Trump Fundraiser Offered to Help Lift Sanctions on Russian Firms
(Bloomberg) -- Elliott Broidy, a top fundraiser for President Donald Trump, offered last year to help a Moscow-based lawyer get Russian companies removed from a U.S. sanctions list.
Broidy made the offer after an inquiry from Andrei Baev, an energy lawyer at Chadbourne & Parke LLP, both men acknowledged in statements to Bloomberg News this week. In a proposal sent to Baev shortly before Trump’s January 2017 inauguration, Broidy sketched out a potential campaign to influence top U.S. officials, according to a person with knowledge of the talks who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The plan never went forward, Broidy and Baev said, and no such lobbying took place. But the discussions are a striking illustration of how Russians’ efforts to escape sanctions led them to seek political allies close to Trump. Broidy, a Los Angeles money manager and deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, said in a written statement to Bloomberg that he didn’t offer to “personally” set up meetings with top U.S. officials for Baev’s clients. The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“From the beginning I made it clear that while I would consider trying to help the firm build a team and to put them in touch with some experts, I am not a lobbyist and didn’t plan on becoming one,” Broidy said in a statement. “I also made clear from the beginning that any arrangement we reached would need to be in full compliance with U.S. law. We never made any agreement, and the project never went anywhere. I never contacted any U.S. officials on behalf of Chadbourne or its clients and never had any contact with Chadbourne’s clients.”
Bloomberg News received two separate documents this week purporting to be versions of the January 2017 proposal. The documents, both of which were labeled drafts, were sent from similar email addresses using the name LA Confidential. Bloomberg couldn’t verify the authenticity of the documents, which are identical except for proposed fee amounts and minor formatting differences.
LA Confidential has been distributing unflattering emails and documents about Broidy to media outlets in recent weeks. Broidy said the documents were stolen from his computer servers and, in some cases, altered or combined with fabrications. People close to Broidy said many stolen emails were deleted from his server, making it difficult to determine whether documents were tampered with before being leaked to the media.
A fixture in Republican fundraising circles for decades, Broidy is a staunch supporter of Israel and has business interests in the Middle East. During the presidential campaign, he served as a vice chairman of Trump’s joint fundraising committee.
Broidy, who supports the blockade of Qatar, has accused agents of that gulf state’s government of hacking his computer servers and orchestrating the media leaks. Previous disclosures from LA Confidential described a scrapped proposal for Broidy to help a Malaysian businessman under U.S. criminal investigation. Another set of documents detailed his advocacy work in Washington in support of the United Arab Emirates, where a private security firm he controls has a government contract.
Lee Wolosky, an attorney for Broidy at Boies Schiller & Flexner LLP, sent a letter this week to Qatar’s embassy in Washington citing “irrefutable forensic evidence tying Qatar” to the theft of his emails and threatening “legal remedies.”
Broidy’s “baseless accusations are just more diversionary tactics by him,” a spokesman for the Qatari embassy said Tuesday. “Qatar has not engaged in any of the activities alleged by Mr. Broidy.”
With law degrees from institutions in Russia and California, Baev has worked for corporate law firms in the U.S., London and Moscow, according to his LinkedIn profile. At the time of his discussions with Broidy, he was the managing partner at Chadbourne’s Moscow office.
In a telephone interview Tuesday from Moscow, Baev said an investment banker introduced him to Broidy in New York in the summer of 2016 during discussions about an unrelated transaction.
Trump’s election a few months later signaled a potential rapprochement with Russia. As the inauguration approached, several global law firms were exploring work they could do to help companies and individuals subject to U.S. sanctions, Baev said. Prompted by “a possible instruction from one of my corporate clients,” Baev said, he reached out to Broidy as well as another potential Washington consultant.
Baev declined to identify the client and said he was never retained to pursue the matter. He previously had done work for large Russian energy companies, including Lukoil Pjsc and Kremlin-controlled Gazprom Pjsc, according to a 2015 article in a U.K. legal publication.
Abbe Lowell, then a U.S.-based partner at Chadbourne, also took part in the firm’s internal discussions about sanctions work, Baev said. Chadbourne has since become part of the law firm Norton Rose Fulbright LLP, where Lowell’s clients now include Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law.
Dan McKenna, a spokesman for Lowell and Norton Rose, said in an email that Chadbourne didn’t do any work to remove Russian companies from the U.S. sanctions list.
Removing a company or individual from the U.S. sanctions list is an interagency process designed to reduce political influence, said Erich Ferrari, a Washington lawyer specializing in sanctions.
“It’s absurd to think that someone’s political connections could get a sanctioned person off the list,” Ferrari said. “Once someone is sanctioned, they become politically toxic, and you don’t find a lot of people in Washington who are willing to stick their neck out for a sanctioned party.”
The purported drafts of the proposal viewed by Bloomberg contain a “road map” that includes meetings at the highest levels of the Trump administration and with lawmakers who oversee foreign affairs. Shown a copy of one version of the document, Broidy said some details about fees were inaccurate, but he didn’t comment on the contents of the “road map.”
Baev said the potential client ended up hiring another firm and senior management at Chadbourne wasn’t supportive of the project. Baev later moved to a different firm.
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