Washington and the national media are all about double standards. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the sort of Russian “ties” used to condemn Republicans as possible agents of Moscow are dismissed as irrelevant when Democrats are revealed to have deeper, stronger and far more remunerative connections to Russian banks, oligarchs and institutions than any Republican currently being banished to the outer darkness by Democratic “progressives.”
During the 2016 campaign, it was revealed that Hillary Clinton’s foundation had taken more than $100 million in contributions from a firm heavily backed by Moscow seeking control of as much as 20 percent of this country’s uranium reserves, that the deal required a sign-off from the State Department headed at the time by Mrs. Clinton, and that her husband had traveled to Russia, according The New York Times, given a speech and received a half-million-dollar honorarium from the Moscow bank funding the effort. When conservatives expressed concerns about all this, suggesting that perhaps there had been something resembling a “quid pro quo” involved, liberals were outraged, fact checkers leaped into action and the very suspicion was roundly condemned as wild and irresponsible conspiracy-mongering by out-of-control wing nuts.
We were told that there was no reason to be suspicious because Mrs. Clinton was only one of several Obama administration officials who had to give permission for the deal; she didn’t personally attend the crucial meeting, but instead sent one of her lower-level State Department officials and that, besides, the timing was wrong. Many of the contributions came in before an actual request for approval was tendered and we all therefore had to assume the contributions were made to promote the wonderful work of the Clinton Foundation rather than to buy or even seek favorable consideration from the woman who was then in a position to torpedo the company’s plans.
Later, when emails released by WikiLeaks suggested that Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, had received tens of thousands of shares of stock while sitting on the board of a company heavily dependent on Russian financing and didn’t list all this on his disclosure forms when he went into the Obama White House, we were assured by one and all that he had divested himself of any interest in the Russian-financed firm by leaving its board and turning his shares over to his “adult children” in an arm’s-length transaction.
It has since turned out, thanks to investigative work by the Daily Caller and others that Mr. Podesta paid to have Leonidio Holdings, the “independent” firm to which he transferred his stock, set up its business address in his daughter’s home and that in hiding the details of the transactions involved, he may well have violated the spirit and letter of the government’s disclosure laws. Whether anyone does anything about all this is doubtful, but contrast Mr. Podesta’s claim that he had satisfied White House ethics requirements by transferring the stock to his “adult children” with the outcry over the fact that President Trump’s adult children will be running his businesses while he serves as president.
It is just as clear that John Podesta and his adult children are not the only members of this influential Democratic family to have profited from their Moscow connections. John’s brother Tony runs the Podesta Group, which is what the media like to describe as a “high-powered and well-connected Washington lobbying firm.” The Podesta Group during the 2016 campaign received $170,000 from Russia’s largest bank to lobby against the sanctions imposed on Russia by the Obama administration and Congress; the very sanctions Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser was fired for “mentioning” to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak before he entered the government.
Republicans associated with Mr. Trump, like Attorney General Jeff Sessions, find themselves in hot water with the media and the Washington establishment for running into the Russian ambassador at public meetings, but Democrats from Mrs. Clinton, her husband, campaign manager and friends raise nary an eyebrow for feathering their already-opulent nests with boatloads of rubles from Russian oligarchs, banks and investors.
All of this was known before Election Day, but the media accepted the line from political strategists like Mr. Podesta who. while benefiting from his Russian ties, that Republicans were somehow being influenced by Moscow. Congress can do much to end the double standard by calling the recipients of all this Russian largesse to explain just what they did or were expected to do in return for it.
• David A. Keene is Opinion editor at The Washington Times.
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