U.S. dragged into Putin’s battle against Bill Browder

The Daily Beast reports: Vladimir Putin has dragged the Trump Administration into his campaign to silence critic and former investment fund manager Bill Browder, at least for the moment.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency officials were scrambling on Monday to explain whether and why Browder’s permission to enter the United States had been revoked after the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin issued an INTERPOL alert called a “diffusion” requesting his arrest.

The former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, called on President Donald Trump and the State Department to deal with this “outrageous” issue immediately. “Fix this now. Now. Do not join Putin’s campaign against @BillBrowder,” McFaul urged on Twitter.

Amid potentially embarrassing claims about whether Interpol and the U.S. government had been duped by Russian officials, spokespersons at both agencies refused repeated requests to explain the situation. [Continue reading…]

The Associated Press reports: Browder said he was checking in to a flight to the United States on Sunday when he discovered he wasn’t able to travel. He said Putin had issued “an abusive Interpol arrest warrant” for him.

“I received a notification from DHS that my Global Entry was rejected on the 19th and a notification from the airline that my ESTA wasn’t valid after that,” Browder said.

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA, is administered by the Homeland Security Department and determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the U.S. under a visa waiver program. Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program that allows low-risk travelers to have expedited clearance.

The State Department said Monday that Browder had never held a visa, and that many British citizens use the visa waiver program. In a separate statement, Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Patrol agency said Browder was “manually approved” to travel to the United States on Oct. 18.

The agency did not say whether Browder was on an Interpol list, but noted that “when possible matches to derogatory information are found, applications will be vetted through normal” customs procedures.

In response to Browder’s Sunday tweet, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., and Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, asked the Homeland Security Department to review the action. In a separate letter, New York Rep. Elliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, asked the State Department to reverse it. [Continue reading…]

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