Russia’s Largest Bank Paid Podesta Group to Lobby Against U.S. Sanctions During 2016 Election

Sberbank, Russia’s largest banking institution, paid Tony Podesta - brother of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair - 170,000 dollars from March to September 2016 to lobby against Obama-imposed sanctions against Russia.
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    Tony Podesta, pictured here in 2004 while running the Kerry-Edwards campaign. accepted 170,000 dollars from Sberbank, Russia’s largest banking institution, to lobby against sanctions on Russia. (AP/Jacqueline Larma)

    MINNEAPOLIS – Last month, the corporate-owned media, along with much of the U.S. political establishment, was abuzz with what they purported to be the greatest scandal of the fledgling Trump administration. The scandal, of course, centered on Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, whose contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak were leaked to the Washington Post, which has a questionable relationship with the CIA.

    While the phone call itself was not scandalous enough to irreparably damage Flynn’s reputation, it was the assertion that he had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia that eventually did him in.

    Flynn’s alleged ties to Russia led many top Democrats to swiftly call for his resignation. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) called for Flynn to be relieved of duty when the news broke, stating that “it’s clear that concerns about General Flynn’s ties to Russia were well-warranted.”


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    Not long after, Attorney General Jeff Sessions came under fire – also for allegedly meeting with the Russian ambassador in a private setting. At a press conference, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) stated “we must evaluate the scope of Russia’s interference in our elections and assess if agents of their government have penetrated to the highest level of our government.”

    These are just the most recent examples of Democrats slamming any and all who cozy up to the Russian government, particularly its leader Vladimir Putin. On the campaign trail last year, Democrats repeatedly slammed Trump for “embracing dictators like Vladimir Putin,” as former Vice President Joe Biden had remarked. As Politico noted, Putin was the Democrat’s “bogeyman” during the election, after Trump himself.

    However, recent evidence may soon have top Democrats eating their own words. While Flynn lost his job because of allegations that he discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador, it has now been revealed that Russia’s largest bank – Sberbank – hired the firm founded by Tony and John Podesta to lobby on its behalf with the express purpose of reducing sanctions imposed on Russia by the Obama administration.

    “The New York office of Sberbank CIB indeed hired Podesta Group. Engagement of external consultants is part of standard business practices for us,” Sberbank told TASS on Thursday. The Podesta Group charged Sberbank 20,000 dollars per month, plus expenses, from March through Sept. 2016 in their bid to end U.S. sanctions. The efforts were allegedly just part of a larger under-the-radar effort to remove sanctions on both Sberbank and Russia’s second-largest bank, VTB Capital.

    While the Podesta brothers are not politicians themselves, their lobbying firm was explicitly chosen because of their connections to top Democrats. According to Senate disclosure forms, other Podesta firm lobbyists working on behalf of Sberbank included well-connected figures in the Democratic establishment.

    One figure named is David Adams, a “trusted advisor” to Hillary Clinton and her assistant secretary of state for congressional affairs during her tenure at the State Department. These Democrat-connected lobbyists arranged meetings between Sberbank officers and Department of State officials while also targeting Congress and the Obama-led executive branch.

    As the Daily Caller noted, “the discovery of high-profile Democrats like Podesta being paid lucrative fees for lobbying to lift U.S. sanctions on Russia contrasts with charges from Democrats that President Donald Trump and his key aides are soft on Russia while the Obama administration was tough on Moscow.”

    One point of major concern for those worried about Russia’s influence on U.S. politics is that John Podesta was the campaign chair of Hillary Clinton’s campaign while the contract was in effect. In other words, while his brother and other Democratic insiders were being paid to lobby for Russian business interests, John Podesta was leading attacks on the Trump campaign for their alleged ties to Russian business and political interests.

    Also of interest is the fact that this is not first time the Podestas have been involved with Sberbank. Back in 2009, Sberbank was intimately involved in the Russian deal to purchase Uranium One. Uranium One, a company whose holdings included 20 percent of the U.S.’ uranium ore, was owned by Frank Giustra, one of Bill Clinton’s closest friends and an integral part of the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s sale to the Russian state atomic agency, besides having been facilitated by the Hillary Clinton-led State Department, was aided by the Podesta Group, who represented Giustra’s company and lobbied to advance the transaction.

    If Democrats are intent on rooting out Russian sympathizers from within the U.S. political structure, perhaps they should start within their ranks.

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