How hard is it to not do business with the Russians? Well, if you’re Donald Trump, that seems to be a requirement. And now it’s revealed that two senior Trump administration officials, Makan Delrahim and David Bernhardt, were at one time registered as lobbyists for an investment company controlled by a Soviet-born industrialist who made billions doing business with newly sanctioned Russian oligarchs, Vice reports. Delrahim was confirmed last year as the Justice Department’s top antitrust cop. Bernhardt, a controversial lawyer, is the No. 2 official at the Department.
Ties to Russia oligarchs appear to be a prerequisite for getting hired in the Trump administration.
Both men registered as lobbyists in 2011 and 2012 for Access Industries, a holding company controlled by billionaire Leonard Blavatnik, according to public filings reviewed by VICE News. And though they are far from the only D.C. lobbyists to get plum jobs in the Trump administration, the connection to Blavatnik, long in business with billionaire associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin, reveals yet another link between Russia and senior Trump officials.”
Blavatnik founded Access Industries in 1986, and initially, the company was involved in Russian investments but has reportedly since then diversified its portfolio.
Blavatnik, 60, attended Moscow University of Railway Engineering until his family immigrated to the US in 1978 — he gained citizenship in 1984 and the longtime political donor now owns Warner Music Group. After donating to both political parties in the past, he dramatically ramped up his donations to Republican causes prior to the 2016 U.S. election. According to Vice, he and his companies gave a fortune to Republican groups during the 2016 election: $5.55 million filled Republican groups’ coffers.
“Blavatnik’s pattern of political donations changed abruptly starting in the 2015-2016 election cycle,” said Ruth May, a professor at the University of Dallas. “In prior cycles, his campaign donations totaled approximately $300,000, and they were scattered pretty evenly across 30 to 40 candidates in both parties.”
After Trump won the election, according to Vice, Access Industries, a holding company controlled by Blavatnik, donated another $1 million to the Presidential Inaugural Committee.
He has also gifted the RNC with funds to help with legal fees in the Russia investigation.
And according to the Wall Street Journal, Blavatnik gave $12,700 in April 2017 to a Republican National Committee fund that was used to help pay for the team of private attorneys representing Trump in the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. He’d given the RNC legal fund $100,000 in 2016, the Journal said.”
Trump, who ran on the ‘Drain the Swamp’ platform seems to have filled it up quickly, and not just with swamp creatures from the U.S. On Thursday, Trump said, “Sometimes it may not look like it, but believe me, we are draining the swamp.”
You’re partly right, Mr. Trump. It sure doesn’t “look like it.”
Featured image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.