Senate seeks to interview FBI informant in Russian nuclear bribery case
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday sought permission to interview an FBI informant who helped agents uncover a major corruption scheme by Russian nuclear officials seeking to aggressively expand their American business under the Obama administration.
The undercover witness, who has not been publicly identified, spent nearly five years helping agents build a case that resulted in one of Russia's top nuclear industry officials in the United States, a Russian financier and an American trucking executive to plead guilty in 2015 to charges related to a racketeering scheme that prosecutors said involved bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering.
The informant possesses information about the extent of Russian efforts to curry favor inside the United States that he has been prevented from disclosing to the courts and Congress because he signed an FBI nondisclosure statement, his lawyer Victoria Toensing told The Hill on Tuesday.
The undercover witness was threatened by Justice officials when he tried to disclose some of the information in a lawsuit during last year's election, forcing him to withdraw his legal action, the lawyer alleged.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, (R-Iowa), sent a letter Wednesday night to Toensing seeking to interview her client, saying he was troubled that the Obama administration in 2010 approved the Uranium One deal giving Moscow control over 20 percent of America's uranium supply when the FBI knew of corruption inside the Russian nuclear industry.
"It appears that your client possesses unique information about the Uranium One/Rosatom transaction and how the Justice Department handled the criminal investigation into the Russian criminal conspiracy," Grassley wrote. "Such information is critical to the Committee’s oversight of the Justice Department."
The senator specifically cited the earlier story by The Hill in his letter, saying among the issues he hoped to explore with the undercover was whether any political pressure was exerted during the probe.
While the FBI developed evidence as early as 2009 that an official with Russia's state-controlled Tenex nuclear company had engaged in the kickback scheme, Justice officials did not bring charges until 2014.
During the five year gap, the Obama administration approved the controversial uranium deal and made other decisions favorable to Russia's ambitions to expand its nuclear business inside the United States.