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  1. #1
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Aug 2008
    PARADISE (San Diego)

    Rep. Dana Rohrabacher scrutinized for Russian connections

    Rep. Dana Rohrabacher scrutinized for Russian connections

    In this June 14, 2016 file photo, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif. is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Paul Holston)

    By Martin Wisckol, The Orange County Register
    Posted: 07/20/17, 8:19 PM PDT | Updated: 5 hrs ago

    Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, targeted by critics for his advocacy of friendlier relations with Russia, is getting renewed scrutiny for meetings with Russian officials and alleged operatives as questions grow about the extent of that country’s efforts to influence U.S. policy and elections.

    Immediate fallout includes the ouster of Rohrabacher aide Paul Behrends from his post as staff director for the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats, which is chaired by the Costa Mesa congressman.

    Behrends, a former lobbyist for the Blackwater military contractor, has encouraged Rohrabacher to make the controversial contacts, according to a news report on The Atlantic’s website. The article was one of several this week that shined a spotlight on Rohrabacher’s and Behrends’ Russia-related activities — investigative reports that immediately preceded Behrends’ termination.

    While Behrends was appointed to his subcommittee post by Rohrabacher, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce has final say over staff directors.

    An emailed statement indicated that Royce, a Republican from Fullerton, was aware of this week’s news articles about Rohrabacher and Behrends.

    “I am concerned by these recent reports,” Royce said, but offered no details regarding Behrends. A committee spokesman acknowledged that Behrends was no longer with the committee, but declined to comment further.

    Rohrabacher, who also represents Seal Beach and other northern Orange County cities, defended the Russia-related meetings he and Behrends have had, as well as those by relatives and allies of President Donald Trump.

    “Paul Behrends and I both know that the Cold War is over,” Rohrabacher said in a phone interview. “He’s furthering what I believe. But there are other people who have such an unrelenting hatred for Russia, they want to renew the Cold War, ,,,

    “Ed (Royce) and I have very serious differences of opinion in regards to Russia,” he said, adding that those differences may have contributed to ill-will toward Behrends. “Things that Paul Behrends has done — I’m grateful for that. But this is not consistent with Ed’s view.”

    Meeting in Moscow

    The latest scrutiny of Rohrabacher focuses on an April 2016 trip to Moscow in which the Republican received a document marked “confidential” from Russian officials — and for a meeting this past April in Berlin with a Russian-American lobbyist. That lobbyist, Rinat Akhmetshin, was also present at a controversial June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr., Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and Trump’s then-campaign manager Paul Manafort.

    A central issue in these encounters is Congress’s Magnitsky Act of 2012, which led to sanctions on Russian government officials on the grounds that they played a role in the 2009 death of Russian whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky. Rohrabacher has expressed skepticism over the Russian government’s culpability and has taken steps to allow a more thorough airing in Washington of Russia’s position.

    Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer who uncovered what he described as a $230 million tax fraud by Russian officials. He was subsequently jailed for tax evasion himself and reportedly died in prison of heart failure and toxic shock. A Russian human-rights group investigation found that he’d been severely beaten and there’s a widespread belief that poor treatment in prison led to his death.

    The Magnitsky Act sought to punish those thought to be responsible for the lawyer’s death by denying them entry to the U.S. and access to U.S. banking systems. Russia responded by prohibiting the adoption of Russian children by Americans. Magnitsky was posthumously convicted in Russian courts and a Russian government investigation determined there had been no wrongdoing in its handling of the matter.

    Rohrabacher acknowledges that Magnitsky was “brutalized” in prison but said such treatment is common for Russian prisoners and it’s not clear whether Russian officials singled out Magnitsky for being a whistleblower.

    “We shouldn’t be kicking them in the groin for something we aren’t sure about,” Rohrabacher said.

    Rohrabacher said that he led a congressional delegation on the 2016 Moscow trip and that during his visit he was given the confidential document by Russian prosecutors that alleged Magnitsky was involved in tax fraud. The Daily Beast quoted the document as saying, “changing attitudes to the Magnitsky story in the Congress ... could have a very favorable response from the Russian side.”

    The delegation to Moscow, which included Behrends, was warned by the State Department of the “constant” presence of Russian intelligence officials, according to The Atlantic. Rohrabacher was warned by the FBI several years earlier that Russia may have been trying to recruit him as a spy. Rohrabacher has said that he assumed that intelligence officers were near at hand in Moscow and that any meeting with Russians could involve recruitment interests.

    “All of these incidents are fake news trying to create a sinister picture,” he said. “I don’t take orders from anybody, especially not Russians.”

    He also dismissed press attention on the Trump Tower meeting.

    “That’s a nothing burger,” Rohrabacher said. “It’s important to find out if there was something we should know about Hillary (Clinton).”

    Lobbyist in Berlin

    In the trip to Berlin this April, Rohrabacher met with Russian-American lobbyist Akhmetshin, who was among those on hand at the controversial Trump Tower meeting.

    In response to criticism about the meeting, Rohrabacher has told CNN that he suspected Akhmetshin was “involved with people who’ve got an agenda” and has “international connections to different groups in Russia.” Subjects discussed included a U.S. money-laundering lawsuit involving Prevezon, a real estate company based in the country of Cyprus that’s been accused of profiting from the tax fraud alleged by Magnitsky. Behrends traveled with Rohrabacher on the trip.

    Rohrabacher last year unsuccessfully proposed an amendment to remove Magnitsky’s name from the title of the Magnitsky Act. He also sought to air an anti-Magnitsky film in Congress but was turned down by Royce, the Fullerton chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, according to a senior Republican congressional aide.

    Additionally, Royce told Rohrabacher he couldn’t take a trip to Moscow that he’d planned shortly after Trump’s inauguration and, that during a trip to Spain, he couldn’t meet with Catalonian separatists unless he also met with government officials in Madrid, the aide said.

    Rohrabacher denied that Royce nixed the Moscow trip, saying that he decided himself not to go because of the rising controversies involving Russia. He also denied that he got instructions from Royce regarding his Spanish visit, but said he followed the State Department’s suggestion that he meet with officials in Madrid after his confab with separatists.

    Behrends’ role in influencing Rohrabacher remains hazy.

    “Behrends is a controversial figure on (Capitol Hill), where he is seen by some who have worked with or around him as egging on Rohrabacher’s pro-Russia instincts,” The Atlantic wrote., in a news report about Rohrabacher titled “Putin’s favorite congressman,” said that Behrends took Akhmetshin around to congressional offices. Akhmetshin told The Atlantic that Behrends took him to a single office. A Politico profile of Behrends posted Thursday says that during the Berlin trip, he introduced Rep. French Hill, R-Arkansas, to Akhmetshin and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who was also at the Trump Tower meeting. The profile calls Behrends “the chief Capitol Hill contact” for Akhmetshin and Veselnitskaya.

    Behrends first worked for Rohrabacher in the 1990s.

    From 1999 to 2014 he was a lobbyist, working for, among others, Blackwater and other defense contractors as well as for a firm involved in the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal.

    He returned to Rohrabacher’s office in late 2014.

    Rohrabacher says his office pays one-third of Behrends’ salary of $138,000 and the Foreign Affairs Committee pays the rest. He said he’s been “in discussion” with Royce about Behrends’ status with the committee.

    Rohrabacher, in his 15th term, has regularly cruised to re-election, including a win by 17 percentage points last year. But Hillary Clinton won in his district and seven challengers — six Democrats and a Libertarian — have already launched campaigns to run against him next year. Most have expressed concerns with his Russia connections, but Rohrabacher sounded unconcerned about the challengers.

    “I’m not stressed at all. I feel great,” he said. “I’m doing what I think is right. I think my constituents will understand.”

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  2. #2
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    PARADISE (San Diego)
    California congressman was lobbied by the same former Soviet military counterintelligence officer ...

    California politics updates: A California connection to Trump son's Russia meeting

    JULY 14, 2017, 1:23 P.M.

    O.C. Rep. Rohrabacher was lobbied by the former Soviet military intelligence officer who attended Trump Jr. meeting

    A former Soviet military counterintelligence officer who met with President Trump's son, son-in-law and campaign manager in June 2016 had previously lobbied Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) at least twice about U.S. relations with Russia.

    News broke Friday that Rinat Akhmetshin, who received U.S. citizenship and became a Washington lobbyist after emigrating from Russia more than a decade ago, was also present at the Trump Tower meeting with campaign officials and Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. The New York Times first reported the news about the meeting aimed at potential negative information about Hillary Clinton.

    Several outlets have reported on Akhmetshin's past lobbying of Rohrabacher to help remove Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky’s name from a global anti-corruption law.

    Magnitsky was a whistleblower who alleged that officials in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government stole $230 million. He died in prison under suspicious circumstances.

    The Magnitsky Act banned officials alleged to be involved in his death from visiting the United States and from using U.S. banks. In response, Putin banned all adoptions of Russian children by U.S. parents. Akhmetshin lobbies for Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative, a group started by Veselnitskaya reportedly to lift the adoption ban.

    Rohrabacher has long been known for encouraging improved relations with Russia, something that's made him an outlier in the Republican Party.

    (Los Angeles Times)

    He has said as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats, he gathers information from a variety of sources and then weighs its accuracy.

    He once described Akhmetshin to CNN as someone with "an ulterior motive" who is "involved with people who've got an agenda." He also said he could not rule it out that Akhmetshin was still connected to the Russian security services, something the former official has denied.

    Rohrabacher defended the Trump campaign's meeting in a speech on the House floor Friday.

    "If someone says to you that they want to give you information, there is nothing wrong with that," Rohrabacher said. "It is not illegal to receive information from someone, especially if you are engaged in an activity that's aimed at trying to secure understanding for policies that you plan to implement as a leader in the United States. Absolutely, there is nothing wrong."

    Rohrabacher's opinions on normalizing relations with Russia have been known for decades, and several opponents have tried to make them a campaign issue without much luck.

    His district backed Clinton for president in 2018, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and his opponents have attacked him over the news of his meetings with various people related to Russia or the Baltic states.

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  3. #3
    Senior Member Judy's Avatar
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    Aug 2005
    We need far more people involved in our political system with "Russian connections". The American people have been lied to about Russia for 70 years. It's time the truth about the Russian nation, the Russian people, the Russian government start coming forth. Russians are far more like Americans than in many countries. We have far more in common with them than we do with many countries. What's been going on for decades that separates our two nations is just dead wrong and needs to end. We need to become open friends with Russia and form important trade and security alliances with our ole ally.
    A Nation Without Borders Is Not A Nation - Ronald Reagan
    Save America, Deport Congress! - Judy

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