In the midst of a heated and controversial case surrounding potential collusion between Trump administration officials and Russian leadership, a recent discovery has shed more light on the possibility that Russia sent payments to various proxies as a means of influencing the election. In doing so, the FBI is now reviewing documents which detail over 60 money transfers that originated from the Russian foreign ministry to their varying embassies worldwide, all of which having a specific note claiming the funds are to be used in financing the election campaign of 2016.
As the race for president was entering its final phases in early August of last year, the Russian foreign ministry wired roughly $30,000 to their embassy in Washington, with the money coming from a state-backed Russian bank. The memo on the wire transfer read: “to finance election campaign of 2016.”
The transfers were moved primarily through various Citibank accounts, with over 60 transfers occurring in the months leading up to election day, and totaling more than $380,000. Interestingly enough, all of the funds originated from the Russian foreign ministry, with a majority of them having the same memo line of financing the election, as noted above.
Even now, Citi hasn't told regulators what they think the money could have been used for. Even after WE asked if it could be for Russia elections, neither Citi nor FBI would speculate. Sources would only say FBI is investigating it. https://t.co/Y26lrb9z0S
— Jason Leopold (@JasonLeopold) November 14, 2017
The Russian foreign Ministry and the embassy in DC were called and emailed numerous times. They never responded despite our repeated requests for comment https://t.co/BiFQOzswqH
— Jason Leopold (@JasonLeopold) November 15, 2017
Dossier mentions something that seems related to the embassy wire transfers: “tens of thousands of dollars were involved” in scheme to “reward relevant assets” in the US via embassies in DC, NY, Miami, per Source E. pic.twitter.com/IdRrDs4vQV
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) November 14, 2017
The documents reveal that the more than 60 transfers reached an array of Russian embassies in different countries, and all occurred in the span of about a month, between August 3 and September 20, 2016. So far, little information has emerged surrounding how these funds were spent, and to exactly what motive or medium they were directed as a means of influencing the election.
— Matt Mittenthal (@mattmittenthal) November 14, 2017
Upon discovering the $30,000 initial transfer to the Washington embassy, Citibank launched a full-fledged investigation into other transfers that originated from the Russian foreign ministry, being able to now flag the suspicious wires as well. The suspicion behind these exchanges involved the inability to determine the inherent legal or financial purposes of the transfer, which has translated into the analysis currently being done by the FBI.
Given the obscurity of the note plastered on majority of the transfers, it is difficult to identify an array of factors, such as the election it was meant for, or the country that it would aim to influence. In 2016 alone, seven countries held some sort of election, all of which in close proximity with the dates that the transfers took place. Additionally, the Russian lower house of Parliament itself held elections in September of 2016, causing further confusion as to the specific purposes for the wire transfers. The FBI is now looking into determining which elections, and where, this funding was to be used.
Despite the refusal on behalf of the Kremlin in making any comment on the recent discoveries, the FBI and special investigative counsel in this case have requested Citibank turn over these suspicious transactions, in order to get an understanding of whether these transfers were implemented to influence the 2016 Presidential elections. These documents include transactions that occurred between late 2013 and early 2017, amassing over 650 specific transfers that took place. Although sources say that a majority of these documents are likely unrelated, they will nonetheless be involved in the scrutiny for possible connection with the election itself, or other laundering activities which may be taking place.