Russian Oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a close associate of Vladimir Putin, has gone on record with The Hill's John Solomon - admitting to colluding with Americans leading up to the 2016 US election, except it might not be what you're thinking.
Deripaska, rumored to be Donald Trump's "back channel" to Putin via the Russian's former association with Paul Manafort, says he "colluded" with the US Government between 2009 and 2016.
In 2009, when Robert Mueller was running the FBI, the agency asked Deripaska to spend $25 million of his own money to bankroll an FBI-supervised operation to rescue a retired FBI agent - Robert Levinson, who was kidnapped in 2007 while working on a 2007 CIA contract in Iran. This in and of itself is more than a bit strange.
Deripaska agreed, however the Obama State Department, headed by Hillary Clinton, scuttled a last-minute deal with Iran before Levinson could be released. He hasn't been heard from since.
FBI agents courted Deripaska in 2009 in a series of secret hotel meetings in Paris; Vienna; Budapest, Hungary, and Washington. Agents persuaded the aluminum industry magnate to underwrite the mission. The Russian billionaire insisted the operation neither involve nor harm his homeland. -The Hill
In other words - Trump's alleged "back channel" to Putin was in fact an FBI asset who spent $25 million helping Obama's "scandal free" administration find a kidnapped agent. Deripaska's admitted
Steele, Ohr and the 2016 US Election
As the New York Times frames it, distancing Deripaska from the FBI (no mention of the $25 million rescue effort, for example), the Russian aluminum magnate was just one of several Putin-linked Oligarchs the FBI tried to flip.
The attempt to flip Mr. Deripaska was part of a broader, clandestine American effort to gauge the possibility of gaining cooperation from roughly a half-dozen of Russia’s richest men, nearly all of whom, like Mr. Deripaska, depend on President Vladimir V. Putin to maintain their wealth, the officials said. -NYT
Central to the recruiting effort were two central players in the Trump-Russia investigation; twice-demoted DOJ #4 official Bruce Ohr and Christopher Steele - the author of the largely unverified "Steele Dossier."
Steele, a longtime associate of Ohr's, worked for Deripaska beginning in 2012 researching a business rival - work which would evolve to the point where the former British spy was interfacing with the Obama administration on his behalf - resulting in Deripaska regaining entry into the United States, where he visited numerous times between 2009 and 2017.
The State Department tried to keep him from getting a U.S. visa between 2006 and 2009 because they believed he had unspecified connections to criminal elements in Russia as he consolidated power in the aluminum industry. Deripaska has denied those allegations...
Whatever the case, it is irrefutable that after he began helping the FBI, Deripaska regained entry to the United States. And he visited numerous times between 2009 and 2017, visa entry records show. -The Hill
Deripaska is now banned from the United States as one of several Russians sanctioned in April in response to alleged 2016 election meddling.
In a September 2016 meeting, Deripaska told FBI agents that it was "preposterous" that Paul Manafort was colluding with Russia to help Trump win the 2016 election. This, despite the fact that Deripaska and Manafort's business relationship "ended in lawsuits, per The Hill - and the Russian would have every reason to throw Manafort under the bus if he wanted some revenge on his old associate.
So the FBI and DOJ secretly collaborated with Trump's alleged backchannel over a seven-year period, starting with Levinson, then on Deripaska's Visa, and finally regarding whether Paul Manafort was an intermediary to Putin. Deripaska vehemently denies the assertion, and even took out newspaper advertisements in the US last year volunteering to testify to Congress, refuting an AP report that he and Manafort secretly worked on a plan to "greatly benefit the Putin government" a decade ago.
Soon after the advertisements ran, representatives for the House and Senate Intelligence Committees called a Washington-based lawyer for Mr. Deripaska, Adam Waldman, inquiring about taking his client up on the offer to testify, Mr. Waldman said in an interview.
What happened after that has been in dispute. Mr. Waldman, who stopped working for Mr. Deripaska after the sanctions were levied, said he told the committee staff that his client would be willing to testify without any grant of immunity, but would not testify about any Russian collusion with the Trump campaign because “he doesn’t know anything about that theory and actually doesn’t believe it occurred.” -NYT
In short, Deripaska wants it known that he worked with the FBI and DOJ, and that he had nothing to do with the Steele dossier.
Today, Deripaska is banned anew from the United States, one of several Russians sanctioned in April by the Trump administration as a way to punish Putin for 2016 election meddling. But he wants to be clear about a few things, according to a statement provided by his team. First, he did collude with Americans in the form of voluntarily assisting and meeting with the FBI, the DOJ and people such as Ohr between 2009 and 2016.
He also wants Americans to know he did not cooperate or assist with Steele’s dossier, and he tried to dispel the FBI notion that Russia and the Trump campaign colluded during the 2016 election. -The Hill
Interestingly, Steele's dossier which was partially funded by the Clinton campaign, relied on senior Kremlin officials.
It would be most helpful if the Department of Justice could please investigate and then prosecute themselves and/or members of the previous administration, so that journalists like John Solomon, Sara Carter, Luke Rosiak, Chuck Ross and others don't have to continue to break stories that are seemingly ignored by all but a handful of Congressional investigators.