Paul Behrends, a top aide to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and staff director for his House Foreign Affairs subcommittee, was fired on Wednesday after several news reports revealed his alleged ties with pro-Russia lobbyists.
“Paul Behrends has done a terrific job for me and the committee,” Rohrabacher said in a statement on Wednesday, according to The Hill. “I have not heard anything to the contrary. I am looking forward to discussing this with the committee leadership. I am sure we will work this out.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, Rohrabacher dismissed reports on Wednesday that the “Russian government asked him to change his colleagues’ opinions about Russian sanctions as a ‘nothing burger trying to distract the American people from real issues.'”
The Russia narrative has gained traction in the news cycle amid allegations of collusion and meddling in the 2016 presidential elections.
Behrends reportedly worked for Rohrabacher in the 1990s, went on to become a lobbyist, and then rejoined Rohrabacher’s office in 2014.
The Atlantic reported that a source with knowledge of the situation said Behrends was fired under pressure from House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), who has at times had tension with Rohrabacher over the Russia issue.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Royce had prevented Rohrabacher from taking another official trip to Moscow last Spring.
Behrends reportedly accompanied Rohrabacher on a trip to Moscow last year where Rohrabacher said he received anti-Magnitsky Act materials from prosecutors.
Breitbart News previously reported, “Around that time, [Russian lawyer Natalia] Veselnitskaya also attended a dinner with the chairman of the House subcommittee overseeing Russia policy, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and about 20 other guests … Rohrabacher said he believed she and Dellums were there lobbying other lawmakers to reverse the Magnitsky Act.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin opposes the Magnitsky Act. The legislation imposes sanctions on Russia for alleged human rights violations connected to the death of a Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who exposed alleged fraud by the Kremlin.