Trump asks for FBI in­for­mant to tes­tify

Obama-era sale of ura­nium mines to Rus­sians at is­sue

The Arizona Republic - - News 2 - SE­NIOR AD­VISER TO PRES­I­DENT TRUMP

WASH­ING­TON - Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump urged the Jus­tice Depart­ment to al­low an FBI in­for­mant to tes­tify be­fore Congress about Rus­sian ef­forts to en­ter the U.S. en­ergy mar­ket dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, a se­nior White House ad­viser con­firmed Fri­day.

Trump sup­ported the re­quest of Sen. Chuck Grass­ley of Iowa, the Repub­li­can chair­man of the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, who last week asked the Jus­tice Depart­ment to lift the un­der­cover in­for­mant’s gag or­der.

By get­ting in­volved, how­ever, the pres­i­dent seems to have ig­nored long­stand­ing re­stric­tions put in place af­ter the Water­gate-era abuses of the Nixon years to limit White House in­volve­ment in crim­i­nal law en­force­ment mat­ters. Ear­lier he was crit­i­cized for in­ter­ven­ing in DOJ mat­ters for fir­ing FBI Di­rec­tor James B. Comey in May over the FBI’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

The White House was un­apolo­getic. “It is not un­usual for a pres­i­dent to weigh in,” Trump’s se­nior ad­viser, Kellyanne Con­way, said on CNN on Fri­day, re­fut­ing nu­mer­ous le­gal an­a­lysts who say oth­er­wise.

“He be­lieves — and many oth­ers do — frankly, that the FBI in­for­mant should be free to say what he knows,” Con­way said.

De­spite in­ves­ti­ga­tions that found no wrong­do­ing, Trump has re­peat­edly pointed to the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ap­proval of the 2010 sale of U.S. ura­nium mines to a com­pany backed by the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment as an ex­am­ple of Hil­lary Clin­ton’s help­ing the Rus­sians.

The sale of the Canada-based Ura­nium One to Rus­sian en­ergy com­pany Rosatom was ap­proved while Clin­ton led the State Depart­ment. Some in­vestors in Ura­nium One, which owns ura­nium mines in the United States, had do­nated to her hus­band’s global phil­an­thropic foun­da­tion.

So far, there is no pub­licly avail­able ev­i­dence that Clin­ton was aware of Rus­sian ef­forts, or that the FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion un­cov­ered any wrong­do­ing re­lated to the deal. The State Depart­ment was one of nine U.S. de­part­ments or agen­cies that ap­proved the sale, a per­mit­ting process re­quired by law for sales with pos­si­ble na­tional se­cu­rity im­pli­ca­tions.

In ad­di­tion, U.S. ura­nium de­posits are dif­fi­cult to re­fine and in­vestors think Rus­sia was more in­ter­ested in Ura­nium One’s large ura­nium mines in nearby Kazakhstan.

Trump and his al­lies in Congress, along with his con­fi­dant Sean Han­nity of Fox News, have re­newed at­tacks on the 7-year-old ura­nium deal to blunt at­ten­tion to in­ves­ti­ga­tions by four con­gres­sional com­mit­tees and spe­cial coun­sel Robert S. Mueller III into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence the 2016 elec­tion and whether Moscow had any di­rect links to the Trump cam­paign.

Mueller also is be­lieved to be in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether Trump may have tried to ob­struct jus­tice, in­clud­ing by his fir­ing of Comey.

Grass­ley, who is known for en­cour­ag­ing whistle­blow­ers to go pub­lic with in­for­ma­tion, asked the Jus­tice Depart­ment to lift the in­for­mant’s nondis­clo­sure agree­ment so he could tell the com­mit­tee what he knows about po­ten­tial money laun­der­ing and other ac­tiv­i­ties re­lated to the Ura­nium One deal.

Jus­tice agreed this week. The depart­ment de­clined to com­ment on whether Trump in­flu­enced its de­ci­sion. It is un­clear who the in­for­mant is or what ev­i­dence, if any, the in­for­mant has that might link the Clin­tons to the sale.

On Tues­day, the chair­man of the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said his panel and the House Over­sight Com­mit­tee would launch an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Ura­nium One deal.

Trump has called the ura­nium deal “the real Rus­sia story” and a scan­dal like “Water­gate, mod­ern age.” He wrote on Twit­ter on Fri­day: “It is now com­monly agreed, af­ter many months of COSTLY look­ing, that there was NO col­lu­sion be­tween Rus­sia and Trump. Was col­lu­sion with HC!” — mean­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton.

TRI­BUNE WASH­ING­TON BUREAU

BRIAN BEN­NETT

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