Bryan Lanza, a former senior aide to President Trump during both his campaign and the transition, has found a lucrative new career helping the conglomerate owned by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska figure out how to get out from under recently imposed American sanctions.
Trump reluctantly imposed sanctions on a number of Russian oligarchs after being pressured by Congress who passed the sanctions in retaliation for the Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections that brought him to power.
Trump’s hand in implementing the sanctions was forced after stalling on them for months when the outrage over the attempted murder of two Russian dissidents in London with the alleged use of a rare chemical nerve agent invented in Russia exploded internationally.
According to CNN, Lanza is in regular contact with the Trump administration and is technically not representing Deripaska directly, but instead is representing the chairman of EN+ Group in which the Russian oligarch owns majority control, therefore subjecting it to the U.S. sanctions.
Under the Treasury Department’s regulations, companies under the majority control of sanctioned people are automatically sanctioned until the person under sanction reduces their ownership in the company to below 50%. Lanza’s firm, Mercury Public Affairs, disclosed their lobbyist status to the government last week.
While Lanza and his company’s lobbying role is perfectly legal under U.S. law as long as it is publicly disclosed, the number of former Trump campaign and administration officials engaging in the lobbying of their ex-colleagues at the White House on behalf of foreign governments and both domestic and international corporate interests undermines Trump’s vaunted promise to “drain the swamp” in Washington.
That claim has long fallen by the wayside as stories of corruption and secret payments made to Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal “fixer”, leak to press and the financial excesses of the president’s avaricious cabinet members like EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt, HUD Secretary Ben Carson, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke are exposed.
With the president and his campaign under investigation for collusion with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 election, the number of aides with former and current ties to the Kremlin presents a set of optics that belies Trump’s protestations of “No Collusion.” Bryan Lanza’s new lobbying role only makes it worse.