Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio is demanding answers after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for lifting sanctions on Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska — a proposal that was followed by a deal in which the oligarch’s company announced a $200 million investment in a Kentucky aluminum plant. And this is the same McConnell who, in recent weeks, has neglected bipartisan bills that address security in the 2020 election.
The Kentucky senator’s lack of urgency in addressing election interference stretches back to the 2016 presidential election. According to Joe Biden, Barack Obama’s administration had asked McConnell to sign on to a bipartisan statement on Russian interference. McConnell refused.
Brown, this week, told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that when Russian or Chinese investments in the United States are made, U.S. officials need to address “what it means to national security, what it means if they come in and buy steel and aluminum plants. Who knows what their ultimate plans are? Clearly, they’re buying influence.”
Brown stressed to Maddow that when Russian or Chinese companies have business interests in the U.S., it is “always a security issue.” And Brown said of the Kentucky aluminum deal, “We want this investigated because we know why these companies often come in.”
Deripaska, Brown pointed out during his appearance on Maddow’s show, is an “oligarch” who was “sanctioned because of the elections.”
Recently, various bills promoting election security against foreign attacks have been proposed in the Senate. But Vox’s Li Zhou, in an in-depth report published on May 21, notes that McConnell has expressed no interest in bringing them up for a vote. Zhou’s article complains that McConnell’s “unwillingness to tackle election security” is “sending a political message” and “has massive consequences” for U.S. elections—none of them good.