Man tried to dupe Shaheen

Person pretending to be foreign minister tried to set up meeting

WASHINGTON D.C. – A man pretending to be a foreign minister for Latvia allegedly tried set up a meeting with U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen to discuss the sanctions against Russia that she’s spearheaded.

“It’s not a normal occurrence,” said Ryan Nickel, Shaheen’s communications director in Washington.

The initial request appeared like any other to her office when is first came in November. A man calling himself Arturs Vaiders with the Latvian embassy wanted to set up a phone call between Sheheen and another Latvian official to discuss Russian sanctions and the Kaspersky ban Shaheen helped put in place. Shaheen sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and it is normal for her to take meetings for diplomats and officials from other nations, Nickel said.

However, there was something off about Vaiders’ email and Shaheen’s staff became suspicious. A call to the actual Latvian embassy revealed the fact that Vaiders was a fake. The story about Vaiders is coming out this week as others in Washington are dealing with alleged Russian interference.

Nickel said Shaheen’s office is not formally blaming Russia for the Latvian ruse. Her staff turned over all of the documentation about the incident to the FBI, and it remains to been proved that Russian agents were involved in the scheme.

Shaheen is a strong Russian critic, and was banned from the country in December. Shaheen wrote the law that bans Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab’s cybersecurity software from government computer systems. She also is a strong advocate of sanctions against Russia in light of the fact that nation interfered with the 2016 presidential election.

Soon after the run-in with the fake Latvian, Shaheen was placed on a Russian blacklist and barred from entering that country. That blacklisting came ahead of a planned Senate trip to Russia, including Shaheen in the delegation. That trip was canceled.

News of the fake Latvian’s attempted incursion against Shaheen comes as it was recently revealed by The Daily Beast, an online news outlet, that Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, was the target of an attempted hacking by Russian spies. McCaskill, like Shaheen, is a strong supporter of sanctions against Russia.

Shaheen said this week on Meet the Press that her staff has been targeted by suspicious emails that could be attempts to hack her system.

Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-1245 or or @Telegraph_DF.