Yesterday John Solomon posted an article at The Hill about a Russian billionaire named Oleg Deripaska.
The article reports:
The oligarch who once controlled Russia’s largest aluminum empire has been an international man of intrigue in the now-completed and disproven Trump collusion investigation.
Deripaska was a disaffected former business client of Donald Trump’s fallen campaign chairman Paul Manafort. He also was a legal research client of Trump-hating, Clinton-aiding British spy Christopher Steele. In his spare time, he was an occasional friendly cooperator with the FBI and its fired deputy director, Andrew McCabe.
During his interview with John Solomon, Deripaska talked about being interviewed by the FBI and stating the following:
“I told them straightforward, ‘Look, I am not a friend with him [Manafort]. Apparently not, because I started a court case [against him] six or nine months before … . But since I’m Russian I would be very surprised that anyone from Russia would try to approach him for any reason, and wouldn’t come and ask me my opinion,’ ” he said, recounting exactly what he says he told the FBI agents that day.
“I told them straightforward, I just don’t believe that he would represent any Russian interest. And knowing what he’s doing on Ukraine for the last, what, seven or eight years.”
The article explains why this is important:
OK, so why should you care if a Russian denied Trump campaign collusion with Russia during the election?
First, Deripaska wasn’t just any Russian. He was closely aligned with Putin and had been helpful to the FBI as far back as 2009. So he had earned some trust with the agents.
Most importantly, Deripaska’s interview with the FBI reportedly was never provided by Team Mueller to Manafort’s lawyers, even though it was potential proof of innocence, according to Manafort defense lawyer Kevin Downing. Manafort, initially investigated for collusion, was convicted on tax and lobbying violations unrelated to the Russia case.
That omission opens a possible door for appeal for what is known as a Brady violation, for hiding exculpatory information from a defendant.
“Recent revelations by The Hill prove that the Office of Special Counsel’s (OSC) claim that they had a legitimate basis to include Paul Manafort in an investigation of potential collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and the Russian government is false,” Downing told me. “The failure to disclose this information to Manafort, the courts, or the public reaffirms that the OSC did not have a legitimate basis to investigate Manafort, and may prove that the OSC had no legitimate basis to investigate potential collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and the Russian government.”
The article then explains why Deripaska is trusted by the FBI:
Deripaska confirmed a story I reported last year from FBI sources that he spent more than $20 million of his own money between 2009 and 2011 on a private rescue operation to free Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent captured in Iran in 2007 while on a CIA mission.
…Deripaska said his privately funded rescue team came very close to a deal with the Iranian captors to secure Levinson’s release but he was told by his FBI handlers that the deal ran into difficulties at Hillary Clinton’s State Department and was scuttled. “I heard that some Russian ‘hand,’ or whatever you call people who are expert on the Russians at the State Department, [said], ‘We just don’t want to owe anything to this guy,’ ” Deripaska told me, adding that he never expected any U.S. favors for his personal efforts to free Levinson.
Asked if he thought the former FBI agent is alive, some dozen years later, Deripaska answered: “I don’t think so.” He pointed out that if Levinson had been alive, he likely would have come home in 2016, after the Obama administration struck a nuclear deal with Iran.
Deripaska said he is continuing to investigate what really happened at State with Levinson, as he tries to fight the sanctions levied against him in 2018. His company, Rusal, has been removed from the sanctions list.
The article concludes:
Throughout the interview, it was clear Deripaska chose his words in English carefully. But there was one word he offered only twice — once in response to the Steele dossier’s allegations of Trump-Russia collusion, and the other time to respond to the allegations used to sanction him. “Balderdash,” he insisted.
Now it’s time for Team Mueller to answer the same questions.
I wonder why the State Department would have blocked the return of Levinson. Is it possible that he might have said things that would have scuttled the Iran deal?