More than a year ago, Palmer Report and a small handful of other news outlets reported on a series of high-dollar donations that a Kremlin oligarch made to certain prominent Republican politicians during the 2016 election cycle. These donations were technically legal because the oligarch in question had dual U.S. citizenship and was routing them through a Super PAC. We knew there had to be more to it, but for quite some time the trail was cold – until now.
To be clear, this money trail wasn’t even hidden; it showed up in official campaign filings. We’re presuming that most news outlets ignored it because they couldn’t figure out what context to place it in. Even though he wasn’t running for anything at the time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took $2.5 million from the Kremlin oligarch during the 2016 cycle. McConnell then went on to force President Obama not to announce during the election that Russia was trying to rig it in Donald Trump’s favor. But why did Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, whose 2016 presidential campaign lasted five minutes and went nowhere, take $1 million from this same oligarch?
More to the point, why would these Republican politicians choose to take this money, along with all the bad optics that came with it, when they easily could have just gotten the money from one of the usual GOP billionaire donors instead? If they were willing to go this far with the Kremlin, it raised the question of whether there was more to it. That’s why it’s so relevant that Scott Walker is now acknowledging that he met with indicted Russian political operative Maria Butina during the election, and his people are refusing to deny that he’s referenced in the Butina indictment.
This is all making a lot more sense now. Scott Walker took a million bucks in Kremlin money and met with a Kremlin political operative. Mitch McConnell took millions in Kremlin money and worked to keep the Kremlin’s election interference under wraps. This alone doesn’t prove anyone guilty of anything. But it sure does provide a plausible explanation for why certain leading Republicans were taking barely legal Kremlin money during the election. Now comes the question of whether they stopped at barely legal, or if there’s a bigger money trail out there. If there is one, Robert Mueller will find it.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report