It’s no secret that former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has a lot to answer for regarding the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia. After all, he was the one person on hand for Donald Trump Jr.’s now-infamous meeting seeking Kremlin-flavored “opposition research” on Hillary Clinton who knew this meeting was improper at best. He was also reportedly caught asking Russian operatives to get dirt on Hillary. He also had a long history of shady deals on behalf of the Kremlin that predated his association with Trump.
All of this has Manafort feeling serious heat from special counsel Robert Mueller. Not only was his house raided on a no-knock warrant in August, but Mueller’s investigators have already told him that he is about to be indicted. Mueller also has a welter of information obtained from Foreign Intelligence Service Act wiretaps on Manafort–including his reported invitation to Russian operatives.
In response, Manafort demanded that the Justice Department release any information obtained through those wiretaps. Watch CNN cover this here.
Well, Manafort may be regretting that irate demand. On Wednesday, The Washington Post reported that Manafort offered to give private campaign briefings to Oleg Deripaska, one of the richest men in Russia. Deripaska is the owner of Rusal, the world’s second-largest aluminum company. He is very close to Russian strongman Vladimir Putin; reportedly, he is one of a select group of businessmen who regularly has Putin’s ear. He is also suspected of ties to Russian organized crime, which has been a major roadblock in his efforts to travel to the United States.
All of this makes an email Manafort sent to a Kiev-based employee at his international consulting firm two weeks after the Republican National Convention look curious at best. In that email, dated July 7, Manafort told the colleague, Konstantin Kilimnik, to pass a message to Deripaska.
“If he needs private briefings we can accommodate.”
When confronted with the email, Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni said that Manafort was merely offering a “routine” briefing on the state of the race. He claimed that no briefings actually took place. A spokeswoman for Rusal harrumphed that The Post was asking “manufactured questions,” and that even answering them would lend credibility to “fake connotations.”
Nothing has come to light as of yet that suggests any briefings took place. However, the fact Manafort even made the offer in the first place raises a huge red flag. You have the operating head of a major-party presidential campaign offering to give briefings to a businessman who not only has the ear of a foreign government, but is also suspected of ties to organized crime. Manafort’s political career dates to the 1970s, so it’s hard to find any good-faith explanation for this approach.
Norman Eisen, the White House ethics counsel during the early stages of the Obama administration, suspects Manafort may not be the only one who has some explaining to do.
This was not just Manafort–emails said "we." Who was in that "we," I wonder? https://t.co/AZ8ZU4EvNr
— Norm Eisen (@NormEisen) September 20, 2017
Whoever is in that “we” better have a lawyer on speed dial.
We already knew that Manafort was in a legal vise. Now we know the vise may be a lot tighter.
(featured image courtesy ABC News, available under a Creative Commons BY-ND license)