By John Ubaldi
Contributor, In Homeland Security
Since the 2016 presidential election, the media has focused on the premise that members of Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to influence that election. Now, recent revelations have shown Democrats are more involved with Moscow than was previously known.
In October, The Hill reported that the FBI had an informant inside the Russian nuclear industry. That informant said that as of November 2009, there were criminal activities by Tenex, the U.S. affiliate of Russia’s nuclear energy agency, Rosatom.
Rosatom was given authorization to ship spent Russian nuclear fuel from its power plants to the United States. Justice Department documents show that Tenex executives ordered a subcontracted trucking company to inflate its prices in a no-bid process at the end of November 2009. The payments were then transferred to offshore accounts.
FBI records show evidence of kickbacks and money laundering. However, the Justice Department waited until well after 2015 to sentence any Tenex executive. That was five years after the DOJ received proof of clear criminal wrongdoing.
Uranium One Deal Back in the News
Uranium One, a Canadian uranium mining company with interests in the U.S., is another part of this nuclear controversy. In October 2010, the Committee on Foreign Investment approved the first of three stages of a Uranium One deal that was to end in 2013. The deal allowed U.S. uranium reserves to be transferred to Russia’s Rosatom.
Under the rules of the committee, Holder and Clinton could have voted no and the deal still would have been approved. So far, there is no evidence that Clinton knew of the Russian efforts or the FBI investigation. But what did Holder know, since his Justice Department was investigating Russian criminal activities with Uranium One?
The State Department was one of nine U.S. departments or agencies that approved the sale. The sale involved the use of permits and a formal process, which is required by law for sales with possible national security implications.
Clinton claims her vote was not influenced by Uranium One or from Russia. But her husband, former president Bill Clinton, received $500,000 in 2010 from a Russian investment bank tied to Moscow. This payment was Bill Clinton’s price to address a conference in Moscow. The bank was part of the Rosatom deal.
According to Investor’s Business Daily, “The Clintons and their foundation raked in a cool $145 million in donations and ‘speaking fees’ just from Uranium One- and Rosatom-affiliated donors.” These financial gains also add to the controversy.
Another fact that makes the Uranium One deal seem murky is that Uranium One was represented by lobbying and public affairs company Podesta Group. The Podesta Group is led by Anthony Podesta, brother of John Podesta. John Podesta headed Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
On October 30, the Washington Post reported that Anthony Podesta abruptly quit his position as head of Podesta Group. The Post noted, “Podesta’s departure came as the indictments of former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort and his business partner, Rick Gates, raised questions about the work Podesta’s firm did with Manafort to buff the image of the Ukrainian government.
Podesta said he was quitting because of all the criticism he’s been getting as special counsel Robert S. Mueller III pursues his investigation into Russian collusion to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.”
How Much Did the Obama Administration Know About Uranium One?
Why did the Department of Justice choose not to share its information with the agencies and/or governmental officials responsible for the approval of Uranium One to Rosatom? If the FBI’s evidence of corruption by Rosatom and its violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act had been known in advance, the sale of Uranium One would probably have not been completed.
At the time of the FBI 2009-2015 investigation into Rosatom’s activities, Justice Department officials were Robert Mueller, James Comey, Rod Rosenstein and Andrew McCabe. All of them now play prominent roles in Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump associates colluded with the Moscow to influence the 2016 presidential election.
Will all four recuse themselves for being too close to the investigation? None of them has done so yet.
Gag Order Lifted on FBI Informant
On October 25, the Department of Justice lifted the gag order on an FBI informant. That information was allowed to testify before Congress about Russia’s uranium deals in the U.S. during the Obama administration and other investigations currently underway.
The Department of Justice under Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch prevented the unidentified informant from speaking because he signed a non-disclosure agreement.
Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior said the informant could “disclose to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, as well as one member of each of their staffs, any information or documents he has concerning alleged corruption or bribery involving transactions in the uranium market.”
Clinton and the DNC Paid For Russian Dossier
This is just one scandal confronting Democrats as it relates to Russia. The Washington Post reported in October that the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped fund research that resulted in a dossier about President Trump’s alleged connections to Russia and possible coordination between his campaign and the Kremlin.
The dossier, which contained unverified allegations of misconduct and collusion between Trump and Russia, also shows that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) paid Fusion GPS to conduct the investigation.
Former British MI6 intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who had ties to the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community, compiled the dossier. Steele was paid from three sources:
- Fusion GPS
- Marc Elias, who was Hillary Clinton’s attorney during the presidential campaign
- The Democratic National Committee (DNC), which retained Fusion GPS to conduct the investigation
Initially, Fusion GPS’s research into Trump was funded by the conservative publication Washington Free Beacon. The Beacon did opposition research on several Republican presidential candidates, including Trump. The Beacon’s research did not involve Steele or Russia.
That arrangement lasted only through the spring of 2016. In April, Elias and his law firm, Perkins Coie, retained Fusion GPS on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC. Before that agreement, an unknown Republican client funded Fusion GPS’s research into Trump during the GOP primaries.
The Clinton campaign and the DNC through Perkins Coie paid Fusion GPS almost $12 million for a period that lasted right up to the election.
No one knows how much the Clinton campaign and the DNC paid to Fusion GPS. As a result, there could be various federal campaign irregularities because on the federal campaign disclosure, the fee was listed only as legal services. The law stipulates any amount over $200,000 must be fully disclosed in detail.
CIA Director John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and FBI Director James Comey used the dossier in briefing both President Obama and President-elect Trump.
Clinton Campaign and DNC Disavow Knowledge of Payment Arrangements
Many people in the Clinton campaign and current and previous DNC officials (including former Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz) have stated they were unaware of this arrangement and never knew of its existence. It should be noted that when John Podesta was asked this question during his testimony in front of a congressional committee, he disavowed any knowledge of the arrangement while Marc Elias was seated next to him.
What Role Did the FBI and Intelligence Community Play?
Why did the FBI and the intelligence community use an unverified and unsubstantiated dossier to brief a president? What did they use a dossier that had been paid for by a political candidate and a political party against another political party and candidate?
Should the FBI have contracted an investigation to a third party, utilizing information gained solely from a foreign source? Why would the intelligence community accept this dossier without verifying its authenticity?
Did the FBI pay for the dossier? Did it use this unverified and unsubstantiated information to gain a warrant from the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (known as the FISA Court) to conduct surveillance on Trump and his campaign associates?
What Role Did DNC Hacking Play in Russian Collusion?
Is there a connection to the hacking of the DNC email server by the Russians? No one, except for cybersecurity company CrowdStrike, has seen the server to corroborate or challenge the validity of this assertion.
The hack brings former DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz into the picture. The alleged breach of the DNC server happened while she ran the organization and she refused the FBI’s help in investigating the perpetrators of the hack.
Wasserman Schultz steadfastly refused to turn over her computer to federal investigators until she was forced to do so. Is anything on those DNC servers relating to Russia, the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton campaign?
A lot of unanswered questions still remain in regard to Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential campaign. In time, there may be answers.