How Mitch McConnell's weak-kneed cowardice makes him the perfect target for agents of power and influence
On Saturday January 12, the government shutdown became the longest in American history, eclipsing the former record of 21 days. At the forefront of this burgeoning disaster is Mitch McConnell, a one-man blockade to re-opening the government.
I don’t refer to him by his formal title because it falls short of describing what he really is: he’s a tyrant, a malevolent dictator.
No bill comes to the floor without his say-so. Even if every one of the other 99 senators wanted to vote on a particular bill, McConnell can prevent it. The only meaning majority has for him is that he has power over it.
And he’s using this power to single-handedly keep the government shut down.
Some have posited that he’s carrying Trump’s water because he’s in Trump’s pocket. Some say he’s worried about his upcoming 2020 re-election so he’s pandering to Trump’s base. Some suggest he’s protecting the GOP because he’s a hardcore republican. The media line seems to be that he’s a “wily old fox.”
But none of these really take full account of McConnell’s need to succeed, driven by weak-kneed cowardice and inadequacy. Yet it is these personality traits which greased the wheels of his rise to senate tyrant because it is these personality traits which make him the perfect mark for agents of power and influence.
First on the list is the most obvious: the American billionaire donor class. Chief among these would-be plutocrats are the Koch brothers, the Adelsons and the Mercers. It comes as no surprise then that all three have supported, and continue to support, McConnell. Last year the Adelsons topped the donor list with two $25 million contributions to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.
Of course these billionaire donors support other republicans too in order to consolidate their influence on the upper house. That influence includes putting a man of their choosing in the position of republican senate leader.
Now consider for a moment what they want from this leader... subservient obedience, unquestioning compliance, covetous greed and a feeble conscience would have to top their list. Mitch McConnell fits the bill in every respect. So they buy him the senate leadership and buy themselves a senate leader.
Vodka and Vice
In 2015 an old player with new tricks entered the field of influence: Russia. In the donor category, Russia appears in a number of guises including a Soviet-born billionaire living in the U.S.
Len Blavatnik, who holds dual U.S.-U.K. citizenship, used to be a fairly run-of-the-mill campaign contributor, donating relatively modest amounts in a bipartisan fashion — [$53,400 in 2009-2010; $135,552 in 2011-12; $273,600 in 2013-14] and then the 2016 election cycle hit.
Beginning in 2015, Blavatnik lavished contributions on Republicans, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell alone on the receiving end of $3.5 million between 2015 and 2017.
This dramatic increase in contributions is attributed to Blavatnik acting as a go-between for illegal donations from Russian oligarchs. He has strong ties to some serious players in the oligarch section of the Russian mafiya state.
Viktor Vekselberg is one of the 10 richest men in Russia. He and long-time business partner Blavatnik hold a 20.5 percent stake in Rusal.
Oleg Deripaska is said to be one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's favorite oligarchs, and he is founder and majority shareholder of Russia's Rusal, the second-largest aluminum company in the world.
Further, nearly 4 percent of Deripaska's stake in Rusal is owned by Putin's state-controlled bank, VTB, which is currently under U.S. sanctions.
That McConnell’s senate fund received half of the moneys funneled through Blavatnik to the GOP indicates how
important useful they consider him to be to them and — this is the crux — he’s only useful to them if he knows he is now irrevocably linked to them.
The NRA is also suspected of acting as a funnel for Russian funds after self-confessed Kremlin agent Maria Butina infiltrated the organisation in 2015. Washington Post December 13, 2018:
One of Butina’s main targets was the NRA — a group she identified in a 2015 memo as an organization that “had influence over” the Republican Party, according to court filings. Her relationships with the group, she wrote, could be used as the groundwork for an unofficial channel of communication to the next presidential administration.
That “channel of communication” is transparent code for “conduit for Russian money” is supported by a massive influx of cash that immediately followed the NRA’s alliance with Butina and her boss, Aleksandr Torshin.
The NRA’s interactions with Butina and Torshin came as the group embarked on an unprecedented spending spree to help elect Donald Trump president.
NRA spending on the 2016 elections surged in every category, with its political action committee and political nonprofit arm together shelling out $54.4 million.
That was triple the amount the NRA spent in 2012 and $1.6 million of it found its way into McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.
When an FBI counterintelligence investigation laser-focused on Butina, the NRA’s spending in 2018 plummeted by 84% to less than $9 million. Obvious conclusion: the Russians were no longer funneling money through the NRA. Coincidentally, the RNC also suffered a shortage of funds in 2018.
The Chao Connection
Though third in this list because their influence is the least known and understood, the Chao family had by far the most significant effect on McConnell’s personal life and career. Thanks to second wife Elaine and her family, McConnell became a millionaire many times over and forged ties with contacts at the highest echelons of Chinese government and business.
Elaine Chao’s father is shipping magnate, James Chao.
The South China Morning Post takes up the story.
He ordered two ships to be built at the state-owned shipyard in Shanghai during Mr Jiang's tenure as mayor. He started meeting Mr Jiang regularly, including three months after the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989, when most other American businessmen were avoiding the leadership. Later Mr Chao's business ties to Beijing would deepen as he started chartering his ships to mainland giants, such as Cosco and Sinotrans.
As McConnell’s acquaintance with Elaine Chao developed into a serious relationship, contributions began to pour into his campaign from the Chao family and their business associates. Their wedding ensured that the spigot was never turned off.
Ms Chao and Mr McConnell married in February 1993, and in December the pair met Mr Jiang in Beijing, joined by Ms Chao's father. Mr McConnell was the second Republican Senator to meet Mr Jiang since Tiananmen, a move which helped him build ties with senior mainland envoys in the US.
Through the Chao family, McConnell cultivated friends in very high places — Mr Jiang is none other than Jiang Zemin, Secretary of the Communist Party from 1989 to 2002 and President of the People's Republic of China from 1993 to 2003.
There’s little if any doubt that this prompted Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole to appoint McConnell as chair of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee for foreign operations and export financing in 1994. Certainly members of the US-China Business Council were impressed, and their corporate donations flowed freely into McConnell’s campaign coffers.
The change in his fortunes attracts the billionaire donors and McConnell is catapulted to rising star status.
In Shanghai on May 22, 2014, Chinese and Russian firms establish a number of partnerships. Among them are these two:
- the Russian State Development Bank and the Export Import Bank of China sign an agreement on a $500 million credit line to finance projects in Russia
- the Kremlin-controlled VTB Bank and the Bank of China ratify a partnership in investment banking, trade finance and capital markets transactions, and inter-bank lending.
The following year, the Export Import Bank of China (now partnered with the Russian State Development Bank) extends a $37.5 million loan to the Chao family shipping company, Foremost, to finance the construction of two bulk carriers being built by the state-owned China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC). Among those present for the signing of the deal are James Chao (Chairman of Foremost) with his daughters, Angela (Deputy Chairman) and Elaine.
Seven months later in May 2016, Elaine’s sister Angela Chao is elected to the Board of Directors at the Bank of China — now partnered with Russia’s VTB bank which has been operating under US sanctions since 2014.
So not only does McConnell have links to China via the Chao connection, both he and the Chao family interlink with the Russians.
Fast forward to 2018: McConnell retains his position as senate tyrant after the midterms; Elaine Chao is the Secretary of Transportation in Trump’s cabinet, and the Chao family maintains extensive contacts and business investments in China including a seat on the Board of the Bank of China which is partnered with the Russian VTB Bank that is part-owned by oligarch Oleg Deripaska who shares ownership in Rusal with Viktor Vekselberg whose business partner Len Blavatnik donated $3.5million to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.
“Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive.”
~ Sir Walter Scott
Revelations about Russia’s meddling in America’s 2016 presidential election have pushed Congress to turn up the heat on China, as it seeks to tamp down foreign influence on American institutions.
Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., on Tuesday introduced a bill that would require an unclassified interagency report on Chinese political influence operations.
That must have jolted McConnell, especially when Marco Rubio declared that he would follow suit.
A search of the Library of Congress Roll Call database found that Chris Smith’s bill, HR6010, was introduced on June 5 whereupon it was referred for further action to the Committee on Foreign Affairs. It never surfaced again.
There’s no record of Marco Rubio introducing a similar bill in the senate. His effort was very effectively thwarted.
It should now be clear that McConnell has far more to worry about than his upcoming re-election and whatever the hell Trump’s base are thinking. He has more strings attached to his person than an intricate marionette and those controlling the strings are not known for being even-tempered, understanding or forgiving.
It’s little wonder then that he’s blocked every bipartisan bill to protect the Special Counsel’s investigation. Even when the latest bill was strongly and vociferously supported by members of his own caucus, he refused to allow it to come to the floor for a vote. It’s hardly surprising when you realise how enmeshed he is in corruption. He must be terrified of being caught — so the last person he’d want to protect is Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
This also explains why he was so aggressively opposed to President Obama going public with warnings regarding Russia’s attack on American democracy in 2016. If prior to that meeting he was blissfully unaware that USIC was onto the Russians, the suddenness of that unwelcome knowledge, and the realisation of his own jeopardy, must have come as one helluva shock. He wasn’t protecting his party or the GOP presidential nominee when he refused his consent, he was desperate to protect himself.
And that brings us back to why McConnell is perpetuating this shutdown. Some of those pulling his strings may also be involved at some level with Trump’s perfidy. If protecting himself means sticking with Trump then McConnell’s heightened sense of self preservation is going to kick in hard.
But it’s likely to be more complicated than that. For all his posturing, McConnell’s inadequacy renders him weak and his weakness is exacerbated by fear. Running home to Kentucky rather than confronting the expanding disaster in DC is both a physical as well as symbolic attempt to hide from it all.
Weakness, especially a sense of inadequacy, breeds vindictiveness. If he can’t take his dislike and disdain for Trump out on the man himself then he’ll turn his attention to a more acceptable and accessible target: Democrats. Particularly House Democrats. Their vow to conduct real oversight must have really intensified his stress levels. But he has one weapon he can use against them, he can block everything in the senate that they pass in the House. It’s petty and vindictive but that’s how low he’s going.
Nor does he care about the hardships being faced by furloughed employees. The numbers of those affected are already staggering. While there’s no precise accounting of them all, the guesstimate has to take into account the 800,000 furloughed plus their families, plus those in private businesses which depend on working government agencies, plus their families. Already the number must be between 3 and 4 million. By the end of this week, more sections will shut down as their funding also runs out.
No end in sight.
Because the tyrant in charge of the senate isn’t just flawed, isn’t just inadequate to the enormity of the situation, he’s also corrupt. No honorable man would subject his fellow citizens to such privation and misery if he had the power to prevent it.
Addison Mitchell McConnell is without conscience, without benevolence and without honor.