Queens Rep. Gregory Meeks had cozy connection with Russia

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Queens Rep. Gregory Meeks had cozy connection with Russia

Queens Democratic Rep. Gregory Meeks’ recent trips to Ukraine are an about-face for the former Russia-loving pol who once referred to Vladimir Putin’s government as “an important allied relationship” and “strategic partner” for the US

Meeks, chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, founded the House’s Russia Caucus, along with disgraced former Staten Island pol Michael Grimm, once lobbied hard to remove impediments to trade with the country.

And Meeks’ sister, Janella Meeks, works for Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, a company once tied to Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, a Putin confidant who used to own the New Jersey Nets. Janella Meeks is deputy director of government and public affairs for the company, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Unlike dozens of other Russian billionaires close to Putin, Prokhorov has not been sanctioned by the US or Europe. He sold the team and Barclay’s arena, pocketing more than a $2 billion in the deals, in 2019. The sale of the NBA franchise was allegedly at the behest of Putin, The Post recently revealed.

But Meeks has recently embraced Ukraine’s fight against Putin, accompanying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on an official Congressional delegation visit to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last month.

We assured him of the United States and Congress’ unwavering and bipartisan support for Ukraine’s defense,” said Meeks in a statement earlier this month.

Meeks alongside Rep. Michael McCaul from Texas after a speech by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in March 2022.
Meeks alongside Rep. Michael McCaul from Texas after a speech by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in March 2022.
AP
Meeks once lobbied hard to remove trade restrictions with Russia.
Meeks once lobbied hard to remove trade restrictions with Russia.
AP

But despite Meeks’ recent anti-Putin overtures, some critics still question his ties to the Russians.

“One of the things that gives Putin confidence is knowing he has a powerful sympathizer in the chairman of the United States House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Gregory Meeks,” said Tom Anderson, director of the Government Integrity Project at the National Legal and Policy Center, a Virginia-based watchdog. “It’s a mystery why Congressman Meeks would go so far to push legislation that benefited Russian interests, through the Russia Caucus, only to quietly distance himself.”

Meeks was so enamored of Russia that he once chastised Republican Sen. Mitt Romney when he made disparaging comments about the country during the 2012 presidential race.

Meeks looks on as Nancy Pelosi signs the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022.
Meeks looks on as Nancy Pelosi signs the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022.
Getty Images

“What … Romney fails to recognize is that complex relationships among allies can withstand divergent policies even on matters of grave importance,” said Meeks in a statement posted to his web site in July 2012 that has since been removed. “I’m deeply concerned that uninformed statements like the ones made by presidential candidate Romney, describing Russia as our number one foe or number one adversary, do nothing to serve US interests.”

Before the Ukraine war, Meeks spearheaded the effort to serve Russia’s interests in the US. He formed the US-Russia Economic Relations Caucus in 2011 to support Russia’s bid for World Trade Organization membership. He and Grimm, who served eight months in prison for tax evasion in 2015, also lobbied Congress to end the Jackson-Vanik amendment to the 1974 Trade Act which restricted trade with Communist bloc countries. President Obama repealed the amendment a year later, in December 2012, but angered Russia by including the Magnitsky Act, which imposes sanctions on Russian officials who engage in human rights abuses.

Two years later, in 2014, when Russia invaded Crimea, the Russia Caucus, which had hosted Russian visitors to Washington DC and presentations by Russian officials, was winding down, according to Politico.

Volodymyr Zelensky meets Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in April 2022.
Volodymyr Zelensky meets Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in April 2022.
Getty Images

“As with all caucuses that Representative Meeks has chaired or been a member of, the purpose of the Russia caucus was to promote US interests,” said a spokesman for the Foreign Relations Committee. “The caucus was created when the United States sought to establish permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with Russia, as required by the WTO’s rules once Russia’s was accepted into the international economic organization. At the same time, Representative Meeks was also advocating for the Magnitsky Act to impose consequences on Russia for human rights violations.”

Both Meeks and Grimm were named among the most corrupt members of Congress, by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, beginning in 2011. The government watchdog demanded a federal investigation of the congressman after he accepted tens of thousands in loans from political benefactors to purchase his $830,000 home in Queens. They also slammed Meeks for his ties to dubious charities, including a Queens non-profit that raised money for Hurricane Katrina victims but paid out only a fraction of the donations it received.

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