Early reporting suggests that U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell is potentially in the running to replace outgoing Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, who formally announced her resignation on Tuesday.
The Washington Examiner reported that a source familiar with the matter said Grenell is “a family favorite” to step into Haley’s role, his eight years serving as a U.S. spokesman and political appointee to the U.N. making his potential appointment seem reasonable.
But among the grounds to question placing him in such a role is Grenell’s prior defense of a Kremlin-linked human trafficker in Moldova, as noted earlier this year by The Observer.
> His bread and butter for years has been serving as a political consultant and advisor. He founded Capital Media Partners in 2009, which has offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Washington, D.C, to assist clients with “international strategic communications.” Grenell boasts of having “clients based in the U.S. as well as Iran, Kazakhstan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, China, Australia, Timor-Leste, and throughout Europe.” These days, when close associates of Trump such as Paul Manafort and Mike Flynn have gotten into legal trouble by failing to file with the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, known as FARA, it’s valid to ask whether Grenell complied with the law here.
> Moreover, what does “throughout Europe” mean? Here we need to discuss Moldova, a benighted little country that few Americans ever think about, yet which became a subject of brief, intense interest to Grenell shortly before our 2016 election. The poorest corner of Europe, where the average salary is not much more than $200 monthly, Moldova barely has any legitimate economy, and the former Soviet republic is a watchword for hopelessness. The country is known for its out-of-control corruption and crime, particularly its lurid role in the illegal trade of sex slaves. Moldova’s main industry is the selling of its young women, often children, to human traffickers, who dispatch them around the globe to be exploited.
Despite showing no interest in Moldova before or since, Grenell published four American op-eds from mid-August to mid-October 2016, “extolling Moldova’s virtues”.
> According to Grenell, brave little Moldova was standing up to illegal Russian influence—a strange take, given the author’s general tendency to rudely blow off accusations of Kremlin malfeasance when they involve President Trump. To anyone versed in Moldova’s nasty and obscure politics—not a large group in America—Grenell was going to bat for Vladimir Plahotniuc, the most powerful political player in Moldova, not to mention the country’s wealthiest oligarch.
Plahotniuc ran into trouble during the summer of 2016, after Mihail Gofman, the country’s anti-corruption czar, publicly exposed him for the corrupt oligarch he was.
> Seeking safety in America, Gofman explained to the FBI how Plahotniuc oversaw the theft of $1 billion from Moldova’s state treasury—one-eighth of the country’s annual GDP—then laundered it with Kremlin help. Gofman’s fears for his future were well founded. When Moldova’s former Prime Minister Vlad Filat, a sincere Kremlin opponent, denounced Plahotniuc for his role in the billion-dollar-theft, he was arrested and sentenced to nine years in prison, reputedly on Plahotniuc’s orders.
> Gofman’s account, which confirmed what many Western intelligence agencies suspected, exploded Plahotniuc’s carefully crafted myth of being “pro-Western” as head of the Democratic Party of Moldova, which manages to control the country’s politics, despite never getting even one-fifth of the votes in any election. In fact, Plahotniuc—termed “Moldova’s Donald Trump”—is deeply in bed with Russian organized crime, specifically the notorious Solntsevo Brotherhood led by Semyon Mogilevich, according to INTERPOL.
But Grenell painted an entirely different picture with his op-eds, claiming that Gofman was wrong and Plahotniuc was actually a pro-Western figure under attack by the Kremlin — going even further to accuse Gofman of being a Russian asset.
> It’s worth asking why Grenell developed a sudden and passionate need to defend Vlad Plahotniuc. Presumably this wasn’t an act of charity, but Grenell has failed to disclose what motivated his spirited public defense of Moldova’s top oligarch-cum-crime boss. His financial disclosure forms submitted for his appointment as ambassador to Berlin reveal that over the past year Grenell made $688,362 from Capitol Media Partners, i.e. for political consulting. For whom, however, is unclear.