By John Soloman
Eight years after its informant uncovered criminal wrongdoing inside Russia’s nuclear industry, the FBI has identified 37 pages of documents that might reveal what agents told the Obama administration, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others about the controversial Uranium One deal.
There’s just one problem: The FBI claims it must keep the memos secret from the public.
Their excuses for the veil of nondisclosure range from protecting national security and law enforcement techniques to guarding the privacy of individual Americans and the ability of agencies to communicate with each other.
It’s a lot like the initial reasons the bureau was reluctant to turn over documents in the Russia collusion investigation, such as former FBI agent Peter Strzok’s “stop Trump” texts or the revelation that Clinton and the Democrats funded the Steele dossier.
The FBI’s declaration and list of withheld documents — entitled simply “Uranium One Transaction” — were posted recently inside its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) online vault.
The bureau actually released a handful of documents, but it wasn’t a big stretch of either freedom or information. It actually just released already public letters from members of Congress demanding answers in the Uranium One case.
I was the reporter who first disclosed last fall that a globetrotting American businessman, William Douglas Campbell, managed to burrow his way inside Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear giant, Rosatom, in 2009 posing as a consultant while working as an FBI informant.
Campbell gathered extensive evidence for his FBI counterintelligence handlers by early 2010 that Rosatom’s main executive in the United States, Vadim Mikerin, orchestrated a racketeering plot involving kickbacks, bribes and extortion that corrupted the main uranium trucking company in the United States. That is a serious national security compromise by any measure.
The evidence was compiled as Secretary Clinton courted Russia for better relations, as her husband former President Clinton collected a $500,000 speech payday in Moscow, and as the Obama administration approved the sale of a U.S. mining company, Uranium One, to Rosatom.
The sale — made famous years later by author Peter Schweizer and an epic New York Times exposé in 2015 — turned over a large swath of America’s untapped uranium deposits to Russia.
Mikerin was charged and convicted, along with some American officials, but not until many years later. Ironically, the case was brought by none other than current Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — a magnet for controversy, it turns out.
But the years-long delay in prosecution mean that no one in the public, or in Congress, was aware that the FBI knew through Campbell about the Russian bribery plot as early as 2009 — well before the Obama-led Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) approved Uranium One in fall 2010.
Since the emergence of Campbell’s undercover work, there has been one unanswered question of national importance.
Did the FBI notify then-President Obama, Hillary Clinton and other leaders on the CFIUS board about Rosatom’s dark deeds before the Uranium One sale was approved, or did the bureau drop the ball and fail to alert policymakers?
Neither outcome is particularly comforting. Either the United States, eyes wide open, approved giving uranium assets to a corrupt Russia, or the FBI failed to give the evidence of criminality to the policymakers before such a momentous decision.
Campbell tells me his FBI handlers assured him they had briefed Obama and then-FBI Director Robert Mueller, now the Russia special prosecutor, on Rosatom’s criminal activities as part of the president’s daily briefing and that agents suggested to him that “politics” was the reason the sale was allowed to go through.
After I broke the Campbell story, a predictable pattern occurred. President Trump and the Republicans took note. On the flip side, Democrats attacked the credibility of the informer — despite evidence the FBI had given him a hefty $50,000 award of thanks after the case was finished.
And the Jeff Sessions-Rod Rosenstein Justice Department, likely feeling the heat of President Trump’s watchful eye, announced that a prosecutor from Utah was named to look into the matter.
Campbell was interviewed by the FBI, but that was 10 months ago. Since then, nothing has been made public to address the overriding public interest issue.
Perhaps the FBI’s unexpected “release” — and I use that word loosely, since they gave up no public information of importance — in the FOIA vault was a warning flare designed to remind America there might be evidence worth looking at.
One former U.S. official, who had access to the evidence shared with CFIUS during the Uranium One deal, said this to me: “There is definitely material that would be illuminating to the issues that have been raised. Somebody should fight to make it public.”
That somebody could be President Trump, who could add these 37 pages of now-secret documents to his declassification order he is considering in the Russia case.
Or, those Republicans leading the charge on exposing failures in the Russia probe could use their bully pulpits to pressure for the release.
From what we now know, either the CFIUS process was corrupted or broken, or the FBI dropped the ball.
Either outcome is a matter of national interest.
Source: The Hill
Author: John Solomon is an award-winning investigative journalist whose work over the years has exposed U.S. and FBI intelligence failures before the Sept. 11 attacks, federal scientists’ misuse of foster children and veterans in drug experiments, and numerous cases of political corruption. He is The Hill’s executive vice president for video.