FBI informant gathered extensive evidence during his six
years undercover about a Russian plot to corner the American
uranium market, ranging from corruption inside a U.S.
nuclear transport company to Obama administration approvals
that let Moscow buy and sell more atomic fuels, according to
more than 5,000 pages of documents from the
The memos, reviewed by The Hill, conflict with statements
made by Justice Department officials in recent days that
informant William Campbell’s prior work won’t shed much
light on the U.S. government’s controversial decision in
2010 to approve Russia’s purchase of the Uranium One mining
company and its substantial U.S. assets.
Campbell documented for his FBI handlers the first illegal
activity by Russians nuclear industry officials in fall
2009, nearly an entire year before the Russian state-owned
Rosatom nuclear firm won Obama administration approval for
the Uranium One deal, the memos show.
Campbell, who was paid $50,000 a month to consult for the
firm, was solicited by Rosatom colleagues to help overcome
political opposition to the Uranium One purchase while
collecting FBI evidence that the sale was part of a larger
effort by Moscow to make the U.S. more dependent on Russian
uranium, contemporaneous emails and memos show.
“The attached article is of interest as I believe it
highlights the ongoing resolve in Russia to gradually and
systematically acquire and control global energy resources,”
Rod Fisk, an American contractor working for the Russians,
wrote in aJune
24, 2010, email to Campbell.
The email forwarded an article on Rosatom’s efforts to buy
Uranium One through its ARMZ subsidiary. Fisk also related
information from a conversation with the Canadian executives
of the mining firm about their discomfort with the impending
“I spoke with a senior Uranium One Executive,” Fisk wrote
Campbell, detailing his personal history with some of the
company’s figures. “He said that corporate Management was not
even told before the announcement [of the sale] was made.
“There are a lot of concerns,” Fisk added, predicting the
Canadians would exit the company with buyouts once the
Russians took control. Fisk added the premium price the
Russians were paying to buy a mining firm that in 2010
controlled about 20 percent of America’s uranium production
At the time, Campell was working alongside Fisk as an American
consultant to Rosatom’s commercial sales arm, Tenex.
But unbeknownst to his colleagues, Campbell also was serving
as an FBI informant gathering evidence that Fisk, Tenex
executive Vadim Mikerin and several others were engaged in a
racketeering scheme involving millions of dollars in bribes
and kickbacks, plus extortion and money laundering.
Department officials confirmed the emails and documents
gathered by Campbell, saying they were in the possession of
the FBI, the department's national security division and its
criminal division at various times over the last decade.
They added that Campbell's work was valuable enough that the
FBI paid him nearly $200,000, mostly for reimbursements over
six years, but that the money also included a check for more
than $51,000 in compensation after the final convictions
information he gathered on Uranium One was more significant
to the counterintelligence aspect of the case that started
in 2008 than the eventual criminal prosecutions that began
in 2013, they added.
Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said Monday that
the agency plans to brief members of Congress next week on
Campbell's work, the counterintelligence investigation into
Russian uranium and the nuclear bribery case. Some issues
related to the case are also being reviewed by senior
Justice officials, she added.
Department of Justice has authorized the confidential
informant 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 staff, any
information or documents he has concerning alleged
corruption or bribery involving transactions in the uranium
market. Until the informant publicly speaks to what he knew
or knows about these matters, we are unable to respond
further," she said.
undercover work helped FBI counterintelligence chronicle a
Russian uranium strategy modeled after Moscow’s success in
creating natural gas monopolies in eastern Europe that
strengthened Russia’s economy and geopolitical standing
after the Cold War, the officials said.
Part of the goal was to make Americans more reliant on
Russian uranium before a program that converted former
Soviet warheads into U.S. nuclear fuel expired in 2013,
according to documents and interviews. Russia’s ambitions
included building a uranium enrichment facility on U.S.
soil, the documents show.
The FBI task force supervising Campbell since 2008 watched
as the Obama administration made more than a half dozen
decisions favorable to the Russians' plan, which ranged from
approving the sale of Uranium One to removing Rosatom from
export restrictions and making it easier for Moscow to win
billions in new commercial uranium sales contracts. The
favorable decisions occurred during a time when President
Obama and Secretary of StateHillary
Clintonwere pursuing a
public "reset" to improve relations with Moscow, a plan that
fell apart after Russia invaded Ukraine.
Campbell also produced leads for the FBI about suspicious
activity inside Iran’s and South Africa’s nuclear
industries, the documents show.
And most importantly, it developed concrete evidence that
Tenex — at its Russian leadership’s behest — had engaged in
a massive racketeering scheme. That evidence led to
indictments in 2014 and the convictions of several figures
The defendants who pled guilty included Mikerin, the very
man Russia sent to the United States to lead its
uranium strategy, as well as the head of the American
trucking company that moved Russia’s uranium around the
Multiple congressional committees recently got permission
from the Justice Department to interview Campbell after The
Hill reported last month the existence of his informant
Lawmakers want to know what the FBI did with the evidence
Campbell gathered in real time and whether it warned Obama
and top leaders before they made the Russia-favorable
decisions, like the Uranium One deal.
Since Campbell’s identity emerged in recent days, there have
been several statements by Justice officials, both on the
record and anonymously, casting doubt on the timing and
value of his work, and specifically his knowledge about
The more than 5,000 pages of documents reviewed by The Hill
directly conflict with some of the Justice officials’
For instance, both Attorney GeneralJeff
Sessionsin testimony last
week and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in a letter
to the Senate last month tried to suggest there was no
connection between Uranium One and the nuclear bribery case.
Their argument was that the criminal charges weren’t filed
until 2014, while the Committee on Foreign Investment in the
United States' (CFIUS) approval of the Uranium One sale
occurred in October 2010.
“The way I understand that matter is that the case in which
Mr. Mikerin was convicted was not connected to the CFIUS
problem that occurred two to three years before,” Sessions
testified to the House Judiciary Committee last week,
echoing Rosenstein’s letter from a few weeks earlier.
But investigative records show FBI counterintelligence
recorded the first illicit payments in the bribery/kickback
scheme in November 2009, a year before the CFIUS approval.
Campbell also relayed detailed information about criminal
conduct throughout 2010, including the coordinates for
various money laundering drops, according to his FBI
debriefing reports. The evidence Campbell gathered indicated
Mikerin’s corruption scheme was being directed by and
benefitting more senior officials with Rosatom and Tenex
back in Russia, the records show, a claim U.S. officials
would make in court years later.
“There is zero doubt we had evidence of criminal activity
before the CFIUS approval and that Justice knew about it
through [the natural security division],” said a source with
direct knowledge of the investigation.
Republican members of Congress have been angered by the
Justice Department’s first answers because they conflict
with the evidence already gathered in their probe.
“Attorney General Sessions seemed to say that the bribery,
racketeering and money laundering offenses involving Tenex’s
Vadim Mikerin occurred after the approval of the Uranium One
deal by the Obama administration. But we know that the FBI’s
confidential informant was actively compiling incriminating
evidence as far back as 2009,” Rep.Ron
DeSantis(R-Fla.) told The
“It is hard to fathom how such a transaction could have been
approved without the existence of the underlying corruption
being disclosed. I hope AG Sessions gets briefed about the
CI and gives the Uranium One case the scrutiny it deserves,”
added DeSantis, whose House Oversight and Government Reform
subcommittee is one of the investigating panels.
Senate Judiciary Committee ChairmanChuck
Grassley(R-Iowa) sent a
similar rebuke last week to Rosenstein, saying the deputy
attorney general’s first response to the committee “largely
missed the point” of the congressional investigations.
“The essential question is whether the Obama Justice
Department provided notice of the criminal activity of
certain officials before the CFIUS approval of the Uranium
One deal and other government decisions that enabled the
Russians to trade nuclear materials in the U.S.,” Grassley
said Sessions stands by his testimony. "The Attorney
General’s testimony is accurate. The criminal case in which
Mikerin was convicted and the factual and legal requirements
needed to make that case did not address the CFIUS matter,"
the Justice spokeswoman said.
Similar misinformation surfaced last week in articles by
Reuters and Yahoo News in which officials were quoted as
casting doubt that Campbell had any information about the
Uranium One deal, because Tenex was a different division of
Rosatom than the ARMZ subsidiary that bought the mining
But Campbell’s FBI informant file shows Uranium One came up
several times in 2010 as the sale was pending, partly
because Tenex was Rosatom’s commercial arm and would be
charged with finding markets for the new uranium being mined
and enriched both in the United States and abroad.
Campbell himself was directly solicited by his colleagues to
help overcome opposition to the Uranium One deal, the FBI
informant files show. In anOct.
6, 2010, emailwith the subject line
“ARMZ + Uranium One,” Fisk forwarded a news article
outlining Republican efforts to derail the sale.
“The referenced article may present a very good opportunity
for Sigma [Campbell’s company] to try and remove the
opposing influences, if that is something you can do,” Fisk
wrote the informant, who was also a paid consultant for the
company at the time.
The next day, Mikerin was sent an 11-page report laying out
the larger Russian nuclear strategy and what Russia wanted
to do inside the U.S. to gain advantage in the uranium
market. The report cited specific concerns about the
political pressure opposing Uranium One if it wasn’t
overcome. Campbell intercepted the document.
“Some Republicans truly fear the entry of Russia into the
U.S. market, as demonstrated by the fact that they are
taking steps to block the purchase of Uranium One,” the
report warned Mikerin. “This effort bears watching as it may
provide clues as to the likely political reaction if a
Russian entity was going to participate in the construction
and operation of a uranium enrichment plant in the U.S.”
After Rosatom’s sale was approved, Uranium One officials
would have direct contact with Tenex and Mikerin, some of
which was witnessed by Campbell, the documents show.
For instance, Mikerin forwarded to Campbell an email in 2012
from a Uranium One executive suggesting the planned
construction of a new nuclear reactor near Augusta, Ga.,
might prove a good opportunity for both Uranium One and
Tenex to expand their business, the documents show.
Campbell’s debriefing files also show he regularly mentioned
to FBI agents in 2010 a Washington entity with close ties to
Bill and Hillary Clinton that was being paid millions to
help expand Tenex’s business in the United States. The
entity began increasing its financial support to a Clinton
charitable project after it was hired by the Russians,
according to the documents.
Campbell engaged in conversations with his Russian
colleagues about the efforts of the Washington entity and
others to gain influence with the Clintons and the Obama
administration. He also listened as visiting Russians used
racially tinged insults to boast about how easy they found
it to win uranium business under Obama, according to a
source familiar with Campbell’s planned testimony to
Uranium One was a large enough concern for the informant
that he confronted one of his FBI handlers after learning
the CFIUS had approved the sale and that the U.S. had givenMikerin
a work visadespite the extensive
evidence of his criminal activity, the source said.
The agent responded back to the informant with a comment
suggesting “politics” was involved, the source familiar with
Campbell’s planned testimony said.
officials said federal prosecutors have no records that
Campbell or his lawyer made any allegations about the
Uranium One deal during his debriefings in the criminal case
that started in 2013, but acknowledged he collected evidence
about the mining deal during the FBI counterintelligence
investigation that preceded it.
recent days, news media including The Washington Post and
Fox News anchor Shepard Smith have inaccurately reported
another element of the story: that Uranium One never
exported its American uranium because the Obama
administration did not allow it.
However, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission authorized
Uranium One to export through a third party tons of uranium
to Canada for enrichment processing, and some of that
product ended up in Europe, NRC documents state.
A Uranium One executive acknowledged to The Hill that 25
percent of the uranium it shipped to Canada under the
third-party export license ended up with either European or
Asian customers through what it known in the nuclear
business as “book transfers.”
But the recent leaks that have most concerned congressional
investigators occurred in a Yahoo story late Friday, in
which Justice officials anonymously questioned Campbell’s
credibility and suggested they had to alter their criminal
case against Mikerin in 2015, eventually striking a plea
deal, because they feared he would be a “disaster” as a
The FBI informant file, however, paints a different picture.
After Mikerin pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 48 months
prison in December 2015, the FBI took Campbell out to a
celebratory seafood dinner and delivered a handsome reward:a
check for $51,046.36 dated Jan. 7, 2016, a copy of
which was obtained by The Hill.
A source directly familiar with the FBI’s evidence said the
primary reason prosecutors working under Rosenstein, then
the U.S. attorney in Maryland, changed course in the case
was because of concerns their initial indictment miscast
Campbell’s role in the investigation.
The original indictments and affidavits portrayed Campbell
as a “victim” who became a confidential witness after the
Russians tried to “extort” him in summer 2009 into a
kickback scheme, court records show.
In fact, Campbell was an informant deeply controlled by FBI
counterintelligence starting when he signed a nondisclosure
agreement in January 2008, more than a year before Mikerin
engaged him in the criminal activity, the FBI’s records
Campbell was inserted inside Mikerin’s world specifically to
look for criminal activity and other harmful national
security actions by the Russians, starting with undercover
work he performed as a consultant contracting with a
lobbying firm in 2008 and then inside Tenex starting in
2009, according to documents and memos.
Campbell’s regular debriefings dating to 2008 show the
nature of some of his undercover work, including making
surreptitious recordings and collecting documents well
before the first money laundering started inside Tenex in
2009. He also had a long history of collaboration with U.S.
intelligence, including the FBI, that predated his case,
sources told The Hill.
To facilitate his cover, Campbell made a cash payment in
summer 2009 to a Russian consultant after he secured the
Tenex consulting contract. His Russian colleagues demanded
he hire the overseas consultant to better learn the
company's strategy and how the Russians preferred to receive
their consulting reports, sources said.
transaction later worried prosecutors in the criminal case
because they feared it might muddy their case of extortion
against Mikerin because the voluntary payment was made only
shortly before the kickback demands started, the sources
The prosecutors also faced another concern about the case
unrelated to Campbell, the sources said.
When Fisk — one of the main targets of their bribery
investigation — died in 2011, the FBI did not execute a
grand jury subpoena to capture all of his evidence. Instead,
agents asked his widow for permission to voluntarily search
his computer hard drive and remove the documents the agents
The hard drive was subsequently discarded before the
criminal charges were filed, leaving it unavailable for
defense lawyers to search, the sources said. Defense lawyers
pounced on the revelation late in the case, court records
At the time, Fisk was a larger than life figure inside the
Russian nuclear industry, having headed the trucking firm
that moved uranium across the United States on behalf of
Rosatom. Campbell helped the FBI document that both Fisk,
starting in 2004, and a successor, starting in 2011, at the
trucking firm were paying bribes to the Russians, the
During 2010, Fisk was transitioning from the trucking firm
to become a key strategist for Tenex and Mikerin, advising
them on the Russian nuclear industry’s aggressive push to
expand its business in the United States.
Sources said the recasting of the prosecution in 2015 had
much to do with avoiding exposing the extensive nature of
the FBI counterintelligence operations that involved
“This isn’t really about his credibility or work, which
generated leads we relied on well into 2016. Often times, CI
investigations are focused first on monitoring and stopping
activity that threatens U.S. security and the consequences
to later criminal case are a secondary concern,” said one
source familiar with the probe. “That’s the reality of a
Asked whether the criminal side of the Justice Department
knew about Campbell’s work, including its origins to 2008
and its possible ties to Uranium One, a source with direct
knowledge said the prosecutors acquired all of Campbell’s
emails as part of a 2015 agreement he signed. Justice also
had access to Campbell’s emails recovered from Fisk’s
computers in 2011 as well as documents Campbell gave during
debriefings that started in 2008, the source added.
The sources familiar with the full body of Campbell’s work
said they expect he can provide significant new information
“Will he be able to prove that we knew Russia was engaged in
criminal conduct before Uranium One was approved? You bet,”
the source said. “Were the Russians using political
influence and pulling political levers to try to win stuff
from the U.S. government? You bet. Was he perfect? No one in
this line of work is. But we were focused on much larger
issues than just that.”
Campbell endured significant stress during his time
undercover and suffered a handful of episodes related to
drinking, resulting in two misdemeanor reckless driving
charges and one misdemeanor driving under the influence, his
Attorney Victoria Toensing told The Hill that the FBI was
fully aware of the drinking incidents and continued to use
her client for many years after.
“Until he began working undercover for the U.S. government
in his early 60s, Mr. Campbell had an unblemished driving
record,” she said. “However, the pressure of living a double
life and being threatened by the Russians if he violated
their trust took a toll.
“Additionally, there were numerous occasions where he was
required to meet socially with the Russians, who were
prodigious imbibers of vodka. Any refusal by him to
participate could have compromised his cover. Mr. Campbell
has not had any driving or drinking issue since 2014 when he
ceased working undercover."