Oligarch's 'bag man' pressuring Paul Manafort is 'missing link' between Putin and Trump: Author Seth Hettena - 11:10 AM 12/30/2018

Oligarch's 'bag man' pressuring Paul Manafort is 'missing link' between Putin and Trump: Author Seth Hettena

Oligarch's 'bag man' pressuring Paul Manafort is 'missing link' between Putin and Trump: Author Seth Hettena

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On Saturday, Time magazine reported that President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign chair, Paul Manafort, was pressured by a Russian oligarch over his debts.
The reporting named oligarch Victor Boyarkin as the “key figure” in a deal with Manafort. Boyarkin recently fell under sanctions by the U.S. government.
But Seth Hettena, the author of Trump/Russia: A Definitive History, said on CNN Saturday that Boyarkin was likely just the “bag man” for a more powerful oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, who the Trump administration lifted sanctions on earlier this month.
“It is a complex picture, but here’s how to explain it,” Hettena said. “Oleg Deripaska is one of a few oligarchs who are extremely close to Putin and the Kremlin. He said on a couple of occasions he doesn’t separate himself from the state and he would basically do anything when asked by Putin to do. So, you know, what we have is a Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in deep debt to a man like Deripaska. Victor Boyarkin was the bag man.”
That’s not to say that the new reporting isn’t important, Hettena said, as we now know that Boyarkin collected debts for Deripaska.
“Victor Boyarkin was the missing link here,” he said. “We knew that Deripaska was involved. We didn’t know how they were connected. Boyarkin was the go-between. He was hammering Manafort for money while the campaign was going on, and, as you mentioned, one of the ways Manafort may have been suggesting paying it off was to offer private briefings on the campaign. So, you know, you have a campaign manager in debt to a Russian oligarch who’s connected to Putin, who’s been pressured for money in the middle of a campaign that he’s running on behalf of the Republican nominee for president.”
Hettena said that the significance of this development will be more clear once we know what Trump knew and when he knew it.
“What did Trump know?” he asked. “The best case for Trump here is that he didn’t know that there was any Boyarkin connection or Deripaska connection with his campaign chairman. The worst-case scenario, the darker scenario, is that he knew and that’s why he chose Paul Manafort to be his campaign chairman.”
The fact that Trump pushed hard to lift sanctions on Deripaska’s companies, by brokering a deal in which the oligarch agreed to “sell off” control of the world’s second-largest aluminum maker, is suspicious to Hettena.
“To me, that looks like a sweetheart deal,” he said. “Deripaska runs one of the world’s biggest aluminum companies, and those sanctions bit hard, and almost as soon as they were implemented, the Trump administration has been trying to soften the blow, the sanctions were delayed, Deripaska hired lobbyists… Deripaska was supposed to cut his ownership in half, so now half of the shares are owned by his charity, by a Russian bank, and it doesn’t look like control has been really given up at all.”
Watch the interview below.
Read the whole story

· · · ·

Paul Manafort pressured by Russians to pay back debt while Trump's campaign chair, Time magazine says

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Former Russian intelligence officer Victor Boyarkin was in touch with Manafort during the 2016 US presidential campaign on behalf of Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who has close ties to the Kremlin, the magazine reported Saturday.
Boyarkin told 
Time magazine
 that he contacted Manafort to collect the debt he owed to Deripaska.
"He owed us a lot of money," Boyarkin told Time this past fall. "And he was offering ways to pay it back."
"I came down on him hard," Boyarkin added.
Less than two weeks before Trump accepted the Republican nomination, Manafort offered in emails to a middleman

his former business associate Konstantin Kilimnik, to brief Deripaska on the 2016 presidential race, 
The Washington Post
The Atlantic 
reported last year. In the emails, Kilimnik wrote to Manafort about an associate "our friend V" with ties to Deripaska, The Atlantic reported. According to Time, Boyarkin was the "friend."
Former Russian intelligence officer Victor Boyarkin
Former Russian intelligence officer Victor Boyarkin
A spokesman for Manafort declined to comment to CNN on Time's report.
The alleged connection shows the leverage that powerful Russians had over Manafort at the time he was Trump's campaign chair between May and August of 2016, Time noted. Boyarkin also told Time that he has been approached by special counsel Robert Mueller's office, which is investigating ties between Trump campaign associates and Russia, but he told investigators "to go dig a ditch."
Special counsel spokesman Peter Carr declined to comment to Time.
Both Boyarkin and Deripaska, meanwhile, have been 
by the US Treasury Department.
In its December 19 announcement of new Russia sanctions, the Treasury Department referred to Boyarkin as "a former GRU officer who reports directly to Deripaska and has led business negotiations on Deripaska's behalf." The GRU is Russia's military intelligence agency.

Deripaska connection

Manafort worked for Deripaska about a decade ago, providing investment and consulting services to the Russian billionaire, 
according to both men.
But in 2014, lawyers for Deripaska filed a petition in a Cayman Islands court accusing Manafort of having "simply disappeared" with about $19 million of his money, Time reported. In 
a lawsuit earlier this year
, Deripaska also accused Manafort and others of "vanishing" $26 million he gave them a decade ago. The lawsuit, which Deripaska filed in New York state following Manafort's indictment by special counsel Robert Mueller, 
is now paused 
because of the criminal matter.
Boyarkin told Time that his connection to Manafort dates back to 2006. Manafort had a $10 million annual contract with Deripaska that began in 2006, 
the Associated Press reported last year
, citing several people familiar with payments to Manafort and business records obtained by the AP. The contract came after Manafort pitched a confidential proposal to Deripaska "that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and former Soviet republics to benefit (Russian) President Vladimir Putin's government," the AP reported.
Manafort told AP at the time that the contract was not pro-Russian in nature, and a representative of Deripaska told the news organization that the contract was for "investment consulting services related to business interests of Mr. Deripaska."
Manafort was found 
guilty in August
 of eight counts of financial crimes, including tax fraud, bank fraud, and hiding foreign bank accounts. He pleaded guilty in 
 to one count of conspiracy against the US and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice and agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department.
earlier this month
, Mueller accused Manafort of lying about several issues after agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors, including his "contact with administration officials" --- violating his plea agreement.
Manafort is scheduled to receive his first sentence, for the eight financial convictions decided by a Virginia jury, in early February.
His second sentencing date, before the judge who's handling the breach of his plea agreement, is tentatively set for early March.
Read the whole story

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Donald Trump: Paul Manafort 'worked with ex-Russian spy while running campaign for White House' | The Independent

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Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman was working with a former Russian spy during the US presidential race over debts he owed to a Kremlin-linked oligarch, it has been claimed. 
Paul Manafort led Mr Trump’s campaign for president for three months in 2016 before he was forced to resign after his links to Russian interests in Ukraine were made public.
Now a former member of the GRU, Russia’s most feared and secretive spy service, has said he was in contact with Manafort during that time over millions of dollars the political adviser allegedly owed to billionaire businessman Oleg Deripaska. 

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“He owed us a lot of money, and he was offering ways to pay if back,” Victor Boyarkin told Time, in reference to Manafort in 2016.
Mr Boyarkin also told the magazine he had been approached by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, which is probing possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, but that he told investigators “to go dig a ditch”.
His claims could be relevant to Mr Mueller’s investigation as they would present some of the clearest evidence of leverage powerful Russians had over a senior member of Mr Trump’s team. 
Mr Boyarkin was last month placed at the top of the US government’s latest sanctions list against high-profile Russians involved in Moscow’s “continued regard for international norms”. 
The Treasury Department document described Mr Boyarkin as a former GRU officer who “reports directly to Deripaska and has led business negotiations on Deripaska’s behalf”. 
In a 2015 complaint filed to a court in Virginia, Mr Deripaska, a metals magnate, alleged Manafort owed him $19m (£14.95m) in relation to a failed business investment in Ukraine.
Lawyers for Mr Deripaska complained in a petition filed in the Cayman Islands a year earlier that Manafort had “simply disappeared”. 
Mr Boyarkin said it was left to him to reclaim the money on Mr Deripaska’s behalf. “I came down on him hard,” he said. 
When Manafort reappeared, serving initially in April 2016 as an unpaid adviser to the Trump campaign, the 69-year-old tried to offer Mr Deripaska “private briefings” about the election, apparently in an attempt to “get whole”, according to emails seen last year by The Atlantic.
He attempted to do this through an old associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, who had worked for Manafort for a decade in Ukraine.
There is no evidence any meetings occurred between Manafort and Mr Deripaska, and it is unknown if Manafort is actually indebted to the oligarch, or if he paid him back.
Read the whole story

· · · · · ·

Germany’s Strategic Repositioning - Lawfare

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Editor’s Note: For many years, Germany and the United States cooperated to advance mutual foreign policy goals while Germany embedded itself in the European Union. This mutually beneficial arrangement is now in crisis as the Trump administration questions the German alliance and as Europe turns on itself. Gunther Hellmann of the University of Frankfurt gives us a picture of Germany at a crossroads and discusses the perils of each possible path.
Daniel Byman


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