I think we have discovered the secret to getting a meeting with Senator Steve Daines. It may seem convoluted and complicated but, stick with me in this, I think this is the key to getting access to your elected Republican senator.
So first become the head of a shoddy snack food empire. Second, become a member of parliament. Third, use your political access to help expand your business empire. Fourth, use that power to expand your reach to better serve Russian politicians and oligarchs. Fifth, be so beholden to the Kremlin that you violate national and international norms to provide logistics for a band of separatist war criminals. Just like that, in five simple steps, you get access to your senator.
In Montana that is an uphill climb but in the Ukraine it is a much easier path to meet our state’s senator. This was outlined (please read the linked article) in a recent piece by a pair of freelance investigative reporters, who looked at the social media of a Ukrainian politician who met with Senator Daines and some other key Capitol Hill leaders last fall.
That man, Serhiy Rybalka, pictured above, is a member of the Radical Party of Ukraine. This, oddly, is a left-leaning group of parliamentarians with leanings to Rand Paul and Jill Stein. But one only has to look at the state propaganda Russia Today dinner a few years ago that featured both former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and Ms. Stein. The Kremlin is adept at playing both sides of the political spectrum to undermine governments–see: US Election 2016.
Rybalka is listed as a conduit for better business relations between the Ukrainian and American governments. So that seems like a good link and should not be concerning. But what is concerning is that the Ukrainian Intelligence Agencies investigated and highly suspect Rybalka’s company–still run by close members of his family–of trading and influence in the separatist regions of Ukraine. Those regions are at war with the Ukrainian government and receiving support from the Kremlin in an attempt to undermine Ukraine’s fledgling democracy and better control the flow of natural gas into Europe. Moscow is winning that shadow war. So why then would Senator Daines want to meet with someone assisting that effort that, until recently, was contrary to US foreign policy. Hm, what changed in the past year… (see: last paragraph)
Daines’ office would not respond to queries about what happened at the meeting or why he took it. According to the article, Rybalka and Daines talked about how to better broker peace in Ukraine. Here is a hot tip… stop trading in separatist regions and supporting the Kremlin’s aims in Ukraine. So you know, senator, do not meet with such people.
But Daines will not answer his constituents either. He cancelled a roundtable with the Helena Chamber of Commerce when he learned some of us would be there. He will not answer open-ended questions during his inane tele-townhalls. He will not answer me about questions like this on Twitter (where he has an active presence) but went on with me months ago about his gun collection.
I really want to know why Senator Daines met with a Ukrainian businessman called a “Kremlin fool” by Ukraine’s former prime minister. I want to know why he let a shadowy Trump transition team official Mark Cowan broker this meeting. I want to know why he even took this meeting in the first place and what vetting his office did for the man he was going to meet. But the answers to those questions would let Montanans know what tool he is of the interests that want to undermine his own state and people. Can’t have that.
Josh Manning is a combat veteran who lives in Helena. His writing has appeared in Newsweek and Foreign Policy and he has appeared on MSNBC and CNN. He is part of a growing movement of progressive military veterans working to affect political change You can follow him on Twitter @joshuamanning23