Pompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report

Pompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report
© Aaron Schwartz

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoThe Hill's 12:30 Report: NY Times story sparks new firestorm over Kavanaugh Gabbard warns Trump: Acting like 'Saudi Arabia's b---- is not "America First"' Trump ramps up rhetoric on Iran MORE shifted his staff for a U.S. delegation meeting with Russia’s deputy foreign minister after concerns were raised about the original top negotiator's ties with the boyfriend of convicted Russian foreign agent Maria ButinaMaria ButinaOverstock CEO resigns after comments about 'deep state,' Russia investigation Wyden blasts FEC Republicans for blocking probe into NRA over possible Russia donations Mass shootings test power of an NRA in turmoil MOREPolitico reported Tuesday.

Concerns about having Andrea Thompson lead the negotiating team reportedly prompted Pompeo to tap his deputy, John Sullivan, to head it instead.

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The team, including Thompson, Sullivan and other senior U.S. officials, is attending the strategic security dialogue in Geneva, where it is scheduled to discuss a replacement for the now-defunct Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov.

Thompson’s presence at the meeting sparked concerns after The Washington Post reported last month that she had not disclosed her personal and financial ties to Paul Erickson, a veteran GOP operative who worked with Butina to establish a Russian back channel to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTed Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report US service member killed in Afghanistan Pro-Trump website edited British reality star's picture to show him wearing Trump hat MORE's 2016 campaign.

U.S. officials told the Post that Thompson failed to disclose during her Senate confirmation that Erickson officiated her 2017 wedding and that her husband, David Gillian, a retired Australian Army officer, had wired him $100,000 for an allegedly fraudulent investment scheme.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a private letter to the State Department recently regarding Thompson’s “apparent failures to disclose required and material information to the SFRC during her nomination process,” Juan Pachon, Menendez’s communications director on the committee, told Politico.

A State Department spokesperson reportedly confirmed that the agency received the letter, but declined to comment on Pompeo’s decision to send Sullivan with the delegation, or on whether the department was satisfied with Thompson’s disclosures during her confirmation process.

A State Department spokesperson confirmed to The Hill that Sullivan participated in the strategic security dialogue, but did not comment on concerns over Thompson's ties to Erickson.

Butina was sentenced in April to serve 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to acting as an unregistered foreign agent on behalf of the Russian government. She will be deported upon completion of her sentence.

—Updated at 12:32 p.m.