Senate Panel Questions Contacts Between U.S. Officials, Russians

(Bloomberg) -- The Senate Finance Committee asked the Federal Reserve and the Treasury about U.S. officials’ contacts during the Obama administration with two Russians later tied to Moscow’s efforts to interfere in American policy.

The panel said Friday it sent letters asking the Trump administration for details and records of 2015 meetings between U.S. officials and Maria Butina, who has since pleaded guilty to conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent, and then-Russian Central Bank deputy governor Alexander Torshin, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin who now is under U.S. government sanctions.

Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa and top Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon said in a statement the meetings included then-vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Stanley Fischer and Nathan Sheets, then Treasury undersecretary for international affairs. The meetings were first reported by Reuters last year.

The letters, sent to Fed Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, were part of a broader investigation into Russian interference in the U.S.

“A critical issue facing the Committee and the country is the extent to which the Russian government engaged in efforts designed to undermine our political system and governmental policy through obfuscation and manipulation,” the lawmakers wrote. “Given what is now known about them from public court filings, it is concerning that Ms. Butina and Mr. Torshin were able to gain access to high-level administration officials to reportedly discuss U.S. Russian economic relations.”

They asked for information on the meetings by Feb. 26, and sought information from the Center for the National Interest, a Washington-based foreign policy research group, which reportedly helped arrange the talks.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.