Several GOP Senators Are Tied To Russian Money And Trump’s Conspiracy Theories
House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry continues full steam ahead, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi announcing this week she will hold a formal vote on the matter, bringing more of the process into the public sphere.
And what seems a near continuous parade of witnesses to President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, including his alleged quid pro quo and shadow campaign to obtain investigations into Joe Biden, paint a damning picture of abuse of power.
On Tuesday, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman — Trump’s top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council — substantiated claims by previous witnesses, testifying that he too was concerned over the president’s actions regarding Ukraine.
Meanwhile, congressional Republicans continue their assault on the impeachment process, claiming that Democrats are conducting their investigation in secret and attempting to cast the inquiry as illegitimate and unfounded.
But if Democrats reach the point of drawing up impeachment articles — or more likely, when they reach that point — several Republican senators who will be tasked with judging the president’s guilt or innocence at trial are also tied to Russian money and entangled in Trump’s own conspiracy theories.
Salon’s Sophia Tesfaye raised these connections in a piece on Wednesday, specifically noting the problematic ties of Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Marco Rubio (R-Fl), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
Beginning with Johnson, Tesfaye noted that the Republican lawmaker met with Ukrainian diplomat Andrii Telizhenko over the summer “to discuss the baseless conspiracy theory promoted by President Trump that Ukrainian officials had interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of Hillary Clinton.”
The account was detailed in a Washington Post report on Monday. In an interview with the newspaper, Telizhenko said he me with Johnson personally for about half an hour and then the senator’s staff for another five hours.
Per The Post, “the discussions focused in part on ‘the DNC issue’ — a reference to his unsubstantiated claim that the Democratic National Committee worked with the Ukrainian government in 2016 to gather incriminating information about then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Telizhenko said he could not recall the date of the meeting, but a review of his Facebook page revealed a photo of him and Johnson posted on July 11.”
Johnson is a staunch defender of the president who promotes “deep state” conspiracy theories suggesting that a secret force in Washington is trying to overturn the 2016 election results by ousting Trump.
He also allegedly “benefited from campaign money illegally funneled from Russia via shell corporations owned by the National Rifle Association, which helped him win his tight 2016 race in Wisconsin,” Tesfaye noted.
And he is not alone: Political action committees tied to McConnell, Rubio and Graham “reportedly accepted $7.35 million in contributions from a Ukrainian-born oligarch with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin during the 2016 election.”
Two of those senators, McConnell and Graham, also co-sponsored a resolution condemning the House’s impeachment inquiry.
Blackburn, a GOP senator from Tennessee, blocked three election security bills in June — the second time this year she has done so. She also “is among the Republican senators with close ties to a U.S.-sanctioned Russian politician who is accused of illegally channeling Russian funds through the NRA.”
Tesfaye ended her piece with an obvious question: “How can Senate Republicans possibly serve as impartial jurors in a trial of the president, when they are implicated in the same pattern of political malfeasance?”