‘ADVANCE THE INTERESTS’
The description of the top Russian official mentioned in the indictment matches Torshin. The indictment said that beginning in about 2015 Butina and the official conspired to “advance the interests of the Russian Federation.”
“I recall Mr. Torshin mentioning, as an aside, that he planned to attend a meeting of the National Rifle Association, a fact that I considered irrelevant to our conversation,” Fischer wrote to Reuters.
Sheets declined to comment through Ted Smith, a spokesman for asset management firm PGIM, where Sheets currently works.
Fischer and Sheets met with many international banking officials as part of their official duties.
The Treasury Department in April imposed sanctions on Torshin and a number of other Russian businessmen and government officials in Putin’s inner circle.
The think tank hosted Trump at an event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington in April 2016 also attended by Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to Washington at the time.
The April 2015 visit by Butina and Torshin came about a year after Obama’s administration imposed sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.
Two months earlier, in February 2015, the group’s Russian-born CEO, Dimitri Simes, travelled to Moscow, where he met with Putin and other Russian officials, the organization’s records showed.
During the same April 2015 trip, Torshin and Butina also participated in a private “off the record” discussion at the center about the “Russian financial situation and its impact on Russian politics,” according to people familiar with the meeting and the think tank’s report.
That event was moderated by the group’s chairman emeritus, former AIG CEO Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, the report showed. Greenberg did not return calls for comment
Among the think tank’s board members is David Keene, a former NRA president and former chairman of the American Conservative Union. Keene has previously been photographed alongside Butina at events.
Paul Saunders, the think tank’s executive director, said Torshin spoke at an April 2015 event about the Russian banking system and Butina attended. Saunders said people at the organization cannot recall details of Torshin’s presentation.
“We were unaware of any charges or suspicions of illegal or inappropriate conduct or of any connections to Russian intelligence services,” Saunders said in an email.
Prosecutors said the think tank’s magazine published an article by Butina in June 2015 in which she said “certain U.S. politicians and Russians share many common interests.”
Randy Weber, a Republican U.S. congressman from Texas, also met with Torshin during the April trip, according to the think tank’s documents. A spokeswoman for Weber did not respond to multiple calls or emails seeking comment.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Damon Darlin and Will Dunham, Grant McCool)