George D. O’Neill Jr., a sculptor who is the great-grandson of John D. Rockefeller Jr., is alleged to have assisted suspected Russian agent Mariia Butina
in her attempts to create a secret line of communication between the Kremlin and the Trump administration. O’Neill, whose practice often involves
figurative sculptures of nude women, has been identified
as “U.S. Person 2” in the indictment against Butina. He hosted a dinner in Washington, D.C., in February 2017 for a group of Russian dignitaries visiting for the National Prayer Breakfast. The guest list, according to an extensive Bloomberg
report, included an adviser to the Trump administration, a congressional aide who speaks Russian, and Alexander Torshin, an “alleged Russian gangster
” with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. In an email prosecutors believe Butina sent to O’Neill following the event, she thanked him for a “wonderful dinner” and added: “My dearest President has received ‘the message’ about your group initiatives and your constructive and kind attention to the Russians.”
Then, in April 2017, O’Neill wrote an article about
the importance of fostering closer ties with Russia in The American Conservative
, a magazine published by the American Ideas Institute, a nonprofit on whose board of directors he sits. In the story, he felt the need to bring up the collegiality of the dinner as an example of how relations between the U.S. and Russia could be mended. “It didn’t seem like a particularly newsworthy event—just a routine opportunity for some top Washington hands to share views and perceptions with prominent counterparts from another national capital,” O’Neill wrote. “The fact that the foreign capital was Moscow testified to the fact that I have been concerned about the rising bellicosity in the U.S.–Russian relationship.” He has written extensively—as recently as this month
—in favor of close ties between Trump and Putin.
Beyond his fledgling career as an artist and apparent expertise on U.S.–Russia relations, O’Neill has long been a champion of far-right conservatives including Pat Buchanan and Phyllis Schlafly.