Democratic leaders are reportedly in a bit of a panic about the upcoming midterm elections, and have approached President Biden in a White House meeting, asking him to designate a point person for administration help. They want “a consistent strategy for dealing with hot-button issues such as the coronavirus pandemic and inflation.” This is The Washington Post reporting, and not the traditional ‘Dems in Disarray’ Politico, for what it’s worth.
Here’s a suggestion for Democrats: Go on offense. Run against the Russified Republican Party, the Republicans who are cynically blaming President Biden for Putin’s Ukraine attack even as the war rages. It’s not like there isn’t ample material. Like this trip down memory lane from Laura Clawson: “There are 46 Republicans in the Senate today who in 2020 voted against convicting Donald Trump for withholding military aid from Ukraine in an attempt to get President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to dig up or manufacture dirt against a political opponent Trump feared,” Laura writes. That military aid Zelenskyy was asking for was specifically Javelin anti-tank weapons, the weapons that have been so essential in Ukraine’s ability to hold off the invaders this long.
It’s absolutely not just Trump and his love affair with Putin, because Putin and his oligarchs have had plenty of love to spread around the GOP since 2006.
That $164.6 million has not been going to help Democrats, you can bet on that. There’s been untold billions in Russian dark money circulating in the West, used to undermine the U.S. and other democracies. We saw it happen right before our eyes with the election of Trump. But it’s not just Trump, and that’s what Democrats have to keep reminding the nation.
Take, for example, the $100,000 accepted by Jesse Benton and Doug Wead from a foreign national to arrange a meeting with Trump during the 2016 campaign. Here’s who Benton and Wead are: Benton was a former campaign manager for both Sen. Rand Paul and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Wead was a White House adviser during former President George H.W. Bush’s presidency who also worked for Paul.
Speaking of McConnell, remember how he threatened President Barack Obama with scorched earth to keep the nation in the dark about what the government knew—before the election—about Russia’s interference on behalf of Trump? In 2016, when the Obama administration’s intelligence agencies knew that Russia was interfering to help Trump, McConnell covered it up.
He and then-Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid were told that Putin was overseeing an operation to disrupt the election and to help Trump. McConnell’s reaction, in the words of Washington Post reporter Greg Miller, who initially broke this story: “’McConnell is basically telling [the CIA], ‘you’re telling us that Russia is trying to help elect Trump. If you try to come forward with this, I’m not going to sign onto any sort of public statement that would condemn Russian interference. But I will condemn you and the Obama administration for trying to mess up this election.’”
And don’t forget that aluminum mill that McConnell’s home state of Kentucky was going to get back in 2019, the mill backed by Rusal, a huge Russian company owned by Oleg Deripaska, the oligarch buddy of Putin. Deripaska was under sanctions at the time, sanctions McConnell and two of his former staffers lobbied the Treasury Department and Congress to lift in order to get the project through. That mill, by the way, has been put on ice by Rusal, undoubtedly waiting to see what McConnell can do for them if he takes control of the Senate again.
Do we need more evidence? How about that 4th of July Senate Republicans spent in Moscow—hanging out in the Kremlin. That would be Sens. Richard Shelby (R-AL), Steve Daines (R-MT), John Hoeven (R-ND), Ron Johnson (R-WI), John Kennedy (R-LA), Jerry Moran (R-KS) and John Thune (R-SD). Texas Rep. Kay Granger tagged along. That was ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, which the senators were there to tell Russia not to interfere with again (wink, wink).
Just a few weeks after that, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) played errand boy for Trump, hand-delivering a letter from the would-be autocrat to Putin’s people (Putin himself was out of town). “The letter emphasized the importance of further engagement in various areas including countering terrorism, enhancing legislative dialogue and resuming cultural exchanges,” Paul said. The White House called it “a letter of introduction” for Paul, saying that in it Trump “mentioned topics of interest that Senator Paul wanted to discuss with President Putin.”
That, by the way, is one more dangerous divergence from procedure for Trump, using a channel outside the State Department and his national security team to communicate with Putin. Who knows what the hell the letter actually said. Toss that in with the concealed notes of those five meetings Trump had with Putin. They probably all ended up going down the toilet.
Then there’s that infamous exchange in 2016, between House Republican leadership, discussing Putin’s intentions to destroy Western civilization.
Now Republican leader Kevin McCarthy: There’s … there’s two people, I think, Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump… [laughter]… swear to God.
Then House Speaker Paul Ryan: This is an off the record…[laughter]…NO LEAKS…[laughter]…all right?! […] This is how we know we’re a real family here. … What’s said in the family stays in the family.”
Should Democrats be talking about all this now, when the world is seeing exactly what Putin is? Hell, yes. They can start with taking up the anti-corruption bill from Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Pramila Jayapal. Among other things, the bill would ban foreign lobbying and “disrupt the system of dark money for influence that allows the wealthy, well-connected, and foreign actors to tilt the political process in their favor.” It’d be great timing to put Republicans on that spot.
There are myriad ways in which the Republican Party of the 21st century has demonstrated just how anti-democratic it is. From the years of collusion with Putin and his oligarchs to the fascist plan for a Republican takeover from Sen. Rick Scott, it’s all there for the taking, and it would be political malpractice for Democrats not to go on the attack with it.
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Remember when Mitch McConnell covered up Putin’s interference to elect Trump?
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Trump concealed records of five Putin meetings, took possession of interpreter’s notes
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