EXCLUSIVE: A Washington, D.C.-based political firm that lobbies on behalf of the company behind Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline also helped pressure a key Republican senator to support Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s confirmation, Fox News has learned.
The firm, BGR Group, helped orchestrate a letter from Republican members of the national security establishment urging Republican Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, to support Blinken’s confirmation. The letter coincided with BGR’s lobbying efforts in support of the Russian pipeline.
Fox News obtained an electronic copy of the letter; the document’s metadata shows it was created by Adriana Larsen, a senior policy analyst at BGR. Risch was among the roughly couple dozen Republicans who voted to confirm Blinken. While the letter’s existence was previously reported by Politico, its full contents and full list of signatories had remained unpublished until this report.
BGR registered on April 1, 2020, as a lobbyist for Nord Stream 2 AG on “Issues related to the U.S. position toward the Nord Stream 2 pipeline,” Senate lobbying disclosures reviewed by Fox News show. Since then, Nord Stream has paid BGR $240,000 per quarter – or just under $1 million per year – to lobby in favor of the pipeline, those disclosures show. Larsen, the policy analyst involved with the letter, does not appear to have been involved in BGR’s Nord Stream lobbying efforts.
Still, the fact that the same firm lobbying on behalf of the pipeline was also promoting Blinken’s confirmation is likely to raise questions from Republicans on Capitol Hill. Blinken is slated to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.
“Secretary Blinken had no knowledge of any BGR work on behalf of his confirmation, he was not aware of the group’s work on behalf of Nord Stream 2, nor was he in contact with BGR regarding it. The Secretary has been clear: he, like the President, is opposed to the pipeline and views it as a Russian influence project,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told Fox News in an email.
Risch’s office said the letter did not influence his decision to vote for Blinken. The senator has led legislation against the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and previously described Biden’s decision to waive the sanctions as “a gift to Putin that will only weaken the United States’ leverage in the lead up to the impending Biden-Putin summit.”
“It is deeply disturbing that this administration canceled the Keystone XL Pipeline on its first day, killing thousands of U.S. and Canadian jobs. Yet, it continues to support Russian workers involved in a project that goes against U.S. and European security interests,” Risch said after Biden waived the sanctions.
President Biden has come under intense criticism for waiving sanctions on the corporation and CEO overseeing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline construction, particularly in light of Biden’s decision to block the Keystone XL Pipeline, which was projected to create tens of thousands of American jobs before it was scrapped.
The Nord Stream 2 deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime will transfer Russian gas to Germany via a pipeline running under the Baltic Sea. If completed, this new pipeline would double the amount of natural gas Russia transports directly to Europe and hand an enormous geopolitical victory to Putin.
“As a practical matter, the physical completion of the pipeline was, I think a fait accompli,” Blinken said at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing Monday. “And irrespective of sanctioning that entity and the CEO, that would not in our judgment have changed anything in terms of the physical completion.”
Blinken, in his testimony Monday, also blamed former President Donald Trump’s administration, saying the Biden administration inherited a “bad hand” on the Nord Stream pipeline.
Blinken said in March that Biden considered the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to be “a bad idea.”
“President Biden has been very clear for a long time in his view that Nord Stream 2 is a bad idea,” Blinken said in a March news conference. “So what I said was that we will continue to monitor activity to complete or certify the pipeline, and if that activity takes place, we will make a determination on the applicability of sanctions.”
BGR did not return a request for comment.
FOX Business’ Morgan Phillips and Fox News’ Rich Edson contributed reporting