(CNSNews.com) -- Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today called on the Justice Department to lift the gag order on a former FBI informant so the person can be interviewed by Congress about a bribery and kickback case involving a Russian uranium firm, as well as donations to the Clinton Foundation, and the Obama administration's okay of the sale of a uranium mining company to Russia in 2010.
That partial sale of Uranium One to Rosatom, the State Atomic Energy Corporation of Russia, despite the FBI's investigation at the time of a Rosatom subsidiary official gave Russia (and Vladimir Putin) control of an estimated 20% of uranium production in the United States. The sale had to be approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which, in 2010, included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder.
Although the informant helped the FBI successfully prosecute three people involved in the kickback scheme, the Justice Department reportedly has threatened the informant with incarceration if he speaks to Congress about what he knows.
The DOJ, under the Obama administration, said that if he violated the Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), "he would lose his liberty," Victoria Toensing, the attorney for the informant, told CNSNews.com.
“The Executive Branch does not have the authority to use non-disclosure agreements to avoid Congressional scrutiny," said Sen. Grassley in a statement on Thursday. "If the FBI is allowed to contract itself out of Congressional oversight, it would seriously undermine our Constitutional system of checks and balances."
"The Justice Department needs to work with the Committee to ensure that witnesses are free to speak without fear, intimidation or retaliation from law enforcement," said Grassley. "Witnesses who want to talk to Congress should not be gagged and threatened with prosecution for talking."
"If that has happened," said the senator, "senior DOJ leadership needs to fix it and release the witness from the gag order."
Grassley's statement continues, "According to recent news reports, a U.S. businessman-turned-confidential informant documented bribes, extortion and money laundering by Russian entities that were attempting to secure U.S. government approval of a deal to acquire Uranium One, which reportedly owned 20 percent of American uranium assets at the time.
"According to the news reports, the informant has information regarding payments made by Russian executives to a U.S. entity that supported President Bill Clinton’s foundation. In 2010, despite an ongoing criminal investigation into officials working for Rosatom subsidiaries, the Obama Administration approved the takeover of Uranium One."
Yesterday, Oct. 18, Senator Grassley sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions about the case and the gag order on the informant.
"These restrictions [on the informant] appear to improperly prevent the individual from making critical, good faith disclosures to Congress of potential wrongdoing," said Sen. Grassley to Attorney General Sessions. "They also purport to limit the Committee’s access to information it needs to fulfill its constitutional responsibility of oversight."
"This Committee has oversight jurisdiction of the Justice Department, and if this NDA [non-disclosure agreement] does in fact exist, it hinders the Committee’s ability to do its job," said the senator. "Accordingly, please provide a copy of the NDA by November 1, 2017. In addition, should the NDA exist, I request that you release him from it and pledge not to engage in any form of retaliation against him for good faith communications with Congress."
Senator Grassley also sent a letter to Attorney Toensing. In it, he states, "It appears that your client possesses unique information about the Uranium One/Rosatom transaction and how the Justice Department handled the criminal investigation into the Russian criminal conspiracy. Such information is critical to the Committee’s oversight of the Justice Department and its ongoing inquiry into the manner in which CFIUS approved the transaction.
"Accordingly, the Committee requests to interview your client. Please contact Committee staff by October 25, 2017, to arrange the interview."