Is the Trump Administration Once Again Doing Putin’s Bidding?

Over the weekend, we learned that Russia put a man named Bill Browder on the Interpol wanted list. That came days after Canada passed a so-called “Magnitsky law.” Here is some background about what led to the first of these laws passed by the United States:

The law is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer and auditor who in 2008 untangled a dense web of tax fraud and graft involving 23 companies and a total of $230 million linked to the Kremlin and individuals close to the government. Magnitsky was the target of investigations, arrested by authorities and kept in jail without charges. He was beaten and later died under mysterious circumstances in jail just days before his possible release.

Independent investigators found “inhuman detention conditions, the isolation from his family, the lack of regular access to his lawyers and the intentional refusal to provide adequate medical assistance resulted in the deliberate infliction of severe pain and suffering, and ultimately his death.”

The Magnitsky Act was signed by President Barack Obama in December 2012 as a retaliation against the human rights abuses suffered by Magnitsky. The law at first blocked 18 Russian government officials and businessmen from entering the United States, froze any assets held by U.S. banks and banned their future use of U.S. banking systems. The act was expanded in 2016, and now sanctions apply to 44 suspected human rights abusers worldwide.

Bill Browder, who Magnitsky worked for, has pushed for the passage of such laws. In retaliation for the one signed by President Obama in 2012, Russia ceased adoptions from that country to the U.S. That is how the Trump administration came up with the excuse that Don Jr.’s meeting with Russian operatives was all about adoption.

According to Jay Nordlinger, this is the fifth time Russia has tried to get Browder’s name on the Interpol list.

Browder is a driver behind these Magnitsky acts, and Putin hates him for it, understandably. Twice in 2013, he tried to add Browder to Interpol’s wanted list, and twice he failed, because Interpol knew that Putin was politically motivated. Browder is not a criminal. He is an anti-criminal, which is why Putin targets him.

In 2014, Putin tried again — no dice. Last summer, Browder testified against him before the Judiciary Committee in the U.S. Senate, to damning effect. Obviously ticked, Putin tried again. This time, Interpol had Browder’s name on the list for a month, before deleting it.

In the wake of Canada’s new Magnitsky act, Putin has tried again. Tried for a fifth time. Interpol has accepted his request.

That’s all bad enough. But here’s where the Trump administration comes into the story:

Browder is a British citizen. He tweeted this additional information a few hours ago:

A former Russian Ambassador is calling foul.

That tweet was seconded by the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

If remedied immediately, the administration might be able to claim incompetence and/or ignorance. But if they let this stand, it is simply another case of Trump doing Putin’s bidding.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.