American-born investor Bill Browder says it’s clear that Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., has been compromised by the Russian government.
“I don’t say this lightly, and I don’t say this without a whole lot of circumstantial evidence,” Browder told Grant Burningham, host of the Yahoo News podcast “Bots & Ballots.”
Browder, whose investments in post-Soviet Russia ran afoul of Vladimir Putin, pointed to a 2016 meeting Rohrabacher had in Moscow with Russia’s deputy general prosecutor. Upon his return to Washington, D.C., the California Republican lobbied to take an expanded version of the Magnitsky Act, a bilateral law that allows the United States to sanction human rights offenders, off the congressional agenda. The bill was named in honor of Sergei Magnitsky, Browder’s lawyer, who died in 2009 in a Moscow prison. (Browder successfully lobbied Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act in 2012.)
According to Browder, Rohrabacher also returned from Russia with a propaganda film he screened for colleagues in his office. Rohrabacher’s attempt to block the expanded bill failed.
“There is absolutely no reason why any member of Congress would do this … unless there was something else going on,” Browder said. “So my assessment is that somehow the Russians have either got damaging information on Dana Rohrabacher, which would be some type of blackmail or that they’ve found some way of financing him in such a way that they’ve influenced his behavior.”
Andrew Eisenberger, Rohrabacher’s press secretary, dismissed Browder’s assertion as “nonsense.”
“Congressman Rohrabacher is a champion of the United States. His policy views are based on what he believes is best for this country. Period,” Eisenberger wrote in an email to Yahoo News. “He has consistently advocated cooperation with the Russians only in areas of mutual benefits, such as fighting radical Islamic terrorism and the rise of communist China. He also believes that unrelenting hostility to Russia is not in the interest of the United States. To suggest that means he is acting on Russia’s behalf is not only false but shameful.”
Rohrabacher isn’t the only congressman Browder suspects is in Putin’s pocket.
“The other person I am very suspicious about is Rand Paul,” Browder said, noting that the Kentucky Republican senator traveled to Moscow in August and a week later called on Trump to lift sanctions on a pair of Russian lawmakers who are on the so-called Magnitsky list.
“Why would he do that? The people of Kentucky don’t want that to happen,” Browder said. “It makes no sense to me why a U.S. politician under the circumstances right now would be trying to loosen sanctions on Russia.”
Paul’s office did not return a request from Yahoo News for comment.
Browder, who has spent over a decade as an activist trying to expose Putin’s human rights abuses, knows he’s living with a target on his back.
“Am I at risk at being killed by the Putin regime? The answer is yes,” Browder said. “But I do not live in fear.”
He added: “I do this all because they murdered Sergei Magnitsky, at the age of 37, as my substitute. And I’m not going to let them intimidate me. And I’m going to go after them until we finally get justice.”