The panel’s interest in Soriano is not a mere fishing expedition, according to a source familiar with the investigators’ internal deliberations who requested anonymity to discuss them freely.
“They’re surprised by how connected he seems to several people of interest,” this person said, including the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska — a former business associate of Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who offered Deripaska private briefings about the campaign in 2016. Deripaska is believed to have worked with Soriano on corporate intelligence matters, this person said.
On April 5, the committee sent a bipartisan request to Soriano at the London address for his security firm, USG Security Limited. The letter asked for “all communications or records of communications” with some characters who have by now become household names, like Manafort and Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The committee also requested Soriano’s communications with three Israeli private intelligence firms: Psy Group, Wikistrat, and Black Cube, as well as any communications he may have had with Orbis Business Intelligence, a firm co-founded by the former British spy Christopher Steele.
A committee spokeswoman declined to comment. A lawyer for Soriano did not return a request for comment. It’s not clear whether, or how, Soriano responded to the committee’s letter.
Soriano is virtually a ghost online, aside from publicly available corporate records listing him as the director of a London-based security firm called USG Security. He has been accused in the Israeli press of spying on police officers involved in the corruption probe of Israeli prime minister Bibi Netanyahu—an allegation he’s staunchly denied. Soriano also produced a documentary about Netanyahu’s late brother, Yoni Netanyahu, who died leading Israel’s raid on Entebbe Airport in Uganda in 1976.
It isn’t clear why the Senate committee believes Soriano may have a connection to the private Israeli firms — one of which, Psy Group, was enlisted by Trump’s deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates in 2016 to use social media manipulation to help Trump beat his Republican primary opponents and Hillary Clinton. Psy Group’s founder Joel Zamel also owns WikiStrat, which reportedly gamed out how to successfully interfere in an election as early as 2015. Black Cube is one of Zamel’s main rivals, according to the Wall Street Journal. Steele has worked with Deripaska in the past, but a source close to Orbis told POLITICO that they’d never heard of Soriano.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has been investigating Russia’s election interference and a potential conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and Moscow for more than 2 years. It’s not clear when the probe will end, but one Democratic Senate Intelligence Committee aide said in February that the investigation was “closer to the end than to the beginning.”
A spokesperson for Black Cube said in a statement that “neither they nor anyone acting on their behalf has ever had any communication or collaboration with Walter Soriano or anyone on his behalf.”