Congressional Democrats are demanding that the Trump administration review the $200 million investment Russian conglomerate Rusal is going to be putting into a Kentucky aluminum rolling mill. Rusal and the American firm Braidy Industries announced last week that both companies' boards of directors had approved the deal. Rusal also announced it will be supplying aluminum for the mill from a new smelter under construction in Siberia.
For Democratic lawmakers, this is all a big problem, considering Rusal had been under sanctions until just four months ago. The sanction had been imposed because the company, along with others under sanction, is owned and controlled by Oleg Deripaska, the oligarch who is close with Vladimir Putin and who is still personally under sanction by the U.S. A document detailing the agreement between Braidy and Rusal shows that Rusal's parent company, EN+, is still under Deripaska's majority ownership, along with some of his allies.
"Given that EN+ is a company substantially owned by individuals and entities with close ties to the Russian government," the Democrats wrote to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, "we believe the proposed transaction warrants immediate review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States."
Careful Congress watchers will remember that Kentucky senator and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell led the way for the lifting of sanctions on the Russian companies, including Rusal. And here's a revelation from lobbying filings that can turn your stomach: "just before the April announcement, David Vitter, a former Republican senator who is being paid to lobby for EN+, reached out to give Mr. McConnell 'a heads-up' about the announcement."
"Russia remains a central threat" to the U.S., the Democrats reminded Mnunchin in their letter. "The proposed investment by EN+—a company that is majority owned by a U.S.-sanctioned Russian national and Russian state bank—in an American aluminum mill, raises serious questions of national security." That's a threat McConnell seems fine with inviting into his home state.
Published with permission of Daily Kos