Complications in confirming William Bryan Dept of Homeland Security in energy infrastructure candidate due to international (Ukraine) business entanglements
WASHINGTON — As tanks, artillery and combat troops streamed from Russia into Ukraine in 2014, the United States government dispatched a multiagency team of technical experts to Kiev to help the fragile government there shore up its energy supply for the coming winter.
The head of that team, William N. Bryan, was a career civil servant with an expertise in energy infrastructure and security
Now, four years later, those relationships are attracting new scrutiny as Mr. Bryan awaits a Senate confirmation vote to become President Trump’s homeland security under secretary for science and technology.
A federal investigative agency is looking into a former colleague’s accusations that Mr. Bryan used his Energy Department position to try to steer government funds to the center, which United States and Ukrainian officials believe to be aligned with Rinat Akhmetov, a billionaire oligarch who maintains close connections to pro-Russia political forces in Ukraine.
A copy of a whistle-blower complaint filed by Mr. Bryan’s former colleague has been requested by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who has delved into Ukrainian political consulting as an offshoot of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
During some of the period being scrutinized, Mr. Bryan was designated a “special government employee.” The job category is intended to permit the government to place experts on the federal payroll for a limited period while allowing them to continue earning money in the private sector. But it has regularly generated controversy over real or perceived conflicts of interest under both Mr. Trump and his predecessors, most notably the case of Huma Abedin when she served as a special government employee at the State Department under Hillary Clinton.
While operating under that designation at the Energy Department, Mr. Bryan was affiliated with a Virginia consulting firm, ValueBridge International, and he remained with the firm after he left the Energy Department in mid-2016.
The overlap between his Energy Department work and ValueBridge’s efforts, revealed in documents and interviews, underscores the lure of big money that is often dangled in front of Washington officials and consultants by powerful foreign interests looking to shape American politics and policy. It also highlights the difficulty in discerning the motivations of those interests.
The whistle-blower complaint against Mr. Bryan was filed by Robert Ivy, who worked with Mr. Bryan on the Ukraine project when both men were officials at the Energy Department.