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George Devolder-Santos's $33 nights at the St. Regis
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With George Devolder-Santos in the news, an interview he conducted with the Loud Majority caught my eye. Specifically, this clip, where he discusses visiting Moscow “many times during [his] career,” such as it is.
Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with visiting Moscow. But combined with sudden unexplained wealth, strongly worded statements advocating against support for Ukraine, and donations from Russian oligarch-adjacent individuals, it’s enough to raise counterintelligence concerns.
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An article (sorry for the paywall) by William Bredderman in the Daily Beast last month does an excellent job laying out both Devolder-Santos’s statements about Ukraine and some curious campaign contributions. Bredderman cites a Washington Post article carrying Devolder-Santos’s remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference this past February that “if the Ukrainians really hated Russia so bad, the eastern border of Ukraine wouldn’t have welcomed Russians into their provinces. They feel more Russian than Ukrainian…It’s not like Ukraine is a great democracy. It’s a totalitarian regime. They’re not a great bastion of freedom.” On Twitter, Devolder-Santos opined about President Biden’s “willing[ness] to start a war in Eastern Europe and send American soldiers to a deadly combat zone to protect Ukraine’s border.”
“if the Ukrainians really hated Russia so bad, the eastern border of Ukraine wouldn’t have welcomed Russians into their provinces. They feel more Russian than Ukrainian…It’s not like Ukraine is a great democracy. It’s a totalitarian regime. They’re not a great bastion of freedom.” - George Devolder-Santos
Devolder-Santos has (kinda sorta) owned up to a number of lies in his resume, including via a brutal takedown by Tulsi Gabbard - yes, Tulsi - sitting in for Tucker Carlson last night on Fox, which you can watch in this thread from Aaron Rupar, here (make sure to listen to the end for the unctuous “thank you Tulsi” emanating from George’s bloodied body on the studio floor). What Tulsi didn’t ask about, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the source of Devolder-Santos’s unexplained wealth and funding for his campaign, specifically including donations from individuals closely related to a sanctioned Russian oligarch.
If the name of the Russian oligarch - Viktor Vekselberg - sounds familiar, it may be from his relationship with Michael Cohen and the Trump campaign in 2016. According to New York Times reporting, Vekselberg and Cohen met in New York shortly before Trump’s inauguration to discuss “a mutual desire to strengthen Russia’s relations with the United States under President Trump.” Or it might be from a memory that Andrew Intrater, Vekselberg’s cousin and one of his main investment managers, gave Cohen a $1 million consulting contract days after the meeting. Or it could be from the fact that Intrater, Vekselberg, and Cohen attended a Trump inaugural dinner together. And if you follow the Treasury Department closely, it might be from their sanctioning Vekselberg as one of several “regime elites and business executives who are associates and facilitators of the Russian regime…enabling Putin’s unjustified and unprovoked war.”
Why does all that matter? Because according to Federal Election Commission records, Intrater - Vekselberg’s cousin and money investor - donated over $56,000 to Devolder-Santos. Some of the donations were made by Intrater’s wife, and donations spanned across many of Devolder-Santos’s campaign entities, including Devolder Santos for Congress, Devolder Santos Nassau Victory Committee, Devolder Santos Victory Committee, and Devolder-Santos for NY-03. As an interesting side note, Len Blavatnik, who according to Forbes “got rich partnering with” Vekselberg, gave $2,690 to Devolder-Santos as well.
So with all of that in mind, let’s turn back to George’s interview with the Loud Majority folks. Boasting of the power of the dollar against the ruble, Devolder-Santos claims to have “been to Moscow many times during [his] career,” his eyes lighting up as he provides a detailed description of the St. Regis hotel, near Red Square and the GUM department store (which he oddly calls the “GUM museum”). Improbably, he admiringly notes that thanks to the power of the dollar, one could stay “at the St. Regis there for probably three nights with $100.” Friends who have spent time in Moscow assure me you cannot, in fact, legitimately get a room at the St. Regis for anything close to $33/night.
So what to make of all this? Do I think Devolder-Santos is a recruited agent in a sophisticated intelligence operation? No - to list a few reasons, he was extraordinarily sloppy in lying about his background, his false biography woefully lacks backstopping, there’s too much easily discoverable information to rebut his professed history, and he’s too unsophisticated in his handling of his sudden notoriety. But he certainly could be an unwitting agent, or an (aptly titled) useful idiot. And given his still unexplained wealth and funding - topics he’s so far refused to address - as an incoming Congressman he’s worth looking at from the perspective of a counterintelligence threat.
(As an unrelated side note, what on earth was New York’s Democratic party doing this last election cycle? Is opposition research still a thing?)
All the Best Authoritarians
With the release of the various iterations of “the Twitter Files,” you might have missed noted free speech advocate Elon Musk’s travel to the World Cup, where he no doubt insisted on such ideals with:
Jared Kushner and Qatari government officials
And Nailya Asker-Zade, a sanctioned pro-Putin propagandist who works for the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK). You might remember her as the host of the 2021 episode of the annual “Direct Line With Vladimir Putin.”
Power to the people.
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