So here’s an unexpected bit player in the whole Trump-administration-and-Russia saga: David Vitter.
The Louisiana Republican retired from the U.S. Senate after losing his 2015 gubernatorial bid to Democrat John Bel Edwards, then promptly followed the traditional career path for ex-members of Congress. He joined a Washington lobbying/strategy firm.
In his new role as co-chairman of Mercury Public Affairs, Vitter is now leading a $108,500-a-month effort on behalf of a holding company linked to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a “member of (Vladimir) Putin’s inner circle” and the man who controls Rusal, Russia’s largest aluminum company, according to an opinion piece in the New York Times.
Here’s some more background on Deripaska, according Seth Hettena, a freelance writer who was a longtime Associated Press investigative reporter.
“As the Treasury Department acknowledges, he has been investigated for money laundering and accused of threatening the lives of business rivals, illegally wiretapping a government official and taking part in extortion and racketeering. There are also allegations, made public by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, that Mr. Deripaska bribed a government official, ordered the murder of a businessman and had links to a Russian organized crime group. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Paul Manafort, then Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, tried to offer Mr. Deripaska private briefings about the campaign.” Manafort, of course, is currently on trial in Alexandria, Virginia, on bank and tax fraud charges.
So what does this guy want out of Washington? Something he seems to be getting — an easing of sanctions. In fact, Hettena reports that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is considering lifting the sanctions entirely. And guiding the effort to lobby the department is none other than the former senator, the column says.
Vitter is far from the only former Louisiana politician go through the revolving door, and he’s not the first to represent questionable characters. Former U.S. Rep. Bob Livingston, for example, once represented the Libyan government under Muammar el-Qaddafi.
Still, it’s something to see Vitter in this role, a quarter century after he first made his name in the Louisiana Legislature as an anti-corruption warrior, a zero tolerance purist.
You've got to be pretty tolerant to take on clients like these.