President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin held a joint press conference in Helsinki, Finland, as part of their summit meeting on Monday. During the briefing, Putin accused U.S.-born Bill Browder -- a British financier and former investor in Russia -- over having donated $400 million to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. 

In addition, Putin also appeared to offer assistance to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into alleged Russian election meddling. The Russian leader said during the news conference that Mueller could be allowed to go to Russia and interview 12 Russian intelligence officers who were indicted last week by a federal grand jury for allegedly hacking into the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. Putin asked for reciprocity. Through a translator, Putin said, “Then we would expect that the Americans would reciprocate, and they would question officials, including the officers of law enforcement and intelligence services of the United States, who we believe have something to do with illegal actions on the territory of Russia, and we have to request the presence of our law enforcement.”

Putin said he wants Russian and American law enforcement to question Browder. “Business associates of Mr. Browder have earned over $1.5 billion in Russia. They’ve never paid any taxes, neither in Russia or the United States.” Putin said, “And yet the money escaped the country. They were transferred to the United States. They sent a huge amount of money — $400 million — as a contribution to the campaign of Hillary Clinton. Well, that’s a personal case. It might have been legal, the contribution itself, but the way the money was earned was illegal.” The Washington Post claims that neither the Clinton campaign nor the Clinton Foundation received a donation in the above amount.

Browder’s name was submitted to Interpol by Russia in 2017. Browder is the CEO and co-founder of Hermitage Capital Management -- which once had the largest foreign portfolio investor in Russia. 

On Monday, Putin went on to say that the transactions were “accompanied and guided” by intelligence officials, who could in turn be interviewed in the presence of Russians. He would then reciprocate by allowing Mueller’s team to be present for the questioning of Russian officers.

The Washington Post reported that Browder testified last year before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the Prevezon holding company “hired Glenn Simpson of the firm Fusion GPS to conduct a smear campaign against me and Sergei Magnitsky. . . . He contacted a number of major newspapers and other publications to spread false information that Sergei Magnitsky was not murdered, was not a whistleblower and was instead a criminal.” Magnitsky was a journalist who worked for Browder. He was arrested and later died in prison after publishing information that implicated high-ranking Russian officials in tax evasion. Browder alleged that “Glenn Simpson was trying, on behalf of the Putin regime, to cover up the murder of Sergei Magnitsky, knowingly lying to journalists in Washington to write false stories. Natalia Veselnitskaya -- a Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. in June 2016 -- was working for Putin, said Browder. “So it’s pretty clear to me that this was a major Putin operation.”

This year, Browder filed a complaint with the Department of Justice alleging that Fusion GPS -- which was the research firm that was hired by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign to produce the so-called Trump dossier to embarrass candidate Donald Trump -- was involved in smearing Magnitsky and unlawful lobbying on behalf of Russian interests in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote a letter to DOJ, stating, “The issue is of particular concern to the Committee given that when Fusion GPS reportedly was acting as an unregistered agent of Russian interests, it appears to have been simultaneously overseeing the creation of the unsubstantiated dossier of allegations of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians.”

Therefore, there is now sworn congressional testimony that the Clinton campaign hired the same opposition research firm -- Fusion GPS -- to smear then-candidate Donald Trump that Vladimir Putin used to smear Magnitsky. In addition, much of the material contained in the uncorroborated and salacious Trump dossier was obtained from senior Russian government officials. This includes “a senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure” and a “former top level intelligence officer still active in the Kremlin.” 

On Sunday, Browder spoke out against Trump’s meeting with Putin.
 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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