As Attorney General William Barr continues his probe of the origins of the Steele dossier that gave birth to the Mueller investigation, the Russian connections that spill out from it all point to one figure: Hillary Clinton.
Let’s start from the beginning. Special counsel Robert Mueller is set for a congressional hearing on next week on the 17th, and he says he doesn’t intend to talk about anything that can’t be found “inside the corners” of his report. That may be a problem for Mueller because a Russians oligarch’s story is inside those corners and Oleg Deripaska has broken his silence.
Deripaska, a Russian billionaire who made his money running an aluminum empire, has been a figure of intrigue throughout the now completed and discredited Trump collusion investigation. He was once questioned by the FBI in regards to their theory that the Trump campaign, through Paul Manafort, colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election.
He’s also been banned from the U.S. and was sanctioned in 2016 by the Trump administration as a way to financially punish Vladimir Putin for meddling in the election.
In an interview with John Solomon of The Hill, Deripaska confirmed former English intelligence agent Christopher Steele was once on his payroll and he paid him for research in a court case he was involved in out of London.
Deripaska told Soloman, “It was a research project to support one of the cases against me in London, but my understanding was that lawyers trust him for some reason and he was for quite a time on retainer.”
Steele is of course the Trump hating foreign agent that Hillary Clinton’s campaign hired through third party company Fusion GPS to research and dig up dirt on her political opponent Donald Trump.
Rumors have floated around for years that Deripaska was involved in channeling money from FusionGPS to Steele as early as February 2018. His name came up when Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) asked questions regarding Steele’s connections to Russian officials.
Deripaska also confirmed during an interview that he had cooperated with the FBI when they reached out to him in September 2016 for a “fishing expedition to get dirt on the Trump campaign.”
The FBI focused on Deripaska because he had worked in the past with former Trump campaign official Paul Manafort.
Deripaska said the FBI charges against Manafort were in his opinion ludicrous. “I told them [the FBI] straightforward, ‘Look, I am not a friend with him [Manafort]…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 … I told them straightforward, I just don’t believe that he would represent any Russian interest…knowing what he’s doing on Ukraine for the last, what, seven or eight years.””
This information was news to Paul Manafort’s legal team who had never been told a witness in the FBI’s investigation cleared him of any wrongdoing. This means the FBI withheld exculpatory evidence from the courts. Manafort’s defense attorney, Kevin Downing, has filed an appeal based on the fact the FBI did not tell the courts of the interviews with Deripaska.
Downing contends that failing to disclose that information shows the Office of Special Counsel did not have a legitimate basis to investigate Manafort. In line with that, the OSC also “had no legitimate basis to investigate potential collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and the Russian government.”
Deripaska first came into contact with Christopher Steel, the former British MI6 agent, in 2012 when he hired him to do some research for a lawsuit involving a business rival that Deripaska was fighting in London.
Deripaska also tied Hillary to the failed FBI mission to bring home undercover FBI agent Robert Levinson. Deripaska said a then unknown FBI supervisor named Andrew McCabe contacted him asking for help in finding and retrieving Levinson who was caught in Iran in 2007 while on a CIA mission.
Deripaska said he spent $20 million of his own money between 2009 and 2011 on a rescue mission for Levinson. He said he was close to bringing him home when the FBI all of a sudden pulled out of the deal, claiming Hillary Clinton who was then in charge of the State Department torpedoed it.
This tale has the potential to bring down Mueller next week during the hearing because it exposes the FBI’s conflict of interest. They essentially receive a free gift in the form of this privately funded rescue operation before Mueller was tasked with investigating Deripaska’s ties to key figures in the Russian collusion investigation he headed up.
Throughout his interview with Solomon of The Hill, Deripaska was careful with his words. He offered up no extra information, only answered exactly what was asked of him and never implicated Putin or any other Russian source in the interference of the 2016 election. However, when asked for his response to the Steele dossier allegations of Trump-Russia collusion he had no problem repeating the one English word he was certain of for the whole affair – Balderdash.
Now that Deripaska is ready to tell his story that lurks “inside the corners” of Robert Mueller’s report, Hillary Clinton has a lot more explaining to do. How long she can continue to skirt the law and deflect blame to President Trump is yet to be seen.