What's the latest on a controversial uranium deal with Russia that was brokered during Hillary Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State?
Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions has directed “senior federal prosecutors” to investigate issues pertaining to the controversial sale of Uranium One, according to a letter from the Department of Justice exclusively obtained by Fox News.
Multiple congressional committees have called for an investigation into the Obama-era deal that resulted in a Russian company purchasing American uranium mines.
The Justice Department previously lifted a gag order on a former FBI informant who is expected to have more information regarding the agreement that allowed Russia to control about one-fifth of the uranium mining in the U.S. – and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s involvement in it. The request came at the behest of many Republican lawmakers.
Now, Sessions has cleared the way for an appointment of a special counsel to oversee an investigation into the deal. However, the Justice Department noted that it does not confirm active investigations.
The controversial sale of what is now Uranium One to a Russian company is what President Trump has called the “real Russia story” as federal investigators continue to probe Russia’s alleged involvement in the 2016 election. The Hill reported that Russian officials engaged in a “racketeering scheme” to further its energy goals in the U.S.
What was the Uranium One deal?
In 2013, Rosatom, backed by the Russian state, acquired a Canadian uranium mining company, now called Uranium One, which has assets in the U.S. Uranium is key to making nuclear weapons.
Through the deal, Russia is able to own about 20 percent of U.S. uranium production capacity. However, Colin Chilcoat, an energy affairs specialist who has written extensively about Russia’s energy deals, said that the company only extracts about 11 percent of uranium in the U.S.
The deal also “doesn’t allow for that uranium to be exported at all,” Chilcoat told Fox News. “It’s not like it’s leaving the U.S. or somehow finding its way to more insidious players.”
The agreement was approved by nine government agencies with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an inter-agency group that reviews how certain foreign investments can impact national security. Clinton’s State Department was one of those agencies, though the former secretary of state told WMUR-TV in 2015 that she was not “personally involved” in the agreement.
Why is it controversial?
Republicans have largely decried the deal, especially as some investors reportedly donated millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation. Former President Bill Clinton also received a $500,000 speaking fee in Russia and reportedly met with Vladimir Putin around the time of the deal.
The FBI had looked into the agreement and uncovered that some Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in nefarious dealings, which included extortion, bribery and kickbacks, The Hill reported. Evidence of wrongdoing by Vadim Mikerin, the Russian official overseeing Putin’s nuclear expansion in the U.S. who was eventually sentenced to prison, was discovered by the FBI before the deal was approved, according to The Hill.