Tag: Russia

Oleg Deripaska: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Oleg Deripaska in 2004. (Getty)

The Associated Press is reporting that President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager “secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago.”

That billionaire is an oligarch named Oleg Deripaska, who made his fortune in aluminum and is said to be one of Putin’s close confidantes.

The link comes despite assurances from the Trump administration that former campaign manager Paul Manafort “never worked in the Kremlin’s interests,” according to The Independent. The report comes after FBI Director James Comey revealed the agency is investigating people in the Trump campaign to see whether there was any coordination with Russian efforts to undermine the 2016 presidential election.

Manafort denies the report, saying he never worked for Russian political interests when he did business with Deripaska, reports AP. Trump’s administration denies knowing about Manafort’s work for Deripaska:

Who is Oleg Deripaska?

Here’s what you need to know:


1. Deripaska Survived Russia’s ‘Gangster Wars’ to Seize Control of the Aluminum Industry

Oleg Deripaska is on the left. (Getty)

According to Forbes Magazine, Deripaska is a “former metals trader” who “survived the gangster wars in the aluminum industry.”

PBS calls him the “aluminum king.”

In 2000, at only age 31, he “assumed control of Russian Aluminum, the country’s dominant producer,” reported Forbes.

That’s not all that Deripaska has his hands in. According to Forbes, “He owns stakes in UC Rusal, a leading aluminum producer; EuroSibEnergo, one of the largest hydroelectric power producers in the world; GAZ Group, a leading automotive company; Ingosstrakh, an insurance company, and AgroHolding Kuban, large agricultural company in Russia.” He also operates Russian airports, reported Forbes.


2. Deripaska Was Once Worth $28 Billion & Is Related Through Marriage to Boris Yeltsin

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Governor of St Petersburg Valentina Matviyenko, guest and Russian businessman Oleg V. Deripaska attends the Maryinsky Ball held at the Catherine Palace, summer palace of the Czars on June 21, 2008 in St. Petersburg, Russia. (Getty)

A PBS story in 2003 reported that Deripaska, then 35, was Russia’s “youngest billionaire” (he was born in 1968.) His net worth has dropped from a reported $28 billion to $5.1 billion in 2017, according to Forbes.

A 2011 profile in the Globe and Mail describes the Deripaska family chalet outside Moscow as having “a small ski hill next to the chalet” that “is floodlit, exposing a few of the security guards who are an eternal presence in his life.”

The story reported that Deripaska was fond of Japanese design, Maple syrup, and classic Russian novels and says he was once worth $28 billion. The profile reports that Deripaska married Polina Yumashev in 2001 and has two children with her. PBS reported she is the daughter of former Russian president Boris Yeltsin’s chief of staff, and Yeltin’s granddaughter by marriage, making Deripaska Yeltsin’s grandson.


3. Deripaska Is Described as Being Very Close to Putin

Rex Tillerson Putin, Rex Tillerson Russia, Rex Tillerson Secretary of State

Vladimir Putin in December 2016. (Getty)

The AP story reported that “U.S. diplomatic cables from 2006 described Deripaska as ‘among the 2-3 oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis’ and ‘a more-or-less permanent fixture on Putin’s trips abroad.’”

According to an intelligence company summation of Deripaska published by WikiLeaks, he “has survived until recent years because of his connections. He is married into the Yeltsin family, literally and is one of those listed under the clan called ‘The Family.’” The summation adds, “He says he’s been setting all the blocks up to be indispensible to Putin and the Kremlin and that they are just now noticing it.” That was 2007.

Deripaska suffered financial problems, and, reported the Globe and Mail profile, “Mr. Deripaska managed to save Rusal – the aluminum company that was the main source of his wealth…some think he would be dead and buried without a little help from his Kremlin friends, who evidently had no desire to see his investments seized by non-Russians.”

There are reports of tensions with Putin, though, too. In 2009, Putin compared oligarchs like Deripaska to cockroaches and “forced Mr. Deripaska to sign a document safeguarding the future of a local factory,” Globe and Mail reported.

The Telegraph reported that Putin “forced him to accompany him on a tour of Pikalevo, a factory town that has witnessed the most serious social unrest Russia has seen since the start of the global economic crisis” in 2009.


4. Manafort Received Millions From Deripaska but he Denies the Report He Did Political Work That Traces Back to Putin

Paul Manafort, former advisor to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.(Getty)

The AP reports that Manafort signed a contract in 2006 with Deripaska that was worth $10 million a year. According to CNN, Manafort confirmed he worked for Deripaska but “rejected an Associated Press report alleging that work was aimed at furthering the political interests of Putin’s government.”

Manafort’s spokesman told CNN he worked for Deripaska “on business and personal matters in countries where he had investments. My work for Mr. Deripaska did not involve representing Russian political interests.”

In contrast, the exclusive AP report contended that Manafort “proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse.”

Time Magazine reported that Deripaska was one of Manafort’s “pro Putin clients,” adding, that “American authorities denied a visa” to Deripaska “because of ties to organized crime. (Former Senator Majority Leader Bob Dole, who hired Manafort to run his 1996 bid, helped secure Deripaska’s visa for a $560,000 fee in 2005.)”


5. Deripaska Was Once in the Soviet Army & Studied Nuclear Physics

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Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister and presidential front-runner, Dmitry Medvedev (L) speaks with Russian aluminum baron Oleg Deripaska (R) in Krasnoyarsk on February 15, 2008. (Getty)

According to the Globe and Mail, Deripaska was born in southern Russia in “Cossack country’s tea-growing region” and “was drafted into the Soviet army” before he became “an accomplished physics and math student and went on to study nuclear physics at Moscow State University.”

PBS reported that Deripaska was a 23-year-old college student when the Soviet Union collapsed, and he got his start buying a stake “in a Siberian smelter plant.”

Deripaska’s upbringing was a tough one. According to The Financial Times, “his mother left him there to live with his grandparents at an early age (his father had died when he was very young). He had to learn quickly to be tough. When his grandparents died, the state seized their home in a programme to break up Cossack settlements.”

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Clinton ‘Uranium Deal’ & Russia: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Bill and Hillary Clinton in 2016. (Getty)

President Donald Trump attempted to throw attention toward Bill and Hillary Clinton and Russia – specifically a supposed uranium deal.

Trump, under repeated fire for his own campaign’s alleged ties to Russia, wrote on March 27, “Why isn’t the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Bill & Hillary deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia, Russian speech….”

What is Trump talking about? Did Bill and Hillary Clinton make a deal that “allowed big Uranium” to go to Russia?

It’s not a new claim by Trump, as it turns out.

Here’s what you need to know:


1. The Claim Dates to a Clinton Foundation Donor Named Frank Giustra

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Hillary Clinton. (Getty)

The Washington Post wrote an exhaustive article about the uranium question when Trump raised it during the presidential campaign.

The Post reported that the claim derived from a book called Clinton Cash and a New York Times article about that book.

According to The Washington Post, the players involved were “Frank Giustra, a Canadian mining financier and donor to the Clinton Foundation; Giustra’s company, UrAsia; and Uranium One, a uranium mining company headquartered in Toronto.”

Factcheck.org reported on the same 2015 New York Times story that recounted “how the Clinton Foundation had received millions in donations from investors in Uranium One, a Canadian-based company that sold a controlling stake in 2010 to Rosatom, the Russian nuclear energy agency, in a deal that had to be approved by the U.S. government.”

The site reported that the Clinton Foundation did not disclose the donations “even though then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had an agreement with the White House that the foundation would disclose all contributors.”

The Clinton Foundation acknowledged “we made mistakes, as many organizations of our size do, but we are acting quickly to remedy them.”

The New York Times story had reported: “As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million.”


2. Russia Bought a Controlling Stake in Uranium One

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Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Getty)

Politifact also conducted a detailed review of the Trump-Clinton uranium claims.

According to the site, “Russia’s nuclear energy agency, which also builds nuclear weapons, bought a controlling stake in Uranium One. The company has mines, mills and tracts of land in Wyoming, Utah and other U.S. states equal to about 20 percent of U.S. uranium production capacity.”

The New York Times reported in 2015 that Russian President Vladimir Putin crowed about the deal, with a Pravda newspaper headline trumpeting: “Russian Nuclear Energy Conquers the World.”

According to The Times, “The deal made Rosatom one of the world’s largest uranium producers and brought Mr. Putin closer to his goal of controlling much of the global uranium supply chain.”


3. The State Department Signed Off on the Deal but Hillary Clinton Wasn’t Involved, Her Campaign Contended

Hillary Clinton. (Getty)

The Washington Post reports that the State Department was involved.

“The State Department was one of nine agencies comprising CFIUS, which vets potential national security impacts of transactions where a foreign government gains control of a U.S. company,” The Post wrote.

The Post noted that Clinton’s campaign said “Clinton herself was not involved in the State Department’s review and did not direct the department to take any position on the sale of Uranium One.”

However, the New York Times article, from 2015, noted, “Shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.”


4.Donald Trump Claimed During the Campaign That Hillary Clinton Gave 20 Percent of America’s Uranium to Russia

Donald Trump.(Getty)

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump lodged the uranium accusation during a campaign rally.

According to Politifact, Trump said that Hillary Clinton “gave up 20 percent of America’s uranium supply to Russia — to Russia.”

Politifact ranked the claim “mostly false” because there was no evidence of a quid pro quo. According to Politifact, “The State Department did approve the Uranium One deal, but it didn’t act unilaterally. It was one of nine U.S. government agencies, plus independent federal and state nuclear regulators, that had to sign off on the deal.”

Factcheck.org reported that Trump falsely tried to characterize the uranium deal as a pay for play scheme by Hillary Clinton.

“In a TV ad, Donald Trump falsely claims that Hillary Clinton ‘handed over American uranium rights to the Russians’ as part of a ‘pay-to-play’ scheme to get ‘filthy rich.’ Clinton did not have the authority to unilaterally approve that deal,” Factcheck.org reported.

The New York Times story reported that Clinton’s campaign had “emphasized that multiple United States agencies, as well as the Canadian government, had signed off on the deal and that, in general, such matters were handled at a level below the secretary.”


5. The Claim originated From a Conservative Author & Subsequent Article in the New York Times

Bill and Hillary Clinton. (Getty)

According to Fact Check.org, the uranium deal claim derives from the book “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,” which was written by Peter Schweizer, “a former fellow at a conservative think tank.”

The New York Times then wrote the follow-up investigative article in 2015 headlined, “Cash Flowed to Clinton Foundation Amid Russian Uranium Deal.”

The Times found that “whether the donations played any role in the approval of the uranium deal is unknown” but said the donations and deal raised ethical challenges.

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WATCH: Vladimir Putin Says ‘Read My Lips, No’ to Tampering In U.S. Election

In a rare public interview, Russia President Vladimir Putin denied claims that the country tampered with the 2016 United States presidential election.

In the interview, Putin is asked about interfering with the election and if the country had an influence, to which Putin quoted former President George H.W. Bush with his response: “Read my lips: No.”

Watch a video of the remarks above, and for a full video of the panel, watch below.

Putin was speaking on a panel on Arctic issues in Archangelsk, Russia with other world leaders March 30.

Putin called any accusations of influencing the U.S. election “lies.”

All those things are fictional, illusory and provocations, lies. All these are used for domestic American political agendas. The anti-Russian card is played by different political forces inside the United States to trade on that and consolidate their positions inside.

He said in the panel that he was quoting former President Ronald Reagan — though it’s was actually Bush who said it — asking to “read my lips.”

Later in the interview Putin called accusations “ridiculous” and “absurd,” saying the negative look on some of the relations are simply how politics are in the U.S.

The inquiry comes after F.B.I. Director James Comey confirmed that the agency is investigation the Russian governments possible effort to interfere in the presidential election election.

Russia and some Trump administration aides are being investigated by the F.B.I. for illicit connections during the election.

The New York Times reported that authorities in the U.S. “intercepted communications” at about the same time they found evidence that Russia was attempting to disrupt the election by hacking the email server of the Democratic National Committee.

WATCH: Sean Spicer Asks April Ryan to ‘Stop Shaking’ Her Head

At Tuesday’s White House press briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer told journalist April Ryan to “please stop shaking your head again.” Watch the video.

Click here to read more

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Michael Flynn ‘Immunity Offer:’ 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn answers questions in the briefing room of the White House February 1, 2017 in Washington D.C.(Getty)

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has offered to be interviewed in the investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia in exchange for immunity, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

In a statement issued after that report, Flynn’s lawyer tweeted the the retired lieutenant general “has a story to tell, and he very much needs to tell it.”

Flynn resigned after questions arose about his communications with the Russian ambassador before Donald Trump’s inauguration; the president broke with Flynn because he believed Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence about those conversations.

Donald Trump tweeted on March 31 that Flynn should seek immunity:

The potential of a Flynn immunity offer raises the stakes for the Trump administration and has a lot of people wondering what Flynn has to say.

Here’s what you need to know:


1. The Wall Street Journal Broke the Story That Flynn Will Testify for Immunity

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn arrives at the Trump Tower for meetings with US President-elect Donald Trump, in New York on November 17, 2016. (Getty)

The Wall Street Journal broke the story, based on anonymous sources, on March 30.

“Mike Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, has told the Federal Bureau of Investigation and congressional officials investigating the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russia that he is willing to be interviewed in exchange for a grant of immunity from prosecution,” the newspaper reported.

NBC News reported that it had confirmed the story. However, The New York Times reported that a “congressional official said investigators were unwilling to broker a deal with Mr. Flynn… until they are further along in their inquiries and they better understand what information Mr. Flynn might offer as part of a deal.”

The New York Times reported that some experts cautioned against reading too much into the immunity question, saying it might just be good lawyering; Justice can’t stop an immunity deal, but Congress usually consults with prosecutors first, according to The Times.

PHOTOS: Lt. General Michael Flynn & Family

Retired Army Lt. General Michael Flynn has been offered the position of Donald Trump’s national security adviser. See photos of Flynn and his family.

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2. Flynn’s Lawyer Says ‘Discussions Have Taken Place’

After the report in The Wall Street Journal, Flynn’s lawyer, Robert Kelner, released a statement on Twitter that confirmed “discussions have taken place” although it doesn’t specifically use the word immunity.

“Out of respect for the Committees, we will not comment right now on the details of discussions between counsel for General Flynn and the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, other than to confirm that those discussions have taken place. But it is important to acknowledge the circumstances in which those discussions are occurring.”

The letter then lists Flynn’s accomplishments, calling him a “highly decorated 33-year veteran of the U.S. Army. He devoted most of his life to serving his country, spending many years away from his family fighting this nation’s battles around the world.”


3. Flynn’s Lawyer Saved His Harshest Criticism for the Media & Flynn Previously Said a Grant of Immunity Is an Indication a Crime Was Committed

Michael Flynn, Michael Flynn Russia, Michael Flynn Trump adviser

Flynn and Trump at a campaign rally. (Getty)

According to NBC, in September, Flynn told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, “When you are given immunity that means you’ve probably committed a crime.” NBC reported that Flynn was talking about Hillary Clinton when he made that remark. Watch:

The Kelner letter doesn’t mention Trump. Rather, it excoriates the media for peddling “unfounded allegations” of treason against Flynn.

The letter said “the media are awash with unfounded allegations, outrageous claims of treason, and vicious innuendo directed against” Flynn.

“He is now the target of unsubstantiated public demands by Members of Congress and other political critics that he be criminally investigated. No reasonable person who has the benefit of advice from counsel, would submit to questioning in such a highly politicized witch hunt environment without assurances against unfair prosecution.”


4. Flynn Acknowledged Not Fully Briefing Pence on His Conversations With the Russian Ambassador

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Sergey Kislyak. (Russian embassy)

Flynn served as Trump’s national security adviser for only 24 days when he became ensnared in controversy over the nature of conversations he had with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, after the election but before Trump took the oath of office.

Flynn spoke with the Russian ambassador about sanctions against Russia shortly before Trump took office, contrary to past denials, The Washington Post reported shortly before Flynn resigned.

The New York Times ran a similar report, saying Flynn spoke with Kislyak about sanctions and cooperation between the two countries in the month before Trump was inaugurated and while Barack Obama was still in the White House. The newspaper quoted unnamed officials as saying the conversations were “inappropriate” and indicated there were transcripts because the government engages in eavesdropping.

National security adviser Flynn discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador, despite denials, officials say

The communications occurred before the Trump administration took office, say current and former officials.

Click here to read more


5. Questions About Russia Have Continued to Swirl Around the Trump Administration

Donald Trump New York Times, New York Times Apology, New York Times Trump

(Getty)

In March, the FBI’s James Comey confirmed the Bureau is investigating Trump’s campaign for links to the Russian government.

“I’ve been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election,” Comey said in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, The Atlantic reported. “That includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”

Trump has attempted to throw attention toward Bill and Hillary Clinton and Russia – specifically a supposed uranium deal.

Trump, under repeated fire for his own campaign’s alleged ties to Russia, wrote on March 27, “Why isn’t the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Bill & Hillary deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia, Russian speech….” You can read more about that allegation here:

Clinton ‘Uranium Deal’ & Russia: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

A Clinton Uranium deal in Russia? That’s what Donald Trump is saying of Hillary and Bill Clinton. But is it true?

Click here to read more

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WATCH: Michael Flynn Says Immunity is an Indication of Crime

Before news broke that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn will testify in exchange for immunity in the investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia, Flynn said on television that a grant of immunity “means you’ve probably committed a crime.”

According to NBC, in September, Flynn told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, “When you are given immunity that means you’ve probably committed a crime.” NBC reported that Flynn was talking about Hillary Clinton when he made that remark, and the investigation into her emails.

You can watch the video above.

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn answers questions in the briefing room of the White House February 1, 2017 in Washington D.C.(Getty)

The Wall Street Journal broke the story on March 30 that Flynn has offered to be interviewed in the investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia in exchange for prosecutorial immunity.

In a statement issued after that report, Flynn’s lawyer tweeted that the retired lieutenant general “has a story to tell, and he very much needs to tell it.”

Flynn resigned after questions arose about his communications with the Russian ambassador before Donald Trump’s inauguration; the president broke with Flynn because he believed Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence about those conversations.

The potential of a Flynn immunity offer raises the stakes for the Trump administration and has a lot of people wondering what Flynn has to say.

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn arrives at the Trump Tower for meetings with US President-elect Donald Trump, in New York on November 17, 2016. (Getty)

The Wall Street Journal broke the story, based on anonymous sources, on March 30.

“Mike Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, has told the Federal Bureau of Investigation and congressional officials investigating the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russia that he is willing to be interviewed in exchange for a grant of immunity from prosecution,” the newspaper reported.

NBC News reported that it had confirmed the story.

After the report in The Wall Street Journal, Flynn’s lawyer, Robert Kelner, released a statement on Twitter that confirmed “discussions have taken place” although it doesn’t specifically use the word immunity.

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