Is it possible that Robert Mueller was just exposed by information showing a conflict of interest with Russia? The special counsel’s past relationship with a Russian oligarch is raising questions. Oleg Deripaska is now a witness in Mueller’s investigation. And new details are emerging about past engagement between Deripaska and Mueller when he was FBI Director.
Mueller apparently made a deal in 2009 with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to help rescue hostage Robert Levinson from Iran. Deripaska’s connection with Paul Manafort has brought him under the scrutiny of Mueller’s probe. So there is now a possibility of conflict of interest because of the millions the oligarch spent assisting the FBI in 2009.
This story starts back in 2007 when Levison, a retired FBI and DEA agent, disappeared on Iran’s Kish Island. He was investigating cigarette smuggling, but it could have been a CIA mission. Iran never admitted this, but he was likely being held in a secret government prison.
In 2008, FBI agents met with Deripaska in a Paris hotel to ask for his assistance in negotiating with Iran for Levinson’s release, according to the New York Times.
The Russian oligarch’s participation was key because he had close business ties in Iran, and US laws made it illegal for the FBI or any US citizen to spend any money in Iran.
Deripaska Put Millions Into Rescue
Deripaska offered to put his millions into a rescue operation. In return, he reportedly wanted the FBI to smooth the path for lifting travel restrictions that prohibited him from entering the US.
The Russian ultimately spent $25 million putting together a private search and rescue team working with Iranian contacts.
“I kept Director Mueller and Deputy Director [John] Pistole informed of the various efforts and operations,’ Robyn Gritz, the retired agent who supervised the Levinson case in 2009, said. “We tried to turn over every stone we could to rescue Bob.”
But the State Department, under the supervision of Hillary Clinton, blocked a deal for Levinson’s return from going through. “We tried to turn over every stone we could to rescue Bob, but every time we started to get close, the State Department seemed to always get in the way,” Gritz said.
Deripaska’s Efforts Came Close to Success
“Deripaska’s efforts came very close to success,” David McGee, a former federal prosecutor who represents Levinson’s family, said.
“We were told at one point that the terms of Levinson’s release had been agreed to by Iran and the US and included a statement by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pointing a finger away from Iran. At the last minute, Secretary Clinton decided not to make the agreed-on statement,” McGee said.
Levinson remains missing to this day. He was last seen alive in 2011, in photos that revealed him wearing an orange jumpsuit.
In 2016, Deripaska resurfaced as a potential witness in the Russian election meddling investigation. He says he was startled awake by FBI agents in his New York hotel room two months before the 2016 election. They questioned him about the claims in British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s “dossier” which alleged links between Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian government.
Deripaska said that in his informed opinion the idea they were proposing was false. “You are trying to create something out of nothing,” he told them.
A few months later, Mueller uncovered evidence that Paul Manafort, then Trump’s campaign chairman, tried to offer Deripaska “private briefings” on the campaign.
The Washington Post reported that the oligarch never got the message about briefings and no indication of meetings took place. But Manafort and Deripaska have longstanding business ties. Deripaska sued Manafort in January, alleging he was defrauded in a 2007 investing deal.
Belarussian escort Anastasia Vashukevich, Deripaska’s former mistress, made a claim from behind bars in a Thai prison that she had incriminating information on Deripaska.
Deripaska Had a Plan About Elections
“Deripaska had a plan about elections,” she told the Times. She remains jailed on prostitution charges in Thailand.
So there are now some who are wondering if Mueller’s dealing’s with Deripaska on the Levinson hostage case creates a conflict of interest.
What do you think?
Credit: Daily Mail