Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, announced during a Tuesday news conference that he would be joining forces with the House Oversight Committee to launch new probes into the Obama administration's 2010 approval of the sale of a Canadian mining company to Russia. The deal gave Russians partial control of American uranium reserves.
What was said at the news conference?
According to Nunes, the joint investigation is seeking answers to questions about the Obama administration's Uranium One deal.
"We’re not going to jump to any conclusions, but we’re going to try and get the facts," Nunes said.
He added that the main question for those involved in the investigation would be whether an FBI investigation was triggered at the time, and if so, why Congress was not informed of the matter.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) also spoke at the news conference and was insistent that the probe into the uranium deal was an entirely separate matter from the ongoing Russian election meddling investigation.
King said that his focus both during the time of the deal and now was motivated by concerns over "why 20 percent of the U.S.'s uranium supply was being given to a Russian-owned company."
"It’s important that we find out why that deal went through, and certainly in view of recent allegations and questions, it’s important this inquiry goes forward," King said.
Why is this significant?
- The Obama administration reportedly agreed to the deal despite the FBI having evidence that Russia allegedly used bribery to engage with and operate within the U.S. energy industry.
- The Hill reported Oct. 17 that the FBI obtained evidence dating back to 2009 that indicated Russian operatives had utilized bribes and other methods of manipulation to become a heavier presence in the U.S. before the Obama administration had approved the Uranium One deal. Included in their report was information that U.S. federal agents utilized a confidential U.S. informant working inside Russia's nuclear energy industry to gather evidence.
- Donations potentially linked to the deal could also implicate The Clinton Foundation.
- According to a 2015 report by The New York Times, Canadian records showed that during the Russian transition, Uranium One's chairman — as well as those with ties to the company — made donations to The Clinton Foundation, which totaled $2.35 million. The report also stated that Hillary Clinton did not publicly disclose the donations.
- Clinton, at the time, headed up the State Department, which was included among the agencies required to sign off on the deal.
- In the same month that the deal went through, a Kremlin-connected bank — which also promoted the deal — paid Hillary's husband, former President Bill Clinton, a sum of $500,000 for a Moscow-based speech. The former president met with Russian President Vladimir Putin after the speech.
- A source familiar with the FBI's evidence told The Hill: "There is not one shred of doubt from the evidence that we had that the Russians had set their sights on Hillary Clinton’s circle, because she was the quarterback of the Obama-Russian reset strategy and the assumed successor to [Barack] Obama as president."
- The source referred to an October 2009 incident in which the FBI intercepted a communication from Russian handlers, instructing spies to acquire "nonpublic" information on Hillary's State Department.
- The Hill on Monday reported that a Russian spy posing as an accountant attempted to get close to Hillary Clinton through a Democrat donor while she began her job as Obama's chief diplomat. According to the report, the female spy — who was being watched by the FBI — was arrested and deported. The woman was said to be a part of the spy ring made famous by spy-turned-model Anna Chapman.
- Included in The Hill's report was information about a Russian state-controlled nuclear energy subsidiary that hired a Washington, D.C., firm to lobby the Obama administration. The Hill added that at the time the firm was hired, it was providing "hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in pro bono support to Bill Clinton's global charitable initiative," and noted that the firm — legally — helped the Russian company acquire federal decisions that led to billions of dollars in new U.S. commercial nuclear business.
- President Donald Trump tweeted last week that this story is the biggest story that the "fake media" doesn't want to cover.
- "Uranium deal to Russia, with Clinton help and Obama Administration knowledge, is the biggest story that Fake Media [sic] doesn't want to follow!" Trump said.
- The House Republicans' move will likely frustrate some Democrats — including Hillary Clinton — who have said that the controversy surrounding the Uranium One deal is nothing more than an attempt to distract investigators from reported Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election and whose theory has been "debunked repeatedly."
What's the background on this?
- Russian atomic energy agency, Rosatom, took control in 2013 of Canadian-owned company Uranium One, which had mining stakes around the world, including within the U.S.
- According to the New York Times, Rosatom's acquisition of Uranium One made the agency one of the world's largest uranium producers and suppliers.
- The Hill's report also said that even though the Obama administration was aware of Russia's attempts to make a stake in the U.S. atomic energy industry, Obama forged ahead with the deal. The report added that the Justice Department continued its investigation for an four additional years.
- "The Russians were compromising American contractors in the nuclear industry with kickbacks and extortion threats, all of which raised legitimate national security concerns," a person connected with the case told The Hill.
- Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) opened an investigation into any potential "conflicts of interest" earlier in October regarding Clinton and the Obama administration's roles pertaining to the deal.
- In a series of letters to federal agencies, Grassley asked whether or not the Committee on Foreign Investment — which approved the Uranium One transaction, and, at the time included Clinton as secretary of state — had been aware of the FBI probe.
- Grassley in his letters wrote, "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 Hill reported last week that a confidential informant — who has a signed non-disclosure agreement with the Department of Justice — came forward to the House committees with information to explain precisely what the Russians were doing to win favor with the Obama administration, which could assist in the House Republicans' investigation.