The Hill is reporting that the Senate Judiciary Committee has launched an investigation into a Russian nuclear bribery case, demanding that various federal agencies disclose whether they knew the Federal Bureau of Investigation had uncovered the corruption before the Obama administration in 2010 approved a controversial uranium deal with Moscow.
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the committee chairman, will get his first chance to raise the issue in public on Wednesday when he questions Attorney General Jeff Sessions during an oversight hearing.
Aides said that the committee had sent requests for information to 10 federal agencies involved in the Russian uranium approvals.
The committee is discussing other bipartisan requests to make in the coming days, and Grassley also is expected to seek access to potential witnesses soon, escalating from the information requests he made a few years back, according to people familiar with the investigation.
The senator also specifically conveyed in the latest letters he no longer accepts the Obama administration’s assurances from 2015 that there was no basis to block the Uranium One deal.
“I am not convinced by these assurances,” Grassley wrote the Homeland Security Department last week. “The sale of Uranium One resulted in a Russian government takeover of a significant portion of U.S. uranium mining capacity. In light of that fact, very serious questions remain about the basis for the finding that this transaction did not threaten to impair U.S. national security.”
Wednesday’s hearing was originally scheduled for other purposes, however, aides said they expected Senator Grassley to ask Sessions questions about a story published in The Hill on Tuesday that disclosed the Bureau had uncovered evidence showing Russian nuclear officials were heavily engaged in a racketeering scheme involving bribes, kickbacks and money laundering designed to expand Russian President Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business in the United States.
The evidence first started to mount in 2009 and 2010 but Department of Justice officials waited until 2014 to bring about any charges. In between that time, President Obama’s multi-agency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) gave approval to Russia’s Rosatom to buy a Canadian mining company called Uranium One that controlled 20 percent of America’s uranium deposits.
The committee’s members at the time included former Attorney General Eric Holder and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose husband collected large speech fees and millions in charitable donations from Russia and other entities interested in the outcome of the decision.
Grassley sent out letters late week to all the federal agencies whose executives served on the CFIUS when the decision was made, demanding to know whether they were aware of the FBI case before they voted.
Grassley also questioned whether the documented corruption that was uncovered posed a national security threat that should have voided approval of the uranium deal.
“It has recently come to the Committee’s attention that employees of Rosatom were involved in a criminal enterprise involving a conspiracy to commit extortion and money laundering during the time of the CFIUS transaction,” Grassley wrote in one such letter addressed to Sessions.
“The fact that Rosatom subsidiaries in the United States were under criminal investigation as a result of a U.S. intelligence operation apparently around the time CFIUS approved the Uranium One/Rosatom transaction raises questions about whether that information factored into CFIUS’ decision to approve the transaction,” the chairman added.
Senator Grassley has been one of the few lawmakers to have consistently raised questions about the uranium deal, and in 2015 agencies told his committee they had no national security reasons to reject the Moscow approval.
Those representations, however, made no mention of the FBI probe or the national security issues uncovered by agents, including the fact that Russian officials had compromised an American trucking firm that transported uranium.
Senator Grassley’s letters demanded answers from the agencies by no later than Oct. 26.