For months now, members of President Trump’s campaign — including, most recently, his eldest son — have been accused of colluding with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Trump’s team members are not the only ones who seem to have been working with Russia, though.
On Wednesday, The Daily Beast revealed that the same group of Russians who set up the meeting last summer between Donald Trump Jr. and Natalia Veselnitskaya also worked with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California), a long time Russia ally, to try to arrange a show trial on Capitol Hill for Bill Browder, an anti-Putin campaigner.
Rohrabacher, who also chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, scheduled the hearing to take place in mid-June of last year. He reportedly had plans to “confront Browder with a feature-length pro-Kremlin propaganda movie that viciously attacks him—as well as at least two witnesses linked to the Russian authorities, including lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and other senior Republicans ended up canceling the hearing and instead agreed to allow a hearing “at the full committee level with a Moscow-sympathetic witness.” House aides told The Daily Beast that Royce made this decision, in part, “to avoid Rohrabacher staging an event that could have embarrassed the Republican Party—and Congress.”
Rohrabacher’s office originally received a copy of the propaganda film from the Prosecutor General’s office in Moscow. This same office was listed as the source of the compromising information on Hillary Clinton that Veselnitksaya offered to Trump Jr.
The propaganda film isn’t the only thing Rohrabacher received from Russia, though. During a trip to Moscow in April of last year, Rohrabacher also received a document from the Prosecutor General’s office that suggested the U.S. had “been duped by a fake $230 million scandal that resulted in sanctions being imposed on 44 Russians linked to murder, corruption, or cover-ups.”
The document went on to say that the political climate in the U.S. created an opportunity to challenge the Western narrative regarding Russia and Putin. It also said that a subcommittee hearing to re-examine the sanctions that had been placed on Russia as a result of the Magnitsky Act “could have a very favorable response from the Russian side.”
When Rohrabacher returned to the U.S., he immediately got to work carrying out the requests made in the document. He first held up the passage of the Magnitsky Act by tabling an amendment to remove Magnitsky’s name from the title, citing several of the claims listed in the document during his argument.
Rohrabacher, along with his staff director, Paul Behrends, and Rinat Akhmetshin, a Soviet army veteran, and lobbyist who also attended the meeting with Trump Jr., then went on to create a subcommittee event with Veselnitskaya and the director of the propaganda film.
It was at this time that Rep. Royce offered the full committee hearing.
During that hearing, Rohrabacher openly praised Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. He also submitted a testimony that claimed Russia was not behind the 2006 poisoning of former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko in London.
Rohrabacher’s comments during the hearing, naturally, caused many eyebrows to raise. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Virginia) told The Daily Beast that, after attending the hearing, he thought he had “just heard a presentation from RT,” Russia’s English-language TV network.
Connolly was also surprised to learn that Rohrabacher had been taking briefings directly from Russian operatives.
‘If that is corroborated, it is deeply disturbing. We are United States congressmen. Our job is to protect the interests of our country and our allies. It is not to collude with, excuse, dismiss, or, even worse, collaborate with a foreign adversary and its minions.’
Featured image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.