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Rep. Dana Rohrabacher accused of violating Russian sanctions by backer of Russian sanctions law

 (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

Financier Bill Browder has accused Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of violating federal sanctions by using information provided by Russian officials to try to convince Congress to overturn those sanctions.

Browder filed a complaint with the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control this week saying Rohrabacher and his staff member, Paul Behrends, violated the Magnitsky Act by taking information from a sanctioned Russian official and using the information to try to change the act.

The act is named for attorney Sergei Magnitsky, who died in prison after accusing several prominent Russians of stealing $230 million in taxes. Browder, who was Magnitsky's boss, persuaded Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act in 2012. It prevents more than 40 prominent Russians involved in the affair from traveling to or banking in the U.S. The act infuriated Russian President Vladimir Putin, who retaliated by halting U.S. adoptions of Russian children.

The complaint relies heavily on a recent Daily Beast report about a memo Rohrabacher received detailing complaints about Magnitsky and Browder during a 2016 meeting in Moscow with a high-ranking Russian justice official who was among those sanctioned under the act.

Congress was considering expanding the act at the time, and there was an intense lobbying effort by a handful of people with Russian ties on Capitol Hill to have Magnitsky's name removed from it.

In the complaint, Browder alleges Rohrabacher and Behrends "provided services to one of the central figures targeted by the Magnitsky Act” because they got information from the Russian official and used it to try to change the law.

In a statement responding to the complaint, Rohrabacher said he questions why Browder doesn’t want the congressman to get information from multiple sources.

“Anyone who knows me understands that I am the Member of Congress least likely to take directions from government officials, especially foreign government officials. Because of some grotesquely misleading headlines, Mr. Browder flatters himself by claiming that I contemplated conducting a hearing all about him. Perhaps he protests too much,” Rohrabacher said.

Browder testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday and called out Rohrabacher as part of Russian efforts to sway Congress to get rid of the Magnitsky Act. It's unusual for a sitting member of Congress to be called out by a witness on Capitol Hill, but senators didn't react to the statement.

“We know for sure that part of their campaign was running around Capitol Hill. One of the people that they were able to convince to go along with them is a member of the House of Representatives from Orange County, Dana Rohrabacher, who they have met with on a number of occasions and who has been effectively touting, or spreading their propaganda around the House of Representatives," Browder said.

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