Senator Grassley and Wyden Open Investigation into Russian Agents and U.S. Treasury

Below is the letter in text format sent out by Senator Chuck Grassley and Ron Wyden investigating connections between Maria Butina, the NRA, and a conservative think tank.

Summary

WASHINGTON – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ranking Member Ron Wyden of Oregon are seeking details on reported meetings in 2015 between Russian Agents and Executive Branch officials, arranged by the nonprofit Center for the National Interest. 

 According to news reports, Russian nationals Maria Butina, who recently pleaded guilty to conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent, and then-Russian Central Bank deputy governor Alexander Torshin, met with the vice chairman of the Federal Reserve and the Treasury undersecretary for international affairs in 2015. 

The meeting was arranged by the Center for the National Interest.

In letters this week to the Department of Treasury, Federal Reserve and the Center for the National Interest, Grassley and Wyden are requesting records related to meetings along with details on policies related to meetings with foreign nationals.

 Text of the letters follow that were sent out on February 13, 2019.

The letters were sent to Steve Mnuchin, Secretary of the Department of Treasury, Chairman Jerome Powell of the Federal Reserve, and Dimitri K. Simes who is the President and CEO for the Center for the National Interest.

Read:Russian Spy Maria Butina and Erickson’s Emails to the NRA

The Senate Finance Committee has a constitutional responsibility to engage in vigilant oversight of entities and government agencies within its jurisdiction. 

A critical issue facing the Committee and the country is the extent to which the Russian government engaged in efforts designed to undermine our political system and governmental policy through obfuscation and manipulation. 

According to a Reuters news report, Maria Butina, who recently pled guilty in federal court for conspiracy to act as a foreign agent in the United States, and Alexander Torshin met with Obama administration officials from the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve in 2015.[1] 

At the time, Mr. Torshin was Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation and later, in April 2018, he was added to a list of Russian nationals sanctioned by the Treasury Department. 

Read:The NRA, Russia, and Maria Butina

The meetings, reportedly arranged by the Center for the National Interest, a self-described bipartisan, tax exempt entity,[2] are said to have involved Stanley Fischer, then Federal Reserve Vice Chairman, and Nathan Sheets, then Treasury Undersecretary for International Affairs.[3] 

Ms. Butina and Mr. Torshin reportedly discussed U.S.-Russia economic relations with Mr. Fischer and Mr. Sheets.[4]  

Given what is now known about them from public court filings, it is concerning that Ms. Butina and Mr. Torshin were able to gain access to high-level administration officials to reportedly discuss U.S. Russian economic relations. 

Furthermore, it is imperative to understand the substance and extent to which Ms. Butina and Mr. Torshin lobbied other administration officials in an effort to change U.S. policy toward Russia or other countries and whether decisions were made as a result of these meetings. 

Accordingly, in order for the Committee to better understand what transpired between administration and Treasury officials and Ms. Butina, and Mr. Torshin, no later than February 26, 2019, please provide the following:

(1) All records[5] relating to all meetings between or among Treasury Department officials, Ms. Butina, and Mr. Torshin, including those facilitated by or otherwise involving the Center for the National Interest.

(2) All records of Mr. Sheets’ communications relating to Ms. Butina and Mr. Torshin. 

Read Maria Butina’s Plea Deal

(3) How many times did Mr. Sheets meet with Ms. Butina and Mr. Torshin?  For each meeting, please list the date, the location, the list of attendees, and provide all records related to each meeting to include all transcripts, memoranda, and communications regarding the meeting. 

(4) When meeting with Ms. Butina and Mr. Torshin, did Mr. Sheets hold a security clearance?  If so, at what level and did any meetings with Ms. Butina and Mr. Torshin take place in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility? 

(5) Please also describe how meetings between or among Treasury officials, Ms. Butina, and Mr. Torshin differed, if at all, from other similar meetings that Treasury officials may have undertaken with regard to nations other than Russia and foreign nationals other than Mr. Torshin and Ms. Butina.

(6) Please provide a copy of Treasury Department policies that cover the protocols and procedures in place for Department leadership and staff meetings with foreign officials or representatives of foreign governments.  If there is no written policy, please describe those protocols and procedures in a written response.  Please also describe whether and to what extent these reported meetings with Ms. Butina and Mr. Torshin complied with Department policy and procedure. 

We anticipate that your written reply and most responsive documents will be unclassified.  Please send all unclassified material directly to the Committee. 

In keeping with the requirements of Executive Order 13526, if any of the responsive documents do contain classified information, please segregate all unclassified material within the classified documents, provide all unclassified information directly to the Committee, and provide a classified addendum to the Office of Senate Security. 

Although the Committee complies with all laws and regulations governing the handling of classified information, it is not bound, absent its prior agreement, by any handling restrictions. 

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Alexander Hernandez
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Alexander Hernandez

Alexander Hernandez is a practicing attorney since 1999 who enjoys blogging about politics when he is not riding his motorcycles or playing golf. He is also an Amazon best selling author.

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