John Kasich's militantly anti-Trump top strategist is set to lobby against sanctions for ... Russia; Update: Contract canceled

I’d call this a complete PR disaster for Never Trump and for Kasich’s presidential chances if either still existed in a meaningful way.

But since they don’t, and John Weaver surely realizes that they don’t, it seems he’s prepared to take the rubles and run.

This must feel like a storybook ending to Russiagate for Trump, though. Not only does Mueller clear him of conspiracy, but after two years of the party’s Kasich wing treating him like the Manchurian candidate, Kasich’s own right-hand man ends up going to work for an American subsidiary of a state-owned Russian company as a lobbyist. To rephrase: Weaver’s going to get paid by Putin to lean on Trump and his allies in Congress not to be confrontational with Russia. The collusion’s coming from inside the house.

The six-month contract is worth $350,000, plus expenses, with an option to extend if necessary. “Time is of the essence in the Agreement,” the contract reads, according to a copy filed with the Justice Department.

It’s not clear exactly what sanctions Weaver will be lobbying against. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) introduced legislation in February to beef up sanctions on Russia, which would curtail the amount of uranium that could be imported from Russia starting in 2021, among other provisions. The bill hasn’t made it out of committee…

Fletcher Newton, Tenam’s president, said in an interview the company hired Weaver to head off legislation that would make it harder for American utilities and nuclear power plants to buy nuclear fuel from Russia.

“Several veterans of Kasich’s political operation reacted to the Russia lobbying story with intrigue,” BuzzFeed reported this morning, with one replying with a single word: “Yikes.” Weaver has tweeted copiously about tightening sanctions on Russia over the last few years, as you’ll see here, but he took to Twitter last night after the lobbying story broke to say that there’s no contradiction between his feelings then and his feelings now. General sanctions on Russia are one thing, uranium sanctions are quite another.

Follow this link and scroll down his thread and you’ll find him getting shredded by his many anti-Trump followers who were just hearing the news. The objection isn’t to him having an opinion on U.S. policy which would benefit Russia; opposing war with Iran would fall into the same category. The objection is to him profiting from Russia for it. If he wants to dial up some of his friends on the Hill (and, as a former McCain and Huntsman advisor, he does have some) to make the case that sanctioning Russian uranium would be a bad idea, he’s free to do it. Taking $350,000 as a hired gun for Russia’s American interests reeks of the idea that he can be bought.

Putin should offer him a few million to start preemptively defending Russia’s meddling in the 2020 campaign. His answer may surprise you!

The optics here are so bad that I wonder if the Kasich/Weaver relationship can survive them. (Weaver confirmed to BuzzFeed that he’s still consulting for Kasich.) Maybe it won’t matter: Kasich has been quiet lately about primarying Trump, which implies that he might end up passing on what’s obviously a hopeless task. If Kasich is essentially retired from politics then Weaver’s extracurriculars don’t matter. But if he does decide to primary POTUS, Trump will bludgeon him with this every day. I’m mildly surprised he hasn’t dunked on him for it in a tweet already. Either Weaver’s going to rethink his lobbying deal or Kasich is going to find a new strategist. Hard to see it going any other way.

Update: He rethought his lobbying deal.

David Strom 4:41 PM on September 26, 2022