Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday promised to review allegations that Barack Obama’s administration knew about bribery allegations surrounding a Russian company’s acquisition of 20 percent of U.S. uranium reserves.
The issue surfaced in the 2016 presidential election and has stormed back into the news amid reports that the Justice Department had evidence as far back as 2009 related to bribery and money laundering. A Russian-born Maryland resident, Vadim Mikerin, pleaded guilty in 2014 to a money laundering charge.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has opened an investigation into the issue. Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) asked Sessions about the matter during the attorney general’s testimony on Wednesday.
“Mr. Chairman, we will be hearing your concerns,” he said. “The Department of Justice will take such actions as appropriate, I know. And I would offer that some people have gone to jail in that transaction already.”
Sessions offered few details, however.
“Without confirming or denying a particular investigation, I would say I hear your concerns, and they will be reviewed,” he said.
According to a story in The Hill, Mikerin was a Russian financier overseeing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear expansion inside the United States. After he pleaded guilty, a federal judge sentenced him to four years in prison and ordered him to forfeit $2.1 million.
Grassley noted the FBI was investigating Mikerin at the same time the Obama administration was determining whether to approve the sale of the mining company Uranium One to the state-owned Russian nuclear firm Rosatom. He also pointed to well-publicized reports of Russian contributions to the Clinton Foundation and a $500,000 speaking fee former President Bill Clinton received for a speech he gave in Moscow in June 2010. That was the same month Russia began the uranium acquisition.
In October of that year, a government committee that included then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed off on the Uranium One transaction.
“This fact pattern raises serious concerns about improper political influence on the process by the previous — by the Clintons during the Obama administration,” Grassley said.
Grassley asked if the Department of Justice has fully investigated that issue.
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“Mr. Chairman, we’re working hard to maintain discipline in the department,” Sessions responded. “It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment on any ongoing investigation.”
The Clinton Foundation scandal has been virtually ignored by the broadcast news networks. The Media Research Center determined Wednesday that the network evening shows have only spent only three minutes and one second on the issue in more than two years.
Grassley said he understands why Sessions was reluctant to talk about ongoing investigations. But he noted that the current deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, supervised the case when he was the U.S. attorney for Maryland.
The committee chairman asked if it would be appropriate for Rosenstein to now supervise his own work as the Justice Department reviews the matter.
“It would be his decision,” Sessions answered. “He’s a man of integrity, and if he feels that he has an inability to proceed with any of his investigations, it would be his responsibility to make that determination and should consult, as I told you I would do and I have done, with the senior ethics people at the department.”