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Rep. Thomas Suozzi bill targets ‘illicit’ Russian activities

Representative Tom Suozzi (D- Long Island, Queens) announces

Representative Tom Suozzi (D- Long Island, Queens) announces the introduction of legislation, June 5, 2017, to address ongoing controversies surrounding hightened tensions with Russia, outside of the Upper Brookville compound that housed Russian diplomats before former President Obama ousted them. Credit: Johnny Milano

Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) said Monday he will introduce legislation targeting what he described as Russian corruption and “illicit financial activities” in Europe.

Speaking outside Russia’s diplomatic compound in Upper Brookville, Suozzi said his bill would create an office in the U.S. State Department to focus on Russian activities in Europe.

Suozzi accused Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian oligarchs of trying to buy influence in the news media and interfere with European elections.

“All the people out there saying Trump and Putin, Putin and Trump. Let’s take it down a notch,” Suozzi said at a news conference. “I’m making the argument that this is an opportunity for Republicans to show they’re being tough on Russia without bringing the president into it.”

Investigations into whether President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia are continuing. But Suozzi said there’s broad bipartisan agreement that Russia attempted to interfere with the U.S. presidential election in November and recent elections in Britain and France.

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) called Suozzi’s bill a “good idea.”

King said that as a member of the House Intelligence Committee, which is conducting an investigation into alleged Russian involvement with the election, he wouldn’t co-sponsor Suozzi’s measure.

But “I have no doubt Russia interfered with the election,” King said.

King said focusing the bill on Europe “takes away the tone of partisanship,” although any bill from a minority party freshman faces hurdles.

Shortly before leaving office, former President Barack Obama shut down the 14-acre Russian-owned mansion in Upper Brookville, along with a compound in Maryland, in response to alleged Russian interference in the election and harassment of U.S. diplomats in Russia.

According to news reports, the Trump administration is considering readmitting the Russians to the property.

But Suozzi said “the danger is we’re sending a message that we don’t take this seriously,” by returning the properties.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, and Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committees, which Suozzi said will consider his bill, did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

Suozzi said he intends to introduce his bill with Republican co-sponsors later this week. He said he was not prepared to announce the GOP supporters Monday.

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