FBI informant blocked from telling Congress about Russia nuclear corruption case, lawyer says

An American businessman who worked for years undercover as an FBI confidential witness was blocked by the Obama Justice Department from telling Congress about conversations and transactions he witnessed related to the Russian nuclear industry's efforts to win favor with Bill and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGillibrand urges opposition to Kavanaugh: Fight for abortion rights 'is now or never' Bannon announces pro-Trump movie, operation team ahead of midterms: report Fox News host hits Giuliani: Dossier isn't why Mueller probe was started MORE and influence Obama administration decisions, his lawyer tells The Hill.

Attorney Victoria Toensing, a former Reagan Justice Department official and former chief counsel of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday she is working with members of Congress to see if they can get the Trump Justice Department or the FBI to free her client to talk to lawmakers.

“All of the information about this corruption has not come out,” she said in an interview Tuesday. “And so my client, the same part of my client that made him go into the FBI in the first place, says, 'This is wrong. What should I do about it?'” 

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Toensing said she also possesses memos that recount how the Justice Department last year threatened her client when he attempted to file a lawsuit that could have drawn attention to the Russian corruption during the 2016 presidential race as well as helped him recover some of the money Russians stole from him through kickbacks during the FBI probe.

The undercover client witnessed “a lot of bribery going on around the U.S.” but was asked by the FBI to sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) that prevents him from revealing what he knows to Congress, Toensing explained.

When he tried to bring some of the allegations to light in the lawsuit last year, “the Obama Justice Department threatened him with loss of freedom. They said they would bring a criminal case against him for violating an NDA,” she added.

Emails obtained by The Hill show that a civil attorney working with the former undercover witness described the pressure the Justice Department exerted to keep the client from disclosing to a federal court what he knew last summer.

“The government was taking a very harsh position that threatened both your reputation and liberty,” the civil lawyer wrote in one email. In another, she added, “As you will recall the gov’t made serious threats sufficient to cause you to withdraw your civil complaint."

Justice Department and FBI officials did not return calls seeking comment.

Federal court records from 2014 and 2015 show that a wide-ranging FBI probe into Russian nuclear industry corruption was facilitated by an unnamed American consultant who worked for the Moscow-based nuclear energy giant Rosatom's Tenex subsidiary on a multiyear campaign to grow Moscow's uranium business inside the United States.

Those efforts included winning U.S. approval of Rosatom's controversial purchase of Canada-based Uranium One's American uranium assets, securing new approvals to sell new commercial uranium to the federally backed United States Enrichment Corporation and winning billions in new U.S. utility contracts for Russian nuclear fuel.

The court records alternatively refer to the FBI informant as "confidential source 1," the "contractor" and "Victim 1" without ever naming him. The records make clear he came to the FBI immediately after Russian officials asked him to engage in illegal activity in 2009.

Toensing said the confidential witness identified in those court documents is her client.

Working as a confidential witness, the businessman made kickback payments to the Russians with the approval of his FBI handlers and gathered other evidence, the records show. 

Sources told The Hill the informant's work was crucial to the government's ability to crack a multimillion dollar racketeering scheme by Russian nuclear officials on U.S. soil that involved bribery, kickbacks, money laundering and extortion. In the end, the main Russian executive sent to the U.S. to expand Russian President Vladimir Putin's nuclear business, an executive of an American trucking firm and a Russian financier from New Jersey pled guilty to various crimes in a case that started in 2009 and ended in late 2015.

Toensing added her client has had contact from multiple congressional committees seeking information about what he witnessed inside the Russian nuclear industry and has been unable to provide that information because of the NDA. 

“He can’t disclose anything that he came upon in the course of his work,” she said.

The information the client possesses includes specific allegations that Russian executives made to him about how they facilitated the Obama administration's 2010 approval of the Uranium One deal and sent millions of dollars in Russian nuclear funds to the U.S. to an entity assisting Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonGiuliani: Trump legal team ready to argue Mueller subpoena 'before the Supreme Court' In trade war, US has economic edge, but China has political advantage Will White House press briefings return to what they used to be? MORE's foundation. At the time, Hillary Clinton was serving as secretary of State on the government panel that approved the deal, the lawyer said.

It has been previously reported that Bill Clinton accepted $500,000 in Russian speaking fees in 2010 and collected millions more in donations for his foundation from parties with a stake in the Uranium One deal, transactions that both the Clintons and the Obama administration denied had any influence on the approval. 

Federal law requires officials such as then-Secretary Clinton to avoid both conflicts of interest and the appearance of conflicts when it comes to the business and financial interests of a spouse. Clinton signed a special agreement when she became secretary to disclose her husband's charitable donations to the State Department to avoid any such conflicts. Both Clintons have repeatedly insisted no donations raised by the foundation ever influenced her decisions.

A spokesman and a lawyer for the Clintons did not return calls seeking comment.

Toensing said her client can also testify that FBI agents made comments to him suggesting political pressure was exerted during the Justice Department probe of the Russia corruption case and that there was specific evidence that could have scuttled approval of the Uranium One deal if it became public.

“There was corruption going on and it was never brought forward. And in fact, the sale of the uranium went on despite the government knowing about all of this corruption. So he's coming forward. He wants the right thing to be done, but he cannot do it unless he is released from the NDA,” she added.