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 PutinAs civil war rages, diplomacy fails with Libya's Haftar The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden vs. Trump as Sanders exits race What way for NATO? Hungary follows Turkey down the authoritarian path 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 EngelHouse lawmakers call on U.S. airlines to help repatriate Americans stranded abroad Hillicon Valley: Facebook reports huge spike in usage during pandemic | Democrats push for mail-in voting funds in coronavirus stimulus | Trump delays deadline to acquire REAL ID Lawmakers urge EU to sanction Putin associate for election interference MORE (D-N.Y.), ranking member Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulBipartisan lawmakers call for global 'wet markets' ban amid coronavirus crisis House lawmakers call on U.S. airlines to help repatriate Americans stranded abroad Graham asks colleagues to support call for China to close wet markets 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 TrumpSanders says he wouldn't 'drop dead' if Trump decided on universal healthcare Overnight Health Care: Trump officials lay groundwork for May reopening | Democrats ramp up talks with Mnuchin on next relief deal | Fauci says death toll could be around 60,000 Hillicon Valley: State officials push for more election funds | Coronavirus surveillance concerns ramp up pressure for privacy bill | Senators warned not to use Zoom | Agencies ask FCC to revoke China Telecom's license 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 KeatingLawmakers urge EU to sanction Putin associate for election interference Lawmakers spar over surveillance flight treaty with Russia Overnight Defense: Protests at Trump's NYC Veterans Day speech | House Dems release Pentagon official's deposition transcript | Lawmakers ask Trump to rescind Erdogan invite MORE (D-Mass.) and Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerLawmakers urge EU to sanction Putin associate for election interference Blagojevich calls himself a 'Trumpocrat,' praises Trump after release from prison Sanders slams Trump pardons as part of 'broken and racist criminal justice system' 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerHarris, Ocasio-Cortez among Democrats calling for recurring direct payments in fourth coronavirus bill House Republicans, key administration officials push for additional funding for coronavirus small business loans Rep. Massie threatens to block next relief bill, calls for remote voting 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.