Richard Mueller left the name of a Russian oligarch out of the Paul Manafort indictment—one who did the FBI a big favor.
A recent story about a Russian oligarch not only shows that Mueller may have a conflict of interest, but that most stories about “the Russians” are vastly over-simplified, to the point of deceiving the public.
Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska may be a fine man. The State Department doesn’t think so. But government bureaucracies have been wrong before. The FBI formed a much more positive view of him. This view seems justified since Deripaska spent $25 million of his own money to finance a search and rescue of a retired FBI agent who disappeared in Iran while working for the CIA. (The fact that an agent would retire from the FBI, then work for the CIA, is interesting in itself.)
Ultimately, the State Department halted the effort to make a deal for the agent’s release from Iran.
The reason this matters now is that Deripaska also did business with Paul Manafort, but Mueller doesn’t even name him as a witness in the Manafort indictment. Why not?
The Hill reports, “Mueller may have a conflict — and it leads directly to a Russian oligarch.”
In 2009, when Mueller ran the FBI, the bureau asked Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to spend millions of his own dollars funding an FBI-supervised operation to rescue a retired FBI agent, Robert Levinson, captured in Iran while working for the CIA in 2007.[…]
Deripaska’s lawyer said the Russian ultimately spent $25 million assembling a private search and rescue team that worked with Iranian contacts under the FBI’s watchful eye. Photos and videos indicating Levinson was alive were uncovered.[…]
Then, over the past two years, evidence emerged tying him to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, the first defendant charged by Mueller’s Russia probe with money laundering and illegal lobbying.
Deripaska once hired Manafort as a political adviser and invested money with him in a business venture that went bad. Deripaska sued Manafort, alleging he stole money.
Mueller’s indictment of Manafort makes no mention of Deripaska, even though prosecutors have evidence that Manafort contemplated inviting his old Russian client for a 2016 Trump campaign briefing. Deripaska said he never got the invite and investigators have found no evidence it occurred. There’s no public evidence Deripaska had anything to do with election meddling.
The U.S. government in April imposed sanctions on Deripaska, one of several prominent Russians targeted to punish Vladimir Putin — using the same sort of allegations that State used from 2006 to 2009. Yet, between those two episodes, Deripaska seemed good enough for the FBI to ask him to fund that multimillion-dollar rescue mission and to allow him into the country eight times.[…]
Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz told me he believes Mueller has a conflict of interest because his FBI previously accepted financial help from a Russian that is, at the very least, a witness in the current probe.
“The real question becomes whether it was proper to leave [Deripaska] out of the Manafort indictment, and whether that omission was to avoid the kind of transparency that is really required by the law,” Dershowitz said.
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