Well…this could get awkward for Mueller.
Word has it there may be a conflict of interest involving Robert Mueller and a Russian oligarch. It’s confusing, but The Right Scoop sums it up this way:
It’s a little complicated – basically the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who was later sanctioned by Trump, put up $25 million and helped the FBI try to find and rescue Robert Levinson, who was working for the CIA when he was captured by Iran in 2007.
Here’s the longer version from The Hill:
In 2009, when Mueller ran the FBI, the bureau asked Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to spend millions of his own dollars funding an FBI-supervised operation to rescue a retired FBI agent, Robert Levinson, captured in Iran while working for the CIA in 2007.
Yes, that’s the same Deripaska who has surfaced in Mueller’s current investigation and who was recently sanctioned by the Trump administration.
The Levinson mission is confirmed by more than a dozen participants inside and outside the FBI, including Deripaska, his lawyer, the Levinson family and a retired agent who supervised the case. Mueller was kept apprised of the operation, officials told me.
Some aspects of Deripaska’s help were chronicled in a 2016 book by reporter Barry Meier, but sources provide extensive new information about his role.
They said 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.
“We knew he was paying for his team helping us, and that probably ran into the millions,” a U.S. official involved in the operation confirmed.
One agent who helped court Deripaska was Andrew McCabe, the recently fired FBI deputy director who played a seminal role starting the Trump-Russia case, multiple sources confirmed.
Deripaska’s lawyer said the Russian ultimately spent $25 million assembling a private search and rescue team that worked with Iranian contacts under the FBI’s watchful eye. Photos and videos indicating Levinson was alive were uncovered.
Then in fall 2010, the operation secured an offer to free Levinson. The deal was scuttled, however, when the State Department become uncomfortable with Iran’s terms, according to Deripaska’s lawyer and the Levinson family.
He was never found.
Then there’s this:
Deripaska once hired Manafort as a political adviser and invested money with him in a business venture that went bad. Deripaska sued Manafort, alleging he stole money.
Mueller’s indictment of Manafort makes no mention of Deripaska, even though prosecutors have evidence that Manafort contemplated inviting his old Russian client for a 2016 Trump campaign briefing. Deripaska said he never got the invite and investigators have found no evidence it occurred. There’s no public evidence Deripaska had anything to do with election meddling.
Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz told me he believes Mueller has a conflict of interest because his FBI previously accepted financial help from a Russian that is, at the very least, a witness in the current probe.
“The real question becomes whether it was proper to leave [Deripaska] out of the Manafort indictment, and whether that omission was to avoid the kind of transparency that is really required by the law,” Dershowitz said.
So basically, we don’t know if Mueller deliberately left him out. It’s a complicated, shady business we’re dealing with here. Who knows if there’s actually something there.
A little bit of this feels desperate– almost as desperate as Mueller’s attempts at finding non-existent collusion between Trump and Russia.
h/t The Hill