There’s a new allegation about a possible conflict of interest with Robert Mueller and a Russian oligarch who was used by the FBI to try to rescue a captured FBI agent from Iran.
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.
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.
For some reason, the mission failed. Levinson disappeared from their radar.
Flash forward, and Deripaska is one of the Russian oligarchs involved in the investigation into Russian election interference. But he doesn’t show up in any of the documents.
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.
Dershowitz thinks Mueller kept Deripaska out of his investigation because he didn’t want to admit the previous relationship they had.
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.
Another expert wonders if the original scheme was even legal – which would be another reason for the omission. But, on the other hand, maybe he’s not named exactly because Mueller is trying to avoid a conflict of interest. In any case, John Solomon at least thinks there’s something there – even as he admits that the other charges of conflicts of interest against Mueller are mostly bunk.