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House Republicans launch probe into Obama-era uranium deal involving Russian-backed company

UNITED STATES - MAY 24: Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., speaks during the House Ways and Means Committee
UNITED STATES - MAY 24: Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., speaks during the House Ways and Means Committee hearing on President Trumpís budget proposals for fiscal year 2018 on Wednesday, May 24, 2017. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testified during the hearing. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
(Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call )

House Republicans are opening investigations of the Obama administration’s 2010 decision to approve the sale of American uranium mines to a Russian-backed company, lawmakers said Tuesday.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said at a news conference that his panel and the House Oversight Committee would jointly probe the deal, which President Trump has called “the real Russia story.”

Nunes and other Trump supporters have raised the 7-year-old uranium deal while four congressional committees and Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III are looking into Russian interference the 2016 election and whether Moscow had any direct links to the Trump campaign.

Nunes said the House probe would focus initially on whether the the FBI or Justice Department had investigated alleged attempts by Russian officials to gain influence over the American energy industry.

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“This is just the beginning of the probe,” Nunes told reporters. “We’re not going to jump to any conclusions at this time.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, criticized the new investigations as partisan in nature.

“They are designed to distract attention and pursue the President’s preferred goal – attacking Clinton and Obama,” he said. “This may be good politics, but it is a disservice to the far more important cause of investigating Russian interference in our democracy and protecting our elections in 2018 and beyond from outside influence.”

The House probe of the uranium deal parallels a Senate Judiciary Committee probe into whether the FBI had evidence that Russian nuclear officials were involved in fraudulent dealings in 2009 before the uranium deal was approved.

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In April, Nunes stepped away from leading the House Intelligence Committee probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election after the House Ethics Committee said it was investigating whether he had improperly disclosed classified information.

But he and his staff have used his chairmanship to push parallel investigations aimed at Trump’s opponents and critics, including Fusion GPS, the political research firm behind an unverified dossier of allegations about Trump’s ties to Russia.

Trump and his supporters frequently cite the 2010 purchase of Uranium One by Rosatom, a Russian-run company, as a counter to questions about Russian support for Trump’s presidential bid.

The sale was approved while Hillary Clinton led the State Department and some investors in the U.S. company had relationships with former President Clinton and had donated to the Clinton Foundation.

The State Department was one of nine U.S. departments or agencies that approved the sale, however.

Clinton’s presidential campaign and former State Department officials said she was not involved in the approval process by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a government panel charged with examining foreign acquisitions of U.S. companies.

Republicans have tried to link Clinton to the deal, citing Canadian financier Frank Giustra, a top Clinton Foundation donor.

He sold his company, UrAsia, to Uranium One, which was chaired by Ian Telfer, also a Clinton Foundation donor. Giustra has said he sold his stake in the deal in 2007, while Clinton was competing with Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination.

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david.cloud@latimes.com

Twitter: @davidcloudLAT


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