the information 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,” Prior said in a statement Wednesday, according to The Washington Free Beacon.
Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores confirmed to The Hill that the undercover FBI informant is cleared to disclose to Congress “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.”
The informant’s lawyer, Victoria Toensing, told The Hill her client has information relating to “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.”
“He is now able and willing to talk with the congressional committees seeking his testimony, though I will be working with all parties to ensure his identity remains confidential to ensure his safety,” she added.
But some high-ranking Democrats have called foul on the Republican’s renewed focus on the 2010 uranium deal.
California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Wednesday the investigations are a “partisan effort to distract” from the real issue at hand — special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into President Donald Trump’s alleged collusions with the Russians during the 2016 election.
Trump told reporters Wednesday he believes the uranium investigation will quickly swell to Watergate proportions.
“The uranium sale to Russia and the way it was done was so underhanded. With tremendous amounts of money being passed, I actually think that’s Watergate: modern age,” Trump said, as reported by the New York Post.
The Justice Department announced Wednesday night that it had lifted a gag order on a former FBI informant who could provide testimony to Congress about an inquiry linked to a 2010 Obama-era deal that transferred ownership of a uranium mining firm to a Russian-owned company.
Fox News reported the department said it authorized the informant to speak to the Senate Judiciary Committee, House Oversight Committee, and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, as well as select staffers.
The Justice Department said the informant could provide “any information or documents he has concerning alleged corruption or bribery involving transactions in the uranium market,” including Russian company Rosatom, its subsidiary Tenex, Uranium One and the Clinton Foundation.
The FBI said in court documents and in interviews that they had gathered enough evidence to prove that Rosatom-connected officials were engaged in a bribery scheme that included kickbacks and money laundering in 2010, Circa reported.
Despite that little tidbit, the U.S. government approved the sale. Not surprising considering who was in office. Now we have a chance to know what really went down.
The informant’s attorney, Victoria Toensing, told Fox Business Network Monday that her client could “tell what all the Russians were talking about during the time that all these bribery payments were made.”