Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered “senior federal prosecutors” to start investigating “certain issues” surrounding the Clinton Foundation and the 2010 Uranium One deal with Russia.
For more than a decade, Republican lawmakers have been calling for an official investigation into the controversial deal that handed 20% of our uranium production capacity to Russia. The Obama-era deal involved the sale of Uranium One (a Canadian mining company with assets in the US) to Rosatom, a Russian nuclear company backed by the Kremlin.
Hillary Clinton’s State Department was one of nine government agencies to approve the deal, although Hillary herself has claimed that she was not “personally involved.”
The deal, which Trump has referred to as “the real Russia story,” is controversial because:
• Uranium is a key element in nuclear weapons; we should not give it to anyone
• Some of the deal’s key investors reportedly donated to the Clinton Foundation
• While the deal was being negotiated, Bill Clinton met with Vladimir Putin and received $500,000 for a speech he gave in Russia
• The FBI may have discovered evidence that Rosatom officials were involved in a racketeering scheme before the Uranium One deal was signed
House Republicans are already investigating the Uranium One deal, but Sessions' request could lead to the appointment of a special counsel to lead a more serious investigation.
In a letter to the House Judiciary Committee, assistant attorney general Stephen Boyd said that prosecutors will make recommendations to Sessions and Rosenstein on whether “any matters currently under investigation require further resources, or whether any merit the appointment of a special counsel.”
Democrats, who view the investigation as partisan, will likely demand that Sessions not participate in the case.
It is unlikely that Sessions would play a central role in the case anyway, considering his January promise to Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to recuse himself from any investigation pertaining to the Clinton Foundation.
Lawmakers are also questioning whether Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should be involved in any investigation involving Uranium One. As a former US Attorney, Rosenstein reportedly helped supervise a bribery probe into a subsidiary of Rosatom.
“We certainly cannot leave it to Mr. Rosenstein,” argues Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL). “It’s Rosenstein’s name on the signature block sealing from Congress and the American people the very testimony of the informant ready to tell us about the bribes and the kickbacks."
If Sessions and Rosenstein were both to step aside, leadership would then fall to Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign has intensified in recent weeks, and some are viewing Sessions’ push for a second special counsel as a way to distract from Mueller’s investigation and to preserve his position at the White House as he continues to fall from Trump’s favor.
Trump has publicly criticized Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia collusion investigation, and has even claimed that had he known in advance what Sessions would do, he never would have appointed him to the position of Attorney General.