More information about the Congressional probes into the Obama-era Uranium One deal leaked out Thursday when Reuters reported that Senate Republicans say their investigation into the Clinton’s role in approving the deal largely hinges on the testimony of a secret informant who was until recently the subject of a federal gag order.
But a month after Trump asked the DOJ to lift the gag order – a command that the DOJ promptly obeyed – the man has decided to speak out publicly for the first time in an interview with Reuters.
His name is Christopher Campbell, and was formerly a lobbyist for Tenex, the US-based arm of Rosatom, the Russian government’s nuclear agency.
At the time the Uranium One deal was approved, Campbell was a confidential source for the FBI in a Maryland bribery and kickback investigation that eventually led to the conviction of the head of the US unit of Rosatom, the Russian state-owned nuclear power company that received permission to buy Uranium One from a US strategic-resources panel, on bribery and corruption charges. Campbell was identified as an FBI informant by prosecutors in open court and by himself in a publicly available lawsuit he filed last year, but his identity as the informant was somehow not widely known, Reuters noted.
That’s largely because the DOJ put Campbell under a gag order after the investigation was settled. The FBI never informed Congress of its investigation into corruption at Rosatom and Uranium One, and in 2010, Hillary Clinton and a majority of the nine-member panel voted to approve the sale of Uranium One to Rosatom – thereby ceding control of 20% of US uranium assets to Russia.
In a telephone interview with Reuters, Campbell said he wanted to testify because of his concerns about Russia’s activities in the United States, but declined to comment further.
Campbell’s lawyer, Victoria Toensing, who has not previously identified her client, said despite Campbell telling the government ”how corrupt the company was,” Rosatom still got permission to buy Uranium One. She did not say what Campbell would reveal regarding any alleged wrongdoing by Clinton.
However, some law enforcement officials who spoke with Reuters under cover of anonymity said they doubt Campbell would be much help to investigators digging into Uranium One. That’s because although both Uranium One and the bribery cases involved Rosatom, the two cases involved different business units, executives and allegations, with little other apparent overlap, Reuters found in a review of the court records of the bribery case.
Yet Campbell insisted that he had meaningful evidence of corruption related specifically to the Uranium One deal.
Campbell countered those who dismiss his knowledge of the Uranium One deal. “I have worked with the Justice Department undercover for several years, and documentation relating to Uranium One and political influence does exist and I have it,” Campbell said. He declined to give details of those documents.
And Campbell’s role in the probe will likely only expand if the Justice Department does end up appointing a special prosecutor, as a leak to the Washington Post Monday suggested it might. Though AG Jeff Sessions was quick to play down those rumors during public testimony earlier this week.
Campbell potentially now has a larger starring role in the Washington drama after the Justice Department said in a letter to Congress on Monday that it was considering appointing a special prosecutor to launch an investigation into Republican allegations of wrongdoing by Clinton, Trump’s former political rival, in the deal.
Under Clinton, the State Department was part of a nine-agency government Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States that approved the purchase of Uranium One. Her critics, including Trump, allege large donations by people connected to the Uranium One deal made to her family’s foundation influenced the State Department’s decision to approve it.
Reuters has no evidence that Clinton orchestrated the approval of Uranium One.
In an email, Rosatom said the company had made no donations to the Clinton Foundation and had not asked others to do so. The foundation stressed the State Department was only one member of the committee that approved the deal and said Clinton had no personal involvement in the decision.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley said in a letter to Toensing, Campbell’s lawyer, that her client appears to have information “critical to the Committee’s oversight of the Justice Department and its ongoing inquiry into the manner in which” the Uranium One sale was approved.
As Reuters reports, Campbell was slated to testify against Vadim Mikerin, the Russian official in charge of US operations for Tenex, the US-based unit of Rosatom. Authorities later accused Mikerin of taking bribes from a shipping company in exchange for contracts to transport Russian uranium into the United States. He pleaded guilty in federal court in Maryland and was sentenced to prison for four years. The Justice Department had also initially charged Mikerin with extorting kickbacks from Campbell after hiring him as a $50,000-a-month lobbyist.
However, prosecutors eventually decided against it, saying Campbell lacked credibility.
Prosecutors alleged Mikerin had demanded Campbell pay between one-third and half of that money back to him each month under threat of losing the contract and veiled warnings of violence from the Russians. The demand prompted Campbell to turn to the FBI in 2010, which gave its blessing for him to remain part of the scheme.
Federal prosecutors were ready to use Campbell as a star witness against Mikerin, but they backed away after defense attorneys raised questions about Campbell’s credibility and whether he was a victim or had “entered into a business arrangement with eyes wide open,” according to court records.
As is often the case when it comes to international espionage and corruption, many questions remain unanswered. Prosecutors dropped the extortion charges against Mikerin and never mentioned Campbell again in any charging documents. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the case. Campbell also declined to comment on the issue.
Reuters has been unable to learn why Tenex chose Campbell as its lobbyist. He acknowledged in lawsuit he filed in 2016 that he was hired despite the fact he “had no experience with nuclear fuel sales.”
Given his proximity to some of the individuals at the center of the Congressional investigations, it’s possible Campbell might be able to provide some game-changing information about Uranium One that could better illuminate the Clintons’ role in approving the deal. Of course, he could be just another crank.