What Are Moscow Mitch's Old Staffers Doing In This Story About Kentucky's Russian Aluminums? That's Weird!
In the RussiaGate era, we're sometimes (sometimes!) wary of stories that seem predicated on "So-and-so met so-and-so at a bar mitzvah and they took a selfie together in 2004 and there was a Russian in the background, therefore that proves CONSPIRACY!"
That said, with all the scrutiny raining down on Moscow Mitch McConnell for being SUCH a fucking Moscow Mitch, it's worth flagging this story in Politico about how a couple of Moscow Mitch's ex-staffers, Hunter Bates and Brendan Dunn, JUST SO HAPPEN to have lobbied for a new aluminum plant in Kentucky bankrolled by none other than Russian aluminum conglomerate Rusal, which was under US sanctions until the Treasury Department made a sweet deal, co-signed by the Republican Senate, that said if Putin's favorite oligarch Oleg Deripaska (Paul Manafort's old boss) divested himself of a certain amount of control and ownership of Rusal, then Rusal would be declared good and pure and sanctions-free. And then it could make aluminums in Kentucky! Which is represented in the Senate by both Moscow Mitch AND Rand Paul, Putin's other favorite senator!
So many of Putin's faves, makin' the aluminums!
Quick backstory if you don't remember or if you see stories about "aluminum" and "sanctions" and scream "TL;DR" at the top of your lungs and go back to watching Netflix:
Oleg Deripaska, who again is known as Putin's favorite oligarch, and who again was Paul Manafort's boss, was and is still under US sanctions for ALL OF IT, including his role in Russian interference in foreign elections (including the 2016 US election) and Russia's illegal invasion and occupation activities in Ukraine. His companies were also sanctioned. But late last year, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin decided that if Oleg Deripaska would just get rid of his controlling interest in EN+, which is the parent company of Rusal, then Rusal could be un-sanctioned, and everything would be just great. And Mitch McConnell's Senate was totally fine with that.
It was a sketchy fucking deal. And Deripaska appears to have made off like a bandit. Also, it's long and complicated, but it looks like Deripaska probably didn't really give up shit when it came to the control of his precious companies.
Anyway, in April of this year, as soon as the ink on the un-sanctioning deal was almost dry, it was announced that by a miraculous coincidence, Rusal would be joining with Kentucky's Braidy industries to build a yooge aluminum plant, right there in Kentucky! Isn't that neat? Isn't that good news for Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul and Oleg Deripaska and Vladimir Putin? Good thing Moscow Mitch and Russian Rand voted against keeping sanctions on Rusal!
As Wonkette has explained previously, all forecasts point to this aluminum plant being a big moneymaker for Braidy Industries (60 percent ownership) and Rusal (40 percent), and sure, we guess it might also create a few jobs in Kentucky. But surely none of those bajillions of dollars of profits will make it back to Deripaska, right? Ha ha. You bet.
Speaking of bajillions of dollars, do you remember who Len Blavatnik is? He is the Ukrainian-American GOP/Trump inauguration mega-donor who owns Warner Music. He also happens to be business partners with another Russian oligarch named Viktor Vekselberg who (surprise!) made off sweet in the deal to "un-sanction" Oleg Deripaska. Let Wonkette copy/paste Wonkette, writing about the unsanction-ing deal when it went down:
Oh, and that part about how "allies of Mr. Deripaska and the Kremlin" would still have "significant stakes" in his companies? Well, it turns out that as part of this whole plan for divvying up En+, another Russian oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, ends up getting to keep a significant share of RUSAL, through a company called SUAL Partners Limited. You've met Vekselberg before, because he mysteriously caused BIG MONEYS to be deposited in Michael Cohen's porn payoff slush fund "within approximately 75 days" of when Cohen made the porn payoff to Stormy Daniels, more than enough for it to be a possible reimbursement, or for it to be a bribe/kickback/just the tip of another sort. Click here to go down that rabbithole, but the short version is that Vekselberg shows up everywhere in the Trump-Russia story (EVERYWHERE), and he's on the sanctions list too. (EVERYWHERE. He shows up EVERYWHERE. You really need to click that link we just gave you.)
Is Len Blavatnik an investor in SUAL Partners Limited? Does the pope shit on bears? It's a fuckin' joint venture.
If this was TL;DR for you (and it was), then here is a very simple comic from cartoonist Mike Stanfill that 'splains the moving parts of this story for you EASY:
Check out more of Stanfill's cartoons at his website "Raging Pencils"!Used with permission of Mike Stanfill
And now we know that McConnell's ex-staffers were lobbying for it. Did they lobby McConnell's office directly? Golly, we just do not know, and nobody's talkin'. Did we mention that former GOP Louisiana Senator Diapers Vitter is a lobbyist for Rusal's parent group EN+? We should mention that. Politico says Vitter gave McConnell a "heads up" before the Kentucky/Rusal deal happened. Totally legal and very cool!
As usual, we must remind you that Moscow Mitch has recently expressed that he does not like being called Moscow Mitch, so you probably shouldn't do that on Twitter right after you finish reading this, which is right now.
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