An irritated Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took to the Senate floor on Monday, calling out the “hyperventilating hacks” who have referred to the Senate Majority Leader as a “Russian asset” and criticized him for allegedly blocking bipartisan security election legislation. Unfortunately for McConnell, as hashtags such as #MoscowMitch continue to gain traction on social media, a Wednesday report in Politico revealed that two of McConnell’s top former staffers lobbied on behalf of a project funded by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
Hunter Bates–McConnell’s former chief of staff–and Brendan Dunn, who advised the senator on policy issues such as taxes, trade, and financial services–and played a key role in Republican’s successful effort to pass tax-cuts–both filed lobbying disclosures last week confirming that they were working for Braidy Industries on the development of a new aluminum mill in McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, per Politico. Rusal reportedly has $200 million invested in the project.
Braidy Industries, an Ashland, Kentucky based aluminum alloys manufacturer that creates products for the automobiles is 40-percent owned by the Russian aluminum behemoth Rusal. EN+ Group is the parent company of Rusal, and Deripaska no longer owns a majority stake.
To make matters worse, Rusal was only able to procure its stake in Braidy after the U.S. granted Deripaska sanctions relief in January, relief that McConnell advocated for. McConnell previously said that the push to lift sanctions was “completely unrelated to anything that might happen in my home state.”
Earlier this year, believing that President Donald Trump let Deripaska off the hook by lifting the sanctions, congressional Democrats raised concerns about the possible repercussions that could follow.
Democratic lawmakers are now calling for an investigation of the aluminum mill project by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, according to Politico, which is an interagency body with the power to cancel foreign financial arrangements with U.S. firms if there are concerns regarding national security.
Update (July 31, 2019): This story has been updated to reflect that Deripaska no longer has a majority stake in EN+ Group, Rusal’s parent company.
[Image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]