The Daily Beast reports: In March 2014, the U.S. government sanctioned Dmitry Rogozin—a hardline deputy to Vladimir Putin, the head of Russia’s defense industry and longtime opponent of American power—in retaliation for the invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
Eighteen months later, the National Rifle Association, Donald Trump’s most powerful outside ally during the 2016 election, sent a delegation to Moscow that met with him.
The meeting, which hasn’t been previously reported in the American press, is one strand in a web of connections between the Russian government and Team Trump: Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn both denied speaking with the Russian ambassador, which turned out to be untrue; former campaign manager Paul Manafort supported pro-Russian interests in Ukraine; Secretary of State Rex Tillerson won an “Order of Friendship” from Putin; and then, of course, there’s the hacking campaign that U.S. intelligence agencies say Russian launched to tilt the election in Trump’s favor.
Meeting with Rogozin, a target of U.S. sanctions, is not itself illegal—as long as the two sides did no business together—explained Boris Zilberman, an expert on Russian sanctions at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. But, he noted, it is “frowned upon and raises questions… those targeted for sanctions have been engaged in conduct which is in direct opposition to U.S. national security interests.” [Continue reading…]