As President Donald Trump appears to sink deeper into legal trouble and special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation pushes forward, the relative silence of congressional Republicans becomes increasingly difficult to ignore.
But apart from the obvious reasons conservative lawmakers might steer clear of commenting on Trump’s situation — party loyalty and fear of inviting a presidential Twitter attack come to mind — it is worth remembering that several noteworthy Republicans have Russia links as well.
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is one such lawmaker.
The Dallas Morning News reported last year that Graham was one of several Republican politicians to receive contributions from “a Ukrainian-born oligarch who is the business partner of two of Russian president Vladimir Putin's favorite oligarchs and a Russian government bank.”
During the last election, Ukrainian-born billionaire Leonard "Len" Blavatnik $6.35 million to Republican candidates and and incumbent senators, using two holding companies, Access Industries and AI Altep Holdings.
Graham received $800,000 of that money.
Len Blavatnik, considered to be one of the richest men in Great Britain, holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and the U.K. He is known for his business savvy and generous philanthropy, but not without controversy.
Blavatnik's relationships with Russian oligarchs close to Putin, particularly Oleg Deripaska, should be worrisome for Trump and the six GOP leaders who took Blavatnik's money during the 2016 presidential campaign. Lucky for them no one has noticed. Yet.
Deripaska founded RUSAL, the second largest aluminum country in the world, and until earlier this year, he was the majority owner. In an agreement struck with the U.S. Treasury Department following financial difficulties due to Deripaska’s placement on the U.S. sanctions list, the billionaire stepped down as director and pledged to reduce his ownership stake to less than 50 percent.
According to The Dallas Morning News, Blavatnik owns a significant stake in the company as well and served on its Board until just two days after Trump was elected president.
Though Graham has been less shy than other Republicans about criticizing Trump on occasion, he was the first GOP lawmaker to signal openness to the president firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, saying Thursday that Trump is “entitled to having an attorney general he has faith in” and “there will come a time sooner rather than later where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice”, according to CNN.
Trump has taken fresh aim at Sessions in recent days as his legal exposure has increased significantly.