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WV man who allegedly tried to set up Trump-Russia meeting identified


Charleston Gazette-Mail

A Charleston man and military contractor said Monday he is the person mentioned in an email reviewed by congressional investigators who allegedly tried to set up a meeting between Russian officials and then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign staff in 2016.

Rick Clay

Rick Clay confirmed via phone Monday he is the person mentioned in the emails, as was first reported by CNN on Monday.

Last week, CNN reported that investigators had found an email that said someone from “WV” had tried to set up a meeting between Trump’s staff and Russian President Vladimir Putin, as part of the larger investigation into Russian attempts to influence last year’s presidential election in favor or Trump.

“It’s 100 percent true, I’m the ‘WV’ guy, and it had everything to do with Christian values,” Clay told the Gazette-Mail.

He would not identify the friend who knows the Russians.

Clay said he worked for years with the military within both the U.S. Department of Defense and as a private contractor on rebuilding Iraq after the U.S. invasion, and made several high-level contacts there.

He said he grew concerned about the prosecution of Christians in regions controlled by the Islamic State terrorist group, and wanted to connect Trump, who he correctly guessed would be the next president, with Russians a friend knows who work to protect Christians in those areas.

Clay said he sent the request to Rick Dearborn, a Trump campaign official who now works as Trump’s deputy chief of staff, but Dearborn told him such a meeting would need to go through the proper channels, namely the U.S. Department of State, more commonly known as the State Department.

Clay said Dearborn also told him the meeting would be inappropriate at that time, and he agreed.

According to the CNN report, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., also fielded a request from Clay to forward his contact information on to the campaign to set up a meeting with the Russians, which she did.

Capito’s staff confirmed that to CNN.

“Senator Capito received a request from a constituent to pass along his contact information to the Trump campaign. She did so and asked the campaign to follow up. That was the extent of her involvement,” wrote Capito spokeswoman Ashley Berrang in an email to the Gazette-Mail.

Clay said he does not remember the names of the Russians who would have been party to the meeting, and does not know if they work for the government. He said he knew they worked for Christian organizations, and believes that if they did work for the government, it would have been a low-level job.

While Clay acknowledged the Russians could have been involved in spycraft, he thought that would be a stretch.

“When you’re dealing with foreigners, you never really know, but you’ve got to have faith in people, particularly when they’re talking about Christian values,” he said.

In its report Monday, CNN quoted Steve Hall, a former chief of Russian operations for the CIA, who said there has been a “long and torrid history” of collaboration between Russian religious institutions and the Russian intelligence system.

Clay was chief operations officer for Ranger Scientific, the company that said in 2016 it would build an ammunition manufacturing plant in eastern Kanawha County. He later stepped away from the company, after the Gazette-Mail reported that company official had made similar promises elsewhere and never followed through.

The email in question was first reported by CNN on Thursday, triggering a goose chase in the state regarding who the unidentified man from “WV” could be, who was said to have some ties to West Virginia politics.

On the heels of the CNN report, the state Democratic Party issued a news release implying Gov. Jim Justice or state Delegate Riley Moore, R-Jefferson, could have been the unidentified West Virginian. Both men denied the accusation.

Reach Jake Zuckerman at [email protected], 304-348-4814 or follow @jake_zuckerman on Twitter.

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