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DEMOCRACY’S THREATS: RUSSIANS AND REPUBLICANS – PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 4, 2023 at 12:19 am

Many Republicans have accepted “campaign contributions”—bribes—from Russian oligarchs linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin. And the Russians have clearly gotten their money’s worth.

One of these, Len Blavatnik, has already been described in Part One of this series. 

Among those Republicans he has funded: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is expected to become House Majority Leader in January, 2023. McCarthy has publicly demanded an end to aid for Ukraine’s resistance to Russian aggression.

Another Russian oligarch, Alexander Shustorovich, contributed $1 million to Donald Trump’s Inaugural Committee

A third oligarch, Andrew Intrater, contributed $250,000 to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.

And a fourth, Simon Kukes, contributed a total of $283,000, much of it to the Trump Victory Fund.

Altogether, four Russian oligarchsBlavatnik, Shustorovich, Intrater and Kukes––contributed $10.4 million from the start of the 2015-16 election cycle through September 2017. Of this, 99% went to Republicans.

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In 2022, Republican political operative Jesse Benton was convicted in federal court of funneling $25,000 from a Russian businessman to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Roy Douglas “Doug” Wead, a longtime conservative political commentator and author, was indicted by the Justice Department for conspiring to illegally funnel Russian money to the Trump campaign in 2016. He died of a heart attack before he could be brought to trial.

In 2022, Andrey Muraviev, a Russian oligarch, was indicted by a federal grand jury in New York for funneling contributions to other Republican politicians. Among these: Adam Laxalt, who was running for governor of Nevada in 2018.

On February 13, 2017, The Washington Post reported that Acting Attorney General Sally Yates had warned President Trump in late January that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had lied about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak—and that he could be blackmailed by Russian Intelligence.

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Michael Flynn

Flynn was forced to resign that same day.  

Flynn had been an Army lieutenant general and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. A leading Trump supporter during the 2016 Presidential campaign, he was rewarded with the post of National Security Adviser when Trump took office. 

In December, 2015, he had appeared on Russia Today, the news network that serves as “the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet.” For this he received more than $45,000 as a “speaking fee.” At the gala where Flynn received the fee, he sat next to Putin for dinner.

There was a time—from the end of World War II in 1945 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991—when Republicans posed as America’s stalwart defenders against Communism.

But then many Republicans discovered they could more easily raise campaign contributions by cozying up to Vladimir Putin-–or to oligarchs linked to Putin

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The Kremlin

Of these, Donald Trump stands out predominantly as the first American President known to have colluded with a Russian dictator.

This was an open secret—most explicitly advertised by both Trump and Putin on June 28, 2019. 

That advertisement came when the two met in Osaka, Japan—their first since the March 22 release of the Mueller Report, which documented Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.

An NBC News reporter asked: Would you tell Putin not to meddle in the 2020 Presidential election?

“Yes, of course I will,” replied Trump, grinning. “Don’t meddle in the election, please.”

And he jokingly wagged his finger at Putin: “Don’t meddle in the election.” 

Putin grinned back.

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Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin in Helsinki

On numerous occasions, Donald Trump has fiercely denied any Russian connections.

For example: July 27, 2016: “I mean I have nothing to do with Russia. I don’t have any jobs in Russia. I’m all over the world but we’re not involved in Russia.” 

Actually, Trump had a highly profitable relationship with Russia—as his son, Eric, unintentionally revealed in 2014: “Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia. We’ve got some guys that really, really love golf, and they’re really invested in our programs. We just go there all the time.” 

Conservative authority James Kirchick has indicted Republicans generally for their fervent embrace of Vladimir Putin’s Russia. As he wrote in a July 27, 2017 essay, “How the GOP Became the Party of Putin“: 

“For the past four years, I worked at a think tank, the Foreign Policy Initiative, that was bankrolled by Republican donors and regularly criticized the Obama administration….

“What I never expected was that the Republican Party—which once stood for a muscular, moralistic approach to the world, and which helped bring down the Soviet Union—would become a willing accomplice of what the previous Republican presidential nominee rightly called our No. 1 geopolitical foe: Vladimir Putin’s Russia.”

“…Four years ago, I began writing a series of articles about the growing sympathy for Russia among some American conservatives. Back then, the Putin fan club was limited to seemingly fringe figures like Pat Buchanan (‘Is Vladimir Putin a paleoconservative?’ he asked, answering in the affirmative)….

“Today, these figures are no longer on the fringe of GOP politics. According to a Morning Consult-Politico poll from May [2017], an astonishing 49 percent of Republicans consider Russia an ally. Favorable views of Putin-a career KGB officer who hates America—have nearly tripled among Republicans in the past two years, with 32 percent expressing a positive opinion.” 

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