Call it the original Russia collusion case, only it came long before the 2016 election. According to The Hill’s John Solomon and Alison Spann, the FBI began to piece together a Russian operation designed to advance Vladimir Putin’s control of nuclear materials in 2009 that involved both bribery and extortion. The discovery predated two key decisions that gave Moscow control over a significant portion of the US uranium market, including the Uranium One deal that put hundreds of thousands of dollars into Bill Clinton’s pockets:
Before the Obama administration approved a controversial deal in 2010 giving Moscow control of a large swath of American uranium, the FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States, according to government documents and interviews.
Federal agents used a confidential U.S. witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather extensive financial records, make secret recordings and intercept emails as early as 2009 that showed Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FBI and court documents show.
And guess whose charitable foundation benefited from this, according to one FBI witness and documentation gathered by the FBI?
They also obtained an eyewitness account — backed by documents — indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow, sources told The Hill.
There were actually two deals that served Putin’s interests involved in this operation. The year after State approved the purchase of Uranium One by Russia’s state-owned Rosatom in 2010, the Obama administration gave approval for Rosatom to vastly expand its sales of uranium inside the US through its Tenex subsidiary. Until then, Tenex could only sell Russian uranium gleaned from decommissioned nuclear weapons, part of the US attempts to incentivize Moscow into cannibalizing its nukes. The two combined deals gave Moscow a great deal of leverage in the US nuclear market — and the bribes and extortion alone created “legitimate security concerns” of their own.
The Department of Justice, however, never went public with its probe. Instead, Solomon and Spann report, they sat on it for four years:
Rather than bring immediate charges in 2010, however, the Department of Justice (DOJ) continued investigating the matter for nearly four more years, essentially leaving the American public and Congress in the dark about Russian nuclear corruption on U.S. soil during a period when the Obama administration made two major decisions benefitting Putin’s commercial nuclear ambitions.
Call me crazy, but this seems a lot more serious than a Russian troll farm buying $100,000 in Facebook ads during the election. Solomon and Spann report that this involved millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks, not just small potatoes like online ads. The FBI probe exposed new avenues of money laundering, an intelligence boon that may have serious repercussions for Russian intelligence down the road.
Curiously, though, the DoJ never took any credit for it. In fact, they buried the probe even after indicting some Russian principals in the operation. They only announced in 2015 that they had reached plea deals in a case involving money laundering, saying nothing about bribery, extortion, or the intent to corrupt the US nuclear industry. That information was so compartmentalized that even the FBI’s top criminal-investigation officer had no idea of the extent of the case, and no one in Congress was ever briefed on the national security concerns raised in the case. In fact, House Intelligence chair Mike Rogers claimed to the Hill that no one ever mentioned the case at all to him, despite already-extant concerns over the Uranium One deal on Capitol Hill.
That smells like a political cover-up of the first magnitude. Rather than hyperventilate over Facebook ads and Twitter trolls, perhaps Congress and the current Department of Justice should look into what the FBI found in 2009-10, how much of it benefited Bill and Hillary Clinton — and why the DoJ and the Obama administration never briefed the intelligence committees on this Russian collusion operation. And maybe special counsel Robert Mueller should explain what he knew about these investigations, which took place while he was FBI director, and why this information got buried until now.