New Contacts Between Trump Campaign and Russian Sources Revealed

manafort-cohen

Well, the Mueller investigation is back to leaking out tidbits of information. This from the Washington Post: Trump’s company had more contact with Russia during campaign, according to documents turned over to investigators.

Associates of President Trump and his company have turned over documents to federal investigators that reveal two previously unreported contacts from Russia during the 2016 campaign, according to people familiar with the matter.

In one case, Trump’s personal attorney and a business associate exchanged emails weeks before the Republican National Convention about the lawyer possibly traveling to an economic conference in Russia that would be attended by top Russian financial and government leaders, including President Vladi­mir Putin, according to people familiar with the correspondence.

In the other case, the same Trump attorney, Michael Cohen, received a proposal in late 2015 for a Moscow residential project from a company founded by a billionaire who once served in the upper house of the Russian parliament, these people said. The previously unreported inquiry marks the second proposal for a Trump-branded Moscow project that was delivered to the company during the presidential campaign and has since come to light.

Cohen declined the invitation to the economic conference, citing the difficulty of attending so close to the GOP convention, according to people familiar with the matter. And Cohen rejected the Moscow building plan.

Nonetheless, the information about the interactions has been provided to congressional committees as well as special counsel Robert S. Mueller III as they investigate whether Trump associates coordinated with Russian efforts to interfere in the U.S. election, according to people familiar with the inquiries who, like others cited in this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the inquiry.

Short story: Nothing happened. Scandalous, right?

But the Atlantic has a more in depth article that is interesting: Did Manafort Use Trump to Curry Favor With a Putin Ally?

On the evening of April 11, 2016, two weeks after Donald Trump hired the political consultant Paul Manafort to lead his campaign’s efforts to wrangle Republican delegates, Manafort emailed his old lieutenant Konstantin Kilimnik, who had worked for him for a decade in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.

“I assume you have shown our friends my media coverage, right?” Manafort wrote.

“Absolutely,” Kilimnik responded a few hours later from Kiev. “Every article.”

“How do we use to get whole,” Manafort asks. “Has OVD operation seen?”

According to a source close to Manafort, the initials “OVD” refer to Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska, a Russian oligarch and one of Russia’s richest men. The source also confirmed that one of the individuals repeatedly mentioned in the email exchange as an intermediary to Deripaska is an aide to the oligarch.

In the email exchange that took place two weeks after starting on the campaign, Manafort seemed primarily concerned with the Russian oligarch’s approval for his work with Trump—and asked for confirmation that Deripaska was indeed paying attention.

“Yes, I have been sending everything to Victor, who has been forwarding the coverage directly to OVD,” Kilimnik responded in April, referring again to Deripaska. (“Victor” is a Deripaska aide, the source close to Manafort confirmed.) “Frankly, the coverage has been much better than Trump’s,” Kilimnik wrote. “In any case it will hugely enhance your reputation no matter what happens.”

As the article points out, Manafort seems to be more interested in using his position in the Trump campaign to convince business clients and associates in Ukraine and Russia that he is a major mover and shaker in American politics. This makes a lot of sense if you look at the totality of Manafort’s career. He’s a fixer and a lobbyist. He’s not a policy maker or a politician. Him using his stint on the campaign to set up future business deals would be absolutely unremarkable.

In short, this pair of leaks tells no one who has been following this sorry made-up conspiracy anything they didn’t already know. The Trump company was interested in business deals in Russia but didn’t seen to be able to put any together. Manafort was deeply involved with certain Russian oligarchs but his motivation seems to have been money, not politics.