Obama's DOJ slow-walked probe despite national security concerns

Obama's DOJ slow-walked probe despite national security concerns
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In their recent article in The Hill, John Solomon and Alison Spann reported on the Obama Justice Department’s slow-walk investigation of Moscow’s “bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States.”

Obama administration figures involved in the 2009-15 investigation include Robert Mueller, James Comey, Rod Rosenstein and Andrew McCabe  — all of whom are involved in some fashion in the current investigation of President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for ‘serious case of amnesia’ after testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I don’t want to represent Trump at Olympics Poll: 4 in 10 Republicans think senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia MORE’s alleged collusion with Russia.

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Despite extensive information as early as 2009 that Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm and that Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP lawmakers cite new allegations of political bias in FBI Top intel Dem: Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about Trump Tower discussions with father MORE’s State Department and other government agencies on the Committee on Foreign Investment (including Attorney General Eric HolderEric H. HolderFBI director defends agency after Trump attacks: It's an 'honor to represent you' FBI agents fire back at Trump: Saying we're not dedicated is 'simply false' Holder hits back at Trump: The FBI’s reputation is not in 'tatters' MORE) unanimously approved the partial sale of the Canadian mining company, Uranium One, to the Russian nuclear giant Rosatom in October 2010.

From The Hill's report:

Multiple current and former government officials told The Hill they did not know whether the FBI or DOJ ever alerted committee members to the apparent Russian criminal activity. Likewise, major congressional figures were also kept in the dark.

Former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who chaired the House Intelligence Committee at the time the investigation was being conducted, told The Hill that he had never been told anything about the Russian nuclear corruption case even though it threatened U.S. national security interests. 

Uranium One had accumulated massive U.S. uranium holdings, and the 2010 sale gave Moscow control of more than 20 percent of America’s uranium reserves. In 2011, the Obama administration gave approval for Rosatom’s American branch, Tenex, to sell commercial uranium to U.S. nuclear power plants. 

Notably absent from The Hill article is the name of Frank Giustra of Uranium One, purported to be the largest single donor to the Clinton Foundation at some $33 million. In fact, Giustra and aides to President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonMueller’s probe doesn't end with a bang, but with a whimper Mark Mellman: History’s judgment Congress should massively ramp up funding for the NIH MORE started a Canadian charity to shield the identities of donors to the Clinton Foundation, according to The New York Times. This was in violation of Hillary Clinton’s pledge of transparency as a condition of her becoming secretary of State.

Russia’s nuclear affiliate, Tenex, compromised U.S. companies in the nuclear supply chain by offering "no-bid contracts in exchange for kickbacks in the form of money payments made to offshore banks accounts," according to testimony cited in The Hill's report. Hence, Russia had the evidence to compromise the U.S. companies they partnered with in the nuclear supply chain.

Alarmingly, the materials being transferred by these compromised companies could form the basis for radioactive dirty bombs. In December 2015, the head of the Russian affiliate, Tenex, accepted a plea bargain for a jail sentence and a $2 million fine. 

The Hill report raises serious questions about the FBI and Justice Department during the Obama years. They appear not to have pursued with any vigor the Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton and Clinton Foundation “connections” with high-level Russian nuclear officials.

Their five-year investigation yielded only one conviction so far. They appeared to be lax to the extreme in terms of keeping appropriate government agencies, administration officials and Congress apprised of their investigation, even though it related to serious questions of national security.

Given their tarnished record, the American public should ask whether Robert Mueller, Rod Rosenstein and Andrew McCabe should be allowed to preside over any investigation of Donald Trump’s Russian connection, for which no evidence appears to exist other than a dodgy dossier.

We can understand Trump’s outrage at his newly appointed attorney general’s decision to appoint a special prosecutor. The FBI and Justice Department should investigate the Clinton-Russia connection, but given their record, can they be trusted? 

Paul Gregory, Ph.D., is a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. Gregory has written extensively on Russia and the former Soviet Union, including, "The Political Economy of Stalinism," (Cambridge, 2004), which won the Hewett Prize, an award given annually for an outstanding monograph on the political economy of Russia, Eurasia and/or Eastern Europe, published in the previous year.

This piece has been updated from an earlier version.