In 2016, alarms were sounded when Richard Burt, a Republican-affiliated lobbyist who also served as Ronald Reagan’s ambassador to Germany, helped to write then-candidate Donald Trump’s first speech on foreign affairs.
Burt was, at the time, lobbying for the construction of Nord Stream 2, a proposed natural gas pipeline that would have been owned by a firm with close links to Vladimir Putin’s government. The Obama administration opposed the pipeline and, given the fact the Burt was involved in Trump’s speech, the assumption was that he would be supportive of the project — particularly since Trump said he “believe[d] an easing of tensions and improved relations with Russia — from a position of strength — is possible” in the address, according to Politico.
“[T]he revelation of Burt’s lobbying activity raises new questions about Russian influence in Trump’s campaign,” Politico’s Ben Schreckinger and Julia Ioffe wrote in the Oct. 7, 2016 piece.
Whatever questions it might have raised, they turned out to be unfounded. Trump ended up opposing the Nord Stream II as president, according to the New York Post. In December 2019, he signed a bill that would impose sanctions on any firm working with the government state-owned Gazprom to continue its construction, according to the BBC.
Just before leaving office, according to Reuters, Trump imposed sanctions on a ship involved in building the pipeline, Reuters reported on Jan. 19.
We have a new president now, though — and, unlike Trump or Barack Obama, he thinks it would be “counterproductive” to impose sanctions on Moscow over the construction of the pipeline, which reaches from Russia to Germany.
Lo and behold, Biden had a high-profile donor who was behind Nord Stream 2: Richard Burt, who’s now switched his allegiance to the Democrats. And yet, even though the information was there in plain sight, the media didn’t care.
According to a Post report Saturday, Burt, now a managing partner at consultancy group McLarty Associates, donated $4,000 to Biden’s campaign in October of 2020. Further Federal Election Commission records show he donated $10,000 to left-wing political action committee Unite the Country in March of 2020.
The date of that second donation is worth noting, too: March 5, according to OpenSecrets.org. That was two days after Biden had racked up a string of unexpected victories in the Super Tuesday primaries, halting independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ improbable run and all but assuring the former vice president would be the party’s nominee.
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Burt would also donate $2,800 to Democrat California Rep. Adam Schiff — who didn’t face significant opposition in his 2020 race, mind you, but who was an object lesson in how an individual with the manner and charisma of a robotic embalmed attack dog could attract significant attention, even veneration, if he could plausibly cast himself as a figure of anti-Trump resistance.
There are several issues here, starting with the fact Burt’s still a lobbyist for all five of the energy companies that are partners in Nord Stream 2 — ENGIE, OMV, Shell, Uniper and Wintershall Dea. In his lobbying disclosure forms for all five, he said his role was to “protect and further the company’s interests in the debate over natural gas as an element of European energy security and advise on Russia sanctions issues” or similar language, according to the Post.
There’s also the fact Biden’s campaign promised not to take any money from lobbyists during the 2020 cycle — and yet, here we are.
The money, you’ll not be surprised to learn, has been returned by the Democratic National Committee, according to the Post. And, of course, there’s an explanation for the whole kerfuffle.
“When Richard Burt donated to Biden Victory Fund, he failed to acknowledge that he was a registered foreign agent and was therefore ineligible to contribute,” said a DNC spokesman, according to the Post.
“Because Burt also listed a different employer than on his [Foreign Agents Registration Act] registration, he was not flagged during our vetting process.”
And then there’s Biden’s decision that sanctioning Russia for Nord Stream 2 at this point would be “counterproductive,” even given concerns over its construction and the fact it would allow Moscow to control the flow of energy to Europe to an inordinate degree.
“I have been opposed to Nord Stream 2 from the beginning but it only has — it’s almost completed,” Biden told reporters last week. “To go ahead and impose sanctions now would, I think, be counterproductive in terms of our European relations.”
BIDEN: “I have been opposed to Nord Stream 2 from the beginning but it’s almost completed… Impose sanctions now would be counterproductive in terms of our European relations.” pic.twitter.com/IhJKIW35iP
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) May 25, 2021
As Anna Massoglia, investigative researcher for the Center for Responsive Politics, told the Washington Examiner, it’s another example of how Washington dealings.
“Reading between the lines, you can clearly see what that lobbying looks like,” said Massoglia. “While it’s not evidence of anything illegal, it’s just something that is evidence of how influence works in Washington.”
And yet, watch this happen two years ago and we’d be talking Russian collusion. In fact, when something similar happened four-and-a-half years ago with the same lobbyist and a different candidate, there was a minor freakout. If there were cries about Russian collusion then, there certainly should be now.