Thursday, August 9, 2018

Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens sought cash and influence from Russia and other foreign interests, in part through U.S. Rep Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)

Eric Greitens
Have Russian interests been involved in abuse that has been directed at my wife, Carol, and me for 10-plus years? Carol and I are relatively small fry, so the question might seem absurd at first glance. But we know Russians tried to influence public opinion in the Philando Castille case in Minnesota, where deadly police force had the potential to spark racial unrest. We also know public officials in our former home state, Alabama, have been dallying with Russian interests for years; the most recent example involving U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), who led a Republican delegation to Russia with the apparent purpose of sparking Arctic drilling and possible meddling in 2018 midterm elections.

Now, we've learned that our current "home state," Missouri, has been led by a governor who sought Russian cash and influence. We're talking about Eric Greitens, who resigned in May amid a whirlwind of scandals.

First, it's a matter of public record that one strong Greitens supporter is Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott, who orchestrated an unlawful eviction that ended with deputies breaking Carol's arm and bringing bogus criminal charges against HER, the victim of police brutality. And how is this for curious timing? Greitens was inaugurated on Jan. 9, 2017, and Carol was arrested for "assault on a law enforcement officer" on Jan. 30, 2017. A Greitens appointee, Greene County Judge Jerry Harmison, found Carol guilty even though the deputy "victim" admitted in an incident report (and on the stand, at trial) that she did not commit the offense -- that he caused physical contact with her, not the other way around.

Hmmm, almost sounds like Arnott was waiting for a signal from his favorite governor before moving forward with a baseless arrest. And sounds like Harmison handled the case corruptly to help provide cover for Arnott.

Did Arnott's "favorite governor" have ties to Russians and other foreign interests? The answer is "without a doubt."

One of Greitens' many scandals involved his efforts to seek campaign donations from foreigners. That, of course, is illegal, but it did not stop Greitens. From an article at the Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune:

During the first months of 2015, Gov. Eric Greitens actively sought donations from foreigners for his campaign — contributions that would be illegal under federal law — according to testimony given to a legislative committee.

Michael Hafner, a political consultant who worked for Greitens from January through March 2015, testified that the campaign team was working with people Greitens met while studying at Oxford University in the late 1990s.

“It was a road that I was never comfortable going down because I know in the American political system, foreign contributions are not allowed in American political races,” Hafner said in an interview Thursday. “I don’t know what happened after I left.”

The testimony raises troubling questions about whether the proliferation of “dark money” groups — political organizations that don’t disclose donors — has allowed illegal foreign money into U.S. politics, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said during a visit to Columbia.

Did Greitens attempt to have specific ties to Russia? Yes, indeed, via U.S. Rep Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who has been described as a favorite of Russian President Vladimir Putin. From an article at the Kansas City Star, again focusing on former Greitens consultant, Michael Hafner:

Michael Hafner, a longtime GOP consultant who worked on Greitens’ campaign early on, told lawmakers that the governor directed him to “have conversations with donors who intended to raise significant amounts of money and … conceal the identity of those donors.”

Hafner said that at the governor’s urging, he spoke with Monu Joseph, a California-based venture capitalist who wanted to discuss how to bundle donations and conceal the identity of donors by funneling them through LLCs, according to a transcript of Hafner’s March testimony to a special House committee.

During the campaign, Greitens touted his commitment to transparency and blasted candidates who relied on support from political action committees to obscure their financial backers.

Notice that Monu Joseph is based in California, and that puts him close to Dana Rohrabacher:

Hafner told the committee that he and Joseph specifically discussed raising money from foreign nationals, which would violate a federal law that prohibits campaigns from knowingly accepted money from foreign nationals. . . .

Lawmakers asked Hafner about a campaign document that showed Greitens would be traveling to Hong Kong during the exploratory phase of his campaign.

Dana Rohrabacher
The committee released a heavily redacted version of the document that shows that Greitens planned to to meet in Hong Kong with a person who had donated to his charity, The Mission Continues.
The person, whose name is redacted, pledged to donate $50,000 to the campaign.

The document, which includes a call sheet of charity donors, recommends asking Joseph for $15,000 during the campaign’s exploratory phase and notes that he has a connection to U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican who has faced scrutiny because of his ties to Russia.

Rohrabacher's ties to Russia, amid the Robert Mueller investigation, reportedly have put his re-election at risk:

The Russia investigation has shown few signs of having an impact in this year’s congressional elections, but there’s a House race in Orange County, Calif., where Vladimir Putin looms large.

In fact, the congressman running for reelection there says he once arm wrestled the Russian president.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher easily stands out as one of the most pro-Russia voices in the Republican Party. During the 2016 campaign, Politico called him ‘Putin’s favorite congressman.’ The New York Times reported that Russia viewed him as an intelligence source, even giving him a Kremlin code name. Rohrabacher’s story about arm wrestling Putin involves a few rounds of drinks in the 1990s and settling an argument over who won the Cold War.

Members of Congress and those hoping to become members of Congress are generally more focused on bread and butter domestic issues — such as health care, the economy and the environment.

But Rohrabacher is different. Opponents on his left and right are leveraging his long-standing calls for closer relations with Russia as one of the primary issues in their campaign, now that Russian attempts to influence American politics are a flashpoint.

Rohrabacher won the Republican primary in June and will face Democrat Harley Rouda in November's general election. The Rohrabacher seat widely is seen as one Democrats could pick up in the House-- with Russia being a key issue.

How might all of this connect to Carol and me? That, of course, remains unclear. But this much is clear: We have practiced aggressive journalism in two states -- Alabama and Missouri -- where key politicos are known to have ties with Russia. And the Philando Castille case proves that Russian meddling is not limited to those with fame or political power.

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