The Hill has a follow-up report on the blockbuster from last month about the FBI’s uncovering of a Russian bribery and extortion plot to gain access to the U.S. nuclear market. The new report rebuts claims that the undercover investigation had no connection to the Uranium One sale to Russia’s Rosatom. As an example, Reuters reported last week that undercover informant William Campbell never mentioned the Rosatom purchase of Uranium One during interviews:
Some people who know Campbell are skeptical that he can shed much light on Uranium One. Two law enforcement officials with direct involvement in the Rosatom bribery case in which Campbell was an informant said they had no recollection or record of him mentioning the deal during their repeated interviews with him.
Also, although both Uranium One and the bribery cases involved Rosatom, the two cases involved different business units, executives and allegations, with little other apparent overlap, Reuters found in a review of the court records of the bribery case.
But after reviewing 5,000 documents, Hill reporter John Solomon says he is absolutely certain Campbell was aware of the sale. In fact, he was asked to help respond to political opposition to it:
Campbell’s FBI informant file shows Uranium One came up several times in 2010 as the sale was pending, partly because Tenex was Rosatom’s commercial arm and would be charged with finding markets for the new uranium being mined and enriched both in the United States and abroad.
Campbell himself was directly solicited by his colleagues to help overcome opposition to the Uranium One deal, the FBI informant files show. In an Oct. 6, 2010, email with the subject line “ARMZ + Uranium One,” Fisk forwarded a news article outlining Republican efforts to derail the sale.
“The referenced article may present a very good opportunity for Sigma [Campbell’s company] to try and remove the opposing influences, if that is something you can do,” Fisk wrote the informant, who was also a paid consultant for the company at the time.
Despite this, it’s not clear that the information Campbell gave the FBI starting in 2009 (a year before the sale) was passed up the chain. If it was, it’s not clear why it had no impact on members of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) who were asked to approve the Uranium One deal in 2010.
In any case, despite the Russian bribery scheme, the Uranium One deal was approved. Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State was one of the people voting to approve it. After the approval, Solomon reports Cambell confronted his FBI handlers about why it had been allowed. He was told the approval was political.
Campbell engaged in conversations with his Russian colleagues about the efforts of the Washington entity and others to gain influence with the Clintons and the Obama administration. He also listened as visiting Russians used racially tinged insults to boast about how easy they found it to win uranium business under Obama, according to a source familiar with Campbell’s planned testimony to Congress.
Uranium One was a large enough concern for the informant that he confronted one of his FBI handlers after learning CFIUS had approved the sale and that the U.S. had given Mikerin a work visa despite the extensive evidence of his criminal activity, source said.
The agent responded back to the informant with a comment suggesting “politics” was involved, the source familiar with Campbell’s planned testimony said.
As presented, all of this stinks. Even if Rosatom and Tenex were separate entities on paper, the fact that Russia was making a serious move to enter the U.S. uranium market should have been a red flag when the Uranium One deal came up a year later. The fact that the undercover investigation wasn’t mentioned at the time and stayed hidden for years afterward suggests that this was being handled in an extraordinary way. Perhaps we’ll learn more about the politics at play after Campbell testifies in a closed hearing before members of Congress. The date of Cambell’s planned testimony is not known.