Senate Democrats expressed outrage Tuesday at reports that the head of Russia’s foreign intelligence service visited Washington recently despite being on a U.S. government blacklist that prohibits many dealings with him.
The Russian Embassy in Washington said via Twitter that Sergey Naryshkin, who heads the Russian intelligence agency known as the SVR, was in Washington last week for “consultations” with his American counterparts “on the struggle against terrorism.” The embassy cited a report in the state-controlled Russian news agency, Tass.
“This is a serious national security issue,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. “Russia hacked our elections. We sanctioned the head of their foreign intelligence. Then the Trump administration invites him to waltz through our front door.”
Schumer and other Democrats suggested that Naryshkin’s visit may have influenced President Trump’s decision not to impose new sanctions on Russia before a deadline Monday. The administration instead released a list of more than 200 Russian officials, politicians and “oligarchs,” defined as people with a net worth of more than $1 billion — who it said could be penalized.
Schumer said the Trump administration should disclose with whom Naryshkin met in Washington, who accompanied him and what they discussed.
“Which other sanctioned Russian intelligence agency figures has the Trump administration let into our country and, most importantly, is his visit why the Trump administration decided to forgo sanctions?” Schumer asked.
Naryshkin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s, is one of several senior Russian military and intelligence officials, as well as business executives, who have been sanctioned by the Treasury Department as punishment for Russia’s actions in Ukraine, cyberattacks and meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections.
The sanctions mean any assets Naryshkin might have in the U.S. would be frozen and American persons and companies are prohibited from doing business with him.
A senior State Department official, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, said that by reaching out to other countries, the administration had ruined “billions of dollars” worth of deals that some foreign capitals were conducting with Moscow.
The official said that this represented a “real loss of money” and that sanctions or the threat of sanctions could hurt Russia. The official would not specify which deals were frozen, which countries and companies were involved, nor say exactly how much money was involved.