In a statement it released on Wednesday night, the Department of Justice gave notice that it had removed a non-disclosure agreement or gag order on a former FBI informant involved in a Russia bribery case. The informant will thus be able to give testimony privately to Congress about the decision by the Obama administration to sell significant amounts of American uranium to Russia, as well as other deals. DOJ said that the informant is authorized to speak to the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, House Oversight Committee, and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and certain staff members.
According to the statement, DOJ said that the unidentified informant could provide “any information or documents he has concerning alleged corruption or bribery involving transactions in the uranium market,” including Russian company Rosatom, its subsidiary Tenex, Uranium One, and the Clinton Foundation. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) had earlier sought to question the informant about the negotiations. In an October 19 statement, Grassley said:
"The Executive Branch does not have the authority to use non-disclosure agreements to avoid Congressional scrutiny. If the FBI is allowed to contract itself out of Congressional oversight, it would seriously undermine our Constitutional system of checks and balances. The Justice Department needs to work with the Committee to ensure that witnesses are free to speak without fear, intimidation or retaliation from law enforcement. Witnesses who want to talk to Congress should not be gagged and threatened with prosecution for talking. If that has happened, senior DOJ leadership needs to fix it and release the witness from the gag order.”
Uranium One is a company based in Canada that has uranium ore mines in the United States. Due to a decision by a multi-agency committee, over which former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presided, Uranium One was purchased by Rosatom, a company backed by the Russian government. The Committee on Foreign Investments has nine members, including the secretaries of the treasury, state, defense, homeland security, commerce and energy; the attorney general; and representatives from two White House offices (the United States Trade Representative and the Office of Science and Technology Policy). Former Assistant Secretary of State Jose Fernandez told the New York Times earlier this month that Hillary Clinton did not intervene in the committee’s doings; it was Fernandez who represented her on the committee.
The three congressional committees launched investigations, following reports by The Hill that the FBI possessed evidence that Russian officials were involved in fraudulent dealings that included significant kickbacks, extortion, and bribery going as far back as 2009 and involving Tenex – a Rosatom subsidiary. Republicans in the House and Senate want to know why the Uranium One deal was approved in 2010 by the inter-agency committee. There are also questions to be answered about donations to the Clinton Foundation, in addition to $500,000 in a speaking fee paid to Bill Clinton in Russia, who reportedly met with Russian leader Vladimir Putin at the time of the deal.
Senator Grassley told “Fox & Friends” on Thursday that he had wanted to bring the informant to Congress for a public hearing. “We ought to know about [what he knows], because transparency brings accountability,” Grassley said. On Tuesday tweet, Grassley called on DOJ to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the Uranium One deal. On Monday, attorney Victoria Toensing, who represents the informant, told Fox Business Network Monday that her client can "tell what all the Russians were talking about during the time that all these bribery payments were made." During the Obama administration, said Toensing, former attorneys general Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch prevented the informant from testifying by having the informant sign a non-disclosure agreement.
In an earlier article by The Hill, Toensing said that her client “witnessed numerous, detailed conversations in which Russian actors described their efforts to lobby, influence or ingratiate themselves with the Clintons in hopes of winning favorable uranium decisions from the Obama administration.”
On Fox News, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), who chairs the House intelligence committee, said on October 24, that “we’ve been communicating back and forth through different channels” with the FBI informant in the TENEX case. “You are talking about major decisions that were made at a time when we were resetting relations with Russia that actually happened to benefit, you know, the Clinton Foundation, perhaps other avenues, we don’t know yet,” Nunes told Fox News reporter Bret Baier.
What remains of interest to the Congressional investigators is whether the donations to the Clinton Foundation or Bill Clinton’s speaking fee influenced Hillary Clinton’s official actions as secretary of state.