President Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Justice’s criminal division used to represent a major Russian bank whose owners have ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Brian Benczkowski, whom Trump nominated for the position in June and will have his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, disclosed to lawmakers that he used to represent Alfa Bank, one of Russia’s largest financial institutions, The New York Times reported Monday.
Benczkowski told Congress in a July 19 letter obtained by The Times that he was at first unable to reveal his former work for the bank because of a confidentiality agreement he signed with the institution, but that he received a waiver to share the information.
“Your staff has indicated that the committee may wish to question me at my hearing regarding the fact and scope of my work for Alfa Bank,” Benczkowski wrote in the letter, saying he would be able “to discuss the fact and scope of the representation at the hearing.”
“As I am sure you understand, ethical considerations prohibit me from disclosing confidential legal advice or any other information protected by the attorney-client privilege under any circumstances,” he continued.
The FBI investigated Alfa Bank after it would found that one of the servers linked to the bank was communicating with a server tied to the Trump Organization. The FBI later found that the communications were not between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to The Times.
The owners of Alfa Bank also sued BuzzFeed News in May for defamation over the publication of a dossier that tied Trump to Russia. The dossier claimed that three of the bank’s owners tried to bribe Putin when he was deputy mayor of St. Petersburg and that they worked with the Kremlin to influence the U.S. presidential election.