Dispatch April 6, 2018

New Sanctions Rebuke The Trump Campaign, Reinforce Mueller Investigation

Today, (H.R. McMaster’s last as National Security Advisor), the U.S. Treasury Department finally began to implement the sanctions law passed in July of last year. It released a new list targeting Russian oligarchs, their companies, and Russian government officials. This long-awaited step includes sanctions against Russians reportedly connected to Trump and Russian interference in the 2016 election.

One name to pay attention to: Mikhail Fradkov, who heads a state-run think tank in Russia that reportedly developed a plan in 2016 for the Russian government to influence the U.S. presidential election through propaganda disseminated on social media and Russian new outlets.

The new additions also include at least two individuals that the U.S. government says are involved in bribery and corruption of government officials and one high-ranking Russian government official— all of whom have met with or are linked to Trump campaign and transition officials.

That means the Trump campaign and transition met with individuals that, according to the US government itself, are involved in *bribery and corruption of government officials.*

Here’s more on the key players:

Oleg Deripaska and eight of his companies/subsidiaries

  • Trump ties:
    • Former campaign manager Paul Manafort reportedly owes Deripaska at least $19 million, and allegedly offered to provide him with private briefings during the campaign.
  • The Treasury Department says…
    • “Deripaska has been investigated for money laundering, and has been accused of threatening the lives of business rivals, illegally wiretapping a government official, and taking part in extortion and racketeering.  There are also allegations that Deripaska bribed a government official, ordered the murder of a businessman, and had links to a Russian organized crime group.”
  • The takeaway:
    • Manafort wanted to provide private briefings on campaign updates to an individual who the U.S. government has identified allegedly has a history of bribing government officials.
    • Treasury also reinforces that while Russian oligarchs may head private companies, they operate as tools of the Russian state, saying, “Deripaska has said that he does not separate himself from the Russian state. He has also acknowledged possessing a Russian diplomatic passport, and claims to have represented the Russian government in other countries.”

Viktor Vekselberg

  • Trump ties:
    • Vekselberg heads the Renova Group. Vekselberg’s cousin, Andrew Intrater, heads Columbus Nova, which has been described as “the U.S. investment vehicle for the Renova Group.”
    • Intrater donated $250,000 to Trump’s inauguration fund.
  • The Treasury Department says…
    • “In 2016, Russian prosecutors raided Renova’s offices and arrested two associates of Vekselberg, including the company’s chief managing director and another top executive, for bribing officials connected to a power generation project in Russia.”
  • The takeaway:
    • Trump’s inaugural fund took money from the cousin of a man whose chief executives have been arrested for bribing government officials.
    • Special Counsel Mueller’s team is also reportedly looking into “whether wealthy Russians used straw donors — Americans with citizenship — as a vessel through which they could pump money into the campaign and inauguration fund.” Vekselberg’s relationship with Intrater could be one example of this strategy.

Alexander Torshin

  • Trump ties:
    • Torshin is a lifetime member of the NRA, and he met with Donald Trump Jr. during the 2016 NRA convention.
    • He reportedly wanted to arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin.
    • Torshin has been accused of money laundering by Spanish authorities, although he has denied these accusations.
  • The Treasury Department says…
    • Torshin is sanctioned due to his status as a Russian government official; he currently serves as deputy governor of the Russian Central Bank.
  • The takeaway:
    • Not only did Don Jr. meet with a high-ranking Russian official who was previously accused of money laundering, but this official has now been sanctioned due to his high-ranking position within the Russian government.
    • Torshin is under scrutiny from other federal investigators as well. The FBI is currently “investigating whether [Torshin] illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency.”

Also worth noting: both Konstantin Kosachev and Oleg Govorun are referenced in the Steele Dossier.

Trump has personally been silent on supporting sanctions and on the sanctioned individuals who met with his representatives and family. He needs to address why they were meeting with people the US government claims are involved in bribery and corruption of government officials.