Today the State department took an unprecedented action by revoking the visa of an outspoken critic of Putin. Bill Browder, the CEO of Hermitage Capitol, took to twitter to vent his frustration.
Yes. My US Global Entry was revoked on the same day and United wouldn’t let me board a flight to US b/c of visa problems https://t.co/RwcOAUtmdL
— Bill Browder (@Billbrowder) October 23, 2017
Browder was one of the main advocates of the Magnitsky Act, a US law which allowed the US government to freeze assets and revoke visas of Russians suspected of abusing human rights. The act has mainly targeted men close to Putin, and the Russian government has lobbied to have the act repealed.
This is not the first time the Trump administration has attempted to gain favor with the Russian government since Trump first took office. In the past Trump has attempted to block congress from enacting tough sanctions on Russia, has invited Russian agents into the Oval Office, and even disclosed battle plans to the Russians. This pattern is worrying many Americans and some officials, like US Congressman Ted Lieu, has accused Trump of treason.
Many current and former government officials have come to defend Bill Browder and demand that his visa be reinstated. Former Ambassador to Russia during the Obama administration, Michael McFaul, demand on twitter for the State Department to “fix this now”.
Republican Senator from Arizona, John McCain, released a statement demanding Browder’s visa be reinstated:
William Browder is strong advocate for anti-corruption efforts around the world and we relied on his expertise and support as we led the effort to pass the Magnitsky Act. Mr. Browder’s work has helped to remove corrupt actors from our financial system and enhance accountability measures with respect to the U.S. relationship with the Russian Federation – it would be unfortunate if the U.S. decided to bar him based on a decision by those same Russian officials who have been targeted by this important legislation.
We understand that William Browder’s U.S. visa has been revoked due his inclusion on the Interpol list. According to Browder, the Russian government has submitted his name for inclusion on the Interpol list on several occasions in the past, yet it was rejected as politically motivated. And through these episodes, his U.S. visa status has been immediately reinstated. The Department of Homeland Security should expedite an immediate review of the decision to revoke Mr. Browder’s visa.
It is unlikely that this is permanent since both Republicans and Democrats calling for the State Department to reverse their decision. However, with Trump in the White House anything is possible.