Brownback’s links to anti-Putin cabal cost him a Trump Cabinet position

Kansas Republican Governor Sam Brownback desperately wants a position in the Trump administration. However, with almost all of Trump’s cabinet positions already spoken for, with the exception of Agriculture Secretary, it would appear that the uber-conservative governor and former U.S. senator may join New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and former U.S. House Speaker on the also-ran list in Trump’s political version of “Celebrity Apprentice.”

What sunk Brownback’s chances of moving from Kansas back to Washington, DC, was his chumminess with the political opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin while he served as a senator. In 2005, Brownback chaired the Congress’s Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), also known as the Helsinki Commission. Brownback used his chairmanship to bash Putin’s policies, especially with regard to Russian legal action taken against prominent Russian Jewish oligarchs, including former Yukos Oil chairman Mikhail Khodorkovsky, his partner Leonid Nevzlin, Mikhail Chernoy, and former Russian media moguls Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Gusinsky.

On July 13, 2005, Brownback chaired a commission hearing on “the YUKOS Affair and Its Implications for Politics and Business in Russia.” The focus of the hearing was the prosecution and imprisonment of Khodorkovsky for embezzlement and tax evasion. Brownback demonstrated his anti-Russia bias by calling only one witness, Khodorkvsky’s friend Nevzlin. Commission insiders condemned Brownback for his extreme anti-Russia bias in only calling Nevzlin as a witness. Nevzlin was joined in the hearing by Representatives Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Christopher Smith (R-NJ), as well as Senior Foreign Law Expert Peter Roudik, in condemning the “regime” of President Putin. It was before the commission hearing that Smith first proposed the idea of expelling Russia from the G8, an action undertaken by the Obama administration. Brownback’s chief allies in opposing Russia’s continuing involvement on the international stage was Arizona Senator John McCain and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, both of whom have lent their support to an investigation of unproven charges that Russia influenced the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

There are long memories in Moscow and the Russians never forgave Brownback for staging an anti-Russia propaganda show in the Congress, especially with the virulently anti-Russian Lantos, a fellow anti-Russian Hungarian expatriate and friend of George Soros. It is also clear that the Russians sent word to the Trump transition team that Brownback was not their favorite person in either Topeka or Washington.

Lantos counted the criminal oligarch Nevzlin among his closest of friends. In December 2005, Lantos said of Nevzlin, “I was in Moscow the day his friend and Yukos partner, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was condemned to nine years in prison,” adding “[Khodorkovsky's] trial is part and parcel of Jewish history.” Nevzlin, who moved to Israel in 2003 to escape justice in the Yukos fraud case that landed his partner in a Siberian prison, was president of the Russian Jewish Congress and founder of the Moscow Jewish Cultural Center. In 2004, the Moscow Prosecutor-General charged Nevzlin with conspiracy in the murders of Olga and Sergey Gorin and the attempted murders of the former business department head of ZAO Rosprom Sergey Kolesov; the former public relations chief for the Moscow mayor’s office Olga Kostina; and an executive of the Austrian oil company East Petroleum Handelsges Sergey Rybin.

Brownback also rubbed shoulders with two other anti-Putin former major Yukos shareholders, Mikhail Brudno and Vladimir Dubov. Both attended, along with Brownback and with the invitation of Lantos, the 2005 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC. Brudno and Dubov also escaped justice in Russia over charges brought in the Yukos scandal and ended up living in Israel and took Israeli citizenship.

There is a complete disconnect among Americans when it comes to Russian Jewish oligarchs who defrauded Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Putin understood that to clean house in Russia—or “drain the swamp” as Trump would put it—the oligarchs and their immense wealth had to be repossessed by the Russian people. Khodorkovsky, who was freed from prison by Putin with the agreement that he would avoid politics, is now leading the anti-Putin charge from Switzerland, Israel, and Britain. Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev told the Sunday Times of London on June 5, 2005, “I fail to understand why some people in the West are making a hero of Khodorkovsky . . . He is talented, I agree. He started his business when I was president and I have known him for some time. But with his talent for tax evasion, he would have been behind bars in America a long time ago.”

Gorbachev added, “Some think that $1 trillion has been hidden away by Russian businessmen . . . If they don’t return it, our courts are likely to decide they acquired it illegally.”

When it comes to returning to their own countries what had been squirreled away in overseas bank accounts and offshore tax havens, Putin and Trump find themselves in agreement. The fact that Governor Brownback did not see that he was being played by the Russian Jewish oligarchs is what ultimately cost him a job in the Trump administration.

Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.

Copyright © 2016

Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).

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