Kyle Parker previously served as a senior staffer on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, a post that put him in the critical role of drafting a law that Putin and Russian oligarchs view as a threat to their enormous wealth. Credit: Maine Public |

During his summit with President Donald Trump last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin made an offer that would grant Kremlin investigators access to several U.S. officials who are viewed as enemies of the state. One of them is from Maine.

His name is Kyle Parker, a native of Old Town and a 1999 graduate from the University of Maine. Parker is a staffer for the U.S. Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency that promotes human rights around the globe. Parker previously served as a senior staffer on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, a post that put him in the critical role of drafting a law that Putin and Russian oligarchs view as a threat to their enormous wealth.

The spectacle of the Helskini news conference Monday was dominated by Trump’s suggestion that he doubts the U.S. intelligence consensus that the Russian government intervened in the 2016 election to help him win the White House.

Putin denied interfering, but floated a proposal: Russia would allow U.S. officials to interview 12 Russians recently indicted in the election meddling plot if the United States allowed Kremlin investigators to interrogate certain Americans who are accused of crimes on Russian soil.

“This kind of effort should be a mutual one,” Putin said. “We would expect that the Americans would reciprocate.”

Putin did not name the U.S. officials his interrogators would like to talk to, but the next day Russian prosecutors produced a list.

Among the names was Parker, a former chemistry major at the University of Maine who switched majors after meeting some Russian students taking summer classes there. He told Maine Public Radio four years ago that he visited the country at least 50 times, but his days as a regular visitor are over.

“I’ll have to be content with going to places like Ukraine or Warsaw, or until something changes and I can go in,” he said in the 2014 interview.

The reason he can’t go back is linked to the man Putin did mention during the news conference.

“For instance we can bring Mr. Browder, in this particular case,” Putin said.

Bill Browder is the founder and CEO of Hermitage Capital Management and once the largest foreign investor in Russia, but, as he explained in interview on NPR this week, Browder is on the run from Putin.

“He really dislikes me, because I’m the guy responsible for the Magnitsky Act, which was named after my lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who was murdered by the Putin regime after uncovering a $230 million Putin corruption scheme,” Browder said.

Magnitsky’s death triggered a crusade by Browder to punish Russian officials for human rights violations and corruption. That effort landed in Congress in 2009 — at a time when Parker was a staffer on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Parker is widely credited with writing the Magnitsky Act, which allows the U.S. government to freeze assets and ban travel visas of those who violate human rights around the world.

He described its effect during an interview with Maine Public Radio in 2014.

“If you’re a corrupt Russian official, the last place you want to keep your money is in Russia where it’s at risk for other corrupt Russian officials who are on the take,” Parker said at the time. “So you need to have access to Western financial institutions. As well, understanding the lack of the rule of law in Russia, you also want to maintain an exit visa in case you need to make a quick exit.”

Browder has said that the Magnitsky Act punishes Putin and his allies because it threatens to freeze the Russian president’s vast offshore holdings. That may be why the law written by a Maine native has become an obsession by the Putin-backed government.

Repealing the law has reportedly surfaced as a topic during a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya during the 2016 campaign.

Russian authorities have since taken an ominous response to solving the death of the man who inspired the law that Putin now despises. Last year prosecutors charged Browder with Magnitsky’s murder, a move Browder called Kafka-esque during an interview with NPR last year.

“I am genuinely Putin’s No. 1 foreign enemy, and they’d like to wipe me out one way or another,” he said.

It’s unclear where Parker ranks on Putin’s list of enemies, a select group of people who often end up dead. But U.S. officials quickly responded when the Mainer’s name appeared with 11 other Americans on the list of individuals that Russian prosecutors want to interrogate.

More alarms were raised when the White House initially suggested that Trump was considering Putin’s offer. The offer was unequivocally rejected by the State Department and later opposed in a nonbinding resolution passed unanimously by the U.S. Senate.

Parker, who was unavailable for interview for this story, tweeted a photo of the Russian list: “Look Mom! My name, spelled in Russian, alongside some important people. Honored to have made the cut.”

His Twitter followers told him to be careful.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.

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