When the full story of The Age of Trump is told, probably by prosecutors from the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the wheeling and dealing of the era’s second most powerful Washington Power Couple, Moscow Mitch McConnell and his lovely wife, China Chao (aka Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao), may make the Trumps’ corrupt practices look like small potatoes.
While Mitch has long been known to Swamp-watchers as perhaps the cesspool’s most unprincipled creature, he’d never been caught trading legislative favors for campaign contributions like so many of his Congressional colleagues.
But his recently revealed Russia gambit has elevated his status and stature in the Republican underworld, where the deals are made and the money changes hands, to heights not seen since the Teapot Dome scandals 100 years ago.
Last January, in a sleight of hand he must have thought nobody would notice, Mitch arranged for Oleg Deripaska, Russia’s aluminum king and a buddy of Putin’s, to be taken off the U.S. sanctions list (which, you’ll recall, Our Leader’s first National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, will soon go to jail for, having admitted to lying to the FBI about his phone conversations with the Russian ambassador regarding the sanctions, during the transition).
We can only imagine how embarrassed Our Leader must have been when Mitch—a nobody, really—was able to do for Deripaska what Our Leader has so far been unable to do for Putin. And how angry Our Leader must have been when the size of Mitch’s $200 million payoff was revealed.
That’s right, $200 million and counting. That’s what Deripaska invested in a faltering plan to build a new aluminum rolling mill in Ashland, Kentucky—announced just three months after Mitch got Deripaska off the sanctions list.
Nicole Jeffords’ portrait of the Honorable Gentleman from Kentucky neatly captures the pursed lips that give Mitch away whenever he does something —or is about to do something—truly self-serving and/or despicable. Like, for example, busting the sanctions that are Russia’s punishment for invading Crimea and East Ukraine.
Or, like refusing to allow the Senate to vote on a bipartisan bill that would make it a tad more difficult for mass murderers to obtain the assault weapons they need to commit, you guessed it, mass murder. (Mitch couldn’t care less about the victims; it’s the gun lobby he worries about.)
Deripaska must have seen those pursed lips when he and Mitch worked out their deal to trade Crimea, East Ukraine and whatever other country Putin may decide to invade, in return for rescuing that aluminum mill in Kentucky a year before Mitch is up for reelection.
With nothing to fear from the Justice Department, as long as Bill Barr is there to ensure the Swamp is a lake safe for Republicans to swim in, Mitch and China (whose dealings with Beijing deserve a chapter of their own) must have put on their birthday suits and gone swimming to celebrate his record-breaking deal.
But that was before Rachel Maddow found out about it and Joe Scarborough gave the Majority Leader an unforgettable nickname to go along with his Big Payoff, Moscow Mitch. All of a sudden, the Russian aluminum mill in Ashland is looking to Kentucky’s voters less and less like an economic development project and more and more like a communist plot their Senator fell for—hook, line and sinker.
It turns out the game he was playing wasn’t poker and the deck he was playing with wasn’t stacked in his favor, as it usually is. Way too late, Moscow Mitch discovered he may have killed his chances for reelection by playing an old game the Russians play with a pistol called Russkaya ruletka, known here in the Swamp as Russian Roulette.
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