Wyoming’s lawmakers in Washington are looking for ways to decrease Russia’s influence in Europe, and they think they may be able to do it with good ole fashioned Wyoming natural resources.
The state’s congressional delegation are some of President Trump’s most steady supporters in Congress. But Trump’s recent press conference in Helsinki where he took Russia President Vladimir Putin’s word over that of U.S. intelligence officials was a bridge too far.
Wyoming Congressman Liz Cheney definitely had concerns.
“I thought that what he said when he was asked about Russian attempts to influence our election was troubling.”
She said she was glad the president attempted to walk some of his statements back. And she adds that she remains troubled by two things she sees when she looks back at the last election.
“One is: Russians attempted to influence the election – there’s no question. It is also true that we have seen clear evidence that there has been corruption at the FBI and the Department of Justice.”
While Cheney and many Republicans claim there’s corruption at the FBI and DOJ, the Vice-Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee begs to differ. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia has been praised by many lawmakers in both parties for how he’s handled the Russia investigation.
“Russia massively intervened in our elections. They hacked both political parties, released information to help Mr. Trump and hurt Clinton,” said Warner.
Still, Warner and Cheney are in agreement that Russia needs to feel a response from the U-S.
“I think we ought to be sanctioning the Russians…they, clearly we know, it’s indisputable, they attempted to — clearly they attempted to influence our election. I don’t think that you can say it had an impact on the outcome, but we know that they were engaged in cyber-attacks on our electoral process. And they need to pay a price for that,” said Cheney.
Wyoming Senator John Barrasso thinks he has an answer for that. Last week he drafted a bill he says will make Europe less dependent on Russia while also boosting the American economy. It would levy intense sanctions on any company helping to construct an eleven billion dollar natural gas pipeline between Russia and Germany. Barrasso has pushed legislation like this in the past but he says this effort is different.
“The sanctions we’ve had in the past were not mandatory, these are mandatory this time, there’s a number of things that make it easier to export what we have in abundance in the United States that people want to buy, but right now Germans and a lot of European countries are held hostage."
They’re held hostage because of a need for natural gas. Barrasso said his bill would hurt Russia and could help Wyoming.
“We have an abundance of natural gas in Wyoming and in the United States. But we want to be able to be selling that to our allies so they’re not as dependent on Russia in terms of natural gas. So the president is right and I want to block that pipeline.”
Wyoming’s senior senator Mike Enzi says he’s talked to Barrasso about his bill before and said he’s fully behind the effort.
“Of course. Well, Europe could be cut off of natural gas and are always threatened by the Russians to do that. It would be an outlet for a product that we got and give more security for Europe."
The legislation hasn’t been scheduled for a vote, but lawmakers in both parties are itching to send a strong message to Russia that they can’t meddle in U.S. or European affairs. And a large, bipartisan group of lawmakers report getting behind Barrasso’s effort, though it’s an election year so the fate of any legislation is far from certain, especially one dealing with U.S. allies and Russia.