Following Christopher Wray’s confirmation hearings, he appeared to gain bipartisan support, easing concerns that he might obstruct the Mueller investigations.
But although he “looks good on paper,” USA Today points out that he, too, has his own very murky Russian connections. For starters, his law firm, King & Spalding, represents Rosneft and Gazprom, the two largest Russian state-controlled oil companies. Rosneft had a $500 billion oil-drilling joint venture with Exxon in 2012, when Rex Tillerson was CEO. Attorney, freelance journalist, and professor, Seth Abramson pointed this out back in June and also noted that proceeds from the sale of Rosneft were possibly the key to the Russiagate investigations involving Trump’s campaign meeting at the Mayflower Hotel. This information about Rosneft was contained in the Christopher Steele dossier.
We’ve reported on the Trump nominee’s ties to Russian oil companies before, but seeing how he’s standing on the doorstep of the F.B.I. Director’s office, it’s worth revisiting.
USA Today explains that sanctions placed by Obama blocked Exxon and Rosneft’s joint venture. If the Trump administration tries to lift those sanctions, Christopher Wray’s firm could play a role in negotiating the contract. This is certainly a serious conflict of interest for the White House, but also for Wray, who will most likely face pressure to recuse himself from the F.B.I. investigations if he is appointed. If he did not recuse himself, the credibility of the Russia investigations would be in serious jeopardy.
The Christopher Steele dossier claims that Igor Sechin, CEO of Rosneft, offered Trump 19% stake in the company through former campaign adviser Carter Page, who was in Moscow at the time in July. This stake in Rosneft was in exchange for lifting the Obama sanctions on Russia. Possible side-meetings at the Mayflower Hotel in April of last year have been examined by Seth Abramson as the possible venue where the dodgy Rosneft oil sale could have been discussed with the Trump campaign.
Tragically, a former key aid to Igor Sechin and key liaison between Sechin and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Oleg Erovinkin, was murdered under mysterious circumstances in January 2017 in Moscow. The Telegraph reported that he was suspected to have helped Christopher Steele compile his dossier and was possibly murdered by the Kremlin in retribution. Certainly his death gives us an indication that the dossier was taken very seriously by the Kremlin.
Christopher Wray’s connection to Rosneft is alarming, but his connection to the other Russian state-owned oil company, Gazprom, is another huge conflict of interest. Gazprom is connected to one of the highest ranking Russia crime bosses, Semion Mogilevich. Gazprom also partners with another firm (RosUkrEnergo) controlled by a Ukranian oligarch named Dmitry Firtash. Firtash has ties to Putin’s inner circle as well as financial dealings with Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager who worked as a foreign agent for the Ukraine. Manafort was reportedly responsible for putting Vice President Pence in position for the White House before resigning due to millions of dollars traced back to Russian interests as well as his involvement in softening the Republican party platform’s language on the Ukraine.
Alarm bells are ringing out of control when it comes to the possible apppointment of Christopher Wray to the position of leading the F.B.I. His conflicts of interest are off the charts. Sadly, this seems par for the course with the Trump administration. The more we inspect the connections to Russia, the more egregious and outrageously complex the web of Russian lies becomes. How we can be this close to appointing Wray with bipartisan support given his ties to Russian state-owned oil companies is startling.
Going forward, it looks like we should all just expect deep ties to Russia from any Trump appointee unless it can be ruled out through a rigorous vetting process much more severe than any devised by Trump for our Muslim citizens.
Watch: David Packman gives an overview of Christopher Wray’s Russian ties.