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Putin-linked company's investment in Kentucky helped along by Moscow Mitch

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 11:  U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks during a news briefing after the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon June 11, 2019 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. McConnell said the Senate plans to take up a funding bill to address the humanitarian crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell really doesn’t like to be called Moscow Mitch. If only new reasons for the nickname didn’t keep showing up. Time magazine delves into a Kremlin-linked Russian company’s major investment in McConnell’s home state of Kentucky—an investment that was only possible thanks to sanctions against the company’s owner being lifted, with McConnell’s support.

Rusal, the company owned by Putin-linked oligarch Oleg Deripaska—who played a significant role in the Mueller investigation thanks to his ties to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort—wanted to invest in a Kentucky aluminum mill. But, so sad, that couldn’t happen under the sanctions in place. In order to get sanctions lifted, Deripaska gave up part of his stake in the company, and is barred, at least on paper, from influencing its operations. But … who knows? 

Two of McConnell’s former staffers were involved in the lobbying effort to get sanctions lifted so that Rusal could invest in the Kentucky project, and another major Rusal shareholder, dual U.S.-U.K. citizen Len Blavatnik, contributed millions to the Senate Leadership Fund, a McConnell-linked super PAC. McConnell has claimed that his support for lifting the sanctions is “completely unrelated to anything that might happen in my home state,” but it’s Mitch McConnell. He’s only slightly more believable than Donald Trump.

Kentucky will get jobs, which is great, but, Time reports, “Since Putin came to power in 2000, Russia has used economic leverage to ‘force a change in policy’ or undermine governments in at least 19 European countries, Laura Rosenberger, a former National Security Council official under Obama, told a House committee last May.” So that’s a little more worrying—especially in the context of Russian interference in U.S. politics through other means, means McConnell has conspicuously blocked attempts to shut down, from his refusal to allow then-President Obama to warn U.S. voters of Russian meddling in 2016 to how he’s recently stood in the way of election security legislation. 


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