Tuesday, Trump’s nominee to lead the DOJ’s criminal division goes before the Senate Judiciary for confirmation. He will likely face questions about his time representing Alfa Bank, a major Russian financial institution headed up by owners with ties with Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin. Brian Benczkowski told Congress less than a week ago about his ties to the bank, in advance of his testimony, as reported by the New York Times.
Apparently Benczkowski was previously “unable” to disclose his former employer because of a confidentiality agreement he’d signed. He has since gotten a waiver to do so. Questions from the senators should likely include whether or not Benczkowski intended to tell them about his Russian contacts in the absence of such a waiver. Anticipating this line of questioning, the letter he sent Congress on July 19 indicated that he would now be able “to discuss the fact and scope of the representation at the hearing.” In part:
Your staff has indicated that the committee may wish to question me at my hearing regarding the fact and scope of my work for Alfa Bank. As I am sure you understand, ethical considerations prohibit me from disclosing confidential legal advice or any other information protected by the attorney-client privilege under any circumstances.
Owners representing about 75% interest in the bank, Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven and German Khan, sued BuzzFeed News in May over a dossier they published tying the bank to Putin, Trump, and the 2016 election. Although that suit is ongoing, a spokesman for BuzzFeed called it a “shameless attempt to bully and intimidate” the news outlet. He cited the fact that “the allegations contained in the dossier were presented to successive presidents and remain under active investigation by intelligence agencies and Congress,” and the reports are still published.
Hopefully, the committee takes into account the peripherals of Benczkowski’s contacts, rather than the simple fact of his employment. The fact that Trump — who undoubtedly already knows everything the committee may find in their hearing and more — still tapped someone with extensive ties to Russia despite the ongoing investigation speaks volumes about his brazen attitude toward both Congress and the country itself.
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