New Russian Sanctions Target Putin's Inner Circle

Yesterday, the Department of Commerce announced a new round of sanctions on Russia related to the failed assassination attempt by nerve agent of a former KGB officer living in the United Kingdom. Unlike the meaningless gesture in Mueller’s ridiculous indictment of low-level Russian…I don’t know what you’d call them? Internet trolls?…and the more tradition expulsion of Russian intelligence officers working under diplomatic cover, this latest round was targeted to hurt those closest to Putin.

The Trump administration on Friday sanctioned seven oligarchs with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, including Putin’s son-in-law and businessmen with links to the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, further widening the gap between Trump’s rhetoric and actions towards Russia.

Included on the sanctions list is Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire connected to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is now under indictment for money laundering charges. Manafort’s relationship with Deripaska is under scrutiny from special counsel Robert Mueller.

Deripaska is also the guy that a) was repped by Fusion GPS in trying to get him removed from the sanctions list, b) he has been tied to Christopher Steele to the extent that there are suspicions that Deripaska might have been involved in developing the Trump dossier, and c) he’s the guy that Senator Mark Warner tried to meet with secretly.

Back to the story…

Other individuals targeted on Friday include members of Putin’s inner circle, some of whom are under scrutiny from U.S. investigators for activities related to the 2016 presidential election.

Among them are Suleiman Kerimov, a top Putin adviser; Kirill Shamalov, who married Putin’s daughter in 2013; and financier Viktor Vekselberg, who attended Trump’s presidential inauguration.

Sanctions target Alexander Torshin, deputy governor of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, who reportedly is under investigation in the U.S. on suspicion of funneling money to the National Rifle Association to assist the Trump campaign.

Several executives and affiliates of Russia state-owned energy giant Gazprom also were designated for sanctions, including Alexey Miller, chairman of the company’s management committee.

Andrey Kostin, president of state-owned VTB Bank, was personally sanctioned. VTB itself has been under sanction since 2014 for its involvement to undermine elections in Ukraine. In 2015, Trump associate Felix Sater reportedly offered to help the Trump Organization win financing from the bank for a Moscow project.

“The Russian government operates for the disproportionate benefit of oligarchs and government elites,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a written statement. “Russian oligarchs and elites who profit from this corrupt system will no longer be insulated from the consequences of their government’s destabilizing activities.”

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who has pushed the Trump administration to take a harder line on Russia, joined multiple GOP colleagues in praising the action.

“These new sanctions send a clear message to Vladimir Putin that the illegal occupation of Ukraine, support for the Assad regime’s war crimes, efforts to undermine Western democracies, and malicious cyberattacks will continue to result in severe consequences for him and those who empower him,” Rubio said in a written statement.

The irony is that you know it is just a matter of days before Trump is accused of obstruction of justice for banning all these guys from traveling to the United States thereby preventing Mueller’s team from talking to them.