MSNBC host Rachel Maddow highlighted an important but undercovered story that has been lost in the excess of news coming from the bumbling Trump Administration Thursday.
Maddow set her aims on Brian Benczkowski, Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Justice criminal division.
Benczkowski worked for Trump’s campaign and later as a liaison between Trump’s transition team and the DOJ. He then went to work as a lawyer for Alpha Bank, a Russian financial firm that was named in the infamous Trump “pee tape” dossier. Benczkowski joined the bank’s legal team to sue the BuzzFeed News for publishing the dossier.
Alpha Bank was thrust into the headlines late last year when computer scientists discovered data showing that one of their servers was repeatedly communicated with a server owned by the Trump organization. The bank inexplicably looked up the Trump company server 2,820 times in a five-month span in 2016, though investigators have never been able to figure out why.
“There were further allegations about Alpha Bank being involved in the Russia influence campaign to swing the election for Trump,” Maddow pointed out on her show. “Alpha Bank sued BuzzFeed for publishing the dossier, and then they also made a very eyebrow-raising hire here in the U.S. when they decided to put together a high-powered legal team to defend themselves against news reports and investigations into that thing with their server and the Trump Organization.”
The lawyer heading that team was Benczkowski.
“From an American perspective, that seems like a slightly shady way to approach this, right? It’s like Alpha Bank doesn’t know hiring somebody from the campaign to clear you and the campaign of any wrongdoing…” Maddow said with a laugh. “That might be how you things in Moscow but it’s not how you’re supposed to do things here. Or maybe it is now.”
Despite the fact that he had no court experience and never served as a prosecutor, he was then appointed to the division that handles criminal cases for the DOJ.
On Thursday, Republicans in the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to confirm Benczkowski in a party-line vote.
“We’re being asked to choose one of the highest-ranking individuals in the Department of Justice, who will make hundreds if not more decisions on prosecutions that could involve, as we know, this whole question of Russian involvement in our last campaign,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said at the hearing before the GOP members voted Benczkowski through anyway.
“He comes to it having made, what I think, are really poor judgments as to his personal involvement with this,” he added.
All the Democrats on the committee voted against Benczkowski’s appointment.
Maddow called an Alpha Bank attorney running the investigation into Alpha Bank’s involvement with the Russian interference campaign and the Trump team “mind-boggling,” but didn’t seem to “perturb” too many Republicans in the Senate.
Watch Maddow’s report below: