A special counsel is needed in the growing investigation into an effort by Russia's nuclear industry to obtain deals while President Barack Obama was in office, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said Thursday.
However, the senator said former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who is in charge of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, should not lead both efforts.
"Obviously, there was and is justification for a special counsel in Russia vs. Trump," the Iowa Republican told Fox News' "Fox and Friends," but he is concerned that there may be "conflicts of interest" in the Justice Department and Mueller when it comes to investigating the Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's involvement in the issue.
"It's not a case of trusting Mueller for what he can investigate and things that he is independent of," Grassley said. "There might be reasons to wonder his involvement because of his involvement with the previous administration during this period of time."
Mueller served as FBI director from 2001 to 2013 under both Obama and former President George W. Bush.
Grassley's call for a special counsel comes after the FBI Wednesday released an informant from a confidential agreement, which will allow him to testify to Congress about what he knew concerning the efforts from Russia to gain control of U.S. nuclear materials through a deal with Uranium One,
Republicans have sought an investigation since 2015, after it was reported that former President Bill Clinton had collected a half-million dollars from a Russian bank, adding to donations that were sent to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.
The Obama administration, however said it had no reason to block deals that eventually gave Russian President Vladimir Putin control over 20 percent of the United States' uranium stockpile.
Grassley said that he isn't seeking a separate special counsel because of any kind of accusations against Mueller, as he believes the former FBI head to be "a man of high ethical standards."
The senator said he does not know who the FBI's informant is, but he presumes his committee will have an opportunity to question him.
"I do know his lawyer well, and I do know what the lawyer said, that this person is willing to testify," said Grassley. "He might know something about the involvement in Uranium One, of money laundering, fraudulent activity and bribery. We ought to know about that because transparency brings accountability."
The informant's testimony was used to convict three people in bribery money laundering cases three years ago, and once he is able to testify to the Judiciary Committee, there will be "so much more information" than was already available.
He also said he does not agree with contentions that the pending investigation is a distraction from the Russia interference investigation.
"If it's good to investigate Russians' involvement in the election process in the United States in regard to Trump, it's just as legitimate to investigate Russia vs. the Clintons," said Grassley.
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