The New York Times is reporting on unpopular President Donald Trump’s new nominee Brian Benczkowski to head the Department of Justice’s criminal division. It turns out that Mr. Benczkowski used to represent Alfa Bank. Why is that news?
Alfa Bank was at the center of scrutiny last year over potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia after computer experts discovered data suggesting a stream of communications between a server linked to the Trump Organization and a server linked to the bank. Reports about the mysterious data transmissions fueled speculation about a back channel.
The F.B.I. has said that there was nothing surreptitious going on here. However, the exact nature of those communications are still not really known.
Ahead of the Judiciary Committee hearing, Mr. Benczkowski told the panel that he had previously been forbidden by his firm’s confidentiality agreement from disclosing his work for Alfa Bank, but had obtained a waiver.
“Your staff has indicated that the committee may wish to question me at my hearing regarding the fact and scope of my work for Alfa Bank,” Mr. Benczkowski wrote, saying his waiver would permit him “to discuss the fact and scope of the representation at the hearing. As I am sure you understand, ethical considerations prohibit me from disclosing confidential legal advice or any other information protected by the attorney-client privilege under any circumstances.”
Becoming the head of a major law enforcement agency’s criminal justice division is one of those semi-important “circumstances” that may mean you can either have the job or, if you feel like you can’t be transparent about things of national security, maybe the job isn’t for you.