Skip to comments.DOJ failed to interview FBI informant before it filed charges in Russian nuclear bribery case
Posted on 12/04/2017 4:20:23 AM PST by TigerClaws
While he was Marylands chief federal prosecutor, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosensteins office failed to interview the undercover informant in the FBIs Russian nuclear bribery case before it filed criminal charges in the case in 2014, officials told The Hill.
And the prosecutors did not let a grand jury hear from the paid informant before it handed up an indictment portraying him as a victim of the Russian corruption scheme, or fully review his extensive trove of documents until months later, the officials confirmed.
The decisions backfired after prosecutors conducted more extensive debriefings of William Campbell in 2015, learning much more about the extent of his undercover activities and the transactions he engaged in while under the FBIs direction, the officials said.
The debriefings forced prosecutors to recast their entire criminal case against former Russian uranium industry executive Vadim Mikerinn removing the informant as a star witness and main victim for the prosecution, the officials added.
Justice Department officials began briefing Congress last week, divulging missteps in a case that nonetheless proved the Russian state-owned Rosatom was engaged in criminal activity through its top American executive beginning in 2009, well before the Obama administration made a series of favorable decisions benefitting Moscows nuclear giant
Multiple House and Senate committees already are investigating whether the FBI alerted President Obama or his top aides to the Russian criminal activity, and plan to interview the undercover informant soon.
The new revelations, however, could tip some scrutiny toward federal prosecutors own conduct in the case, a sensitive topic since Rosenstein is now Justices No. 2 official and the supervisor of the Russian election tampering special counsel investigation.
Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz said it was troubling that prosecutors would ever bring a case without talking first to a person they portrayed in court as a victim, especially when that person was an FBI informant available to them.
Ive never heard of such a case unless the victim is dead. Ive never heard of prosecutors making a major case and not talking to the victim before you made it, especially when he was available to them through the FBI, Dershowitz said.
It is negligence, and Im sure there will be internal issues with the Justice Department and U.S. attorney for making such an obvious mistake, he said.
Officials told The Hill that prosecutors working for Rosenstein first interviewed informant William Campbell after they had already filed a sealed criminal complaint against Mikerin in July 2014.
Campbell got one debriefing after the criminal charges were filed, but was never brought before the grand jury that indicted the Russian figure in November 2014 even though the informer was portrayed as Victim One in that indictment, the officials confirmed
When prosecutors finally interviewed Campbell more extensively in early 2015 and reviewed all of the records he had gathered for the FBI, they learned new information about the sequence of transactions he conducted while under the FBIs supervision as well as the extensive nature of his counterintelligence work for the U.S. government that went far beyond the Mikerin case and dated to at least 2006, the officials said.
Based on what was learned, we decided to change the theory of the case. A plea deal became our goal so we wouldnt have to litigate or make an issue of some of the stuff he had done for CI (counterintelligence) purposes, a source directly familiar with the case said.
Campbells lawyer, Victoria Toensing, confirmed the Justice officials account. The first time Mr. Campbell was interviewed by the U.S. Attorneys office was after the criminal complaint was filed, and he was never brought before the grand jury before the indictment, she told The Hill.
Justice officials said they knew when they first brought the case that Campbell had been part of an FBI-authorized, controlled bribery scheme, meaning he had permission to make payments to the Russians as kickbacks to further the investigation.
They declined to say why, with that knowledge, they initially portrayed Campbell in the indictment as a victim of an extortion scheme that began in November 2009 when the FBI had authorized him to make regular kickback payments of $50,000 in order to keep his consulting work for the Russians.
They said, however, they decided to pivot the case from extortion to money laundering after the more extensive 2015 debriefings revealed other transactions that pre-dated the extortion charges.
One source familiar with the case said extortion felt like a weaker charge when Campbell was acting with the FBIs blessing, and that the evidence of money laundering that Campbell documented through secret accounts in Latvia and Cyprus was irrefutable.
Campbell, who now has leukemia, also suffered an earlier bout with cancer in the middle of the case when a lesion was detected on his brain. He survived, all the while working undercover, but he developed some memory issues after treatment, sources said.
To compensate, he developed a system of extensive note taking and documentation with his FBI handlers through email to ensure facts were captured before his memory became hazy. A lot of those notes did not get reviewed by prosecutors until 2015, well after charges were filed, the sources said.
The documentation shows Campbells work had exposed wide-ranging details about Russias nuclear activities across the globe, including efforts to corner the global uranium market, assist Iranian nuclear ambitions and to criminally compromise a U.S. trucking firm that transported Russias nuclear fuel, they said.
Officials said the investigation and Campbells work from 2006 to 2013 fell under the FBIs counterintelligence arm and Justices national security division, and officials originally did not intend for it to become a criminal case.
Justice officials originally hoped they simply could use the threat of criminal prosecution to flip Mikerin as a cooperating asset, but their confrontation with him at an office building in 2014 failed to persuade him to cooperate, sources said.
Prosecutors in the U.S Attorneys office in Maryland then assembled charges and an indictment, using mostly information from the FBIs counterintelligence files and interviews of Campbell done by an Energy Department investigative agent, officials said
Mikerin was an icon in the Russian nuclear industry, a top executive of the state-controlled Rosatom firm and its Tenex subsidiary and the man Moscow sent to Washington in 2010 to oversee Vladimir Putins plan to grow uranium sales inside the United States under the Obama administration.
The November 2014 indictment, bearing Rosensteins name, charged Mikerin with felony conspiracy to interfere with interstate commerce through extortion.
Court documents alleged Mikerin was part of a larger racketeering scheme that also involved bribery, kickbacks, and money laundering, and that he demanded $50,000 in regular kickbacks from Campbell starting in November 2009 in order for Campbell to keep his consulting work for the Russians.
The court documents portrayed Campbell alternatively as Victim One or Confidential Witness 1 who came forward to report Mikerins wrongdoing and cooperate with the FBI.
In fact, Campbell had been under the FBIs control informing on the Russian nuclear industry since 2006, had signed a formal nondisclosure agreement with the FBI in 2008 and eventually was rewarded in 2016 with a $51,000 check for his extensive counterintelligence work.
Mikerin eventually pled guilty to a money laundering conspiracy charge and was sentenced in December 2015 to 48 months in prison.
A month later, the FBI paid Campbell compensation of more than $51,000, a transaction prosecutors did not learn about until The Hill published a copy of the check last month, officials said.
Congress is now investigating the entire Russian nuclear bribery case after The Hill disclosed Campbells work, with multiple committees demanding to know whether the FBI told the Obama administration about Mikerins criminality before the administration made favorable decisions that rewarded Rosatom with billions of dollars in new American nuclear fuel contracts.
Justice officials began briefing congressional officials this week, starting with the Senate Judiciary Committee. After the briefings end, congressional investigators plan to interview Campbell.
After Campbells name and work surfaced, anonymous allegations surfaced in stories by Yahoo and Reuters suggesting the Justice Department had grave reservations about Campbells credibility, in part because he had three misdemeanor alcohol arrests.
But officials told The Hill those leaks were not authorized by the Justice Department and did not reflect accurately the official thinking of the department.
For instance, they said prosecutors had no concerns about Campbells three misdemeanor alcohol arrests and that the FBI held the informant in enough esteem to pay him the check after the case ended. And after prosecutors completed three debriefings with Campbell, they approved the payment in 2015 of the last of his expenses as an undercover.
Prosecutors concerns primarily dealt with the sequence of events and transactions surrounding Campbells undercover work during the counterintelligence part of the probe before criminal prosecutors got involved, officials said.
Good way to kill a case they really didn’t want to pursue because it led becak to the Clintons.
Ding, ding ding! Yup, the informant got too much of the wrong kind of info and had to be silenced. Wonder if an FBI black-bag group poisoned him with polonium to give him cancer in the hope of killing him.
Rosenstein has to GO.
Willful obtuseness and intentional failure to pursue leads is yet another symptom of corruption.
And both the DOJ and the FBI are suffering from endemic political corruption.
The guy has cancer. Seems like they’re hoping he will die before he’s able to testify about this mess.
Rosenstein and Sessions are in a power struggle and Sessions seems to be losing; perhaps he is doing more on the down low.
When you turn out the light! (Rosie)
Ronald Hosko, who served as the assistant FBI director in charge of criminal cases when the investigation was underway, has already stated that he did not know the Mikerin case was also being investigated by the counterintelligence section of the FBI. As far as he knew, it was just money-laundering.
Looks like the DOJ knew to divide up the investigation so that the right hand wouldn’t know what the left hand was doing. If it was done to the FBI, it could have been done to US Attorneys.
Note that the start of the Mikerin case would seem to go back to Michael Mukasey and Mark Filip before Holder covered it up.
“””Ive never heard of such a case unless the victim is dead.”””
Maybe they thought he’d commit arkancide by now
Tom Fitton would be a good person to clean up the system. He already knows who all the swamp creatures are
The DOJ simply can't be that stupid.
A firing squad would be too good for all involved.
be back bump
The fix was in...what did Obama know and when did he know it?
That must have been behind Hannity’s tick tock tweet yesterday.
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