Lawmakers urge EU to sanction Putin associate for election interference

Lawmakers urge EU to sanction Putin associate for election interference
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The bipartisan leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday strongly urged the European Union to sanction a close associate of Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinWith US sidelined, Macron's hubris and hypocrisy are on full display Russia votes in favor of referendum banning gay marriage 'Comrade' Trump gets 'endorsement' from Putin in new mock ad by Lincoln Project MORE over what they say are ongoing efforts to interfere in U.S. elections.

In a letter to Stavros Lambrinidis, the EU's ambassador to the U.S., Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelNY Working Families Party director on the state's primary House postpones testimony from key Pompeo aide about IG firing Yvette Clarke wins NY House primary MORE (D-N.Y.), ranking member Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulNational security adviser says Trump was not briefed on bounty intelligence, condemns leaks Pentagon: 'No corroborating evidence' yet to validate troop bounty allegations The Hill's Morning Report - Officials crack down as COVID-19 cases soar MORE (R-Texas), and almost a dozen other committee members pressed for the EU to impose sanctions on Yevgeniy Prigozhin.

Prigozhin, who is known as “Putin’s chef” due to the Kremlin’s use of his catering service for official functions, was indicted by former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE for his efforts to interfere in the 2016 elections. 

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Prigozhin is the leader and main source of funding behind Russia’s Internet Research Agency, the troll farm that spread misinformation designed to favor the campaign of President TrumpDonald John Trump Trump responds to calls to tear down monuments with creation of 'National Garden' of statues Trump: Children are taught in school to 'hate their own country' Trump accuses those tearing down statues of wanting to 'overthrow the American Revolution' MORE in the run-up to the 2016 U.S. elections. The Internet Research Agency was also indicted by Mueller. 

Prigozhin has been linked to the mercenary organization The Wagner Group, which was sanctioned by the U.S. due to its support of Russian forces in Ukraine. 

“We must thwart his malign global activities done at Putin’s behest and ongoing efforts to interfere in the domestic politics of democracies on both sides of the Atlantic,” the House members wrote of Prigozhin. “By working together and coordinating our sanctions policies against common adversaries, we can present a united front that stands for our shared values and deters further Russian attempts to subvert Western democracy.”

Engel described Prigozhin in a separate statement as an “enemy of democracy,” and called for both Prigozhin and the Russian government to be “held accountable” for election meddling. 

Other members who signed on to the letter included Reps. Bill KeatingWilliam (Bill) Richard KeatingOvernight Defense: National Guard chief negative in third coronavirus test | Pentagon IG probing Navy's coronavirus response | Democrats blast use of Russia deterrence funds on border wall Democrats blast 'blatant misuse' of Russia deterrence funding on border wall Lawmakers urge EU to sanction Putin associate for election interference MORE (D-Mass.) and Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerPentagon: 'No corroborating evidence' yet to validate troop bounty allegations Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police Trump faces bipartisan calls for answers on Russian-offered bounties MORE (R-Ill.), the leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy and the Environment. 

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The letter was sent two weeks after a group of senators led by Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerPublic awareness campaigns will protect the public during COVID-19 Republicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names Overnight Defense: House panel votes to ban Confederate flag on all Pentagon property | DOD report says Russia working to speed US withdrawal from Afghanistan | 'Gang of Eight' to get briefing on bounties Thursday MORE (D-N.Y.) sent a similar request to Lambrinidis asking that the EU sanction Prigozhin. The senators also asked that the EU stand “united” with the U.S. against Russia's election interference efforts. 

Facebook estimated following the 2016 elections that almost 150 million Americans were likely exposed to content from the Internet Research Agency ahead of Election Day. Mueller described the group’s misinformation campaign across social media platforms in his report as “designed to provoke and amplify political and social discord in the United States.”

There are already signs that Russia-backed groups will seek to interfere in the 2020 elections as well, with Facebook and Twitter recently dismantling an interference campaign based out of Ghana and Nigeria.