Uranium One Grows: Russians Did Export, And We Knew

Uranium One Grows: Russians Did Export, And We Knew

In the specter of the Russia-Trump collusion investigation that just won’t go away, perhaps the greatest American-Russian collusion scandal to date continues to go vastly underreported. As the media leaps at every update pertaining to speculative connections between Trump and Russia, even false ones, the real collusion saga continues to grow right under their noses.

The sale of Uranium One from American to Russian entities did not go unnoticed by American politicians at the time. They knew that this deal had the potential for great damage to American nuclear independence regardless of the details, but that it could be an even more immense mistake to allow a Russian owned entity to export uranium overseas. Since the story broke, it has been revealed that the FBI was aware of bribes and illegal kickbacks being facilitated by Russian entities as a means to acquire Uranium One, and that Russian money linked to the U-1 sale was donated to the Clinton Foundation long before its finalization. A video of Russians stuffing money into suitcases even emerged, courtesy of an FBI informant tasked with monitoring the case. Now, evidence has arisen which appears to show that concerned American legislators were intentionally misled by the Obama administration via promises that the Russians would not be able to export yellowcake uranium – the kind used in making nuclear energy and weapons – despite the revelation that they eventually did export it to Europe over a two-year period.

In a letter sent Monday to the Department of Energy, Rep. John Barrasso (R-WY) disclosed passages from a correspondence he had with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in 2010. In hindsight, the correspondence appears to materially misrepresent the process which ARMZ, the subsidiary of state-owned Russian energy producer Rosatom and eventual buyer of Uranium One, would need to undertake in order to ship uranium from America to Russia. Keep in mind that this letter was sent prior to the approval of the Uranium One deal by the State Department and president. 

‘At this time, neither Uranium One Inc. nor ARMZ holds a specific NRC export license. In order to export uranium from the United States, Uranium One, Inc. or ARMZ would need to apply for and obtain a specific NRC license authorizing the export of uranium for use in reactor fuel’

The NRC staff made a similar statement in their recommendation to approve the transfer control of Uranium One to ARMZ, stating: 

"before the licensee may export uranium to a foreign country, they must first comply with the NRC's regulations and seek a specific license for such purpose." (EPW.gov)

The problem with this response, which was issued on behalf of President Obama by NRC chairman Greg Jaczko, is that Uranium One would eventually be permitted to export American-produced yellowcake uranium to Europe despite never applying for a license. By shipping the uranium through a third-party source which they had thoroughly corrupted through bribes and kickbacks, Uranium One did not need a license. Nevertheless, the Obama administration eventually signed off on these export shipments, leading Rep. Barrasso to conclude that he had been purposefully misled. It was, after all, a straightforward question with a straightforward answer which proved to be untrue, making it hard to blame the man for his ultimate conclusion.

The premise that ARMZ would have to apply for a license in order to export uranium was repeatedly used as proof that the deal with Russia was an honest one that did not compromise American energy independence or security. Like so many promises and deals made during the Obama years, further investigation would prove that neither the promise nor the deal were honest at all.

‘NRC memos reviewed by The Hill show that it did approve the shipment of yellowcake uranium — the raw material used to make nuclear fuel and weapons — from the Russian-owned mines in the United States to Canada in 2012 through a third party. Later, the Obama administration approved some of that uranium going all the way to Europe, government documents show.’ (The Hill)

The same government that assured Rep. Barrasso and countless other skeptics that a) ARMZ would need to apply for a license to export uranium and b) that the public would be made well-aware of any efforts to export yellowcake uranium eventually defied their word when they approved the export of the precious resource all the way to continental Europe. As the administration was well aware of, an export license would have alerted Congress to the deal, so they found another way to allow Russian exportation of uranium ready for energy and weapons-related use. They were able to do this by issuing an export license to a third-party trucking company who, as we now know, was receiving bribes and kickbacks from Russian agents, a fact that the FBI was aware of more than a year before the U-1 deal was approved. The license added Uranium One to RSB Logistics Services, Inc.’s list of clients from whom they could receive uranium for export to Canada, increaseing the amount of uranium that could export by 4.5 million tons. Uranium One has since confirmed that approximately 25% of its fuel exported to Canada eventually left North America, most of which presumably went to Europe and, eventually, Russia.

This scheme was not the product of forgetfulness or lack of oversight. This is as egregious as presidential dishonesty gets. Worse, the NRC has refused to disclose just how much uranium the Russians were able to export, saying that shipments “only” lasted between 2012 and 2014, and that they “aren’t aware” of any shipments since.

Comforting.

Like so many of the scandals which flowed like federal funds out of the Obama White House, Uranium One’s many tentacles continue to break free from the shrouds of secrecy. The story began to unravel in the public sphere when, in 2015, a New York Times piece reported the extent of donations from a Uranium One chairman and the Clinton Foundation.

‘As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well.

And shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock. (NYT)

That makes almost $3 million in money linked directly from Uranium One-associated factions to the Clintons. Nothing fishy about that.

Since this report, several more revelations have emerged, many of which came courtesy of an FBI informant tasked with going undercover to monitor the deal. The informant, who has now been exposed as William Campbell, has since been silenced by former Attorney General Loretta Lynch in a manner his lawyer described as threatening. Still, details of what he found out while undercover – details that the FBI and the White House were privy to before sealing the U-1 deal– have emerged, and they are damning.

  • [American contractor Rod] Fisk added the premium price the Russians were paying to buy a mining firm that in 2010 controlled about 20 percent of America’s uranium production seemed “strange.”
  • The FBI task force supervising Campbell since 2008 watched as the Obama administration made more than a half dozen decisions favorable to the Russians' plan, which ranged from approving the sale of Uranium One to removing Rosatom from export restrictions and making it easier for Moscow to win billions in new commercial uranium sales contracts.’
  • Campbell also relayed detailed information about criminal conduct throughout 2010, including the coordinates for various money laundering drops, according to his FBI debriefing reports.
  • Campbell’s debriefing files also show he regularly mentioned to FBI agents in 2010 a Washington entity with close ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton that was being paid millions to help expand Tenex’s business in the United States. The entity began increasing its financial support to a Clinton charitable project after it was hired by the Russians, according to the documents.
  • He also listened as visiting Russians used racially tinged insults to boast about how easy they found it to win uranium business under Obama, according to a source familiar with Campbell’s planned testimony to Congress.
  • Uranium One was a large enough concern for the informant that he confronted one of his FBI handlers after learning the CFIUS had approved the sale and that the U.S. had given [Russian] Mikerin a work visa despite the extensive evidence of his criminal activity, the source said. The agent responded back to the informant with a comment suggesting “politics” was involved, the source familiar with Campbell’s planned testimony said.

In hindsight, it’s a wonder why the FBI even bothered to put any agents on the case. Even with knowledge of kickbacks and bribes to RSB Logistics and nearly $3 million “donated” to the Clintons a year before the deal was completed, they permitted it to go through unimpeded. Now, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy Rod Rosenstein have deflected the credible assertions that Russian bribery of RSB Logistics and the Uranium One deal are connected, despite RSB being instrumental in U-1’s export of yellowcake uranium.

‘“The way I understand that matter is that the case in which Mr. Mikerin was convicted was not connected to the CFIUS problem that occurred two to three years before,” Sessions testified to the House Judiciary Committee last week, echoing Rosenstein’s letter from a few weeks earlier.
 

But investigative records show FBI counterintelligence recorded the first illicit payments in the bribery/kickback scheme in November 2009, a year before the CFIUS approval.’

“There is zero doubt we had evidence of criminal activity before the CFIUS approval and that Justice knew about it through [the natural security division],” said a source with direct knowledge of the investigation.’ (The Hill)

Campbell even reportedly caught Russian agents on camera with suitcases stuffed with bribe money related to the U-1 scandal. How much more evidence does AG Jeff Sessions need to be convinced that these cases are connected? Obviously, to Sessions, Rosenstein, and others dismissing the many linkes between the bribery case and U-1 deal, no threshold of evidence will be enough if they are not convinced by now.

For now, the gag order forced onto Campbell by then-AG Loretta Lynch remains in effect, and he is therefore barred from providing specific information in testimony to Congress. While this may continue to prevent the official confirmation of links between members of the former administration and Uranium One-related wrongdoing, enough information has been discovered by The Hill and other outlets to craft a definitive narrative, and it’s one that is hard to reconcile with a President acting in favor of America first, and America only.