Questions About “Moscow Mitch’s” True Motives to Block Election Security Improvements Remain Unanswered

Months after blocking bipartisan election security measures,
embattled Majority Leader McConnell flips

WASHINGTON — Yesterday, after months of political pressure and criticism, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell finally announced his support for an election security measure. McConnell’s reluctance to vote in favor of better security for American elections after Russian interference in the 2016 election earned him the nickname “Moscow Mitch” and continues to raise serious questions about his ties to Russian oligarchs.

“It took months of bad press and scrutiny for Majority Leader McConnell to finally say he’ll make the most basic move toward enhancing security for America’s most sacred democratic process,” said Lizzy Price, director of Restore Public Trust. “But Congress still needs to examine McConnell for his shady ties to Russian oligarchs and the business dealings he made to better his own political career. The American people deserve to know: why did McConnell really drop sanctions against Russia? To what extent will he risk the integrity of our democracy to save his job?”

After news broke about McConnell’s links to various Russian oligarchs, Restore Public Trusts released a video outlining his connections and raising questions about his voting record. Here is the timeline of the relationships we know of to date: 

  • 2016-2017: Russian Oligarch and Rusal investor Len Blavatnik contributed $3.5 million to McConnell-linked Senate Leadership Fund.
  • 2016-2017: According to reporting by The Washington Post, talks about the Rusal-backed Kentucky project were in the works “long before” Rusal was sanctioned in early 2018.
  • April 6, 2018: Rusal was sanctioned by the U.S. government for “profiting from a Russian state engaged in ‘malign activities’ around the world.”
  • January 2019: Former Senator David Vitter (R-LA), a lobbyist for a holding company that controls the aluminum producer Rusal and is controlled by Russian Oligarch Oleg Deripaska, was seen waiting for a meeting in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office “just days before the measure objecting to lifting the sanctions came to the floor.”
  • January 15, 2019: One day before McConnell led the vote to drop sanctions against Rusal, Craig Bouchard had dinner with Kremlin-linked oligarch and Rusal owner Oleg Deripaska.
  • January 16, 2019: McConnell led 42 Republicans to vote to drop sanctions on Rusal, in which Blavatnik was a major investor. Rusal was also owned by Russian Oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who has close ties to Vladimir Putin.
  • January 27, 2019: Sanctions were formally dropped against firms linked to Deripaska by the Trump administration.
  • April 2019: Rusal announced plans for its first U.S. project since sanctions on it were lifted; $200 million for funding and supplying an aluminum mill in Kentucky. McConnell received a heads up about the announcement from lobbyist David Vitter.
  • July 2019: McConnell earned the nickname “Moscow Mitch” for blocking two election bills aimed at deterring election interference from Russia and other countries.
  • August 1, 2019: Politico reported that former McConnell staffers lobbied for the aluminum mill project.

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