New complications and questions keep arising over President Donald Trump and the former Soviet republics, generating buzz worldwide.
On Monday, financier Wilbur Ross was confirmed as the new commerce secretary, but not before a flare-up involving the region.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer complained that the White House refused to release answers from Ross about the Bank of Cyprus, where he has served as vice chairman.
Schumer and other Democrats pushed for Ross to explain his links to Viktor Vekselberg, a shareholder in the bank, who is reputed to be a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On Thursday, Republicans in Congress urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions to stay out of investigating alleged Russian high jinks in last year’s election.
Sessions, it appears, met Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the election campaign last year, despite saying in a confirmation hearing he had “no communications” with the Russians.
Sessions, for his part, said any suggestion of wrongdoing is “unbelievable” and “false.”
Also this week, more profiles and published reports were generated about the possible role of one-time Trump Organization business associate Felix Sater in trying to craft a Ukraine-Russia border agreement.
Sater, 50, is a longtime Port Washington resident with prior criminal convictions, who by several accounts, redeemed himself in the eyes of federal officials by helping the CIA in undisclosed activities involving national security.
One of the more dramatic stories was posted on the web from a 2014 speech by Rabbi Shalom Paltiel of the Chabad of Port Washington. He is a Hasidic clergyman and Sater describes himself in the video as a secular Jew. The latter was honored as man of the year there by the Chabad.
“One fine day two and a half years ago, Felix invited me to join him at a private, closed-door session in the federal building in New York,” Paltiel said. “Only his immediate family members were allowed in and he had gotten special clearance for his rabbi to be there as well.
“To my amazement I see dozens of U.S. intelligence officers,” he said. “They’re taking turns standing up, one after the other, offering praise for Felix. . . . They’re talking about his clandestine activities to help the government and protect our country.”
Paltiel quoted one federal agent saying Sater “probably saved tens of thousands of U.S. lives . . . through the brave work he has done battling, at the risk of his own life, with this country’s greatest enemies.”
“I’m not going to elaborate more because I’m not allowed to,” he added. “I probably said more than I should.”
When Sater’s turn came to speak, he told the audience in part: “My life has been beyond interesting. My wife says that living with me is like reading next week’s newspaper today.”