White House Staffer Scaramucci Once Wanted ‘More Outreach With Russia’

Anthony Scaramucci is one of the more vocal staff members of the Trump Administration, since taking on the role of White House Communications Director less than two weeks ago. He’s appeared on many press outlets discussing the message of the Trump White House. However, one thing that Anthony Scaramucci is not talking about is his soon-to-be former investment firm that he had one day hoped would “have more outreach with Russia,” according to a June report by Bloomberg.

Since that revelation, Democratic senators have been asking the Treasury Department to investigate the financial ties of Anthony Scaramucci to determine if Scaramucci has attempted to violate the current United States sanctions against Russia. Anthony Scaramucci has been soft on the issue of American sanctions against Russia and even said this week that it was possible that Donald Trump would not sign the current Russian sanctions bill that was almost unanimously passed by the Senate this week.

The White House has since shifted from Scaramucci’s statement on the current Russian sanctions bill to one that does not reflect Anthony Scaramucci’s previous opinion on the matter. The bill would prevent Donald Trump from removing sanctions against Russia, and was this week passed by the Senate by a 98-2 vote.

It is unclear why Scaramucci thought the president would not sign the bill.

Anthony Scaramucci did at one point, however, according to the Bloomberg report, hope the sanctions would be removed. He called the sanctions placed on Russia by the Obama Administration “ineffective” and said Trump’s view on Russia was that “there’s probably shared values or shared interests, that we can align ourselves with each other and this could be mutually beneficial.”

He is the co-founder of an investment firm, known as Skybridge Capital, that manages $12 billion dollars, according to Business Insider.

In January 2017, Anthony Scaramucci met with Kirill Dmitriev, manager of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) in the hopes of bringing the RDIF and its $10 billion dollars into Skybridge. In an interview with Bloomberg, Scaramucci said the following.

“The idea was, many months ago, to have more outreach with Russia.”

Anthony Scaramucci, a member of the transition team executive committee, and founder and Co-Managing Partner of investment firm SkyBridge Capital, boards an elevator at Trump Tower, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, in New York. [Image by Carolyn Kaster/AP Images]

That “idea” was in play while Scaramucci was a member of the Trump transition team. As a member of the transition team, eyeing a spot on the White House payroll, Scaramucci declared his intent to sell Skybridge. He was initially slated for the Director of Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, a job that fell through.

It was during his confirmation hearing in January when Democrat Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland raised the issue of his finances with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Senator Elizabeth Warren also asked for an investigation into Anthony Scaramucci’s financial connections.

In a letter dated January 19, 2017, the Treasury was requested to investigate Scaramucci to determine “whether he may have facilitated, or otherwise promoted, prohibited transactions between the RDIF, or any other sanctioned entity.” Senator Warren and Senator Ben Cardin wrote the following.

“We are writing to bring to your attention public reports that indicate that this past week, Anthony Scaramucci engaged in direct talks regarding potential business transactions between the United States and Russia with the head of a Russian entity currently subject to sanctions by the United States Department of the Treasury…..These sanctions prohibit U.S.-based persons or entities from conducting certain financial transactions with the Russian Direct Investment Fund. A violation of sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13662 can trigger civil monetary penalties of at least $250,000 or twice the amount of the prohibited transaction, and criminal penalties of up to $1 million, up to twenty years in prison, or both.”

The senators also asked Treasury to determine if Scaramucci, or any other member of the Trump Administration “has any financial interest in the RDIF” or if any staffer was “aware of, directed, or approved Mr. Scaramucci’s contact with the RDIF.”

Anthony Scaramucci Trump Russia Sen Cardin
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 24, 2017. [Image by Carolyn Kaster/AP Images]

A request for an update on the matter was sent by Senator Elizabeth Warren in February, after Scaramucci’s successful confirmation. The Treasury Department has not responded publicly.

Share Blue reports that Anthony Scaramucci’s history indicates he once wanted “to lift sanctions” imposed on Russia for the Russian interference with Elections 2016. Share Blue also reports that Anthony Scaramucci appeared on Russian television in January to discuss the topic.

At the time, Anthony Scaramucci allegedly said that Trump “has an enormous respect for the Russian people and the legacy of the relationship that the US has with Russia.”

Scaramucci also reportedly said that Americans and Russians share “common goals and common values” and rebuked the sanctions placed by the Obama Administration. He also reportedly told Russian newswires that “Americans love Russians” and allegedly called Russia a “country of great achievements.”

But a Gallup poll in February of this year suggests the opposite, with 44 percent of Americans saying their view of Russia was “mostly unfavorable” and an additional 26 percent saying their view of Russia is “very unfavorable.” In this poll, then, 70 percent of Americans viewed Russia as unfavorable.

And many in Congress, including Senator Joe Manchin, has reminded the Trump Administration, and the American people, repeatedly that Russia is an adversary of the United States and not an ally.

The Guardian reported on a poll in June of this year that showed that 68 percent of Americans are “moderately concerned” about Russian interference. But further, that those Americans believe Trump tried to interfere with the Russia investigation currently being run by the FBI, and multiple high-level committees in Congress.

But Anthony Scaramucci does not appear to be in that 68 percent, as he worked to tell Jake Tapper of CNN this week that the Russian interference and hacking maybe didn’t happen. Scaramucci also said that Trump himself wasn’t sold on the idea of Russian interference and that he backed the president 100 percent.

The meeting with Anthony Scaramucci and the head of the RDIF, that Anthony Scaramucci has himself confirmed, has raised eyebrows with at least two senators in Congress. Scaramucci also said on record with Bloomberg TV that Trump has “tremendous respect for Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

The firm that was allegedly establishing ground in the United States for the RDIF is SkyBridge Capital, of which Anthony Scaramucci is co-founder. He is set to sell his portion of the company, a move that is not currently finalized and has not come without controversy.

The sale was set to close June 30 of this year, but has not been finalized to date, reports CNBC News. The sale is also to a Chinese investment firm, which is another issue of contention surrounding Scaramucci’s financial dealings. Before coming to the Trump transition team, Scaramucci was a financial guru and “well known on Wall Street,” according to CNBC News.

He was the principal organizer for SkyBridge Alternatives conference, also known as SALT, which is a conference each year held in Las Vegas for professionals in the finance industry. The Democratic Coalition has revealed through their own investigations that some of Scaramucci’s Skybridge assets were reportedly not listed on his financial disclosure.

When Anthony Scramucci’s financial disclosure was released shortly after his appointment to Communication Director, he was very displeased. He immediately tweeted, “In light of the leak of my financial disclosure I will be contacting FBI and the Justice Department. #Swamp”

That tweet has since been deleted, as when Anthony Scaramucci filled out his financial disclosure it is noted clearly on the form that it is a public disclosure.

The New York Times reports that on Friday the White House announced through a written statement released by Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders that Trump would be signing the Russia sanctions bill, despite Anthony Scaramucci’s earlier statements.

“President Donald J. Trump read early drafts of the bill and negotiated regarding critical elements of it. He has now reviewed the final version and, based on its responsiveness to his negotiations approves the bill and intends to sign it.”

It was a statement that differed slightly from Anthony Scaramucci’s statement days earlier. CNN reports that Scaramucci said the following on the Russia sanctions bill, before the White House announcement on what they would do with it.

“He may sign the sanctions exactly the way they are, or he may veto the sanctions and negotiate an even tougher deal against the Russians.”

When it came to his first press briefing as White House Communications Director just weeks ago, Anthony Scaramucci didn’t want to touch the subject of Russia at all. He said he wanted to “stay away from that zip code of Russia” as he had not been briefed by White House counsel on what he could or could not say about Russia legally.

In his first press briefing he dodged question after question related to Russia, a scandal that has dogged the White House since before Trump took the oath of office. The day Trump took the oath of office would have been just a few days after Anthony Scaramucci’s meeting with the RDIF. Watch how he handles Russia questions in his first press briefing as a White House staffer.

New negotiations on the Russian sanctions bill include new sanctions slapped on Russia, along with strong limitations on Trump’s ability to alter the Russian sanctions in any way without the approval of Congress. CNN reports that Senator Corker dismissed Scaramucci’s claim that there was any possibility of Trump vetoing the bill.

“I had a conversation with the president just in the last few days, I’ve talked to Tillerson Tuesday night. I don’t think that’s real. I just can’t imagine – you look at the vote count.”

The vote count was overwhelmingly in favor of the Russia sanctions bill, in both the House and the upper chamber. The bill passed in the House of Representatives at 419 – 3 reports the New York Times, and in the Senate with a vote of 98-2. The New York Times reports that it would be “politically embarrassing” for Trump to veto the bill given the overwhelming support of it in Congress.

Where Anthony Scaramucci stands on the Russia sanctions bill since that announcement that Trump will sign the bill remains unclear. However, his job is to promote the message of the White House, regardless of his personal business dealings that, as recently as January of this year, included a hope to create “more outreach with Russia.”

[Feature Image by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Images]