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Washington, Oct 20 (IANS) The President of the US on Thursday accused the mainstream media of ignoring fresh details about the controversial 2010 approval of a deal that gave Russia control over a large chunk of US uranium resources.
Donald Trump made his remarks on Twitter two days after the Hill reported that prior to the deal, approved in the early stages of predecessor Barack Obama’s administration, the FBI had gathered significant evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were conducting a bribery, kickback, extortion and money laundering scheme aimed at growing Moscow’s atomic energy business inside the US.
"Federal agents used a confidential US witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather extensive financial records, make secret recordings and intercept emails as early as 2009 that showed Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act," The Hill reported.
That paper said it learned about the evidence the FBI had gathered from government documents and interviews.
The Hill furthermore reported, citing unnamed sources, that federal agents had also "obtained an eyewitness account – backed by documents – indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the US designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favourable decision to Moscow."
"Uranium deal to Russia, with Clinton help and Obama Administration knowledge, is the biggest story that Fake Media doesn’t want to follow!" Trump tweeted Thursday.
He was referring to the lack of coverage of The Hill’s report by mainstream media outlets like the New York Times and MSNBC, which are harshly critical of his administration and have thoroughly covered the probe into the Trump election campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia to win the 2016 presidential race.
The New York Times did report in 2015 on a flow of cash making its way to the Clinton Foundation as Russian atomic energy agency Rosatom gradually took control of Canadian mining company Uranium One, which it noted had "uranium-mining stakes stretching from Central Asia to the American West."
But the Hill also reported Tuesday that multiple current and former government officials had told the newspaper they did not know whether the FBI or the US Department of Justice ever alerted the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) – the inter-agency government body that approved the partial sale of Uranium One to Rosatom – to the criminal activity they had uncovered.
Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state, was a member of the CFIUS at the time the deal was unanimously approved in October 2010.
The Washington Post said after Trump’s tweet on Thursday that "new reporting this week by The Hill has, indeed, added a layer of intrigue to the sale of a uranium mining company to Russia’s atomic energy agency, which was approved by the Clinton-led State Department and eight other US government agencies."
But it also pointed to The Hill’s assertion that current and former government officials said they did not know whether CFIUS was alerted by the FBI or Justice Department about the evidence they had uncovered.
"This is a key point … If it were to turn out that Clinton and others were aware of the FBI’s findings – and ignored them – that could be difficult to explain," the Washington Post said.
The deal to sell the stake in Uranium One to Rosatom, initially pursued in 2008 during then-US President George W. Bush administration, involved the transfer to Russia of nuclear technology and equipment, as well as the possibility of reprocessing US-sourced nuclear fuel with the aim of spurring joint projects between companies in both countries.
But the potential deal was put on hold due to a brief war between Russia and Georgia over control of the disputed region of South Ossetia in August 2008, when US-Russian bilateral relations sank to their lowest point since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Two years later, Obama and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, decided to take up the project again as a symbol of the restoration of normal relations with the Kremlin.