This week, the Trump administration further eased its pressure on Rusal, Russia’s largest aluminum company, less than four months after sanctions on it and its notorious leader were imposed. Even as the White House seems willing to inflict pain on American farmers and consumers with its trade wars, Russian aluminum workers are apparently worthy of special protection.
.. Rusal is controlled by Oleg Deripaska, a member of Mr. Putin’s inner circle. As the Treasury Department acknowledges, he has been investigated for
- money laundering and accused of
- threatening the lives of business rivals,
- illegally wiretapping a government official and
- taking part in extortion and racketeering.
.. There are also allegations, made public by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, that Mr. Deripaska
- bribed a government official,
- ordered the murder of a businessman and
- had links to a Russian organized crime group. During the 2016 presidential campaign,
- Paul Manafort, then Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, tried to offer Mr. Deripaska private briefings about the campaign.
.. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said he is considering lifting the sanctions altogether because they are punishing the “hardworking people of Rusal.” But Mr. Mnuchin has it backward. If he was truly concerned about Rusal’s 61,000 employees, he would not relent until the company fully washed its hands of Mr. Deripaska and the corrupt regime the aluminum giant serves.
.. Behind Mr. Deripaska’s estimated fortune of as much as $5.3 billion, there stands a great crime. During the “aluminum wars” of the 1990s, when that economic sector was consolidating in the chaotic privatization that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, the young metals trader was suspected of ties to gangsters as he seized control of huge Siberian smelters. According to testimony by a gang member in Stuttgart, Germany, part of Mr. Deripaska’s value to the group were his links to Russia’s security services. While his rivals were killed off or fled Russia, Mr. Deripaska somehow emerged as the director general of Rusal, a company that reported revenues last year of nearly $10 billion. But suspicions that the oligarch has had links to organized crime have denied him a visa to enter the United States.
.. they must do its bidding, which in Mr. Deripaska’s case meant spending more than $1 billion, through his holding company, on new infrastructure for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia
Mr. Deripaska has embraced his role, stating that he does not separate himself from the Russian state.
.. Manafort tried to pitch him a plan for an influence campaign to “greatly benefit the Putin government.”
.. “Rusal’s own website says that it supplied military material to the Russian military that was potentially used in Syria.”
.. Mr. Deripaska’s holding company, hired a $108,500-a-month lobbyist to continue to negotiate with the Treasury Department. The firm he chose, Mercury Public Affairs, is the firm Mr. Manafort paid $1.1 million to lobby members of Congress on behalf of Ukraine and its then-president, Viktor Yanukovych
.. Led by David Vitter, a former Republican senator from Louisiana, Mercury has sought to enlist support from ambassadors of France, Germany and Australia, among others.
.. emanding more time to reduce the oligarch’s ownership stake in En+ from 70 percent to below 50 percent. In a July 24 filing with the Justice Department, Mercury outlined a host of calamities that might be unleashed if sanctions aren’t eased
- The global aluminum market might suffer significant disruptions with “severe collateral damage to United States interests, allies”;
- En+ might have to entertain a potential acquisition by “Chinese and/or other potentially hostile interests”; or
- Mr. Deripaska might just hang on to his majority stake.
.. The specter of a fellow traveler with gangsters dictating terms to the United States government is yet another sign of the Trump administration’s inexplicable capitulation to Russia.
.. July 16 summit in Helsinki, at which President Trump and President Putin met privately for more than two hours.
We don’t know what they discussed, but given the stakes on both sides, there’s a good chance that the discussion touched on the subject of the sanctions the United States has imposed on Russia’s biggest aluminum company.
The security clearance of any officer or employee of the federal government who has exercised extreme carelessness in the handling of classified information shall be revoked.” — Senate Bill 3135, co-sponsored last year (to shame Hillary Clinton) by 16 Republican senators: Cory Gardner, John Cornyn, Shelley Moore Capito, Tim Scott, James Risch, Pat Roberts, Dean Heller, Kelly Ayotte, John Barrasso, David Perdue, Johnny Isakson, Thom Tillis, John Thune, David Vitter, Mike Rounds and James Inhofe
“Those who mishandled classified info have had their sec clearances revoked, lost their jobs, faced fines, & even been sent to prison.”
— Reince Priebus, tweet, July 6, 2016
Republicans should not hitch their wagon to any single, comprehensive bill, nor should they promise the voters a “Republican health-care plan.” Instead, they should seek to roll out a series of improvements to the health-insurance system, each with its own voting coalitions. That conclusion is supported by two observations. One, many parts of the AHCA were more popular than the bill itself, so the odds of passage — and sustainable entrenchment over time — increase as votes are broken into pieces.
.. But they can’t, any time soon, solve the basic problem, which is pervasive in education and health-care debates these days: The costs have spiraled so far out of the reach of ordinary middle-income people that they’ve despaired of paying for them from their own earnings.
.. I don’t like the fact that Obamacare added 10 to 11 million new people to the Medicaid rolls. But I also don’t think it’s wise, fair, or good to yank Medicaid coverage away from these people without a reliable way to move them to alternative affordable private coverage. This doesn’t make for good table-founding talk radio or cable news segments, but it is a fact of life.
.. The Republican answer can’t be, “don’t worry, with enough competition amongst different insurers, you’ll find a plan with premiums, co-pays, and deductibles that you can afford someday, maybe in about ten years, based on the CBO score.”
The French Elites, Comfortable with American Elites’ Playbook from 2016
.. The prospect of a Le Pen presidency upsets a kind of political positivism: the view that democracy can go only from good to better, from being a necessity to being a right. Ms. Le Pen’s election would run counter to the course of history, the reasoning goes, and therefore it cannot be.
Fox News’s Steady Nurturing of a Certain Kind of Right
.. When much of Fox News de facto backed Trump, midway through the primary season, it could hardly come as a shock: It was already obvious that the same type of person Fox had targeted for 20 years was likely to be an ardent Trump supporter.
.. Tomi Lahren, a former host on Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze, was attempting to re-create the glib, pugnacious Fox News model for a younger audience.
.. I recall a somewhat similar generational split in 2011 when easily forgotten presidential candidate Herman Cain was accused of sexual harassment and affairs. Prominent conservative voices of the Baby Boomer generation were quick to insist the accusers had to be lying and this was all part of a smear campaign by liberals. Generation-X conservative writers weren’t so eager to rush to the ramparts to insist there was no way Cain would behave badly.
.. It seemed to the older voices, Cain was “one of us” and thus deserved to be trusted and defended on faith; the younger voices weren’t quite so certain that “one of us” couldn’t possibly have done something wrong. They remembered John Ensign, Vito Fossella, Larry Craig, David Vitter, Mark Foley, Newt Gingrich, Bob Livingston, Bob Packwood…