Yesterday, The Hill broke a story about the FBI informant who became a paid consultant for Rosatom, the state-owned nuclear energy company headquartered in PutinLand, and their expose raises all kinds of questions.
An FBI informant gathered extensive evidence during his six years undercover about a Russian plot to corner the American uranium market, ranging from corruption inside a U.S. nuclear transport company to Obama administration approvals that let Moscow buy and sell more atomic fuels, according to more than 5,000 pages of documents from the counterintelligence investigation.
The memos, reviewed by The Hill, conflict with statements made by Justice Department officials in recent days that informant William Campbell’s prior work won’t shed much light on the U.S. government’s controversial decision in 2010 to approve Russia’s purchase of the Uranium One mining company and its substantial U.S. assets.
Campbell documented for his FBI handlers the first illegal activity by Russians nuclear industry officials in fall 2009, nearly an entire year before the Russian state-owned Rosatom nuclear firm won Obama administration approval for the Uranium One deal, the memos show.
In other words, there was more than enough information to kill the deal that would give Putin control of 20% of the licensed uranium capacity in the United States.
William Campbell became a confidential FBI informant in January 2008 and his work lasted six years. Importantly, he gathered substantial information prior to Rosatom’s purchase of Uranium One, which was approved in 2010 by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS). We only now know Mr. Campbell’s identity because the Justice Department partially lifted its gag order on the guy. The Hill piece raises serious questions, and they’re questions that demand answers.
Question 1: Why did AG Sessions downtalk Uranium One and nuclear bribery case?
“The way I understand that matter is that the case in which Mr. Mikerin was convicted was not connected to the CFIUS problem that occurred two to three years before,” Sessions testified to the House Judiciary Committee last week, echoing Rosenstein’s letter from a few weeks earlier.
But investigative records show FBI counterintelligence recorded the first illicit payments in the bribery/kickback scheme in November 2009, a year before the CFIUS approval.
Campbell also relayed detailed information about criminal conduct throughout 2010, including the coordinates for various money laundering drops, according to his FBI debriefing reports. The evidence Campbell gathered indicated Mikerin’s corruption scheme was being directed by and benefitting more senior officials with Rosatom and Tenex back in Russia, the records show, a claim U.S. officials would make in court years later.
“There is zero doubt we had evidence of criminal activity before the CFIUS approval and that Justice knew about it through [the natural security division],” said a source with direct knowledge of the investigation.
Republican members of Congress have been angered by the Justice Department’s first answers because they conflict with the evidence already gathered in their probe.
“Attorney General Sessions seemed to say that the bribery, racketeering and money laundering offenses involving Tenex’s Vadim Mikerin occurred after the approval of the Uranium One deal by the Obama administration. But we know that the FBI’s confidential informant was actively compiling incriminating evidence as far back as 2009,” Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) told The Hill.
The same question applies to Rosy Rosenstein.
Question #2: Who is this “Washington entity”?
Campbell’s debriefing files also show he regularly mentioned to FBI agents in 2010 a Washington entity with close ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton that was being paid millions to help expand Tenex’s business in the United States. The entity began increasing its financial support to a Clinton charitable project after it was hired by the Russians, according to the documents.
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.
Seems to me that this “Washington entity” needs to be identified. And more questions need to be asked, such as the extent of this entity’s contacts with Rosatom and the Clintons, how much they were paid by Rosatom, how much they gave to the Clinton Foundation, whether any strings were attached to those donations, etc.
Question #3: Who spread the falsehood that all the uranium controlled by Uranium One stayed in the United States?
In 2010, Nuclear Regulatory Commission stated that “no uranium produced at either facility may be exported.” WTF?
In recent days, news media including The Washington Post and Fox News anchor Shepard Smith have inaccurately reported another element of the story: that Uranium One never exported its American uranium because the Obama administration did not allow it.
However, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission authorized Uranium One to export through a third party tons of uranium to Canada for enrichment processing, and some of that product ended up in Europe, NRC documents state.
A Uranium One executive acknowledged to The Hill that 25 percent of the uranium it shipped to Canada under the third-party export license ended up with either European or Asian customers through what it known in the nuclear business as “book transfers.”
Question #4: Why were anonymous sources in the Justice Department trying to impugn Mr. Campbell’s credibility?
But the recent leaks that have most concerned congressional investigators occurred in a Yahoo story late Friday, in which Justice officials anonymously questioned Campbell’s credibility and suggested they had to alter their criminal case against Mikerin in 2015, eventually striking a plea deal, because they feared he would be a “disaster” as a trial witness.
The FBI informant file, however, paints a different picture. After Mikerin pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 48 months prison in December 2015, the FBI took Campbell out to a celebratory seafood dinner and delivered a handsome reward: a check for $51,046.36 dated Jan. 7, 2016, a copy of which was obtained by The Hill.
A source directly familiar with the FBI’s evidence said the primary reason prosecutors working under Rosenstein, then the U.S. attorney in Maryland, changed course in the case was because of concerns their initial indictment miscast Campbell’s role in the investigation.
The original indictments and affidavits portrayed Campbell as a “victim” who became a confidential witness after the Russians tried to “extort” him in summer 2009 into a kickback scheme, court records show.
In fact, Campbell was an informant deeply controlled by FBI counterintelligence starting when he signed a nondisclosure agreement in January 2008, more than a year before Mikerin engaged him in the criminal activity, the FBI’s records show.
Campbell was inserted inside Mikerin’s world specifically to look for criminal activity and other harmful national security actions by the Russians, starting with undercover work he performed as a consultant contracting with a lobbying firm in 2008 and then inside Tenex starting in 2009, according to documents and memos.
Campbell’s regular debriefings dating to 2008 show the nature of some of his undercover work, including making surreptitious recordings and collecting documents well before the first money laundering started inside Tenex in 2009. He also had a long history of collaboration with U.S. intelligence, including the FBI, that predated his case, sources told The Hill.
Question #5: Why did the FBI allow evidence to be destroyed?
When Fisk — one of the main targets of their bribery investigation — died in 2011, the FBI did not execute a grand jury subpoena to capture all of his evidence. Instead, agents asked his widow for permission to voluntarily search his computer hard drive and remove the documents the agents wanted.
The hard drive was subsequently discarded before the criminal charges were filed, leaving it unavailable for defense lawyers to search, the sources said. Defense lawyers pounced on the revelation late in the case, court records show.
At the time, Fisk was a larger than life figure inside the Russian nuclear industry, having headed the trucking firm that moved uranium across the United States on behalf of Rosatom. Campbell helped the FBI document that both Fisk, starting in 2004, and a successor, starting in 2011, at the trucking firm were paying bribes to the Russians, the records show.
During 2010, Fisk was transitioning from the trucking firm to become a key strategist for Tenex and Mikerin, advising them on the Russian nuclear industry’s aggressive push to expand its business in the United States.
This raises other questions such as, did Mr. Fisk give money to the Clinton Foundation and the like? A brief search at opensecrets.org came up empty.
Question #6: How politicized was the FBI and Justice Department for the sake of a “reset”?
Uranium One was a large enough concern for the informant that he confronted one of his FBI handlers after learning the CFIUS had approved the sale and that the U.S. had given Mikerin a work visa despite the extensive evidence of his criminal activity, the 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.
And this is the big question that still remains unanswered.
Question #7: Why didn’t Mr. Campbell’s evidence go up the chain to the CFIUS?
The National Security Division of the FBI knew about this counterintelligence operation in 2010. How could this not have been made to known to the Justice Department and Eric Holder?