The Justice Department late Wednesday lifted a gag order on a confidential FBI informant to allow him to speak to Congress about information he gathered while uncovering a Russian bribery scheme linked to a Russian takeover of a large U.S. uranium mine in 2010.
The move comes amid renewed congressional scrutiny of the Obama administration's approval of a deal allowing a subsidiary of a Russian-owned energy company, Rosatam, to purchase Uranium One, which controlled up to 20 percent of U.S. uranium mining capacity.
Three congressional committees over the last week launched investigations into the deal and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's decision to sign off on the acquisition. The panels also are looking into whether millions of dollars in donations to the Clinton Foundation by interested parties in the deal played any role in swaying her.
"As of tonight, the Department of Justice has authorized the information to disclose to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, as well as one member of each of their staffs, any information or documents he has concerning alleged corruption or bribery involving transactions in the uranium market," Justice spokesman Ian Prior said in a statement.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, on Tuesday said he wanted to know whether senior Obama administration officials, including Clinton, knew that the FBI began investigating an extensive Russian bribery scheme involving kickbacks and that a top Russian nuclear executive was at the center of it. The Justice Department eventually brought only one charge of money laundering against that executive, Vadim Mikerin, in 2014.
The House Intelligence Committee is conducting a joint review of the matter with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Clinton earlier this week called the renewed focus on the uranium deal "baloney," and she and other Democrats, including Rep. Adam Schiff, (D., Calif.), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, has accused Republicans of trying to distract from the multiple probes in Russian meddling in the presidential election.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, (R., Iowa), who chairs the Judiciary Committee, was the first member of Congress to press the Justice Department for information about the Uranium One deal, asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week whether the agency was investigating the matter.
Grassley also asked Sessions to lift the non-disclosure agreement on the informant so he could speak freely to Congress about the information he had discovered while helping the FBI to uncover the bribery scheme. The informant, through his attorney Victoria Toensing, said the Obama Justice Department had asked him to sign the agreement and had threatened him with prosecution if he talked to lawmakers or others about the matter.