In the midst of the Russia investigation, the Trump administration revoked the visa of a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin just as Putin forced Interpol to flag him as a wanted criminal.
Last week, Putin called on Interpol to issue a “red notice” for Bill Browder on the global wanted list.
Browder’s former lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian who in 2008 exposed an alleged theft of $250 million in tax money purportedly stolen by top Russian officials and business figures, was tortured to death in a Russia prison and the U.S.-born British financier has been pushing democratic nations to hold Russia accountable. The United States, the United Kingdom and Estonia adopted “Magnitsky Acts” which block Russia oligarchs from using the assets they looted and hid overseas. This has been the only substantial punishment doled out for the lawyer’s death.
Canada recently added itself to the list, adopting the Magnitsky Act.
Despite the Russia investigation picking up, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who at his confirmation hearing pledged he would support the Magnitsky Act, revoked Browder’s U.S. visa thus limiting his movements on the same day Interpol flagged Browder.
Putin has tried on numerous occasions to flag Browder, despite the activist having committed no crime, but western nations ignored the previous attempts. This, coupled with Trump’s refusal to enforce sanctions against Russia passed almost unanimously by Congress, is not premium optics considering the Russia investigation.
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia used cyber-enabled means in an attempt to help President Donald Trump win the White House, an allegation the Kremlin has denied.
“We have to be so hard on this and we have to hold them accountable,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said during a panel discussion with former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice held by the George W. Bush Institute in New York last week.
“When a country can come interfere in another country’s elections that is warfare. It really is, because you’re making sure that the democracy shifts from what the people want,” she said. “This is their new weapon of choice and we have to get in front of it.”
Congressional committees and special counsel Robert Mueller are investigating alleged Russian interference in the election, including whether there was any collusion between Trump associates and Moscow. Trump has denied that there was any collusion between his campaign and associates and Russia.
Reuters contributed to this report.