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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 PutinPutin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting Biden, Macron huddle on sidelines of G7 summit Biden must up the ante to get what he wants from Putin 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 EngelDemocrats call on Blinken to set new sexual misconduct policies at State Department Lawmakers on hot mic joke 'aisle hog' Engel absent from Biden address: 'He'd wait all day' Bowman to deliver progressive response to Biden's speech to Congress MORE (D-N.Y.), ranking member Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulSenate bill would add visas, remove hurdles to program for Afghans who helped US House Democrats press key GOP senator to release hold on aid to Palestinians Sunday shows - Infrastructure, Jan. 6 commission dominate 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) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel 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 TrumpTrump DOJ demanded metadata on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses, Apple says Putin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president 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 KeatingHillicon Valley: Tech companies duke it out at Senate hearing | Seven House Republicans vow to reject donations from Big Tech House passes legislation to elevate cybersecurity at the State Department Overnight Defense: Trump, Biden set to meet in final debate | Explicit Fort Bragg tweets were sent by account administrator | China threatens retaliation over Taiwan arms sale MORE (D-Mass.) and Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerWhy the Democrats need Joe Manchin Axios CEO says GOP before Trump will not return White House pressed on evacuating Afghan allies as time runs out 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 SchumerDOJ to probe Trump-era subpoenas of lawmaker records Democrats demand Barr, Sessions testify on Apple data subpoenas Out-of-touch Democrats running scared of progressives 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.