Senator demands answers from DOJ on Russia bribery probe

Senator demands answers from DOJ on Russia bribery probe
© Greg Nash

A Republican senator whose state possesses the majority of America’s uranium reserves is asking the Justice Department to explain what it did to warn U.S. officials about an Obama-era Russian nuclear energy corruption probe. 

Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoTrump privately calls Mattis ‘Moderate Dog’: report Push to change wildlife act sparks lobbying blitz House and Senate negotiators reach agreement on water infrastructure bill MORE (Wyo.) said in an interview he is deeply concerned by reports in The Hill that the FBI uncovered kickbacks, bribes, money laundering and extortion by an employee of Russia’s main nuclear company before the Obama administration in 2010 approved the firm taking control of 20 percent of America’s uranium supply.

Some of the mines owned by Uranium One, the company that the Russians bought, are located in Barrasso’s home state of Wyoming.

“Recent reports indicate that, prior to CFIUS’s approval of the Russian-Uranium One deal, the Department of Justice possessed substantial evidence that Russian officials engaged in bribery kickbacks, and other criminal conducts to expand Russia’s nuclear energy business in the United States,” Barrasso wrote in a letter sent this week to Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump distances himself from Rosenstein by saying Sessions hired him Gowdy: Declassified documents unlikely to change anyone's mind on Russia investigation Pompeo on Rosenstein bombshell: Maybe you just ought to find something else to do if you can't be on the team MORE, referring to the Committee on foreign Investment in the United States. 

The senator said he has been concerned about the sale for many years. In 2010, he wrote a letter to President Obama sounding the alarm about it.

“This transaction would give the Russian government control over a sizeable portion of America’s uranium production capacity. Equally alarming, this sale gives ARMZ a significant stake in uranium mines in Kazakhstan,” Barrasso wrote in the 2010 letter to Obama.

“As you know, Russia has a disturbing record of supporting nuclear programs in countries that are openly hostile to the United States,” the senator continued. “This record is at great odds with our own national security.”

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) sent a response to Barrasso’s letter in 2011.

“Under existing NRC regulations, this means that any uranium proposed for export to Russia for use in nuclear fuel would be made subject to the U.S.-Russia Atomic Energy Act Section 123 agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation and confirmed in case-specific government-to-government assurances for each proposed export,” the NRC said.

Barrasso wrote another letter in 2015, this time to the then-Treasury Secretary Jack LewJacob (Jack) Joseph LewOvernight Finance: US reaches deal with ZTE | Lawmakers look to block it | Trump blasts Macron, Trudeau ahead of G-7 | Mexico files WTO complaint Obama-era Treasury secretary: Tax law will make bipartisan deficit-reduction talks harder GOP Senate report says Obama officials gave Iran access to US financial system MORE, expressing his concerns about the Russian government’s ownership of American uranium reserves.  

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States approved the Russian majority take over of Uranium One in 2015. Barrasso requested that Sessions provide documents from that decision. 

“I ask that you provide my office with all documents disclosed by the Department to CFIUS concerning the investigation of Russian nuclear officials prior to CFIUS’s approval of the Russia-Uranium One deal,” the Senator wrote. 

Barrasso’s letter requests the information no later than Dec. 1, 2017.