Dispatch November 8, 2017

Paradise Papers Show More Questionable Ties to Russia Among Administration Officials

Last week brought news about criminal charges against key campaign officials with concerning ties to Russia – Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and George Papadopoulos. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg – the Paradise Papers and other recent revelations have shown more questionable ties to Russia among administration officials as well. 

The American people have a right to know whether Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross – one of the highest ranking U.S. officials when it comes to international trade — has a personal stake in lifting U.S. sanctions on Russian companies. Why did he hide the issue from Congress?

  • Sibur is a Russian energy giant owned and operated by sanctioned Russian oligarchs with close ties to Vladimir Putin, including his son-in-law and his judo partner. It’s also one of the biggest clients of Navigator Holding, a company Ross has an ownership stake in.
  • Ross has announced that he’ll “probably” sell his stake now that it’s public knowledge, but that’s too little, too late—he must answer for hiding such clearly compromising information from Congress and the American people.
  • The revelations fit an increasingly apparent pattern: The administration has also withheld information about Ross’s time on the board of the Bank of Cyprus, an organization with a long history of catering to Russian oligarchs and money launderers.

Additional revelations about Kushner’s ties to Russian financing appears to contradict his public statement in July.

  • During his July 2017 appearance before the Senate intelligence committee, Kushner claimed that he “did not rely on Russian funds for [his] business.”
  • But… the Paradise Papers reveal that Russian technology magnate Yuri Milner invested $850,000 in Kushner’s startup in 2015.
  • Milner also controlled the investment vehicles that served as intermediaries for over a billion dollars’ worth of investments made by the Russian VTB Bank and Gazprom Investments into Facebook and Twitter.
    • VTB Bank reportedly “has a close relationship with the Kremlin” and its chairman, Andrey Kostin, is rumored to be a former KGB operative – although VTB Bank has denied this.
  • The Guardian reported that “Kushner initially failed to disclose his own holding in the startup, Cadre, when he joined Trump’s White House;” he later added his $24 million stake in the company to his paperwork.
  • Kushner’s egregious misrepresentations to federal investigators are well-documented, yet he still retains a security clearance. That’s unacceptable.

Now that even MORE ties between Russia and the campaign have emerged, the shifting story of Jeff Sessions looks more and more deceitful.

  • At his confirmation hearing on January 10, Sessions stated that he was “not aware of any” communications between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and that he “did not have communications with the Russians.” Asked in writing whether he had “been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day,” Sessions simply responded, “No.”
  • On March 1, The Washington Post reported that Sessions’s statement was not true: He had spoken at least twice with the Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak during the campaign. Sessions amended his earlier answer, saying that he “never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”
  • Sessions revised his position again on June 13 when, testifying before the Senate intelligence Committee, he said he “never met with or had any conversation with any Russians or foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States.”
  • On July 21, when The Washington Post reported that U.S. intelligence agencies had intercepted Sessions and Kislyak discussing issues related to the campaign, a Justice Department spokeswoman questioned the veracity of the story, saying, “Obviously I cannot comment on the reliability of what anonymous sources describe in a wholly uncorroborated intelligence intercept that The Washington Post has not seen and that has not been provided to me.”
  • On October 18, asked again whether “surrogates from the Trump campaign had communications with the Russians,” Sessions replied, “I did not and I’m not aware of anyone else that did, and I don’t believe it happened;” asked specifically whether Trump’s former foreign policy advisor Carter Page had met with Russian officials, Sessions responded, “I don’t know.”
  • In pleading guilty for lying to the FBI on October 5, one of the Trump’s campaign former foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos revealed that he had told Sessions about potentially establishing communications between the Trump campaign and Papadopoulos’s Russian associates; according to a source within the campaign, Sessions “shut down the idea.”
  • On November 2, three days after Papadopoulos’s plea was unsealed, Trump’s former foreign policy advisor Carter Page testified to the Senate that he had told Sessions about plans for a trip to Moscow during which Page reportedly met with numerous Russian officials.