Republicans in the U.S. Congress have announced a new investigation into an Obama-era deal in which a Russian company bought a Canadian firm that owned some 20 percent of U.S. uranium supplies.
The Republican lawmakers said on October 24 that they want to know if the sale of Uranium One to Russia’s Rosatom nuclear company was fully investigated by the FBI and other U.S. law enforcement agencies before the deal was approved in 2010.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said on Twitter that the U.S. Justice Department should appoint a special counsel to investigate the uranium deal.
The announced probe addresses a longstanding grievance of U.S. President Donald Trump, who complained last week that the news media has ignored the uranium deal while focusing on whether any of his campaign aides colluded with Russia during last year's presidential election.
"That's your real Russia story," he said. "Not a story where they talk about collusion and there was none. It was a hoax."
But Democrats charged that the joint investigations announced on October 24 by the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is a "massive diversion" from investigations into Russia's alleged interference in the election that have been under way for months in Congress and at the Justice Department.
"Acting on the urging of the president, who has repeatedly denied the intelligence agencies' conclusions regarding Russian involvement in our election, they are designed to distract attention and pursue the president's preferred goal" of "attacking" former President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was Trump's opponent in last year's election, said Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the intelligence panel.
The uranium deal has been questioned numerous times by Republicans in Congress since 2010. Representative Peter King said he sent a letter to then-Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner raising "very, very real concerns about why we would allow a Russian-owned company to get access to 20 percent of America's uranium supply."
Some Republicans have said Clinton approved the deal after her husband's charitable foundation received a $145 million donation from executives involved in the uranium deal.
But the State Department has only one seat on the nine-member panel that oversees foreign investment in U.S. strategic assets, which approved the deal. Also, the department has said that Clinton did not participate in the decision.
Democrats also decried Republican leaders announcement on October 24 that they are reopening their longrunning investigations into Clinton's use of private e-mails while at the State Department, which former FBI Director James Comey declined to prosecute as a criminal offense last year.
"Apparently, House Republicans are more concerned about Jim Comey than Vladimir Putin," said Representative John Conyers.