Report: Manafort offered ‘private briefings’ to Russian billionaire during election
President Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort offered to provide “private briefings” on the 2016 race to a Russian billionaire with close ties to the Kremlin, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
Less than two weeks before Trump cinched the Republican presidential nomination, Manafort offered the briefings to an intermediary, asking that the message be relayed to Oleg Deripaska, an aluminum magnate allied with Russian President Vladimir Putin and with whom Manafort had worked in the past.
“If he needs private briefings we can accommodate,” Manafort reportedly wrote in an email sent July 7, 2016.
There is no evidence in the emails, which have been turned over to special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional investigators, that Deripaska received the offer or that any briefings took place.
A spokeswoman for Deripaska told the Post that the email exchanges were scheming by “consultants in the notorious ‘beltway bandit’ industry.”
Mueller and multiple congressional committees are probing whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia as part of Moscow’s efforts to swing the election.
A spokesman for Manafort, Jason Maloni, denied that any briefings ever took place and said the offer was for what would have been “routine” meetings on the state of the campaign.
The revelation casts even more scrutiny onto Manafort, now believed to be a central focus of Mueller’s investigation. Manafort first drew attention over his work for a Kremlin-backed political candidate in Ukraine, and in August, federal investigators raided his home in Alexandria, Va.
Maloni has also been summoned to answer questions before a grand jury.
Mueller’s team has threatened Manafort with an indictment, according to The New York Times, and people close to Manafort reportedly believe Mueller is attempting to “flip” the former campaign chairman so that he will provide information on his former Trump associates.
Deripaska is one of Russia’s richest men and is believed to be one of the oligarchs to whom Putin turns most frequently.
In 2008, a business parter of Manafort’s helped arrange a meeting between Deripaska and then-presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Both Manafort and Deripaska have confirmed the Russian businessman paid Manafort as an investment consultant.
But by 2014, that business relationship had eroded. In 2014, Deripaska accused Manafort of taking nearly $19 million intended for investments and then failing to either return the money or account for how the funds had been used.
There is no sign that the suit, filed in a Cayman Islands Court, has been closed, according to the Post.
The documents now under review by Mueller and investigators number in the tens of thousands and also include emails that show Manafort waved off concerns by longtime Trump aide Hope Hicks that Manafort was not putting the candidate’s best interests first.
In one April 2016 email, he instructs her to disregard questions from the Post about his relationship to Deripaska and a separate Ukrainian businessman, according to people familiar with the email.
Manafort also told Hicks in a June email that he had never had any ties to the Russian government.
Hicks is now the White House communications director.
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