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Report: Author of Clinton-funded Trump-Russia dossier previously worked for the Kremlin
For someone so concerned with Donald Trump’s ties to the Kremlin, Hillary Clinton sure has a lot of Russian connections.
According to a new report, Christopher Steele — the same British spy who Clinton hired to dig up dirt on Donald Trump — was once hired by a Russian oligarch who was featured prominently in Robert Mueller’s investigation. Oleg Deripaska told The Hill that he retained Steele, author of the infamous Russian dossier, in 2012 for opposition research on a lawsuit involving a business rival.
“It was a research project to support one of the cases against me in London,” Deripaska told The Hill’s John Solomon. “But my understanding was that lawyers trust him for some reason and he was for quite a time on retainer.”
Strangely, Steele later lobbied on Deripaska’s behalf with the DOJ to get the Russian a U.S. visa — while Steele was working on the Trump-Russia dossier. Deripaska also confirmed that he bankrolled an aborted $20 million hostage rescue mission for Robert Mueller’s FBI between 2009 and 2011.
The Clinton campaign hired Steele through opposition research firm Fusion GPS to piece together the infamous dossier in 2016. Steele, a former MI6 spy, used Russian sources to assemble the salacious, unverified document, according to The Daily Caller.
Separately, Deripaska, a billionaire aluminum magnate, hired Steele to do research on a lawsuit involving a business rival in London in 2012. The Russian said that he did not know that Steele worked for the FBI at the time on a project to recruit Russian intelligence sources.
The British spy invited Deripaska in 2015 to meet with Justice Department officials to talk about getting a U.S. visa, an invitation that Deripaska called a “pretext” to pick his brain about Russian intelligence. The State Department banished Deripaska from traveling to the United States in 2006 over alleged ties to the Russian mob, and he is still locked in a legal battle with the State Department over his visa restrictions, as well as costly sanctions that the Trump administration imposed on his business last year.
“They actually never talk, you know, about the [visa] problem. They start talking about anything else. They ask, ‘Do you have anything? Give me names. Cases, whatever,’” Deripaska explained.
Deripaska’s admissions add to a dizzying web of links involving the Russian, Steele, the Department of Justice (DOJ), and Fusion GPS. The Washington Examiner reported last year that Steele was lobbying on behalf of Deripaska in the visa case while he was working on the dossier. Steele was in communication with ex DOJ official Bruce Ohr, husband of ex-Fusion GPS employee Nellie Ohr, on the matter.
Deripaska told The Hill that he was surprised to hear Steele’s name mentioned when the infamous Russia dossier went public. As Chuck Ross at the Daily Caller notes, though, the link between Deripaska and Steele raises questions about whether he was a source for the Trump-Russia dossier, which Steele assembled from Kremlin insiders.
Republicans have long alleged that the salacious, unverified dossier was integral to sparking the Russia collusion investigation. The dossier and its author have come under withering scrutiny, especially after Mueller ended his probe without establishing that a criminal conspiracy took place between the Trump campaign and Russia. Mueller’s report has also been criticized for glossing over the dossier and the links between Fusion GPS, Steele, the Clinton campaign, and U.S. intelligence.
The Russian oligarch revealed other details to The Hill that also call into question the circumstances of Mueller’s collusion probe. In 2016, FBI agents questioned Deripaska on whether a former business associate, former Trump campaign official Paul Manafort, had colluded with Russians, Deripaska confirmed. The Russian laughed at the theory, telling investigators that they were “creating something out of nothing.”
“I told them straightforward, I just don’t believe that he would represent any Russian interest,” he said. “And knowing what he’s doing on Ukraine for the last, what, seven or eight years.”
But Mueller’s team never told Manafort’s lawyers that Deripaska doubted Manafort was involved in collusion, according to Manafort’s lawyer, Kevin Downing. Manafort was originally investigated for collusion, but was convicted and sentenced to prison for separate finance crimes.
Deripaska and Manafort reportedly had a falling out over a joint business venture that went south. The Russian sued Manafort for allegedly stealing money from the business.
Deripaska also confirmed a story that has raised questions of conflict of interest in Mueller’s probe. From 2009 to 2011, Deripaska put down $20 million to fund a botched effort by Robert Mueller’s FBI to save a former FBI agent who had been captured in Iran.
Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe was one of the officials who approached Deripaska about the plan. The plan went awry after Hillary Clinton’s State Department intervened, and the captive agent was never seen again.
Some have suggested that Mueller’s investigation could have been conflicted by Deripaska’s favor, although the Russian told The Hill that he never expected anything in return. But Deripaska reportedly received a rare law enforcement visa in 2009 with the FBI’s help.
Republicans have alleged a conspiracy between the Clinton campaign, FBI, and DOJ, possibly reaching up to Mueller and beyond, to investigate Trump on false pretenses. And the odd Russian link between Deripaska and Steele, as well as Deripaska’s interactions with Mueller’s FBI and McCabe, fits within a picture of coordination between the Clinton campaign, the U.S. intelligence apparatus, and Russian sources who provided the dossier gossip.
Who was it that colluded again? Mueller found nothing on Trump’s side. But the same can’t be said here.
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