Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) suggested Tuesday that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is under the sway of Russian interests because he won’t bend to Democrats’ demands to include witnesses in the upcoming Senate impeachment trial.
Despite having no evidence to back up her claims, Pelosi reportedly suggested that McConnell has “Russian connections” during discussions with fellow Democrats ahead of Wednesday’s House vote to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate, according to sources that spoke to CNN. She made similar claims during interviews over the weekend.
The Washington Free Beacon reports that Pelosi floated the Russian conspiracy theory about McConnell during closed-door sessions with her caucus over the weekend as a way of explaining away her and Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) failure to force McConnell to the bargaining table.
Pelosi “mused that sometimes she wonders whether McConnell has Russian connections,” CNN said.
Pelosi told her colleagues in private that Mitch McConnell is acting like a rogue Senate leader, as she’s said before. She mused that sometimes she wonders whether McConnell has Russian connections, per attendees. https://t.co/vy2mHHLSlW
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 14, 2020
Pelosi’s reference to “Burisma” is a call back to an incident that came to light last week. According to the New York Times, evidence has surfaced that Russians hacked the Ukrainian oil and gas company, most famous for putting Hunter Biden on its board, perhaps at the behest of then-Vice President Joe Biden. There is, of course, no evidence linking Trump, the White House, or Mitch McConnell to the hack, and, as the NYT notes, its not even clear what the hackers were after (though given the timing, its likely they were looking for information damaging to the Bidens).
On Sunday, Pelosi told ABC’s George Stephanopolous that she believes Russians may try to hack the elections a second time in 2020, adding that she believes President Donald Trump is in “complete denial” over Vladimir Putin’s efforts to influence American democracy.
But after lighting into Trump, Pelosi again repeated allegations that McConnell is under some sort of Russian influence.
“Sometimes I wonder about Mitch McConnell too,” Pelosi told Stephanopolous. “What’s he — why is he an accomplice to all of that? He has resisted sources going in a manner commensurate with the threat for state agencies, whichever they are in a state, could be the secretary of state or whatever, to protect our infrastructure, our critical infrastructure of elections.”
Despite labeling McConnell “Moscow Mitch,” there’s been little actual evidence presented that McConnell is somehow laboring under instructions from superiors in the Kremlin, and a report, submitted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, comissioned by Democrats, found no evidence that any Trump campaign or transition official actively collaborated with the Russians to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. McConnell isn’t even mentioned in that report.
McConnell responded to the “Moscow Mitch” moniker when it first appeared over the summer, likening the allegations that he is in league with Putin to accusations of treason.
Pelosi will finally hold a vote Wednesday to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate for a trial, but noted even Wednesday morning, in a press conference held to announce the “impeachment managers” — the prosecutorial team that will present the case against President Trump for the House Democrats — that it was McConnell who was being unreasonable in not submitting to Democrats’ demands that the Senate trial include witness testimony, not House Democrats who hold no sway over the Senate process.